Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

After much procrastination, I finally made it out to the Haggin Museum in Stockton, CA to see the J.C. Leyendecker show. As is the case with many illustrators today, Leyendecker was a major influence and inspiration during my schooling days, so you can imagine my joy at getting to see thirty or so paintings in person.

Unfortunately, beyond the world of illustrators, he's little more than a ghost. The show captioned him as "America's 'Other' Illustrator", knowing that despite their own comprehensive collection of his work, most of the American public today have no idea who he is, unlike America's best known illustrator, Norman Rockwell. Of course, Rockwell himself made no effort to hide the fact in his autobiography how much he looked up to Leyendecker, who was already a big name in publishing when Rockwell was still getting established in the industry. Rockwell even tried to imitate his style, which can be seen in some of his early coverwork. But in the end, he confessed that he did not have the patience or ability. Whether this was the truth, or admirable modesty (I feel it was the latter), the fact remains that he continues to live through his art in the hearts and minds of people today while Leyendecker wrestles with anonymity*.

In considering the fate of a couple of my favorite heroes in illustration, I've also wondered where I'll be in a hundred years, when I'm long gone and there are only memories and pictures left. Self centered and egotistical as it may be, I feel that in every artist (and human being, really), there is a desire to be remembered, and so we are constantly trying to leave our mark.... I know this is no revolutionary concept, I'm sure we've all heard and related to the theory as to why cavemen painted on walls, or why everyone has a blog. Then again, I look back on my art school days, and I remember what the motivation was for my mentor, William Maughan, when he was first getting into illustration. How times were hard for him at 21, already with a wife and two kids. How he had to light the pilot light under the crawl space of his house every morning, and how he took a train into New York City just to use the phone booth to make his calls to art directors because it was too expensive from home. Thirty years later, he's doing much better, but you still get the feeling he's painting to provide for a family, not to glorify himself or to find a pat on the back.... I mean, he doesn't even have a blog! Bringing this all back to me (once again I'm afraid), I've wondered where exactly am I going with my art and illustration.

It's been a big year for me, after all. I was married in September, and together, my lovely wife and I bought our first home in November. It's been an incredible journey so far, and we're both extremely happy. Yet, underneath it all is this lurking fear that I need to make it big in art and illustration right now. That I need to find my style, my trademark. Naturally, any artist will tell you that you can't force these things. They come in time. We even copy our heroes until something we can call our own emerges. Like Rockwell out of Leyendecker. Or Jones out of Frazetta. Or Foster out of Wyeth, Hale, Berry, Jean (and etc as he will tell you). I would love Dutton to surface in the very near future (out of a bottomless pool of talent I couldn't begin to name).

But the more I think about it, it's not because I want to be remembered a hundred years later, and it really isn't because I have a mortgage payment either.... though I do need to get somethin' goin' real soon-ish if you catch my drift. I just want to be happy in everything I do, including art. I've got a great wife who lets me be me, and understands that I'm growing as I move along in my career as an illustrator. In return, I want to enjoy what I'm doing so that she doesn't come home to a cranky bastard staring at a blank canvas because he doesn't know who he wants to be. This is in some ways, my quick answer to sum up a few thoughts on what turned out to be a long bit of rambling, but there's definitely a lot of truth to it. But it's also not that simple. There's always going to be the struggle to find one's own voice, and learning how to express it. And I'll always have the have the fear of not getting all my ideas out in time. All I can hope for is to enjoy the journey as long as I'm around. Even if I don't always have the patience or ability.

With all that said, here are a couple ink wash sketches, inspired by Andrew Wyeth, one of the many heroes I have. The first one is mostly experimental. The second is a little more personal, thus the illegible writing. Happy New Year everyone, and may we find new ways to grow in the next twelve months!

* I may have made a bit of a "woe is me" case in Leyendecker's stead, when really, he was an intensely private man who probably did not mind the relative obscurity he eventually fell into. And really, he's the only illustrator who could boast today that in his prime, he received more fanmail than the biggest actor celebrity in that era, Rudolph Valentino. I aspire to receive two, maybe three pieces of fanmail.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


This past weekend I attended a workshop put together by Massive Black and Although the focus was mainly centered around the digital art scene and the video game industry as opposed to my background as an illustrator, there were plenty of traditional talents and special guests whom I've long respected and admired. Guys like Jon Foster, David Choong Lee, and Michael Hussar. I also got to meet quite a few names I've known from the ConceptArt forum, but have never known in person. That was the highlight of the experience for me, knowing I walked away with some new friends.

Here are a few of my drawings from the weekend:

I'd love to show some photos from the event, but I'd be wasting your time unless I simply directed you over to Phil Holland's site to take a look (note: not all images are work safe):

And here's the group shot (I'm the one with two eyes, hair, and a smile):

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Few Works in Progress

I've had my hands full the past couple weeks, which is a great thing. At the moment, I'm working on a private commission for a children's book, a CD jacket for a single, and a piece for Fantasy Flight Games. I can't show what's going on in the last two, but I thought I'd show some progress thus far for the children's book as well as a personal piece.

The story is about a girl who rides around on training wheels. She has no desire to ride without them. One day, the neighborhood bully 'borrows' the bicycle and destroys the training wheels when he rides off a sidewalk curb with them. Though it's likely the father can replace them, he says he cannot, hoping to convince her to ride on just two wheels. She refuses, and the bike is put away. Winter comes and goes, and in the spring, she watches the neighborhood kids freshly learning to ride without training wheels. Reinvigorated, she decides to give it a try, and after a couple wobbles, she succeeds.

And I finally started an illustration that I've had in my mind for several months now but haven't had the chance to work on. The working concept is "Knowing when's the right time to talk to your child about the birds and the bees."

Obviously, the baby will have something more age appropriate in his thought balloon for the finished piece! Probably a spoon with airplane wings on the side.