Cincy Deco

The design you see below is one of my own creation.  The reason it exists, as well as its final purpose, harbors a larger story than just any old drawing I’ve done before.

Art Deco has been and always will be my favorite aesthetic both for architecture and design in general.  It’s flashy, unapologetic in its complexity, and elegantly powerful.  It’s just so magnificent.  I finished the design above, which I’ve been working on the last 7 days, and it features my four favorite examples of Art Deco architecture in our city.  In a stylized, minimalist fashion inspired by the Gary Lord picture hanging near the top of the Carew Tower’s staircase to the observation deck as well as the art within the Carew Tower depicting the shape of the building itself, the American Building, Carew Tower, Times-Star, and Union Terminal are all integrated into a tight design, unified by their common 20’s and 30’s aesthetic.  The process of designing it was actually rather extensive...

The three original sketches, cut out and placed side by side before being arranged into the final design.

The three original sketches, cut out and placed side by side before being arranged into the final design.

The whole design started off as a sketch of the Times-Star building while I was bored on my lunch hour at work.  It’s my favorite building in Cincinnati and I like the shape of it, so I was doodling the outline and decreasing the finer details as I kept redrawing it.  Eventually, it ended up looking like the sketch in the final design and it got me thinking about the other Art Deco buildings in the region.  It unintentionally resembled the style of the Gary Lord piece hanging up near the Carew Tower observation deck; since the Carew Tower is a magnificent work of Art Deco as well, I redrew it in his style (altering it to reflect my own spin on the design).  Realizing I had two similarly-sized sketches done in the same style, I cut them out and they looked pretty great together when placed side by side.  It got me thinking about a larger, cohesive piece that could be assembled if I were to do other Art Deco buildings around town as well, so I started brainstorming other possible options.

The next obvious thought was Union Terminal.  It features a lot of rounded edges, so drawing it was more challenging than the previous two.  The sketch I did differs from the final design’s sketch as I wasn’t happy with how it flowed with the others.  I cut it out and placed it next to the other two, and realized the whole thing would look better if they were layered instead of isolated next to each other.  A quick rearranging put Carew in the background, Union Terminal in the foreground, and Times-Star between them.

Preliminary arrangement before adding the American Building.

Preliminary arrangement before adding the American Building.

But something was off.  It was asymmetrically unbalanced, and while that’s a good option for some designs, I didn’t think it felt fully fleshed out enough for this one.  There’s another really fantastic Art Deco building I’m fond of on Central Parkway, the American Building, so I thought about how to incorporate its image into the existing design.  I eventually arranged the vertical middle line dissecting Carew Tower with the vertical middle line of the Union Terminal design and placed Times-Start off to the right side (still between them).  This left a nice little vacant “lot” for the American Building to fit into the design on the left side.  I did a few sketches of it on paper, but wasn’t happy with any of them, so I scanned the three other sketches and loaded them onto my laptop with the intention of digitally sketching the American Building.

After about 15 hours over several days of sketching and playing around with the designs I had, removing lines and adding new ones while resizing and figuring out the relative ratios for each, I had the final design.  They were arranged in their final form due to the ideas above but also to reflect the dates in which they opened: the American Building (1928) sits farthest back, the Carew Tower (1930) sits over the American Building, Times-Star (January, 1933) sits over the Carew Tower, and finally Union Terminal (March, 1933) is on top.  The bottom needed something, so I rounded it out with a description of what it actually is in an Art Deco font.

And here’s the other thing: I’m planning this as a personal tattoo someday as well.  This is not only a digital design.  I plan on putting this on the inside of my right forearm, the one with which I write and draw, since it represents who I am and what interests me so perfectly.  It’s my dominant arm and this is a dominant part of my life to go along with it.  It’s where I can exercise my physical strength and export my creative abilities.  I obviously love Art Deco; like I said earlier, it’s my favorite aesthetic for the reasons I listed at the beginning of this post.  History is extremely important to me, so this design featuring four of my favorite historic buildings in this specific style makes sense for a piece of personalized art.  To make it even more relatable and representative of who I am and what I'm interested in, the line running vertically down the center of Carew that connects to Union Terminal follows the length of my arm and represents the direction of the veins beneath it; I’m passionate about what I’m interested in and the art associated with it, so the metaphor of it running through my veins is handled subtly this way.  The name of my hometown rests at the base of the buildings, representing the foundation for and the birthplace of all of these magnificent creations as well as where I've built my own life.  The design is balanced and tapers off toward the top intentionally in an effort to follow the general shape of my forearm (the base of it will be above my inner-elbow and the top of Carew will be under my wrist).  I believe a tattoo that’s designed to respect the shape of the human form is a more tasteful one than the ones that ignore it.  The entire design is done in a semi-minimalist style to represent my appreciation for the semi-minimalist, modest lifestyle I live.  And finally, it’s also a design that I spent my time doing, which makes it personal and unique to me, something I think a good tattoo should be.

So that’s the whole story of how this design came to be, the meaning behind its configuration, what the subject matter depicts, and why I designed these local public icons to also serve as an extremely personal piece of body art I plan to have done someday.