In the 1910s, artists began portraying American women in a new way. These women were modern, active and athletic. They drove cars. They ran with their dogs, practiced archery and worked in the yard (all the while wearing a skirt.) Chief among the early architects of this “Golden Age of American Illustration” was Coles Phillips, popularizer of the Fadeaway Girl. It’s an interesting technique, playing foreground against background to define a shape. I’ve picked a few Good Housekeeping magazine covers (mostly from the 1916s) to show you what I mean.
Contrary to what you might assume, these “simple” illustrations are not simple at all. Omitting the perfect amount of detail so the reader’s eye can fill in the blank space and form a complete image requires intense concentration. As you can see, some of his covers are more successful than others at invoking this transformation.
This idea works as a metaphor for Flash Fiction as well. When a writer gives us enough tantalizing detail, we understand there is a larger invisible story, unspoken, hinted at, yet substantial. In the best Flash, we can fill in the blanks, and the weightless solidifies.
Today’s List of Links
Wikipedia says: “Clarence Coles Phillips (October 3, 1880 – June 13, 1927) was an American artist and illustrator who signed his early works C. Coles Phillips, but after 1911 worked under the abbreviated name, Coles Phillips. He is known for his stylish images of women and a signature use of negative space in the paintings he created for advertisements and the covers of popular magazines.”
A succinct essay on Coles Phillips’ life and the development of the Fadeaway Girl can be found on 1920-30.com.
Today’s Musical Selection: Weightless by Noa Bursie