Go deep enough into the archives of any number of major newspapers and you’ll uncover the lost art of fashion illustration. It was a staple in advertising for a number of years before photography became the quick, easy fix for providing pictorial content. It was also the industry where watercolorist Karol Selvaggio got her start.
Every Sunday she collected the New York Times’ stylish, upscale advertisements for department stores. After graduating from Florida State University with her degree in fashion illustration, Selvaggio landed her dream job in the art department at Rich’s in Atlanta. Four years later she made the switch to becoming the Tallahassee Democrat’s first ever art director.
Selvaggio particularly enjoyed illustrating dresses and sportswear and remarks on how the techniques she developed over her career have transferred into her watercolor paintings today. Currently, she serves as the president of the Tallahassee Watercolor Society.
Her work will be exhibited in the new Brush Strokes exhibit, hosted by the Council on Culture & Arts at the city Hall Art Gallery with an opening reception on Thursday.
“They’re very similar and it might be why I tend to like watercolor so much,” says Selvaggio of the two watercolor styles. “When you would create the ads for the newspaper you did it in gray washes by adding water to India ink and getting the different shades of gray. You have to have the same talent to do both.” Selvaggio transitioned from illustration to graphic arts, running her own advertising agency in Miami before returning to Tallahassee where she finished out her career and retired. She picked up her paintbrush again at the Tallahassee Senior Center where she rediscovered her passion for watercolors.
As a child Selvaggio always loved having something in her hand be it her crayons or coloring books, and was nominated in high school to paint a mural of “Chaucer’s Tales” for the school. She prized watercolor as a medium for its fluidity however, which allowed for a more impressionistic flair and soft colors.
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