Saturday, August 1, 2009

My gauge of Art Nouveau

Several things in this modern world draw from the Art Nouveau style. Most people tend to think of architecture and furniture, but some examples of art nouveau that I've seen have been quite unexpected.

In terms of typography, I have come across two amazing typographers. Firstly, Si Scott. Si Scott is a fairly famous typographer who has been commisioned to do much commercial design. His images always revolve around centripedal design. Lots of curves and circles are used, which I consider to be somewhat 'Art Nouveau'.

The following example is from his website,

I particularly love how in the second design, the typography (reading 'Black Swans' is one with the image of two swans. The flow of line is certainly reminiscent of organic forms and I find Scott's work particularly beautiful.
Another typographer I greatly admire is Daniel Reeve. A calligrapher from New Zealand, Reeve has done much typography for several commercial products for films, such as 'The Lord of the Rings', 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and 'Pirates of the Carribean'. Perhaps most notably, Reeve did the typography for the 'The Lord of the Rings' calendars and maps. The following examples of his typography were taken from his website,

I love the extension of line that Reeve uses. These names from 'The Lord of the Rings' particularly suit the Art Nouveau style. Bag End, being a part of Hobbitton is a very earthy, organic location. The Nouveau style suits this in the sense that it is affiliated with nature. Galadrial and Arwen are both elves, and I strongly feel that Elves epitomise 'Art Nouveau'. The flow of line suggests the gracefulness of elves, and the leaf shapes are symbolic of their homes in the forests and among nature. Reeve's typography simply blows me away.

To continue on 'The Lord of the Rings' and elves, I have sourced images of the concept design that went into the creation of the LOTR films. Daniel Falconer is a designer from Weta Workshop- the NZ company that created the physical effects for LOTR. Falconer was particularly active in designing the elves of Middle-Earth. Having met Falconer personally, and having researched his involvement in the process of concept design, I know that he particularly chose the Art Nouveau style to design the elves. The curved lines that he uses are clearly reminiscent of leaf shapes and flowers. Since seeing these concept designs, I have always associated 'Art Nouveau' with 'Elves of Middle-Earth'.
The following images were taken from the Gary Russell 'Art of...' LOTR books. Daniel's page on Weta's website is

Depicted above are three First-Age elves. The first and third are Gil-Galad, and the middle is Elrond. Their armour has a lot of overlaying curved plates. Leaf symbolism is evident throughout the designs, and their armour is not merely industrial- it is beautiful. Similarly in the row of Elven emblems (adapted from pictures that J.R.R. Tolkien himself drew) draw from natural elements. Leaf shapes are often present, as well as stars.
Above are several images showing the process of design for the Galadhrim Third-Age elves. Falconer again used elegant leaf shapes in the breast-plate and skirt in the first two images. The overall aesthetic is very beautiful, which is perhaps odd for a piece of armour. However, I believe that Falconer's vision of elves - that they adorn themselves in beauty as the battle could be their last - is very much symbolic of Art Nouveau. The last image is actually a polystone collectible statue made by Sideshow Weta of a Galadhrim Archer. This was sculpted exactly as the characters were seen in 'The Two Towers'. I find the design absolutely beautiful. The flow in the armour suggests such a grace that is fitting for elves.

Another designer from Weta Workshop that has used Art Nouveau in an unconventional way is Greg Broadmore. As the inventor of 'Dr. Grorbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators', i.e.- Rayguns, he has drawn from both Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. As his rayguns are categorised as 'steampunk', they draw from a Victorian aesthetic which I believe to be somewhat similar to the Art Nouveau style. He creates pieces of weaponry that are (arguably) practical but incredibly beautiful. Although guns are not typically objects of beauty, Broadmore uses curved lines and organic shapes to create beautiful objects of destruction... however ironic that is.

The following images have been taken from his book, 'Dr. Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory'. Greg's page on the Weta website is

The Victorious Mongoose is based on a Derringer-style gun which was designed to be concealable. I find the curved shape to be particularly elegant. Some of the detail on the handle and the lyrical designs above it remind me of the nouveau aesthetic. The F.M.O.M. is perhaps less elegant and more futuristic, but the shape is still a beautiful, natural leaf-shaped design.
Art Nouveau can be found in unlikely places. Even today, obscure objects are designed with a nouveau aesthetic as people still celebrate the idea that a piece of design can be both attractive and practical.

1 comment:

  1. Wow it is fantastic to find that in this world of billions you can usually find someone who has had the same notion as you. A while back I commented to a friend that "elves like Art Nouveau while dwarves like Art Deco". I am currently looking for images online to help me draw characters for my fantasy role-play game and came across this page. Thanks for helping me think some of what I say makes sense. :)