Paradoxically when we are in the depths of winter with the mercury plummeting outside, designers are thinking about clothing for sun-drenched days. Trying to evoke this mood when the snow is a foot deep and you are wrapped in several layers of clothing means creating inspiration boards to ignite the heat of warmer days ahead.
Inspired by the exquisite John Singer Sargent watercolor exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston offered a wonderful doorway through which to step to start the design process. The incredible skill with which he captured sunlight and color immediately transports us to another time and place far from the winter outside. The exhibition brings together the watercolors he selected to be shown in the United States in two exhibitions in 1909 and 1912, and displays his completely mastery of the technique. Sargent’s friend and biographer said that “to live with Sargent’s watercolors is to live with sunshine captured and held.”
Sargent’s skill in watercolor makes the paintings seem almost as realistic as photographs from a distance, but as you step closer, the individual colors that create the illusion are clear and brilliant. When viewed at very close quarters they are even more beautiful, and were the starting point using paint and mixes of colored thread and swatches to inspiring new blends of color and texture.
Watercolor paintings, even when blown-up in scale, always seem to be completely harmonious. Mixing yarns in little pieces of crochet is a perfect way to decide on combinations. The best results will each be worked into a garment where sometimes over 30 different colors are used – even seemingly “solid” colors may be plaited with a complimentary color to create intriguing new blends. The small circular motifs were the start of an idea for patterning on a cardigan.
See the John Singer Sargent exhibit next at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, March 2 through May 26.