Drawing parallels in art and fashion

Anna Parini

When I was younger, I didn’t know how to pick out clothes for myself. I didn’t know where to begin. I had to march to the fitting room, try everything (maybe even twice) before I could make a decision. Even then, I had to ask someone else what they thought of it. I’d rely heavily on their opinion for that final push – yay or nay? It was nail-bitingly hard because picking out an outfit was more than just choosing which pants that would go with a shirt or a blouse. It was (at least what I thought it was at the time) also a statement of who I was and what I represented to the world.

I didn’t know who I was.

And so I didn’t know what to wear.

Throughout my teenage years, I wore a lot of hand-me-downs. These were clothes that my cousins no longer wore, but were in good condition and hence were passed down to us. I didn’t think too much about style back then – I wore what fit me, and I didn’t feel the need to go out and spend money on clothes because hey, I had them. My clothes were picked because they were already there – not because I picked them myself. And because of this, I was terrified of making the wrong decision when it came to buying my own. Unlike hand-me-downs or second hand clothes, I would have to fork money over for clothes, and that’s not even including the mental anguish that came from the sheer availability of choice.

You might remember that as a teenager, I had a bad case of cystic acne and wore braces. I felt like a badly melted version of Terminator. One person even called me Robocop, and others would ask (hurtfully) what was wrong with my skin. It took me many, many years before I started to gain confidence in my outlook, and to feel comfortable at looking at myself in the mirror. And even then, the awkwardness when it came to dressing myself was something I needed to overcome.

Drawing parallels

When it came to drawing, the problems I encountered were very familiar. I found it hard to nail down just one style or technique, and so I experimented a lot in between. Big thick lines versus small thin ones. I’d change mediums many times and tried so hard to like watercolour but gave up because it was hard to control (I know that’s the beauty of watercolours, but still). I went through periods where I experimented with collage, vector and brush and ink; and found out which worked for me.

How did I the problem with my wardrobe? It took some time, but I managed to navigate the choppy waters of being presentable by asking for tips from friends who’s dressing style I liked. I looked up references on how to dress better. I took the time to really look at myself in the mirror when I tried on clothes, identified how it made me feel and why; expanding my palette to include colours and prints and slowly taking more risks when it came to picking out pieces. Before, the insides of my wardrobe were swathed in dark colours (I still have this habit), because it was easy. I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself, and I was comfortable being in the background. What I came to realise after I studying more about fashion and style was this: there is a formula to all this madness; just like how I learned which drawing style I liked best.

I found key things that worked for my body type: small prints, interesting necklines, details and hems. No garters at the waist, or fabrics that cling to the skin. No too-short skirts (I have varicose veins, ugh), or wide ones that would gather too much attention to my hips either. By creating a guideline of sorts, it made finding an outfit surprisingly simpler – I knew what would look good on me without having to try it on. Shopping became a fun exercise in seeing if I was accurate in picking out pieces that would play to my strengths while avoiding pieces that would exaggerate areas I wanted to play down. I’m happy when I’m comfortable, and to me, that’s a big part of being confident. Another example would be how some contestants on American Idol who has a great voice but chose the wrong song. We all have our limits (for now). We’re good at specific things. We accentuate the good and hide the bad. Why shouldn’t it apply to other things in our life?

The formula

As for drawing, I knew that I was good at brush and ink, and that I loved teaching more than I did dealing with clients. I love drawing on smooth paper and hate the sound that calligraphy pen nibs make when scratched on paper. Just like how we would flip at old photograph albums and cringe at what we wore before, the same thing happens when it comes to flipping through your old sketchbooks. Thank goodness we are able to grow and learn from our experiences!

In coming up with the syllabus for my upcoming class on personal style (I can’t fit everything into a book, unfortunately), the one thing I keep coming back to is that learning about your personal style is a process, one that is uniquely personal. Can we hurry or hasten the process? Yes we can, to some extent. Should we, though? It depends. I fully understand how some might take longer than others to figure out what style works best for them, whether it’s fashion, drawing, cooking, or even communicating. Some might have hit a snag, or others have allowed it to set them back professionally.

If time is no object, what usually works is this: having keen observation in learning and figuring out what works best for you. It’s very easy to forget that what comes naturally to you may not be the case with others (just like how it took me many years to dress myself well). So my advice is to talk to the people in your life: friends, family, mentors or colleagues who can help you gauge your personal formula, so that you can play to your strengths. Getting some help can often make you see clearer, make mistakes faster, and thus get quicker feedback. Pretty soon you’ll be able to decode the rest of life’s mysteries. Or some of it at the very least!

Share with me – what personal formula have you worked out that has served you well so far?

Also: If you need some help figuring out your personal artistic style (not the fashion kind!), here’s a free email course I created.

[Illustration by Anna Parini]

Isidro Ferrer’s alternative realities

You know how when you start something in your sketchbook, thinking it’s a really good idea but you never get back to it? It feels like that for me sometimes. I’ve been doing a bit of traveling for events and talks, which while is really fun – I get to meet new (and sort-of-old) friends and I get to learn lots of new things – it can also cause a time-lapse of sorts when it comes to work. Before you know it, it’s one month of not publishing anything on the blog, a stand-still on a new project and a few missed emails here and there, which adds up to the uncomfortable feeling that you’ve dropped the ball – nay – not only have you dropped the ball, you’re looking around the floor wondering where all the balls went.

So this is me, easing my way back into a semblance of a routine.

Discovering the work of Madrid-born Isidro Ferrer made it all easier to jump-start my late start to the week, after 3 weekends in a row of exhausting (but good!) talks and conference, recovering from a long cold, a trip to see family, prepping for a new semester at work and the highlight of it all – finally putting in my dental implants (hooray!) It feels as though the buzz has just started to wear off as life calms down somewhat.

For Isidro, what I love about his work is the fact that he shows that he can do anything he imagines. From sculptures to paper cuts, to painting and the use of everyday objects, his ability to create characters and story that exists in a realm entirely of their own is super inspiring. Take for example, his work Funny Farm – a collection of handmade wooden dolls created for lighting company Luzifer. They’re a bizarre group of friends with identities and traits made even more lively with names like Smelly Fant, Mad Mouse, Ronny Rhino and Walking Fish.

Funny-Farm-characters

Take a look at his portfolio and you can easily see for yourself the fantastical worlds and alternative realities that he has created for others and himself, evident through his background in graphic design, drama, stage design and illustration. It’s a timely reminder for me that creating art (and illustration) is merely one way of how we choose to interpret the world around us, and basically, we can create anything we want.

130_cahier-1
42_chaum

42_ilustracioniberoamericana

How do you jump-start yourself after a particularly exhausting stretch? 

[Images from Isidro’s website and Funny Farm’s website]

Oh just do it already

e9b4826d47bf1de752e19205e78e4f08

Whenever I opened my laptop, it took 10 minutes for it to be operational. And that’s barely functional. I couldn’t have more than 3 applications open at any time, and if I had to open a big application like Photoshop or Illustrator, it would take up to 10 minutes for it to load completely.

It was bad.

My laptop is 5 years old, and I’ve been living with this situation for about a year. Maybe more.

On the off chance that Mr. T came over to my side of a desk to use it, he would get frustrated. Grimaces even. “I don’t even know how you use this thing – it’s so slow.” I just brushed it off because it’s still usable. At least to me. But I knew it was time to do something when I realized that all those minutes – waiting for applications to open, close and process – they all added up. A big chunk of my day was waiting for things to happen. It was frustrating. It was a waste of precious time.

Getting ready is not enough

I called a service center who could get my laptop into working condition again. Turns out a few things needed to be swapped out to make it faster, if I wanted to run it with a new operating system. New RAMs, new solid state hard drives, and a complete reinstall of the operating system. Which would mean losing all my files, and that freaked me out a bit.

It took me a month to clear my files and move them to Dropbox in anticipation of the servicing.

And when I was done with the files I kept delaying the laptop upgrade. I kept thinking maybe there’s something I had missed. Some stuff that I haven’t saved. Like settings and passwords or something, or all the tabs that’s open on my Chrome.

But one day, I woke up and thought this is enough. I called the service center and scheduled an appointment to fix the problem once and for all. I didn’t schedule it the week after. I made an appointment the next day. It was now or never: I had only a few hours to straighten things out and to make sure that I’ve gotten everything I needed off the hard disk. That was it – no more waiting or waffling about.

When I got to the service center, I was a ball of nerves. I handed my unit over to the cheerful assistant and waited. And waited.

Overthinking paralysis

I remember why it took my so long to come here: every time I made up my mind to come, my brain goes into overdrive, making me worry about things that might not have happened. But in my mind, they could have. It was a cruel, painful circle that incapacitated and frustrated me at the same time. It was so embarrassingly simple too. Just send it over to the service center and get it over with! In hindsight, that should have been enough for me to hightail it over. But it wasn’t. It was a fear of the unknown, and I was hesitating to make the leap. And so I stalled. By not penciling in the appointment, there was no end date and thus it got dragged out for as long as it did.

Mainly I was scared that sending in my laptop for a repair would mean not being able to use it for a few days or weeks. Or that something bad would happen to it that we didn’t talk about before. Or that when I got it back, things would be worse than before. You know the phrase “don’t mess with things that aren’t broken?” Well, I knew that technically, it wasn’t broken, so I didn’t want to throw a wrench into things (but if you were to see how the laptop performed back then you might have actually thrown a wrench at it!)

Don’t put off the pain (maybe there isn’t any)

When the technician handed me the laptop half an hour later, I was shocked and relieved. But I was also surprised. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. The wait was nothing. Everything just went away – the doubts, the anxiety, the crazy scenarios that made me paranoid about sending it away for repair. Poof. All gone. What I got in return was a brand new (well, almost!) machine that was able to finally function properly, the way it was meant to be.

I now feel extremely silly for letting a slow laptop eat into my time. Heck, even that spinning beachball was not much fun to look at. But it got me thinking – don’t we all have something that we put off for another day? I’ve learned, that if it’s not something that you look forward to, it probably might not happen (until it’s too late).

So while you may not have the exact situation like I did. Maybe you’re putting off going to the dentist. Maybe you have a project you’re not ready to show to the world. It might be a small thing, or a big one. But if you’re putting off something that should have been done a long time ago, take a leaf out of my book –don’t let it drag on longer that it should because there’s a ripple effect that you might not know about. Here’s what you can learn from my sorry experience:
Pencil it in.
Schedule an appointment.
Set a date.
Just get it over with.

What about you? What’s the one thing you’re putting off right now that could improve the way you work?

[Artwork: Jack Strange. Spinning Beach Ball of Death. 2007. Motor, paper, wood. Diameter: 1″ (2.5 cm).]
Pages:1234567...58»