I adore this Cecil Beaton photo of Paula Gellibrand. I like the composition and style. It is from 1928 but could be from any time in the future – that’s what I like the most about it.
I have been inspired by Cecil Beaton’s photos in the past.
“Fashion photography has been described as using the world as a backdrop and transforming it into a stage.”
…from the description of the Fashioning the Fantasy class I attended. Paula Flavell ran this class at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre as part of their Coming Into Fashion exhibition. I first saw Paula at the textures Drawing Room she led last year.
The goal of this class was to produce a 3D stage model, but along the way we were able to experience printing using carbon-copy paper and practice some charcoal drawing techniques too.
To begin we had a look at a selection of the photographs on show at exhibition. We picked a photo to make a quick sketch of. This is my sketch (5-10 mins) of a photo by Cecil Beaton that appears in American Vogue in 1936:
Back in the studio space, in keeping with the photographic theme, we placed carbon-copy paper onto a 7×5 sheet of photographic paper, and drew over the sketch to press the black ink into the sheet. Using this method we could edit our image by choosing which lines to draw – removing some, adding others. The resulting effect was quite pleasing, with crisp well-chosen lines:
Before lunch we prepared for our 3D stage piece. I chose to base mine on a photo by Erwin Blumenfeld that appeared in French Vogue and American Vogue in 1938. The photo was of a woman in a flowing dress hanging from the beams of the Eiffel Tower, with Paris as the backdrop. I haven’t sought permission to reproduce it here, so you’ll have to make do with my versions of it. In the morning we practiced our handling of charcoal by drawing our chosen photo. I didn’t complete it in the class, but I did complete it last night and will share the final version in a separate post.
Paula demoed some techniques to help our handling of charcoal. The following is a photo of Paula’s demo, showing:
- the difference between vine/willow charcoal (top) and compressed charcoal (middle)
- application of varying strengths (left-to-right) and using a rubber to remove it
- using water with the compressed charcoal (bottom-left)
- drawing charcoal over a texture (bottom)
- using a mask to leave a white patch (bottom-right)
In the afternoon, we worked on our 3D stage. It was constructed from cut-and-fold card that Paula had prepared for us. It required layers of illustration from the background to the foreground. My model consisted of:
- background – the sky and Paris cityscape, with little detail
- mid-ground – the woman and the beams of the Eiffel Tower she was standing/hanging from
- foreground – a beam of the Tower
This was my not-so-great result. Note that the foreground layer was badly planned because most of it is obscured by the frame!
It was fun deconstructing the layers in the photograph, and building something up from that. The more I’m exposed to methods such as these, and the silhouette isolation from the previous class, the more I become accustomed to considering things I observe in this way. A useful technique for sure.