I’m making good use of my free time (school holiday’s) to read some of my recent birthday present books. First up has been this one about Vera Neumann who I’d never heard of until I saw an advert for this book.

Vera Neumann was an American painter and textile designer (50’s – 90’s) who championed art for all and is thought to be one of the first innovators (especially amongst woman) of cross-licensing. Her work appeared on bedding, dresses, wallpaper and most famously scarves. She was an unlikely innovator being very small and shy but she was one of the most successful entrepreneurs of her generation.

She wanted everyone to be able to afford art and live with it around them and so she designed scarves as little pieces of wearable art. Her company actively promoted the stretching and framing of these scarves so that people could have the fashion item and the art to hang at home, effectively bridging the fashion market and home furnishing market.

She painted using sumi-e brushwork. This is where the artist holds the brush vertically using swift brushstrokes and economy of line to describe the image.

Vera didn’t design for printing, she painted artworks and then staff put them into repeat pattern. She was known to have painted her bedding designs onto large pieces of canvas cut to the actual size so every design kept that feel of being an art piece.

In the 60’s she developed fabrics for her own clothing line. These were designed as wearable paintings with each piece of the garment printed differently so that when pieced together it hung as an artwork not a repeating pattern.

She was inspired by everything around her but particularly nature and loved flowers and insects, the butterfly being one of her most used motif’s. She travelled very widely, sketching constantly and then painted back in the studio. The company had a clever marketing scheme of “Vera paints…Italy, Vera paints Ireland…etc” and so once she had become famous she was paid by local tourism to travel to their country because she would inevitably be inspired to design a collection which would in turn promote that country.

What I find most inspiring is her drive to paint anything and everything and find visual merit in it, whether it’s a pile of spectacles or an abstract line drawing of a house. She stuck to her own style of painting and did not waver to fashions, advice or to try to make something fit into a commercial pattern. She didn’t paint a whole scene and then reduce certain elements into a pattern.

She inspires me to open a sketch book and fill it by drawing everything around me without editing it or trying to formulate something with it; just to paint, paint, paint!


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