The vintage style of Don Carney
Admire a wall of Don Carney’s work and you would swear that numerous 1940s vintage woodblock prints were long-lost treasures found in his grandparents’ attic. Not so. These are 21st-century ink drawings made with ink dropper and tiny brushes. They revisit the moody, outsider images of a bygone era.
Carney, whose dream was originally to be an illustrator, studied at the Art Institute of Boston, but after graduation and a move to New York City his focus shifted to fashion, which led to designing women’s shoes. Shortly afterwards, Carney along with partner John Ross founded PATCH NYC, where he designed accessories for both fashion and home, and discovered that the creative freedom of owning a design firm allowed him to incorporate more and more of his own artwork into the designs. This eventually led him to use his own illustrations to compliment PATCH NYC’s collections when showing in Paris and New York.
Carney’s ink drawings harken back to the style of woodblock printed textiles from the 1940s; other sources of inspiration include nature, and vintage botanical reference books, as well as traditional woodblock prints. What’s the attraction and pull to this era? Carney says, “I have always been drawn to the fashion style of the 1940s — especially the fabric prints and men’s style from that period because I like the dark palette, graphic quality, moodiness, and overall feeling.”
Having worked in the past with woodblock printing, Carney, known for being very detail-oriented and meticulous, quickly realized that he enjoyed the control of working with brushes and other tools, like the eyedropper. His drawings gradually took shape and with each new piece he created he edged closer to what is now his trademark style. Inspiration for a new drawings also come from his collection of vintage flea market frames. From his vast assortment Carney finds the right frame to fit the subject. Once he’s selected the perfect frame, he usually goes to work on a rough sketch in pencil before the application of ink.
His favorite drawings include a pipe billowing with smoke — and although he’s completed several similar pieces, he never tires of creating a new pattern in the smoke. However, it’s a six foot tall pipe with smoke that was the most challenging for Carney. Commissioned for the New York home of designer Jonathan Adler and Barney’s Creative Director Simon Doonan, Carney comments, “I had never worked on such a large piece, nor had I ever worked directly on an upright surface.”
The popularity of his work has generated massive media attention from fashion and home décor glossies, as well as designer blogs both in the United State and abroad. He modestly says, ” I’ve been fortunate to have shown my work in some great spaces like Astier de Villatte in Paris, Barneys New York, Raw in Milan, Bon in Tucson and Clic Gallery in the Hamptons which has lead to some great press coverage in publications such as French Vogue, French Elle Decor, Italian Marie Claire and the New York Times.” A recent collaboration (under the Patch NYC brand) with West Elm is currently for sale at www.westelm.com.
Carney is a very busy guy thanks to the demand from collectors. At the moment he has several commissions to complete and he’s working on several items to display in the Boston showroom during Open Studios in May. In spite of the terrific media response to his work, on a serious note Carney says concerning his artwork, “There is so much more to being an artist than simply producing art. The business side of promoting and selling art can be overwhelming. My wish would be to simply create my art minus the business aspect of art as commerce.”
For more information about Don Carney and PATCHNYC, please visit www.patchnyc.com.