The Art of Shoe Design
A fashionable take on my absolute favorite painting, Johannes Vermeer’s “The Art of Painting.” I imagine that the woman within the painting would be wearing these shoes beneath her lush satin gown.
Marker and ink on bristol.
Explanation and Analysis #1: Celtic Shoe Design
Perhaps my favorite design from the “Walk Through Art History” collection of shoes is the Celtic design. As a few have pointed out in reblog comments (yes, I read those), Celtic is a very broad term. Due to the vagueness of such a term, I will specify which cultures and styles I referenced in the design of the shoe.
One of the most striking aspects of this shoe, even to me, is the amount of detail put into it. I cannot tell you how many times I yelled profane things and felt anxious about outlining the details in pen. I drew this detail to achieve the effect of gold cloisonné – a technique in which partitions are made with narrow metal strips soldered edge-up and filled with enamel or gems. Such techniques were prominent in art of the Germanic peoples in the “Animal Style”.
As defined in Gardner’s Art Through the Ages:
Animal style is a generic term for the characteristic ornamentation of artifacts worn and carried by nomadic peoples who, for almost two millennia, moved restlessly to and fro across the vast, open grasslands that stretch from China into western Europe.
I specifically referenced two famous pieces created in the animal style within the design of the heel and platform. In fact, these sections of the shoe are an almost direct translation of said artifacts in the shape of a vertical heel and a round platform.
The first of these pieces is the impossibly intricate Purse Cover from the Sutton Hoo ship burial. This artifact contains animal motifs reminiscent of Mesopotamian and Egyptian art. Interlace patterns, commonly found throughout Celtic art, can also be found in the piece.
Another artifact that influenced the design of the heel was a round Frankish fibula containing more geometric designs.
As for the upper portion of the shoe, an almost entirely separate form of Celtic art is referenced. Celtic knots, a generic term for delicate interlacing patterns, were adapted as decoration for a variety of Christian monuments. A simple interlace element made of gold snakes around the side of the shoe, serving to link the Frankish portion of the shoe (also containing knot patterns) to the simpler, knotted half. The part of the shoe that actually covers the foot would be made out of a reinforced green velvet in another interlace pattern.
An obvious challenge in the process of designing a shoe that is supposed to represent a specific art historical time period is the process of discernment. In designing this shoe, I had to find elements of Celtic art that would readily be adapted to the form of a shoe and thoughtfully translate them to the tricky shape of a heel, platform, and a bent foot. In this way, it was necessary to take some artistic license to make an aesthetically pleasing design with some degree of historical accuracy.
It is crucial to recognize that the purpose of this design (and the rest of the collection, for this matter) was to create a high heel design that fused high fashion and relatively tricky art historical cultures. This shoe would likely break if it were made to my specifications because of the softness of gold, but this shoe is intended to be looked at–not worn.
I sincerely hope that is explanation has been helpful and somewhat enlightening as to why I designed these shoes the way I did. Thank you all for the incredible response! I will be posting a post of this nature for each design in the collection.
Nick Adelman (Yung Vermeer)
The Birth of Venus
I present my first mixed media shoe design, being mostly hand drawn. Bouguereau’s “Birth of Venus” has been superimposed into the design of the boot as an homage to the work that inspired it.
A Walk Through Art History
I designed these shoes with a unique goal in mind: to create a shoe as a summation of an entire culture’s art. Each shoe possesses design qualities, color palettes, and designs only found in the respective culture. This project allowed me to investigate art historical cultures in a special way by challenging myself to translate an entire style (or series of styles) onto a single object.
Conveniently, I was able to use these designs as the concentration section of my AP Studio Art portfolio and received a score of a 5!
I possess full federal copyright of these designs.