Painters and their clothing habits
A few years ago I started a drawing a series of underwear, trying to create the things I wanted. I imagined delicate embroideries, shiny things, soft, velvety materials… I used to go to H&M, where the lace is just scratchy… I wondered if selling underwear designs would get me enough money to buy some beautiful bras…
When you draw or paint people, especially when dressed, of course there is part of you that feels like you’re playing with dolls or other children’s games.
>>> A jacket with blue squares just begs for some purple trousers, unless it doesn’t match with the oranges in the fruit bowl. What to do?! Find another colour? Maybe a skirt would be better, something light, maybe white chiffon? No, no. Right, let’s just go for a little black dress and be done with it. No, black will just make it worse…
All of these “solutions” give way to personal taste, of course, and why not a personal clothing style? That way all the problems with your look are resolved, not just with regard to what you’ve got in your cupboard, but to the constraints of composition, shapes and colours (and you’re often more generous when matching colours and clothing on paper than with yourself on a daily basis).
The painter Kosta Kulundzic, told me that:
“When I paint Vans shoes, for example, I want to buy some. When I design some shorts it makes me want to wear some. There’s a real link between clothing in paintings and the painter’s clothes. I actually think I’d like to own everything I paint…”
Painting using a photograph he takes himself, he tells me he often changes the colours of clothes in his paintings. He loves bright colours like blue, green, yellow and red (Hawaiian shirts?!), and he often takes selfies and tries on other tops to see if they “go better” in his painting.
And yes, when depicting himself and his friends, he looks the same on the canvas, whereas in real life, it’s not always the same…
While we’re on the subject, Kosta is no fool. He’s been a painter for a long time, and knows the issues related to the profession:
“This business pushes you to do it… Collectors like to buy little bits of people. They want a strong identity. A painter like Joe Coleman, for example, really looks like the person he paints. It’s part of a whole, and everything comes together to create it.”
For figurative painters who draw their inspiration from their own lives, the correlation seem almost too obvious.
But what about those who paint in abstract styles, for those who paint horses and even landscapes?
Do the colours used in their painting influence their clothing style? Or inversely, do the colours they love wearing every day end up on the canvas, almost dictating the painted subject?
I looked at David Hockney’s paintings, noticing that at a first glance, the little details on his work clothes were often matched with the painting in progress.
Was it planned? Was it for the buyer? Or for the viewer?
Are there other examples?
Lucian Freud painting David Hockney
Quite probably… Even beyond the painting itself…
I asked my painter friends if they thought their clothing style was related to their painting:
Flore Nove-Josserand (London):
“I see it as very simple. I coordinate colours and textures I see as “classy” (laughs). If they happen to be the same combination as those found in my work, well it’s not my fault! If I was filthy rich I’d buy clothes with far more ambitious materials and colours. For example, a fitted, tulip with aggressive shoulder pads, in a beautiful, lemon-yellow and apple-green shading, and I’d match it with tight, dioxazine purple, snakeskin trousers, and aerodynamic, golden shoes.
(If you know someone who does that, let me know!)
The more I learn to master colours and materials in my work, the more I’m sensitive to them in daily life, including in the clothes I find.
And the more I’m in contact with the colours and fabrics of my clothes, the more I’m inspired in my work.
In my work I sometimes have to buy and even wear strange clothes, and they sometimes end up in my wardrobe.”
Clément Borre (Paris):
“The green/mustard-khaki yellow is a constellation of shades I’ve been battling with for years. I’m looking for a rotten mango colour, still light and soft. A flashy swamp colour, a metallic mould from the future. And it also has to go with my hair. I gave up on green and orange as they were too basic, too cliché for ginger people. And I really struggle to put blue on my canvases. Blue is separate, beyond… I only like turquoise shades, especially cyan.”
Daniel Mato (Paris):
“I’m suite ‘neutral” in general, whereas the colours in my paintings are far more exuberant. The link might be as silly as that: everything I wouldn’t dare wear, I put on my canvases, knowing that in terms of painting I’m buoyed by my colours.
Certain colours push me to paint and progress with a canvas, while other, more neutral colours don’t ‘speak’ to me at all, and just ruin the excitement of painting. Blue colours are a good example. I find blue is a colour that immediately ‘spatializes’ everything. In the end it’s quite neutral, and I find it really complicated.
Generally I’d say the way I dress doesn’t influence my painting.
If you look at painters like Keith Haring and Basquiat, their paintings are really linked to their way of life, so things can be very visible in that sense. But then a ‘colour painter’ like Joseph Albers, who has an incredible talent for laying out colours, dresses like a little grandad!”
(One thing is sure: Albers was no square…)
And as the saying goes, “it takes all kinds to make a world”, and I’m far from throwing light on any mysteries of the art world today…
Some artists are directly influenced by their own painting. Their work and their aesthetic discoveries make them want to go further in how they present themselves to the world.
Inversely, others are naturally inspired by their own personality, letting it run free and expressing it both in their look and in their work.
And then there are those who are walking aesthetic discrepancies. Their inner “self” may be more distinguished in the message, the concept and the theme of their paintings.
And finally, there are those who play along. Those who have found a style (a successful one, preferably) and who do everything to match it.
In general, one thing is true with regard to painters and colours: painters paint the colours they love.
This will probably seem a little obvious, but if painting is a search for volumes and forms, perhaps it should combine all possible colours and shapes. In reality, painters very often stick to “their colours”; in the same way they buy their clothes, they first showcase the shades they enjoy the most.