I’ve mentioned before that I really like Art Deco, appreciating its cosmopolitan ways, in taking from anywhere and everywhere – and everywhen. It has taken elements from all cultures and all time periods and blended them together, usually in to a highly successful whole.
Ancient Greece was an obvious target for Art Deco artists to re-use and the sphinx, a mythical creature common to Greece and Egypt easily attracted their interest. Deco was influenced by Egypt as well, so they had no shortage of sphinxes to choose from. I’m going to tackle a Greek style sphinx, as might have been imagined in the thirties.
Almost all materials were used by Deco artists, as it was an arts and crafts movement, so when I began to design and develop a digital image in the style I chose to make it look like a polished steel or aluminium sculpture in repousse or hammered metal style.
I imagined a kind of plaque like decorative sculpture of the type found commonly in decorative material for buildings and interior spaces in the twenties and thirties. You can also see these sorts of design in Deco glass and stoneware. They’re often attached to buildings over doors or windows, or pressed into glass partition panels, and this is a long-term form for the decorative arts. Only Deco seems to have done a great deal of this kind of thing with metal.
I started with a drawing of the face and head, because I wanted it to look right for a Deco design, with the hair that might have been seen in the thirties (where a sphinx gets her hair done is anybodies guess – but they must be one hell of a hairdressers,) and the rest of the design – as always grows out from this.
I knew the hair was going to give me trouble. It always does. Designing flowing hair, or draperies for that matter is always difficult, and you’re almost never happy with it. I rubbed out the hair several times because it looked lame, concentrating less on spiral like shapes and more on flowing locks of hair. I’m a little concerned that the hair will look separate from the rest of the design, too intricate, with nothing to balance it.
The overall design was going to be a squareish form, so that all the elements of the figure fitted into a block. This would make the figure seem squat but this is a form that Deco often experimented with for its figures. So for instance, the outer line of the face follows the same line as the outer edge of the body.
The wings are next, naturally forming from the rest of the work, as if the upper part of the design has to be finished first. I find it interesting to see what parts of an image naturally form first, and why we always find ourselves progressing to very particular parts of a design, always finishing them first before moving on; and of course, everything has to fit into that box I’ve set myself to work in.
The wings are work intensive, just getting the curves correct is a little difficult and they have to look a particular way. I suppose its derived from not only classical sculptures, but medieval and Neo Classical ideas. Sculptures of everything from sphinxes to griffins to angels have almost a set of rules for wings. I won’t say I know those rules, but I’m trying to conform to that look in hopes I’m doing something right. I can’t help putting a little colour (if tones of grey can be termed colour) on to the image, even without it being finished – just to see. Next week I’ll say something about the completion.