Art, Fashion

Wearable art for the artist

Designing a jacket for an artist? No pressure!

Meet Irma, Los Angeles painter, known for her striking abstracts, landscapes, portraits¬†and still life oils. She sent me two jackets. On one she wanted dragons and the other roses. When I tried to pin her down on colors and styles she gave me no specifics, “just make them vibrant!”


I’ve known Irma for a dozen years now. As far as I know, she’s always painted. I asked her how she got started. “I had an artist friend. I loved to watch her paint. One day she handed me a canvas and a brush… I jumped right in and loved it!”

When she paints, she uses rich colors and bold strokes that often come from the shoulder, not the wrist. The results are compelling. I keep several in my workshop as inspiration, including this one above my sewing table.


Irma is passionate about her art — and she’s a very stylish dresser — so I really wanted to get this right. I began on the dragon jacket, since that was a new idea to me. Researching, I came across a lovely¬†legend. It tells of four playful and kind hearted dragons who brought desperately needed rain to the people of China, and explains the origin of China’s four great rivers.

I positioned the long dragon, the yellow dragon, the pearl dragon and the black dragon swooping and diving across the back, down one sleeve and peeking over the shoulder. I did not stick to the traditional colors because this is art (or trying to be!). And I further muddied up the folk story by adding in a few extra dragons. What can I say? It’s a long jacket!


IMG_1231I surrounded these mythical creatures with flowering vines also Asian in inspiration. To make sure it would be vivid enough for Irma, I used contrasting colors which I chose by referring to the color wheel.

The most striking combinations are found opposite each other – blue and orange, red and green, yellow and violet, etc.

This color mix isn’t easy on the eye. It’s challenging, arresting, and not for everyone. I was a bit nervous when I shipped it, but happily, it was just what Irma wanted. She plans to wear it to her niece’s graduation from law school, over a flowing silk dress.

I’ll save Irma’s rose jacket for another time. It’s not your average rose jacket!

What will you wear today?