Saturday, November 5, 2016

YSL’s Perfection of Style

11/4/16 water-soluble pencils
If you’ve seen the way I dress, you know that fashion is not a high priority in my life, and clothing as an art form is not of particular interest. But I am interested in the creative spirit, and it was that interest that inspired me to go see Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style now on exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. 

Even as a teenager, Laurent’s passion for fashion design was unequivocal. One of my favorite parts of the exhibit was a set of paper dolls and clothes for them (never before exhibited) that he had made as a teen. I am always fascinated when I learn about people who had a strong creative drive at such a young age – and then went on to pursue their lifelong passion.
11/4/16 water-soluble colored pencils

Another part of the exhibit I enjoyed almost more than the garments was a huge collection of his drawings, each accompanied by attached fabric swatches. I’m sure many contemporary fashion designers use computers to help them now, but back in YSL’s early days, he used ordinary pencils and paper. Sketched on yellowing graph paper, the drawings still conveyed the freshness of when he first conceived the designs – that sense of experimentation was evident. And then to see the eventual finished design that came from an initial sketch seemed all the more remarkable.

Color junkie that I am, I was dazzled by the main part of the exhibit that was organized by hue. Walls displaying color-coordinated fabric swatches would be followed by mannequins wearing designs in the same hue family. Scrumptious eye candy!

I was happy that I had arrived at SAM shortly after it opened when the crowds hadn’t yet gathered, because I was able to find a few tucked-away spots where I could sketch without getting in the way. I had to laugh at all the bald mannequins with stretched out, non-human proportions – my life-drawing practice didn’t prepare me for that!

11/4/16 water-soluble graphite pencil and rainbow pencil
Technical note: You’ve heard me go on about water-soluble colored pencils lately, and I have to say that they are an ideal sketching medium for museums. While wet media are almost universally forbidden at museums, I’ve never been to one that prohibited pencils of any kind. As is often the case, the exhibits were very dimly lit, so I could barely distinguish among pencil hues in my bag. Nonetheless, I could get the colors down relatively quickly, and a Technalo water-soluble pencil (my current favorite graphite pencil) put in shadows easily. Later, over lunch at SAM’s Taste café, I used a waterbrush to activate the pencil marks for a bit more contrast and shadow.

While I was doing exactly that, a woman came up to me and said, “Are you Tina??” It turned out to be a blog reader who had caught me in the act! Great to meet you, Carol! I am thrilled to know that you enjoy the blog!

A set of paper dolls Laurent made as a teenager.

I loved seeing Laurent's drawings!

Dazzling color-themed exhibits!


  1. Nice job on the fashions! They can be fun to draw. The NYC Urban Sketchers went to see an exhibit of Isaac Mizrahi's fashions this past year and we got to sketch some of them, but it was so crowded and hard to find a place to stand. Yes, the wc pencils are great to use in a museum. Sometimes the guards don't bother you, but a friend recently had her watercolors taken at the Met and only returned to her when she was leaving.

  2. Excellent post on the exhibit. I'm also not one for high fashion but this makes me want to see it.

    I do watch some of Project Runway (mostly for Tim Gunn) and the designers DO sketch in sketchbooks. There was a single season when they were given tablets but that didn't last past that one season.


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