Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Checkered Artistic Past

From time to time I've mentioned that I was a Costume Designer way back in my younger days.
Back before kids.
Back in the Prehistoric days of my youth, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

A few weeks ago, while I was cleaning some things out of the garage in preparation for one of the Stockpile/Garage Sales, I came across some sketches from my old portfolio from college.

Since I have nothing else worthwhile to blog about today and I have a feeling nobody actually believes half of what I say here, you get to see these stunning works of art *cough*.

Though it may appear to be a simple job, a costume designer has to wear many hats and have many skills.
First you have to create a vision or rather bring the artistic vision of the director of the play to life via clothing.  You must create a cohesive design for all the garments in the play.

Then you have to draw or otherwise put to paper this design.
Not only do you have to convey the design in a 2 dimensional medium, but you have to locate fabrics and trimmings appropriate to turn your design concept into an actual garment that can be worn.
A costume rendering not only is a work of art but it is first and foremost a working tool.
It gives voice to the vision and serves as a guide to the seamstresses as they set about bringing the design to life as an honest to goodness garment.

It's great if a costume designer is a very good artist, but designing clothing that works well on actors is a designers most important skill.
It's a job that you learn from the ground up.  Nobody falls out of the sky and  becomes a costume designer without first learning how to sew, make and cut a pattern, fit a garment and all those non-designing skills.  It's a very hands on profession.  The nitty gritty skills you learn on your way up to being a designer makes you a better designer.

And because of a lack of time, a costume designer generally has little time to create renderings of the costumes.  Usually it's a very quick pencil drawing with some splashes of color thrown onto the paper.
Having the luxury of the time to create proper costume renderings is only a dream to all but the most successful and well paid designers.  And once you rise to that level a good portion of designers don't even do their own renderings.....that's what your paid flunky assistants are for. ;-)

Let me say that most struggling costume designers are also magicians sometimes, having to make expensive looking clothing on a shoestring budget.  Unless you are designing for top film or tv companies, you never have an adequate amount of cash for supplies.  College departments give you bare bones budgets, professional shops give you a pittance and if you work for a shop that uses Equity actors(unionized), then all their production budget goes to paying their salaries and the non-unionized production staff gets screwed.

But enough of that for now.
Onward to the sketch.....

This 1st rendering is for a character in a short play by Anton Chekov(very Russian and very turn of the century, Victorian era).
I used pastels on colored paper to render this sketch.
The blob on the left top are the swatches of the fabrics used to construct this costume, including an example of  'jewels' I handmade to embellish the front of the overlay of the skirt. Money for profession jewels made with Swarovski crystals?  Not in this budget!lol

Here is another costume sketch for a Molière play.  The clothing is apropos to French society of 1670's, the Baroque era.
I created this sketch in watercolors on watercolor paper.

Here is another rendering for another show I can't recall by whom at the moment.  The setting is Ancient Greece.
Again it is rendered in watercolors.

And here's another sketch for the same Molière play as before.....

This last sketch is dear to my heart because it is of ME.
Yes, not only did I design the costumes of this show and build a lot of them, I was also a major character in this production.

I apologize that my photos aren't so great and you can't see much of the detail that is in them.
I could talk for days about the techniques employed to give texture to both the drawings and the actual costumes, because, well, this is my first love.

Now I need to locate the photos of the actual costumes from these renderings, so I can show you how they looked on actual



  1. Where are you gong to store these for posterity? And how? Do these have to be in acid-free paper, boxes, etc. like photographs?

    They are really beautiful and if you framed them they would be great on the walls at a theater where many people would appreciate and enjoy them. Just an idea.

  2. Sluggy, these are fantastic! I am always so jealous of Artists and their skills. And you got Mad Skills girlfriend! I can't wait to see the photos. I hope you find them.

  3. Those drawings are GORGEOUS!!!! You are one talented designer -- thank you for sharing, and I can't wait to see the actual costume photos if you can find them!!!

  4. Wow! I can barely draw a stick figure, so I'm impressed.

    I am sewing a skirt for Kat today. With any luck it will actually look like a skirt.

  5. I must have missed the posting about your previous costume employment! AWESOME!!! I really wish you lived closer and could spend a day sewing with me...

  6. I am so impressed, Sluggy! I used to play with designing, but never anything yours.

  7. LisaPie--Thanks for the comments. They are in my big black portfolio in storage for now. Some day I'll do something with them. ;-)

    Mark--Thanks boyfriend! You've got mad skillz yourself with that camera of yours. ;-)

    Pretty--Thanks for the love. I have some photos but probably not of all of the costumes. Some day I'll unearth

    AnnieJ--lol I've seen designers who drew about that well too. I'm sure your skirt will come out looking smashing!

    McVal--Thanks. I wish I lived closer too. We could a regular old sewing bee....

    Frances--Thanks for the kind words.

  8. Sluggy, you are quite an artist. I have the design skills down. But, if I have to draw it, well, things go downhill from there. I am amazed at this hidden talent of yours. My art is with the fabric, period.

  9. Also, blogger did not update. On my blog list, this post of yours never showed up. According to the info, you last posted two days ago, not yesterday.


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