Many artists have a preferred scale to work at; part of this is familiarity and habit, but certain media, certain styles, and certain subjects work better, or sometimes not at all, at specific scales. In order to support oneself as an artist though it is essential that artists experiment with different scales as larger sizes sell less for more and medium vice versa. Still, it isn’t practical to make a 20 foot lithograph, and Guernica wouldn’t have 1/12th it’s power at 11.5 x 25.5 inches. One of the nice things about the digital tools is that it has allowed artists to simulate different media at any scale and today a 2D artists is only limited by resolution and the availability of subjects to manipulate.
When making a digital collage though one is effectively working outside the constraints that originally lent character to the physical version; one has effectively eliminated the limitation of scale, incongruous lighting/ hue, and availability of materials. The incongruities that these issues caused was what gave them a unique character when compared to prints, illustrations, and paintings of the past. This tends to lend digital collages artists a distinct characteristic that one doesn’t see in the art of their forebears.
This image isn’t a painting, and it doesn’t feel like it would ever have been a collage. It feels “mixed media”, but it is definitely too modern in its tone, aesthetic, forms, to be anything but contemporary. The word that best seems to describe all of the components, and the work as a whole is “incongruous”. This isn’t to say that the work feels confused, but rather, that the work has a shifting uneasiness about it that makes it all the more captivating.
The woman as a whole seems sad, but then you look at her downward gaze and see contempt; you reevaluate, “is that ennui”, but there’s a skull shooting out of her head. Is the skull death, or a representation of mental illness? Both interpretations could work, but there’s something of a violence in the skull that isn’t there in the woman’s face. Is the skull screaming, in motion, is it animate or inanimate? Who’s to say. What strikes me about this initial impression though is that while the title is ‘Death Blooms’ and there are flowers all over the picture, I can’t help but think of fungus and rot…perhaps mold while looking at this image. In terms of execution, it feels like the girl and the skull would be a wheat paste design, the flowers in the foreground feel like an illustration, the back circle feels like origami paper and a picture of a kumiko screen. The limited pallet ties it all in together while reinforcing the overall mood of the piece. It has an interesting overall silhouette. Its ambiguity gives it broad appeal. I think that this image is one that a person could live with and look at often and never be sure of the conclusion they draw about what’s going on, while retaining a certain feeling from it like what is held in the eyes of the female figure.
Beyond the composition, what really makes this design, and indeed all the designs within the artists ‘Botanical Pattern’, series is the unorthodox use of color. The compositions themselves also very good. Within the artist’s work there are generally a mix of flower sizes, with just the right amount of negative space. The sprig of leaves are smart compositional elements that serves to counterbalance the largest flower without competing for attention.
What makes an image like this difficult to pull off is that it’s difficult to end it at the bottom without ether being cut off (which is ugly) or appear floating (which can be distracting). You see this issue in any image that doesn’t have a framing shape, but for element that are thinner like plant stems, it will be much harder to taper or fade out the ends in a satisfactory way. The artists decision to bunch the flowers at the base seems to resolve the issue, while leaving us to wonder whether this is a bouquet or excerpt of a natural scene. Most impressive though is the balance achieved within the image. The triangular- talon shape of the composition as a whole would generally lead to the image feeling lopsided, but Lela has managed it.
The color pallet is interesting and a bit hard to place. Most likely it is Art Decco inspired. Although it wouldn’t necessarily be out of place in a Patrick Nagel painting or any of the popular cartoons from the late 80’s e.g. “Thundercats”, “He Man”, “GI Joe”, etc. Whatever the inspiration, the colors feel moody, and maybe more ‘old Hollywood glamour” than luxurious. All of which is to say that it’s an interesting work compositionally and a unique work by way of coloration.
Generally speaking the inclusion of the word “love” within a design, never mind an overabundance of botanical elements within that same design, will tend to garner an image the indefensible, the reprehensible label of “hippie shit”. This design though is not “hippie shit”, primarily because the outlines on the flowers that make botanicals ‘pop’ steers the image away from the watercolor territory that is generally too soft, or earthy to be chic. While it is true the ‘love’ element in a square shape is somewhat reminiscent of the same painting turned statue by Robert Indiana from the 60’s, it also brings to mind logos like those of NeXT Computers or, more recently, Uniqlo.
The flowers allow the image to be both soft and electric while coming to within a razors edge of naive and soulless, hippy and corporate. The image comes closer to corporate though in spite of the message. The collage/ cutout design has been growing in popularity in the world of graphic design; what perhaps saves this image is how busy it is in terms of color and form as advertisements and packaging typically opt for a more borne down pallet to control the focal point of an image or perhaps to simplify production.
So where do hippies and corporate detachment intersect? What does this image remind you of? Give you a clue: Think old (hippie boomers), rich people playing at culture while trying to be hip. If you guessed “modern art museums” you win a prize! Ok, not really but doesn’t this just scream “MOMA Gift Shop!”? (Side note, all of these symbols: !?, ?!, ?!? are called ‘interrobangs’, which is awesome.) The image is a fusion of ‘fine art busy’ and corporate Minimalism. It works though. If anyone is going to be able to design something that balances artistic poverty (earthiness) and rich people predilections its institutions that profess to celebrate fine art by appealing to the affluent.
Bones and Botany works in that it is pleasing at the macro level and curious upon closer inspection. The saturated colors and bold outline means you can see what the design fundamentally is from across the room, and upon closer inspection you get to notice the charming little details that E Moss has left: the hummingbird, the bat in the ribcage, the mouse on the elbow.
It’s surprisingly difficult to pull off a design that will work with any color tee, admittedly some color combinations are clear standouts, but the predominance of white within the skeleton, the breadth of color within flora and fauna, and the overall saturation come together to pull it off.
Certain elements such as the flower in the pelvis or the moth on the skull shouldn’t work, but the multitude of detailed anchored by the central form somehow allow them to exist without drawing attention; when you finally see them it’s less a compositional choice to be evaluated than an intriguing surprise of “how was that not the first thing I noticed”, sort of an easter egg effect squeezed into a compact composition.
The design is noteworthy in that it doesn’t fall into the common vanitas category of skull/ skeleton images; the plants and animals seem more like something drawn by a naturalist than a dour painter of dead things in a dark room, which is. refreshing
Designed By:E Moss Best colors: Redbubble offers 16 colors, any will work for this design. Cost: $19.90 @ Redbubble