Alrighty then, indeed. It is crystal clear that there was a reason for me to choose drawing over writing. I get it. Undaunted, I turn to the keyboard to start anew. After all, it took me 20 years to figure out I was supposed to be an illustrator, so a couple of years between posts seems just right.
This time around, I think it might be wisest to try and include my many friends in the discussion, as a chat is far more fun (and instructive) than a lecture/rant/diatribe/monologue. So if you get called out by me in a future post, do join the dialogue. I pulled you in for a reason, and c'mon, admit it, a little of the to and fro isn't at all like a visit to the dentist (or proctologist), is it?
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Friday, November 11, 2011
There is real merit in the idea of a visual artist having a place to use words to communicate with on a regular basis. Most of my waking hours are now spent making images, and anyone who knows me from the days before I chose to illustrate will remember how positively verbose I can be. Of course I love the give and take of a conversation, but you are here to read my musings and/or track my activities, so ....
For this initial post, I suppose a bit of back story is appropriate. I was a doodler and drawer as a kid, and was the guy everyone from my school remembers as the artist. I fell more deeply in love with drawing as I got older, and indeed went to a couple of different universities to hone my skills and get a grounding in the state of the art world. It was there that I learned about meta-art, and it sort of bruised me in a tender place.
I have no issues with the experience since my eyes were opened to things I had never considered and there is nothing more fulfilling than working alongside other creative types. Still, at the time I was studying art figurative work was definitely not cool. There were very few folks that could provide the instruction I craved. See, I wanted to paint things. Things like Rembrandt’s light, or Degas’ forms, or Frazetta’s figures. Things artists had been painting for the centuries prior to my arrival on the third rock.
Being a perpetual student is not a career path, in spite of the merits, so it had to end and it seemed to me at the time that there was no way an artist who wanted to paint things could make much of a living so I had to find a way to keep a roof over my head while I explored my options. I decided that I liked to make things in general and meandered into construction, getting satisfaction and sustenance from building houses. Drawing things gradually virtually disappeared from my routine, though I remained a voracious devourer of images.
Fast forward twenty years, and suddenly it was 1999. The knees and ankles and back were having daily conversations with me, making a very persuasive argument that my days of working in construction were not open-ended. Dear friends were whispering about computers and graphics tablets and software with amazing capabilities and a world of art directors opening up to anyone with a modem. I took the plunge.
I had barely unpacked my spanking Mac Performa, Wacom tablet, and Painter software when I met my future wife on a blind date set up by a couple of my closest friends. Thanks guys, that was a good call. I invited her over to show off my set-up and she immediately asked me to draw something. Crap. If only I had practiced a bit beforehand. I took a leap of faith and picked the first brush that appeared (the digital airbrush, which I use almost exclusively to this day), fumbled with the settings a bit, and riffed out a comic character that had just the right amount of sad-sack world weariness that sold Patty on me for, we hope, ever.
It was clearly a sign from the universe (as far as that sort of stuff goes, of course) that the very character that was my first attempt to use a computer to make art became the central character in a year long ad campaign for a local business. Here he is navigating the streets of Minneapolis praying to find something to listen to that doesn’t piss him off. Good luck fellah.
With a girlfriend art director and friends connected to the design world, it was a pretty easy transition. Thanks to all for supporting (read: pushing) me in those early days. Soon I was working on ads for Rolling Stone magazine, banners for shopping malls, cd covers and a host of other media. Things were working out pretty much as I had planned, which was troubling.
The question soon became “what to focus on”? I looked high and low for inspiration, and pored through illustration books lent to me by those very good friends I continue to bring up. I started building quite a reference library that included anthologies like The Illustration Annual and The Directory of Illustration (various years) that inexorably began to displace the other books on my meager shelving. It soon became a question of what to do with the hundreds and hundreds of sf/fantasy paperbacks now cluttering the floors and corners of my room while I searched for a genre to focus on...
End of my first blog post! The follow-up, titled “DUH”, coming soon....
Posted by Jeff Lee Johnson at Friday, November 11, 2011