Tag Archives: Robert Henri

joy

14 Nov

“Whatever feeling, whatever state you have at the time of the stroke will register in the stroke.” ~ Robert Henri

Class, if you struggle in your work, we can usually tell. If you hate your topic, it shows. Love it, and we sense that, too.

Of course, illustrators don’t get to pick their paid assignments; that’s the nature of commercial art. Oh sure, when jobs are storming in it’s easy for an artist to turn down the ones she’d rather not do. I have often said no to illustration jobs—usually  because of an over-crowded schedule, but also, occasionally, because I didn’t believe in the content.

Alternately, sometimes jobs that seem wonderful can but turn out to be a headache. That can happen when the illustrator and art director end up having conflicting visions for the assignment or a basic personality conflict, or late breaking news changes the layout of the paper at the very last minute and the beautiful horizontal illo you’ve labored over for a day and a half is now vertical (seriously?!?) and you have an hour and ten minutes to make the change.

Anything can happen in the process of a paid job. You are hired to make the art, but your design decisions are trumped by those of art directors and editors. On the other hand, when you have time to make self-directed projects for your portfolio, you are in complete control. Use that freedom! Choose topics that make your heart sing, because you can! Create lots of what you do well, and of what you love to do. Sell your joy.

I made the above coffee shop image for fun years ago because I love coffee and coffee shops, and, at the time, I really enjoyed incorporating pattern into my work. My sweet friend Kim Rosen graciously offered a bit of art direction. (Future blog topics: collaboration / two heads are better than one / working with friends makes life fun.)

When I ask clients to send me samples from my website of the work they love and want me to emulate in the jobs for which they are hiring me, more than any other image, they send me the coffee shop. I’ve gotten a ton of work from this one image, including My Foodie ABC, the first of more than ten books I have now illustrated for Duopress.

Several years ago at a college illustration conference, Yuko Shimizu told us how clients began asking her to include elements from her personal work into paid assignments. A quick look at her amazing website shows this principle in action.

Use your personal work to develop as an artist, but also to attract work that you will enjoy doing. In other words, don’t make business art if you’d rather draw dinosaurs. As my friend Jillian‘s dad (Jimbo) likes to say, Do what you love, and you’ll always love what you do. We sense your joy in creating; use that pervasive sense of joy to your advantage.

Joy is highly attractive.

sketchbook

9 Oct

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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)

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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.

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

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* 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.

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How about you? What are your sketch habits?