One of the pieces of work I have often wanted to write about is the Art Nouveau design I produced for Les Vraies Richesses, a bakery in Quebec. This article is all about how I first came across this lovely style and how it inspired me in fulfilling this commission.
Discovering Art Nouveau
I had always been inspired by the Art Nouveau style I saw around London, especially the incredible architecture, but the first time I really took to it was when I visited Paris with my wife on our honeymoon.
Art Nouveau is a compelling, energetic style. The architecture, murals and graphic art have an organic feel to them with that beautiful line – that curvature – you see in leaves, flowers, vines and other plants. While classic 19th Century Victorian lettering is beautifully done and ornate, the Art Nouveau movement has that ‘thick and thin’ design to it with floral patterns and asymmetric lines.
The peak of the Art Nouveau period was between the 1890s and the start of the First World War. To me, the father of Art Nouveau in graphic art was a Czech artist called Alphonse Mucha. His work is absolutely gorgeous with a beautiful, lovely flow. For a time, he was based in and around Paris, and he did many of the theatre posters for stage actress Sarah Bernhardt. I loved his style and got a lot of inspiration from his work.
A mouthwatering commission
In 2020, a really exciting commission came to me. It was from a lady called Mylène Pelchat who represented Les Vraies Richesses, a bakery in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The company loved the Art Nouveau of Alphonse Mucha, and they asked me to create a design for their business, mainly for use in a mural.
Mylene’s brief was to evoke the French boulangerie look that you see in the streets of Paris. She wanted me to incorporate a medallion design with a woman’s head surrounded by wheat representing the goddess Demeter. She explained how wheat, fields and the harvest evoked a mix of abundance and femininity which was the image they felt represented their work and products. Mylene even drew some simple pencil drawings on A4 as example layouts, which I thought looked nice so I used this path of flow for my layout.
All I could offer them at the time was a pencil drawing – I couldn’t colourise it – so I started off with some thumbnail drawings and sketches, and I started putting my own interpretation of the Art Nouveau style into the design and lettering.
It took me a good week or week and a half trying to get it all together. I then added a bit more definition and made some slight changes to the design before refining it. It wasn’t a finished drawing, but it was still good enough to go to the mural painters over in Quebec.
Les Vraies Richesses used the design both inside and outside the bakery, and they even put it onto a lot of the packaging that their beautiful cakes go into.
It was lovely working for this company, and I will never forget the enjoyment I experienced while drawing all of those beautiful curves and lines that define Art Nouveau.
Would you like to learn how to create beautiful gilded lettering?
Traditional lettering from the 19th and early 20th Century is fascinating to see and even more rewarding to create. Through my online course, I will take you through every stage of the process of water gilding 12 ornate letters, from sourcing your supplies and setting up your workspace to choosing your technique and applying the finishing touches. You will also learn how to draw the letters that you will go on to produce. It’s a beautifully filmed 52 hour course designed for total beginners to advanced artists. I have been on a mission since 1995 to help keep these crafts alive and to share them to new generations of young gilding and signwriting artists around the world , hoping they will also carry on and pass over these unique skills and processes for people to enjoy for many years to come.