Monday, March 4, 2013
Watercolor and boarding the bandwagon
A while ago I came across the sun prints of Anna Atkins made of British ferns, published in 1843. I wrote about her here. Ever since then I've been wanting to make watercolors of ferns (since I'm not much of a sun print type), but have been busy with the business/baby/life trilogy. I've finally found the time to fiddle with watercolor, and am discovering that these new designs look an awful lot like a lot of stationery and illustrations out there. Hand-painted artwork is very trendy right now, artwork informed by old illustrations and vintage-y colors. So these designs will look very much, or ARE very much, like I'm jumping on the bandwagon.
The current message sent out to all designers is to be true to your own vision and nurture your original look. But to be honest I don't really have one. Trained as a children's book designer, I was trained to be at the service of a narrative—to create designs that brought out other people's work, where the designer is and should be essentially invisible. It's all about the story, it's not about you.
Now as a stationery designer (and still book designer, designing 2 right now, how do I think I have the time for this...) I find that although I do have a specific perspective, I do not have a single unified look. I'm swept away by too many things. And I want to share these things with people. In a way, I feel that my design skills should be at the service of those looking for unique stationery that could still be within their budget.
So, about this bandwagon thing. I feel bad about creating things that will smack of other people's work, even if I'd had it in mind for years. But when custom artwork is out of most people's grasp, is it such a bad thing to find a way to give it to them? Especially if you happen to have a background in watercolor?
What does it mean to feel in service to customers rather than your own "style"? It's not the motto out there. If you're a small business you are not supposed to be talking about money or sales, you are supposed to be true to yourself and stick to your guns.
I guess I'm not on that bandwagon. I guess I think that mindset is its own bandwagon. A good one, one that everyone should aspire to! But I simply don't have a singular design style. If "eclectic" is the word of the day for interiors, can't it be that way for design as well? I design with other people in mind, I design things to make people happy. Design is at the service of others, to be used and loved. It's not art, and THAT'S OKAY.
I'll talk about my artwork some other time!