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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Using Reference

Updated: Oct 9, 2019


I picked up any book I could find in my local library which had reference to the fifties. I was surprisingly successful on finding the perfect books to help with this exercise! Two books in particular supplied enough visual information needed to fill a room.

The Best of Times felt very British, and that of a common household I would be familiar of. It informed of the early days in the fifties, a brief diary that I'm sure many children of the fifties would nod and laugh too as they would relate. It talks about food, clothing, furniture, appliances, and more, plus it was full of persuasive advertisements of that period, which I love!

The Best Of Times - Book by Alison Pressley, Originally published: 1999

The second book was House & Garden, Fifties House. Much like an Ikea catalogue, the book was full of rich and colourful photos of interiors in the fifties. The book, I believe, was very much a showroom of the luxurious housing in those days. It gave perfect insight to what might possibly be considered a stereotype for this period, though it also felt far from what the typical house next door would have been like in the fifties.

Never the less, I found the book to be of great use. It gave trends on colours, patterns and seating. It shared advise for different living spaces, from studio to open plan. It felt like the modernism had leaped years ahead in a short space of time when looking through this book. Art and design had found a voice and it was shouting from the roof tops!

House & Garden Fifties House - Book by Catriona Gray, Originally Published: 2014

I also discovered a small book with a brief history on dolls in the fifties. Which, although not exactly relevant for an interior of a room, and possibly only a small detail to include if I wanted to go in that direction, it did, however, provide an idea of how fast the toy industry was also developing alongside household goods. Inside was a timeline of the fifties events where dolls would have had relation. From the coronation to the British festival, up to the 1959 debut of Barbie! This book really demonstrated the leaps that consumerism was making. Plastic changed the way we lived and it progressed us quicker than any other material could have ever done alone.


"Teak, rosewood, mahogany, and walnut were all major materials used during the 50s and 60s, and America, Britain, and Denmark each had their wood of preference."


I wanted my piece to feature a book shelf, as it seemed a vital piece of furniture in those days. With that, I of course needed books to fill the shelves! Lord Of The Flies by William Golding was originally published in 1954, and Casino Royale, the very first published novel to feature James Bond, by Ian Fleming was published in 1953. Two books that were going to be hidden in the piece!


"The different standpoints between East and West in 1950s widely influenced the art scene – in Eastern bloc socialist realism provoked politically engaged art or continue to develop in North Korea and in Western world blossomed movements with an answer to the rise of capitalism."

"Major influences on the 1950s art were made by 1920s avant-garde movements, modernism, surrealism and abstract painting."


It would seem that the art world was a huge influence in a lot of movements. Picking up from trauma, art, as always, became a release of suppression. Rebelling from rules, or perhaps shaking off the shackles from war. Colour, expressionism, modernism, pop art, all breaking rules to what was considered the norm. It showed progression after difficult times.

Could art have also influenced our interiors? It seemed that colour not only exploded in art but it also exploded in homes! After the great depression of the war, which I can only imagine was as grey as the black and white images found in archives, colour seemed to show joy, new life, and it all moved on pretty quickly.

Moodboard for a few art pieces from the 50's

The initial sketches / layouts:

Also deciding which style light I would like beside the armchair:

Outlining the chosen layout and light:

The final illustration:

The final piece felt like a cosy home. A combination of those found in a catalogue and those of a more traditional home. I took the patterned wallpaper, the modern lighting, the patterned armchair, bright carpets and patterned curtains into consideration. I also wanted the lady to look like she was in an old 50's advert.




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