Reading through thesis papers of my senior illustration class, I found some really honest and insightful statements about illustration, creativity, and personal influence. Be inspired.
I am a collector of the exquisite.
Here I was, thousands of miles from home, feeling more accomplished for drawing in a sketchbook than for climbing Mt. Fuji.
Everyone has a piece of life that burns. Comics saved my life.
My work is a reflection of the way I was raised and of the life I live today.
I believe in creating a new experience, a new story.
I realized that I did not have to grow up.
I can make images that are simple enough to understand yet strong enough to feel like a punch in the gut.
Illustration forces you to supply something of a story to understand it.
Make use of everything that (you) have in the present moment.
The ability to make the impossible possible.
I hated those fucking paintings. That was the only reaction I could muster upon my first introduction to Cy Twombly’s deeply moving 50 Days at Iliam. It’s easy to recount the exact posture of revulsion I experienced standing in this enormous white room full of dumb scribbles. It was 1995. I was in my first year of community college design class. I didn’t know anything about modern art, but I knew how I felt. I hated those fucking paintings. Those god damn scribbles, I could do that in a day and collect a fat bankroll.
Completed in 1978, 50 Days at Iliam was conceived as a “painting in ten parts… pay[ing] homage to what is perhaps the definitive narrative of Western literature: Homer's Iliad, the tragic story of the final fifty days of the Trojan War, probably written before 700 B.C."
So, okay. Great. Old Cy liked history, but how does that explain this chilled expanse of globs and scratches? Well, that’s where it gets interesting.
After my initial encounter and reaction to the work, I realized that, not once in my life had a piece of artwork elicited such a strong reaction from me, neither positive nor negative. What was curious, though, was that I didn’t really know why, other than it was so different than anything I had known as Art. For the next few years I made it a point to spend some time with Twombly’s series each time I went to the museum. I was determined to understand this reaction that I had.
It took a few patient years, but I eventually came around to a different view of the paintings. A well-placed bench offered a place to linger and relax while working through the complicated history, iconography and mark-making in the series. The nods to history and war offered the easiest way into an interpretation for me—reflecting the inescapable force and fury, shields, blood, and white emptiness of death and the unknown. The marks are human, fashioned in a way to appear brooding, nearly obsessive. The viewer is situated between opposing sides in conflict. The deeper I looked for insight and meaning, the more I found.
It was a remarkable shift within myself, to now occupy complete reverence and respect for 50 Days at Iliam. It’s one of the most rewarding relationships I’ve ever had with a piece of art. It reminds me to be curious; to ask why; to look inward and outward; to be honest; to stop and look, with an open mind, and find inspiration in unexpected places.
I love those fucking paintings.
I was just checking out the print work of Chicago artist Ryan Duggan (Dooo-gan). He is currently making a poster every week of this year, and I can tell you people, it's not easy to do, even in editions of 15. Ryan's work is smart, irreverent and honest, and I recommend that you take a peek for and buy a darn print yourself.
But first, check out this sweet video about the dude.
Here are a few posters from the year-long POTW series. Snatch em up!
Here are some faces that I made as a drawing exercise.
I'd been looking at The Golden Book of Myths and Legends, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provenson and liked the way that they build figures out of rough shapes. Below is an example.
I made 30 or so quick line drawings and scanned them. Usually what happens after this is that I ink out piles of background shapes and scan them, but I wanted to try something different. I bought a Wacom tablet recently and this seemed like a perfect chance to take it for a spin. I had also just found a few bundles of Photoshop brushes from Kyle Webster that seem to nail the kind of inked line that I like to make. Below are the sketches.
Below is the sketch and the "inked" versions. I like how the Photoshop brushes worked out, I'm going to keep playing with them. Next up I think I'll work on some bodies for these folks and put them in a scene of some sort. Lots of fun!
I recently created a series of book cover redesigns as a personal project. My inspiration was a series of science paperbacks from the early 1960's that aimed to bring scientific study to the laymen. I had found a number of them at a thrift store, and the original covers were pretty good.
I chose a few titles to work with, and with names like Knowledge and Wonder and The Restless Atom, I had fertile territory for visual exploration. I wanted to keep in a style that nodded to the original series, refreshing the look for a contemporary audience and give myself some new visual ideas to play with. Here are the results.
I love this subject matter because it is so abstract and fundamental. Working with pure forms and symbols can be challenging, especially when you are trying to bring life to somewhat dry subject matter. I'm working through another group of covers from the same series, so take a peek back soon for more scientific goodness.
A number of years ago a friend gave me some dog-eared old issues of American Artist magazine. It was a stack of a dozen or so mildewy artifacts dating back to 1968-69, largely unremarkable except for one issue that caught my eye; May 1969.
The cover story, "Two California Poster Artists", profiled David Osborn and Charles Woods, a pair of young designers who worked in silkscreen and offset lithography. There was a good selection of their prints featured along with a lengthy interview. The broad shapes, bright colors and loose imagery were bold and lyrical, reminding me of both Matisse's cutouts and Sister Corita's colorful screen prints. At the time that I first saw this, I was just beginning to make screen prints. I loved the bold shapes and overlayed colors, but most of all I marveled at how fresh and lively they looked, even in the yellowed pages of the old magazine. I tucked it away and went about the business of making screen prints for the next ten years.
A few years ago, in a stroke of awesome luck, I discovered a number of Osborn/Woods prints for sale on Etsy. It turns out that Charles Woods had passed on and the estate was selling a number of posters and prints from their collection. I immediately snatched up several for myself, and they are beautiful to behold in person. They show their age a little, but for the price they were a steal. Their production process was an interesting cross between screen-printing and lithography, and you can tell that these were carefully and lovingly made.
I went back and read the 1969 article and interview in which they detailed some of their inspirations and working methods. For me it's a reaffirming read in that the relationship between the images and the printing method, between artist and printer, was a crucial and inextricable element. In design and illustration today you can see the remnants of this relationship everywhere. Off-registration, ink spread, color overlays and tactile elements that used to be the artifacts of the printing process are now baked into images that may never be printed on paper. It's a clever look in that when executed well it has a comfortable and authentic appearance. At the same time, limited edition printing methods like lithography, screen printing, and letterpress are often aped on computer screens and then overlooked in production for the robotic ease of giclee printing. So, while I first found the Osborn/Woods posters inspiring for their novelty, style and imagery, I see now that they are more than just beautiful images, they are Beautiful Objects.
The big rusty ship on the Delaware had some awesome interiors in its day.