Archive | the artist’s life RSS feed for this section

{ l e g a l } THIEVING

23 Oct

“Of course, I subscribe to Graphis, Communication Arts and Print, and whenever I see something I like, I steal with both hands.” ~ David Lance Goines, 1992 (from a personal letter)

As visual people, we can’t help but be influenced by the art and design that we love. If you want to be a successful illustrator with a lasting career, you have to stay on top of color and style trends, and adapt as the culture’s taste changes. Artists are always learning, always growing, and are always influenced by their environment. Therefore, we had better monitor the environments in which we put ourselves!

Some of us have to be more careful about this than others, because we are like tofu.

Tofu  has no inherent flavor; rather, it takes on the flavors of the other ingredients in the recipe. Throw in some curry, and the tofu tastes like curry; saute tofu with bell pepper, and it tastes like bell pepper.

Many art students are like tofu simply because they haven’t had time to develop yet, artistically. If you suspect you may be the tofu-type, my advice is to stop looking at other illustrators for inspiration. Assailing your brain non-stop with illustration can be confusing, and can even cause unintentional plagiarism.

Instead, look at fine art and graphic design. Spend an afternoon at the botanical garden, or flipping through the latest issue of Elle Decor. Steal a color palette from a pair of designer high-tops, or a roll of wrapping paper. Be influenced by good design, without bombarding yourself with images made by your illustration heroes.

This will help your work improve as you become uniquely you.

I stole the color palette from the crazy shower curtain in our upstairs bathroom (see photo above) for this holiday image. Many artists struggle with color, and I am no different. I have learned not to trust myself when it comes to color. As a rule, I always “steal” an existing palette designed by a professional colorist. It’s a good trick, and falls under the heading of LEGAL THIEVING.

sketchbook

9 Oct

*

The sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city, going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes—no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests. He moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook, a box of oils with a few small panels, the fit of his pocket, or on his drawing pad… He is looking for what he loves, he tries to capture it. It’s found anywhere, everywhere. Those who are not hunters do not see these things. The hunter is learning to see and to understand—to enjoy.

~ Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (p. 17)

*

Do you keep a sketch book?

True confession: I don’t. I never have. (And the earth shook ever-so-slightly as Robert Henri* rolled over in his grave.)

It’s not for lack of Sketch Respect, or for a lack of trying. I have bought dozens of sketch books over the years: little ones to carry, and big ones as an organized source of paper. The big ones are filled from cover to cover with process work for illustration projects, which doesn’t count. (I stopped buying them decades ago anyway, in deference to good old printer paper, which I recycle.) And the little ones? Sadly, a tiny army of them has been taking up space on my bookshelf for almost twenty years. If my son hadn’t doodled in them when he was four and five, they’d be all but empty.

Now wait just a ding dong minute. Artists are supposed to carry handy little sketchbooks, right? Robert Henri said so. Every art prof I ever had, said so. We’re supposed to be armed with pencil and pad, ready to record inspiration the moment it hits. We are not allowed to pack a suitcase without including a tiny watercolor kit and a baggie full of charcoal, because we are visual ninjas, and as such, we must be prepared.

Now that I am an old lady, Class, I have something to tell you about sketchbooks: There are obvious benefits to carrying them, if you use them. And. You can succeed in life, if you don’t. So let go of the guilt. (Guilt is even heavier than that empty sketchbook you’ve been toting in your bag.) Non-Sketchbook Artitsts do exist, and we are a happy and well-adjusted people.

*

My scant collection of inspirations captured on napkins, receipts, and hotel stationery fits unobtrusively in a slender file folder.

__________

* American painter Robert Henri (1865 – 1929) taught at the Art Students League in the early 1900s. He wrote The Art Spirit—a must read—at the insistence of his students. My first year teaching, I began every class with a Robert Henry “quote of the day.” Now, I tweet him. Class, meet Robert. You’re welcome.

__________

How about you? What are your sketch habits?