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I've been looking at images by Harry Clarke and Winsor McCay recently. I always have, but since I've been looking more intensely at Western illustration at the turn of the century, it suddenly occurred to me that I've been working differently - it's informed the way I lay down a picture. I work traditionally, starting with a gesture, working from observation whenever I can, and finding the way a space exists next to a space or between and around contours.
Because I am an unapologetically adamant illustrator studying in a Studio Art environment, I get a lot of flack for being illustrative or missing the point. I've had to work very hard in the studio to prove to my professors that, yes, I can DRAW. I can find a form and describe how it exists in space. I can find planes on a surface and describe it with a stick of graphite. I understand the importance of figure and ground. I can sight-size a figure better than most of the painters in my class, and I can do it without trying to editorialize the figure in front of me with unimportant details.
But the second I step out of the studio and back into my personal work, I am going to lasso the nuances of plane, figure, and ground with a solid, hair-thin ink line because that's the sort of work I want to make. My love of contour has nothing to do with an inability to communicate visual planes and special relationships - I am absolutely able.
The former head of the department told me I was producing Ã¢EUoebad artÃ¢EU and essentially dissuaded me from working this way for almost four years. After some research and reflective thinking, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not interested in making art; I'm interested in making images. I don't want to engage the ephemeral ideological space between the misogynistic sausage fest of Modernists and the post-object Art World of the Postmodernists.
I just want to make pictures. I want to make figurative, accessible images. I don't want to confuse the purportedly unenlightened masses with layers of lofty philosophical abstraction, nor do I want to speak in quasi-European art lingo to confuse anyone who might not be some sort of pretentious connoisseur.
I am an illustrator, damn it.