dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
In many ways, Art Deco isn't original at all. There's nothing about the designs that couldn't be designed or manufactured ten or twenty years before.

If you take a look at houses sitting between the late 1800's and the early 1900's, you'll see many standard features that later became Art Deco. The reason that you see these features is the same reason that you see the features in Art Deco: they were easy to produce at the drafting table, and skill artisans could then produce the designs on houses.

For example, semi-circles often appear at the top of windows and door. Later on, when builders were called onto create other curved features, they already had the expertise to do so. Likewise, when looking at period ironwork, you see lines, circles, and diamonds everywhere. Ironworkers knew how to create these shapes. When Art Deco came along and rearranged the shapes, the work was already well within their expertise.

Once you see the elements in the preceding decades, the emergence of beauty based on those elements becomes rather sensical, if not inevitable.

With the advent of standardized windows and chain-link fences, ironwork fell into disfavor and windows returned to their usual square appearance.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Why did Art Deco go out of style?

In the consumer market, styles change quickly. If Art Deco had stayed in style, unchanged, that would have been weird. Instead, Art Deco adapted with the times, and after a good run, became dated. Like all good things, it was superceded by the next style.

Art Deco in architecture went out of style for three main reasons.

The biggest reason is that Art Deco, as a style, was never the predominant style in the first place. Even in the Art Deco era, a minority of buildings were Art Deco.

Secondly, Art Deco no longer expressed what clients wanted it to say. Where Art Deco was once new and bold and strong, it now perceived as too much of a muchness. Nobody wanted that anymore. The people who paid for buildings wanted that said NOW, not yesterday.

Finally, World War 2 came along. Europe had lost many building, and they needed to rebuild as fast as possible to house its people and get its economies working again. Decoration became secondary. In America, we were the sole industrial power left in the world, and that led us to just as much building. Because construction boomed, skill construction labor became harder to secure, construction materials became harder to secure, and construction times were short. To meet these new needs, architecture turned to an architectural style that could be built faster, with fewer materials, for less cost, and less manpower. That was modern architecture.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Art Deco and the auto industry came of age at the same time. It's no wonder. They share many common characteristics: lines, circles, and an appeal to the new rich. This connection is no clearer than in the logos of the various companies.

Audi: four joined circles
BMW: one circle divided into 3 equal sections, each 60-degrees
Mercedes: a circle quartered
Toyota: Nested ovals
Mitsubishi: Diamonds at 60-degrees
Chevy: A square and a parallelogram
Volkwagon: A stylized VW with classic 30/60 angles.
Ford: A single oval
Renault: Parallelograms that look like a 3D object

If you look back in history, even more care logos bore the hallmarks of Art Deco.

So, why don't we perceive these logos as Art Deco? I think the main reason is that we're used to them, and we associate cars with them, not Art Deco, so we just don't see them that way. A second reason is that an Art Deco element are not Art Deco. It takes more than geometric angles and drafting tricks to make Art Deco. These elements by themselves can look pleasing, which is why people use them, but without the context to back them up, they're just pleasing shapes.

I'm also somewhat befuddled why rims aren't Art Deco. I think it's because the rims themselves don't attempt to redefine or break up their circle, and like the logos, exist without enough context. If the entire car were to scream Art Deco, then the tires would be integral to that feel, but the cars don't.

Grills represent the final place where Art Deco and automobiles meet. The grill work is rather strong by itself, and most designers seek to reduce its impact by breaking it up somehow. This requirement uses many of the same techniques as Art Deco, with very similar results.

A brief review of Art Deco cars reveals why Art Deco and cars met with limited success. While Art Deco styled automobiles were sunningly beautiful, they were also kinda stupid looking. The practical requirements of the vehicle truly fought with the aesthetics of the design. The result was a narrow category that the public didn't flock towards, mostly because of cost, but also because of looks. If the demand had been there, designers would have met it.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
On Sunday morning, I finally sat down and back engineered the Art Deco design for Luke's X-34 landspeeder. The whole process took a few hours, with the main difficulty being finding good pictures of the vehicle. That was a challenge. Too much noise! But I did find a few good pics and really helped.

McQuarry was a fucking genius who knew his shit. I actually underestimated his design skills (which is saying something).

I'm still not satisfied with the engine. Getting a really clear look at them proved quite difficult, so I couldn't really tell how the curves went.

Initial Art Deco analysis of Luke's X-34 Landspeeder from Star Wars

[More Drawings to Appear]

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
With the opening up of China by Europe, the flow of goods from China exploded. The late 1800's were filled with delight over Chinese goods and design. Their sparser decor and more geometric design made quite the contrast with the busy Victorian aesthetic.

The designers of the 1920's were well aware of these Oriental designs, because they wrestled with the same issue that Art Deco wrestled with: making shapes appealing to the eyes. There's only so many solutions to that problem, and beginning with existing solutions made sense.

Even a casual perusal of Chinese furniture and art will reveal many patterns and solutions that later appear in Art Deco. Wooden cabinets features simple triangular designs broken apart by circles. Grill work created geometric patterns. Tapestries broke apart rectangles with cascading designs and spirals. The entire vocabulary of Art Deco exists within the style.

In particular, the Art Deco home owes more to Orientalism than any other influence, an outgrowth of that earlier aesthetic.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Art Deco didnt' magically appear on walls. Men with money paid for building, found that the Art Deco style spoke of something that their business wanted to project, and approved those designs.

Art Deco was part of its time. Art Deco said something in its time.

What did Art Deco say?

MODERN. TODAY. NOW. That's what Art Deco said. And what modern, today, and now meant differed between who was uttering those words and those who were seeing it.

Industry and busisness had more power than ever, and industry/business wished a style that said INDUSTRY and BUSIENSS with the same respect and deference as BANK and GOVERNMENT. With one look, a customer should get the same feeling of solid and prosperous as the Greek columns on a bank.

Art Deco, then, was architectural propaganda. Advertising. Art Deco established a business relationship between those who had enough money to pay for Art Deco and those who didn't. Those with enough for the new style demonstrated themselves as equals, while those who didn't demonstrated themselves as less.

Power. Art Deco demonstrated power. Art Deco said that you had it. Art Deco said that you were solid enough to take on more of it.

Businesses naturally prefer doing business with other reliable companies, especially when those businesses were now taking stunning amount of money to build. This visual display helped the companies to sort each other out, much like people who could play the fashion game and those who couldn't.

Once Art Deco came to mean solid and responsible, top tier, and the best, other institutions bought in, so that libraries and churches also took on that vocabulary, because such institutions wanted to say the same thing.

Because anyone coming to power wanted to display power as well, Fascism and Communism also embraced Art Deco. This isn't to say that Art Deco was Fascist or Communist, it's merely to say that people spoke with a common vocabulary, and for some years, Art Deco was that vocabulary.

And so the fate of Art Deco rested with those powers, and when those powers failed, their decline pulled down Art Deco with it. A rejection of Fascism or Communism meant a rejection of Art Deco. Past World War 2, Art Deco fell into disfavor. It no longer said what business needed to say, so architecture moved on.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Different times made different choices. Art Deco did not have a magical unfolding, stay that way unchanged for twenty years, then shatter. Like all art, it developed out of existing trends, acquired popularity, was interpreted and reinterpreted, changed with materials and technology, and finally fell into disfavor as fashions moved on. Anywhere within there is fair game to draw inspiration.

But where are the borders of Art Deco? Who knows. Some objects are Art Deco, some transitional, and some mix influences. There was no neutral body dictating what was and wasn't Art Deco.

So what does that mean to you?

As an creator, you have choices to make, such as which Art Deco trends you want to pursue, what outside influences you want to mix in, how closely you plan to adhere to the rules of Art Deco, and what adaptation you must make for your design to work in your medium.

As an appreciator or collector, the changes in the art form become part of the fun. They reflect their time and place, and more than a few good stories. This change is part of Art Deco as surely as the circle and the line.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
This study shows how to create those overlapping elliptical patterns, as well as demonstrates how to create the fan pattern. On the left, lines are space on the vertical, while on the right, each lines are spaced along the curve using circles. Those circles are what create the regular indents on some fan patterns.

As the tops tend to be inexact, bearing all the accumulated error in measuring, that's where all the fudging happens. The tops have a strong tendency to not meet the pattern exactly.

Study - Overlapping Ellipses.png

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Today's view of Art Deco is gold lines on black. If you're lucky, you get silver lines on black. While certainly acceptable Art Deco, this selection represents a mere fraction of the colors present in the design form.

Art Deco, books, naturally choose the prettiest objects to show, which are the premium objects. This gives the illusion that Art Deco was gold with black. This is a selection bias that should be recognized, but not embraced.

If anything, the colors of Art Deco are beige. If you look at any large building, you'll mostly see beige with a smattering of other colors, because so many buildings were made of concrete and stone. By surface area, beige wins.

But winning doesn't tell us how to use color.

Black is an important Art Deco color, especially as black formed lines. Black forms many more lines than gold ever did or will. Take a look at a chrome grill. It's made of metallic lines,right? But between those metallic lines are black. Most grill work, though, was wrought iron, not chrome, because architecture needs to work, and most things that need lots of metal are things like grates, grills, and gates. In most cases, nobody's going to keep all those things polished. Only interior or well shielded objects get to be shiny, while only choice objects will get the premium treatment of brass or gold leaf.

You frequently see tripartite colors, three shades in the same general tone rather than two contrasting colors, or three contrasting colors, each making the others stand out. The exact choice depends on the overall tone of the finished piece. Why, there's often no black at all to be seen as the colors and shades sufficiently differentiate themselves.

When choosing colors, don't look at black and gold, look at color theory, especially color theory as it existed in the 1920s. This is exactly what architects were drawing on. If you don't want to be period, use modern color theory to choose your colors.

So when designing, remember that Art Deco loves color, because nobody wants to live in a black room covered with gold lines.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Art Deco is well aware of boundaries. Indeed, the existance of boundaries is a driving force in Art Deco.

Art Deco strives to do two things:

1. Destroy boundaries through use of lines and shapes.
2. Create boundaries through the use of lines and shapes.

Say what?!

A building, by definition, is a series of boundaries. You are stuck with them. As an architect, you want to break up some shapes inside, around, and through boundaries, and to do that, you need to define your own lines and shapes that draw the eye more than the natural boundaries of the building. As such, you can't design Art Deco without being accounting for boundaries because accounting for boundaries is a pillar of Art Deco.

Boundaries are manipulated using line weight and shapes.

Line weights heavier than any boundary will dominate the eye, thus becoming the primary characteristic. Your eye notices the bold stuff first. Your eye will organize everything on this scale before it considers organizing on any other scale. With this method, the viewer is introduced to the shape that you, the designer, want them to see, rather than the static shape that has to be there.

Boundaries can be destroyed either figuratively or literally.

In the case of rounded corners, the boundaries are literally removed. Art Deco frequently uses rounded corners to soften the shape of sharp angles, especially in buildings.

Boundaries can be extended. You can add to the physical shape, which serves the same purpose as rounded corners. you add on to break up.

Boundaries are figuratively destroyed when a bolder shape intersects a less bold shape. The two objects intersect, breaking up the shape of the object.

Another way to break up and object is to draw it differently. By putting in shapes and angles inside a shape you want to break up, you change the impact of that shape. Most frequently, curves alter lines and lines alter curves.

Remember that in Art Deco, you can't see all the lines and curves. Some are invisible. You may see that shape that results from a line or a curve without seeing the line or curve itself. In this case, you completely destroy an object but leave its impact.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Rays can be produced by two methods: by endpoint or by angle. Each method produces its own style of pattern. By using endpoints, you make the rays look more consistent even though the angles don't match, and by using angles, the endpoint spacing changes because the size of each triangle produced doesn't match the other triangles.

Each sort of ray is used in Art Deco.

When using angles as your basis, divide then add the remainder to the center angle. That provides a mild (or major) emphasis to the middle, which looks rather snazzy.

Study - Rays.png

This is a sunray made of the standard architectural angles: 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90.

Most of the time, you won't see this because other designs actually work better. You may see partial implementations of the angles, but jiggered in some way to look better.

Study - Sunray.png

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Art Deco loves line, just not half as much as you think it does. The thing about Art Deco is that lines define space and space defines lines.

The lines of Art Deco are crisp and clear, either literal lines or as borders between colors.

Lines that relate should be of the same weight. Lines should be weighted relative to their scale, so lines associated with a large scale should be weighted heavier, while lines associated with a smaller scale should be weighted less.

Line weighting tells the viewer's eye which layer is which. Line weighting sorts all the confusing elements into sensical patterns.

Not all lines are literal lines. Some lines are implied lines. If you take four squares and arrange them in a square, the space between those squares will create the illusion of lines. There's no line there, but the brain puts a line there anyway. Implied lines are just as important to Art Deco as literal lines.

Literal lines imply shapes. A cross hatch of lines creates a field of diamonds. Which is real? Are the diamonds the design element or the line? The answer is that it's subjective, and Art Deco uses the subjective view of the viewer to an abusive degree.

The lines of Art Deco greatly depend on the purpose of the piece. A gate, with its many bars, requires many parallel lines. A floor does not. Even though those lines may create a busy appearance, they're needed, even if they don't look Art Deco, so necessity creates challenges.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Art Deco has a strong degree of practicality to it. It's not a fanciful art. Anything designed in the Art Deco style must be able to do its job. A building must function as a building. A floor must support foot traffic. A door or a gate must create a barrier that opens and closes over a period of years, if not decades.

This requirement of practicality is one of the important boundaries of Art Deco. Objects must do what they're supposed to do.

The same isn't true of Art Nuveau, which doesn't have the same boundary. Being a pure art, it's didn't use practicality as a touchstone in the same way as Art Deco. Indeed, I am rather convinced that the need for practicality is one of the pressures that caused Art Deco to emerge from Art Nuveau. The practicality of architecture can never be homed to a pure art.

A second issue with a pure art is commissioning the skilled labor to produce it. Architects speak the language of blueprints while fine arts speak the language of drawing. Arguments between artisan and architect delays projects, increases cost, and increases complexity. By eliminating everything that required interpretation by the skilled artisan, the architects were able to greatly reduce the arguments over deliveries while increasing the reliability, meaning that they were better able to bring in projects on time and on budget. This sort of practicality didn't entirely remove all organic design, as sculpture does appear in Art Deco, but it generally appears in places where delays won't halt the entire building project.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
This is an example of Art Deco arches. You'll notice that the center arch is ever so slightly peaked. That's how the peak is established for on many period radios. You can also do a round peak, which will pass muster. For a round peak you just draw one circle on the center line. You keep the concentric side circles which are required to produce the even spacing.

Study - Arches.png

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
In Art Deco, you can easily see multiple hierarchies or layers, and these are scaled to themselves.

When something is scaled to itself, what I mean is that if you remove the big stuff around it, the parts that make up that layer work, feeling neither too big nor too small. Your eye naturally differentiates the different sizes.

Once you have different sizes, you need to present them in a way that makes sense and that feels nice. Generally, bigger items contain or imply smaller items. Small shapes, grouped, imply larger shapes.

When I say imply, I mean that the surround shapes approximate another shape, but don't necessarily complete it. For example, a circle is a circle, but if you group a bunch of circles, the space between the circles becomes stars. You didn't seek to draw those stars, but the stars were implied by the way that you drew the circles.

The effect of the layers and hierarchies add up. By keeping each layer simple, complexity emerges from the interactions of the layers. This principal helps produce a pleasing design, rather that a design that overwhelms the eye and razzle-dazzles the viewer into fatigue.

The better that you design the interactions of the layers, the more multi-fasceted the design will be. Simple and elegant, well executed, usually beats clever.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Example - Doors.png

Here is an examples of doors in the Art Deco style.

At the top is my base image. I created three 45-degree traingles and stacked them. By itself, that images reminds you of Art Deco, but isn't necessarily Art Deco.

The bottom example is Art Deco. Take element, reuse them, created layers of scale, from the tryptych to the tiny triangles formed by the eye. The lines that you see imply a zig-zag pattern. Your eye is drawn to the middle as that's the middle. It says, "Go through me." There lots of white space to soothe the eye. Together, the panels create an effect quite different from the single panel above.

Try rearranging the panels. With every other order, you'll find that the pattern breaks up and the results just aren't as pleasing.

I chose greens as my color to remind you that Art Deco comes in colors. It does. It really, really, does. Go look at the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. There's so much Art Deco that your arteries will implode.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
I found a period radio and covered it with construction lines to show you the relationship of all the pieces are on the radio.

Radio 1-Geometry.png

The base square is 2:30, and splits easily into 30-degree triangles. Along that axis are several 30-degree lines. Inside, you can see the classically stepped Art Deco rectangles. The circles aren't really circles, but I did them that way for speed. Even so, you can see how the size of the circles affected the placement of the dials, and the full dial circle determining the location of the middle switch.

When I talk about Art Deco having relationships, this is what I'm talking about. Art Deco at its purest is entirely emergent from the geometry.

Here's the same picture without the radio. Even with construction lines, this is a cool design.

Radio 1-Blueprint.png

The thing actually turned out to be far more difficult than I had anticipated. It was a really puzzler once I got going. I made quite a few mistakes along the way and used a flew kudges. (They weren't pretty.) Since the whole thing was done with English units, measuring it proved easy. I think the picture was either 1/4 or 1/2 scale. Here's the final output.

Project 8 - Radio.png

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Good music repeats themes. So do good art and good narrative. As Art Deco is good art, each work contains themes, and these themes are usually repeated. Sometimes a theme isn't repeated because not repeating is actually more effective, but that's how art goes.

The most prominent repetition of architecture is the rectangle and the square. Just look at all those windows. Just look at the outline of the building and the shape of the roofline. It's geometry everywhere. Those squares and rectangles can exist in certain relationships because they are windows and doors and you can't do weird things to them.

With Art Deco, you can do the weird things because the fun shapes aren't the windows and doors.

The fundamental element of those shapes and arrangements is pleasing the eye by using a simple rule or two. Although you can arrange geometry in an infinite number of ways, like anything optimal, there's only a finite number of variations that are most pleasing to the eye. Art Deco takes and uses the geometric arrangements that are most pleasing while leaving behind those that aren't.

Here are some common variations.

- Same shape, same size, used in the same manner.
- Same shape, different size.
- Same shape, superimposed on itself, offset by a fixed amount
- Same shape, superimposed on itself, distorted by a fixed formula
- Same shape, spaced at fixed intervals
- Same shape, mirrored

Do that with the front door. I dare ya.

Shapes are varied, but not when they're separated. A shape is only varied in relationship to itself. You, the viewer, know that it's one shape varied because the shapes are joined by superimposition.

Another sort of repetition and variation comes from the intersection of shapes. When you have many shapes in identical arrangements, you get identical intersections. Thus you have one set of shapes, and implied from that, a second and third set of shapes. Joining three rings together to make a curved triangle is a classic result of this technique.

Finally, there are visually implied shapes. At one level, shapes are triangles and squares, but on another level, these shapes form bigger shapes if your eye skips across the lines, and those implied bigger shapes repeat throughout the work.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
What is Architectural Rhythm? Basically (and this is very basic), it's the way that all the pieces of architecture work together, which means the way that a bunch of squares and rectangles, lines and curves, work together. As your eye is part of architecture, architectural rhythm involves you. The architect has thought about the way that your eye reacts, where your attention goes first, and where it goes later, so although the house doesn't move, the observer does. Thus, the rhythm establishes a relationship between the observer and the observed.

I'm sure that there are great books on this subject, but I haven't read any of them.

As Art Deco buildings are designed by architects, and architects use the principals of architectural rhythm in their designs, we can safely say that Art Deco is designed using the principals of architectural rhythm. Indeed, the subject matter of architectural rhythm, the geometric shapes of human construction, are the same basic shapes as those found in Art Deco.

This means that Art Deco interacts with the viewer, with the design focusing the viewer onto certain details. This rhythm should be pleasing to the eye. This rhythm should begin the eye at one point and then draw it to other points.

This also means that the elements of Art Deco do not exist in isolation, but exist as part of a rhythmic system. The elements are fundamentally related. Although they may contain different designs, the floors, wall, and ceiling are demonstrable parts of the same composition.

If you want to create Art Deco, you'll want to learn the basics of architectural rhythm, just not from me.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Linear Object

Squares are prolific rarely used in ornamentation. Vertical rectangles are more prevalent. A square rotated 45-degrees is often seen. When used, squares are usually smaller. To understand this, recall that most buildings are required to contain windows, so the vertical rectangle and the square dominate even before design begins. To work with this necessity, Art Deco is attracted to lines, rotated square, or exaggerated rectangles to override the dominant squares and establish the rhythm of a building.

Arced Objects

Circles are strong and rarely used. When used, especially while large, they are used with the greatest care. Smaller circles are favored over larger circles.

Parts of circles are often used. An arc of any size is preferable to an entire circle.

Vertical ellipses and parabolas predominate curves, although these two prefer arcs, even long arcs. Arches and peaked arches are frequently seen.

Spirals in the form of waves, wind, and other shapes are often seen. While spirals can be too much, a mixture of spiral sizes is quite appealing to the eye. Likewise, a linear selection of spirals also is also appealing to the eye.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
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