It really is an honor (intimidating though it may be) being asked to do a guest spot on Muddy Colors. Incredible place with a great future.
I’m an illustrator, image-maker, and professor at Boise State University. Yes the Boise State of the blue field and national football championship aspirations dashed hopes. I’ve been doing this stuff for quite awhile now but only recently really found my stride. I suppose it’s because I have yanked myself back and forth between the gallery and illustration world for so long that I excelled at neither. Maybe teaching sucked off valuable time or the fact that I am interested in so many things. But the more likely scenario is that my work seems to exist on the fringes of everything. Not exactly mainstream fantasy/sci-fi and not exactly surrealist or pop surrealist. I think that the art world, such as it is, has maybe caught up to what I am doing and I am able to dip into multiple arenas. It seems more possible now because of the internet and nearly unlimited avenues of exposure.
Here is where I could go off on a diatribe about passion and sticking to your guns and your authentic voice (I think that is borrowed from a Will Smith golf movie or something) but I believe I am here to show you something. Suffice it to say that developing a true passion for visual communication and making art is a long hard path but incredibly rewarding when you find and develop your own voice. My life is richer because this art thing is a life style not just a profession.
Anyway, one of my favorite projects from the past few years has been the recent Spectrum 18 call for entries poster.
Spectrum has become a defining element for the fantastic art genre, which we embrace. I have been thrilled to watch its progress and growth over the years. So when I was asked to do the call for entries poster it was a no brainer. The fact that they paid me $1,000,000 made it even sweeter. By the way Arnie, still waiting for that check. This was one of those jobs where the brief is, well just do what you want. Love those, but they are also a little intimidating. Nah, not really. I did, however, give them a few options in very rough sketch form and Arnie and Cathy prioritized them exactly how I wanted them to.
This is a painting on which I was already working. Polar bear and milking flying fish, you know just standard stuff.
This is an existing painting, 3×3 inches on copper (He Lured the Bird from His Brain), that I will be doing much larger.
And this, the chosen idea, was a whale thing I wanted to paint.
When I do my own work or jobs like this, the do what you want kind, there is usually very little sketch work. I’ll toss around a few thumbs or put together ideas from old drawings and sketches (see JJP’s post) or just start with a beautiful surface. So these chicken scratchings served mostly as mental notes for composition.
I drew directly on gessoed masonite and painted in acrylic. For this poster I kept poster scale in mind, something that I don’t have room to talk about, but in short; impact at a greater distance than say a magazine or book. But other than that, as you can see, the painting developed its own direction. The process, or journey, remains the most interesting place for me. My students, and I include myself when an undergrad, always seem to be in a hurry to have a finished piece. I’ve seen people vacation in this way, rushing through the whole trip in order to gather gigabytes of visual evidence. While evidence is important to spark memory hopefully the trip itself was most important. My silly metaphor aside, the process is what I most look forward to. From the moment I walk my dogs and take that first cup of coffee upstairs to the studio, where narrative (if one does develop) is unraveled; where that tactility of brush, surface, hand, smell, and eye come together, I am where I want to be doing what I want to do. Having a cool piece in the end doesn’t hurt though, and I suppose it’s kinda important if you need to pay the bills.
We had a great dialogue as I painted. One thing on my wish list from the beginning, but given up in the end, was wheels on the whales. There’s a great lesson in there somewhere about doing what’s best for the painting and not for the painter. In the beginning this was always about whales and transportation. The piece ended up in the same general area but inherited a narrative about travelling, hot dogs, and station 18.
I tried to be succinct but you know professors. Should have seen my first draft. Thanks again to Muddy Colors for this terrific blog and this opportunity to post. One more thing in closing. If you are interested in seeing some great work for a great cause please visit: http://www.artblocksghana.blogspot.com/