The late L. Ron Hubbard is best remembered for his association with Dianetics and Scientology. What is not generally known is that he was a successful science fiction, adventure and detective writer. Hubbard also worked on many Hollywood film sets, and his masterful knowledge in this arena came as a result of his lifelong interest in art. His massive book “Art” is a masterpiece. Art, Hubbard says, includes painting, music, photography, poetry and the presenting of oneself.
Hubbard concludes that art follows the laws of communication, in that it must be understood by the receiver. He is insistent that art is for the receiver. “If he understands it,” says Hubbard, “he likes it.” He points out that too much “originality” throws the audience into unfamiliarity and therefore disagreement. Thus, art that is not understood by the viewer is not art, according to Hubbard. To produce art that only pleases the artist is self indulgence.
Hubbard writes, “The viewer must be able to contribute to the art or it is not art.” There must be something we see that we can relate to emotionally in our own life. In terms of image, a person who wears garments that are over-the-top may actually turn others off because they don’t relate and, therefore, cannot contribute.
“On the other hand, the common and overused or expected shape or form gets little or no contribution from the viewer,” he notes. “The artist may deliver everything but if the viewer gets little or nothing in return, it is not art.” In their self indulgence, many designers produce garments that sometimes make the wearer look ridiculous.
“Innovation plays a large role in all works which may become art,” says Hubbard. “But even this can be overdone. Originality can be overdone to the point where it is no longer within any possible understanding by those viewing or hearing it.” Many fashion designers go out of business because they do not deliver the products that their audience can emotionally interact with. Designers must appeal to that “sweet spot” where the garment is exciting but also wearable; useful, but not ordinary. Innovation is necessary in all fields, but in fashion, the “art” must also be “understood” by the public.
The rules of image decree that you will look better, and more stylish, in certain colors and lines (styles). Thus, the “composition” of your garments must have color and line harmony. When this is achieved, the viewer of your “art” will like what he or she sees.
Hubbard remarks that you can create art that talks by knowing what your message is and putting in things that contribute to the message and removing things that don’t. For example, in a film scene, there is one center of interest; just as in image, there is one focal point. In a scene, objects must fit together, so the décor should not be mixed from contradictory eras. In image, wearing a designer power suit and combining it with track shoes is jarring; just as showing cleavage would not be in sync with a power suit, because it would contradict the power suit’s message.
On film sets, Hubbard cautions against inconsistency of design, because it creates confusion to the viewer. “The whole idea of a set design is to make something look like it belongs together,” he explains. In fashion, we “tie things together” with a repeated color to produce the effect of unity. For example, a man’s navy blue suit is tied together with a red tie that has small navy blue stripes. With a mostly-blue tie and tiny red stripes, the look is monotonous, because suit and tie lack contrast and blend into each other. With a woman’s black skirt and red jacket, the addition of a white blouse would make the outfit look disjointed; but wearing a white blouse with dots in either of the outfit’s colors would “tie it together” and make it look like a cohesive suit.
Hubbard says, “Be a professional in whatever you do; the tale is told by the effectiveness of the product on its viewers and intended public.” When it comes to image, this means you can’t break the rules of fashion effectively until you know them thoroughly. The French Impressionists and jazz musicians learned this. The Impressionists painted bowls of fruit before they broke the rules and surpassed the knowledge of their professors. Jazz musicians play Bach Beethoven and Brahms before going on to break the rules. “You must know and follow the basic rules and use them expertly,” says Hubbard. When I taught modeling at a school in Washington, DC, I told my students to learn all the rules and follow them perfectly, but to adapt them to their own distinct style once they graduated. It is only when you know the rules expertly that you can break them successfully and be a true artist.
Sandy Dumont is a speaker, image consultant and lifelong amateur artist. She is the author of numerous products on the subject of image; the latest, a six-piece boxed set, “The Expert Impact®” geared for the financial services sector. For more information, please visit www.TheImageArchitect.com.