What is a morgue file?
I used to keep a collection of images, a mini library of cuttings and photos to inspire and inform my costume design work. Standard practice for artists and designers, many fellow designers had impressive collections depending on their interests the projects they had worked on, and the space they had available for storage. When I was costume designing it was not unusual to need to research multiple time periods, locations, economic classes, cultures, and art styles, and of course this was before computers were used to store images and files. My hard copy collection consisted of interesting clothes, bodies in poses useful for rendering costumed characters for dances and plays, makeup ideas, hairstyles, undergarments, clothing for everyone from kings to clergy, and soldiers to peasants. I had sections for colors, fashion periods, hairstyles, weaponry, accessories, poses, animals, art styles, architecture, furniture. Really, anything of interest. As you can imagine, it could easily get out of hand.
Thank goodness for Pinterest, Evernote and Dropbox now.
How I use a morgue file now
Now I have a morgue file for painting inspirations in Pinterest and Evernote. I use Pinterest mostly for the visual inspirations, and Evernote for the writing and notes. It’s not that different from my old morgue file, except for the storage space. Here I collect poses, faces, hands, compositions, painting styles, color schemes, concept ideas. In Pinterest I’ve kept some of my boards secret, others are shared. I refuse to steal, but I do participate in the time honored artist practice of responding to the work of other artists whether it’s borrowing a method of applying paint or trying on a composition that worked for someone else. There are trends, after all, and I always offer my own personal spin, colorway, palette, and hand to the project. I find inspiration in other artists, and images, and refer to them from time to time as I’m doing my own work. It’s a natural extension of being a theater designer!