When I’m in South Africa, I like to visit different antique shops & I enjoy seeing all the old ‘treasures’. If I lived somewhere with vintage shops & public libraries, I would have loved to go and look for different types of resources for research. Unfortunately where I live in the Middle East, these kind of places are not easily available.
For this exercise it would have been fun doing some visual research using sketchbook/ photographic journeys by going to some of the restaurants here with a ‘diner’ feeling to them, like ‘Johny Rockets’. Unfortunately due to the Pandemic lockdown in the area I live in, I am not able to visit these restaurants. Therefore all of my research was done online via Pinterest and other websites.
I did however by chance watch the whole TV- series of “Bad Men” from start to finish on Netflix during previous months in lockdown. Thinking about the program gave me a good idea about the fashion, advertising & other aspects of that time in America. Therefore I decided to focus on America in the 1950’s.
PEOPLE & COSTUME:
Similar to fashion today, fashion in the 1950’s was influenced by Hollywood movie stars like Marilyn Monroe & Audrey Hepburn. Although women started wearing trousers, most of them still wore dresses or skirts. There was an emphasis on femininity & elegance. The following fashion items were very popular: knee length skirts & dresses; kitten heels; wasp waist with full skirt; slim fitting pencil skirts; ballet pumps & headscarves. Men’s fashion was conservative with an emphasise on masculinity. Unless they had a work uniform, they wore suit & tie on work days and casual wear over weekends. The youth fashion was inspired by ‘Rock ‘n Roll’.
ARCHITECTURE & INTERIORS:
A lot of aspects contributed to architecture & Interior design displaying fresher, cosmic-inspired shapes & patterns, pastel & bold colours, sleek furniture with smooth & round edges. After the end of World War II, people were more positive about the future; new materials like plastic were available & people were excited by the new Space Age & inspired by futuristic films; having consumerism booming. American diners were popular places to go to with family & friends, featuring fun neon lights; sometimes bold red or pink & turquoise colour combinations, with black & white check board floor tiles; booths & silver-rimmed tables & bar stools; a jukebox & other fun features.
During the 1950’s there were a lot of different trends in the Art industry, for example: the beginning of pop art; sculptors using new material; abstract expressionism; lyrical abstraction; hard-edged painting; colour filled painting; action painting. After the war ended, art tended to be more colourful and experimental using a variety of different colours & styles.
GRAPHIC DESIGN & ADVERTISING:
During my research, I’ve found some advertising posters from the 1950’s which would be quite offensive towards women in today’s society. Mostly degrading women, or displaying them as 2nd class citizens, portrayed as housewives trying to please their husbands, but failing miserably. As consumerism was booming after the end of the war, a bigger variety of household & beauty products were available. Advertisements were also used to advertise hotels; restaurants; food; drinks & cigarettes.
Some of them were in black& white, and others were in colour. Some of the advertising images were created using: bold shapes & colours; photographs; hand-drawn illustrations; or cartoons & speech bubbles. Advertisements usually followed a pattern featuring: titles; slogans & brand names, in bold. Different advertising platforms were used, for example: posters; magazines; billboards; radio & television. Advertisement became very competitive trying to win bigger companies.
Along with other areas of development, transport was also influenced by: Hollywood; the Space Age; and new & exciting material being available. Car designs were more modern & futuristic, with beautiful curved lines. Cars were available in a lot of bright or pastel colours. I love vintage cars and would love to visit Cuba just to experience all the old cars still used everywhere today. So fun & classy.
FILM & TV:
During the 1950’s the Hollywood & film industry was affected as more households had their own Television sets. Less people visited the movie & drive-in theatres as more TV programs were available on TV. Regardless of that, Hollywood & America still dominated the movie industry with great film stars like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, James Dean & Elvis Presley.
Film & TV:
SURFACE PATTERN & DECORATION:
Surface patterns in the 1950’s, showcased lots of patterns displaying lots of different shapes; leaves; fruit; lines; and other abstract designs. I must say although I am a fan of a lot of things from the 1950’s, for example fashion, film stars, cars & retro furniture, I do not like these 1950’s style surface patterns. Personally I don’t think these patterns match the elegant fashion, cool furniture, classy car designs/ colours from that era. I find it quite bizarre.
I love all the furniture & decor items inspired by the Space Race & futuristic ideas of the time. Lots of fun bright or pastel colours and interesting futuristic designs.
1950’s FROM A VISUAL PERSPECTIVE:
CHARACTERISTICS THAT TYPIFY THE DECADE & VISUAL TRENDS THAT WERE PREVALENT AT THIS TIME:
– post World War II – booming consumerism & optimistic outlook on the future – portrayed in all areas of development
– new & exciting material available – to be explored with & used in a lot of different industries, from: architecture; furniture; household appliances; fashion & art.
– development of new technology – developing new & exciting modern appliances
– Space Age/ Space Race – influencing Science Fiction Films; futuristic – architecture; furniture & cars
– film stars – inspiring fashion & beauty trends
– rock ‘n roll – influencing the youth – fashion & behaviour
– interior design – featuring bright or pastel colours – popular black & white check-board flooring.
ARE THERE REFLECTIONS OF THE 1950’S IN ANY AREAS OF CONTEMPORARY ART, DESIGN OR CULTURE?
I think there are reflections of the 1950’s in a lot of different areas, including: fashion; art; design; furniture designs; interior design & household appliances. Retro furniture and interior design is still very popular today. I particularly love some of the household appliances inspired by the 1950’s, especially the different items produced by SMEG. It features vintage styled items in bright or pastel colours, for example: refrigerators; toasters; kettles; mixers; etc. I absolutely love it, it’s to fun. Some of the famous film stars from the 1950’s still influence fashion today and their faces are still often used on items and art.
ILLUSTRATION OF SOMEONE SITTING ON A CHAIR SURROUNDED BY ARTEFACTS TO GIVE A TEENAGER AN IDEA OF THE 1950’s:
For my illustration, I decided to focus on a 1950’s American diner scene. The movie, “Grease” is a fun source to watch for diner inspiration.
I started by making a spider diagram in my sketchbook to brainstorm ideas:
MOOD BOARD – 1950’s AMERICAN DINER:
After completing the spider diagram, I made a mood board for inspiration.
ILLUSTRATIONS IN PROCREATE:
I decided to re-create an illustration of a jukebox as one of the artefacts for my illustration.
I used the reference images to create a jukebox in different colours. I added some of the original image’s details to create a more authentic/ vintage effect.
I used the colour palette from my mood board to create a diner scene for my character. I added some artefacts from other images to add more detail to my illustration.
For me, drawing this character was the most challenging part of this exercise. I’m not good at drawing people & really struggled with the face. Although there is a lot of room for improvement, I’m actually quite surprised & pleased with the way the rest of the body came out. I drew inspiration from the different reference images for the: outfit; body posture; facial features & colour palette used.
In hindsight, I guess I could have added more detail to her outfit, by for example, adding an apron & name tag on her dress.
I tried to create a diner sign to add to my illustration. I’m not sure if it was completely successful and think I probably could’ve developed it into a better one if I chose to spend more time on this exercise.
I tried out different combinations of mock-ups:
DINER SCENE WITH ADDED ARTEFACTS:
DINER SIGN – MOCK UPS:
MY FAVOURITE IMAGES CREATED DURING THIS EXERCISE:
I have always looked for inspiration on Pinterest and my own personal photographs; research online & visual research through sketchbook & photographic journeys. This exercise has taught me to do more thorough research on different aspects of a topic, before proceeding to spider diagrams, mood boards & then the illustration development. I have learnt a lot by completing this exercise & will try to follow the same approach in the future.