Art Mimics Life

I’ve unearthed my past, defined my core, explored individual shapes, and constructed silhouettes… all completed in order to overhaul my wardrobe. Developing a colour story is next, and this palette courtesy of The Designers Co-op (found via Colette WA week 5) is quite perfect for me.

As I work through the Colette Wardrobe Architect weekly prompts there is an obvious chasm between the person I would like to be and the person I actually portray.  Last time I asked myself whether my stagnation was due to fear, laziness, impatience or boredom, I was considering my recent drawing output.  The truth is I believe my identity as an artist/illustrator is tied into my personal image, so I need to consider the question again so I can understand the solution.

When I’m working from home, I’m conscious that I dress for quickness, comfort and practicality. I suppose I take a similar approach to my artwork.  I default to what I know, what I’m used to.  A familiar approach achieves a familiar outcome.  I fear regret, but I am also impatient – I want things to be accomplished before they’re even started.  Ridiculous, I know!  And maybe we should throw boredom in there too, just for fun.  If I default to the familiar, the boring stuff, I don’t have to acknowledge it, so I can perform in autopilot.  Not lazy, but the other three apply.

There’s an obvious solution to my fear, impatience and boredom, and it’s defined by architecture.

WordPress Prompt: Obvious

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Clothing & Creativity (2)

How should an artist/illustrator dress for work? And why does it matter?

Back in April, I committed to my two New Year Resolutions: 1). to overhaul my wardrobe; and 2). to become prolifically creative. At the time I hadn’t realised how one could impact the other.  But as I question what is holding me back creatively, I’m beginning to understand how my clothes affect my mood, my confidence, and my creative output.

Some days I can throw on a sweatshirt and jeans and drawing comes naturally. I’m not really aware of what I’m wearing as I’m happy and comfortable.  I don’t need to worry about messing up my sweatshirt as I bought it for messing around in, although practicality wasn’t my only consideration when I bought it.

There are days when I need a confidence boost, and I’ll try on three or four different outfits before considering myself ready. The discarded clothes are a clue to how I’m feeling, so I hang them back up to remove the distraction and regain some order.  Hopefully, a wardrobe overhaul will leave me with fewer pieces to choose from, each one guaranteed to help me shine on a cloudy day.  And the less time I worry about what I’m wearing, the more creatively focussed I will be.

But how should I, as an artist/illustrator, dress for work? If my outfit can affect my mood, and therefore my work, do I need to dress as the person I’m striving to be?  If I experiment with my clothes, will I feel more inclined to experiment with my drawing?

I’m considering wearing my shoes when I’m in my home studio. They’ll remind me to not think about laundry when I’m making a mug of tea.  I might also wear my paint-splattered apron.  Just in case my husband doesn’t notice I’m wearing shoes.

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Clothing and Creativity (1)

Several years ago I wrote an imaginary article about the prospect of a career change.  A family illness made me see life differently, and I’d applied for voluntary redundancy to pursue an illustration degree.  Ultimately, I dreamed of setting up a home studio and working for myself.  I’ve tweaked my original text, but as it does well to explain how my two New Year resolutions support each other, I haven’t changed much.  Here’s part one (of two)…

“I recently made the tough decision to leave a secure job and return to art college, and I’m starting to realise the practical impact this will have on my life. The job I am about to leave is within the public sector, and up to now my life has been very straightforward, governed by rules and routine.  Leaving would mean no more daily rush-hour journeys, or hourly countdowns to lunch or leaving at the end of the day.  Home-working isn’t going to be entirely stress-free, and I’m prepared for that.  However, it does offer a very different and exciting challenge, a more comfortable work environment and flexible working hours.

To make it a success I imagine a dedicated work space, with a radio for company, would be adequate to keep me focussed. However, during a discussion on self-employment, a business adviser also suggested that I wear shoes to deter any interruptions from both husband and housework.  Shoes would be a way to indicate I was actually at work.  So, wearing comfy slippers wasn’t going to be an option!  Their advice got me thinking: if shoes are so important, what about the rest of my outfit?  I was used to wearing suits and co-ordinates, not only to present myself professionally but also to focus my mind.   I thought working from home was the hardest decision I would have to make. Deciding what to wear to get myself mentally ready for work was something I hadn’t even thought about.

Choosing an outfit to work in is a minor issue, but an important one. As a spectacles wearer, I have two different looks so I can be smart and business-like, or bold and contemporary, simply by changing my eyewear, and this can affect my mood, too.  I wondered if the same principles could apply to clothes.  According to Kath Woodward in her book, Understanding Identity*

“Our identities are mapped out and represented through the material items which we choose to wear and in particular what they mean in the wider social context.”

Even if I’m not visible to the outside world, could my outfit affect my mindset and behaviour and the role I am trying to portray?  Then I remembered I once tried drawing in a smart skirt and blouse, and my creativity was restrained.  So, perhaps it is the case that in order to perform a role successfully, I need to get my mind in gear by dressing for the part.  So, how should an artist/illustrator dress for work?”

*Woodward, Kath: Understanding Identity.  London: Arnold (2002); p75.

What are your thoughts on the impact of clothing on creativity?

Stay tuned for Part Two next week.

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Five defining words

This week I found two holes in a favourite sweater. A delicate, fine knit of royal blue viscose, with criss-crossing eyelet chevrons and stripes; the kind of plain sweater you don’t need to accessorise.  After 30 minutes or so wondering whether and how I could repair it, I relented and put it in my recycling box for a future project.

I don’t like parting with clothes, they’re like old friends. I’m a patient shopper rather than an impulsive one.  Sometimes I’ll go window-shopping, make a mental note of what I like and how much I think it’s worth/I’d like to pay, and wait. If the discounted price doesn’t meet my expectation, then it wasn’t meant to be. It frustrates me that women’s clothing is designed and manufactured to a price point, rather than reflecting the actual cost of getting it into a store. £60 for a plain polyester blouse?  Really??

I learned to sew, knit and crochet while in primary school and this early understanding of fibres and construction means I’m quite a savvy shopper. I’m just relieved I bought my royal blue fine-knit sweater in the sale (for £20 instead of £40) as I haven’t had much wear out of it.  So, I’ll think about repurposing rather than binning it. A circular scarf, perhaps?

My wardrobe is bursting with ‘old friends’, wearable ones and those that need mending or remodelling. I don’t part with anything easily. So, to help me decide what to keep, I have defined my new core style, as a Wardrobe Architect should, with the following five words:

Chic, Confident, Cosy, Playful, Vintage

I don’t have to tackle my own wardrobe just yet, but I wonder how many ‘old friends’ will still be hanging around in a few months’ time.

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Becoming a Wardrobe Architect

I have way too many clothes. Maybe that should read: I have way too many neglected clothes, because I tend to default to the same dull, boring outfits when I’m not working.

I long for a capsule wardrobe of stuff that I’ll actually wear. Just a few carefully chosen garments that go well together and I can rely on, to make me feel good about myself. But I’d also like to explore an undiscovered me, the confident creative I imagined I’d become. And redefining my outfits might just work.

Sarai Mitnick, founder of Colette Patterns, asks “…How might my wardrobe better reflect who I am?” in the story behind The Wardrobe Architect. If I want to change my own reflection, it makes sense to try crafting a new wardrobe which befits the new version of me.

So far I’ve worked through Week One, where you explore what makes you individual, and I’m working through Week Two, which helps you define your own style, or in my case, the style of the person I’d like to become.

I’m looking forward to giving my neglected clothes a public airing.  And by crafting a new wardrobe, I’m hoping to rediscover my love of dressmaking too.

Even if you’re not a sewer, take a look at The Wardrobe Architect, and you never know who you’ll discover.

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