I’ve been wondering about this lately as I see a growing trend towards photo/hyper realistic art. The skill to draw or paint at such a level is phenomenal and inspiring but if you’re just recreating a photograph on canvas what is it that makes it artistic? Is it one’s skill in being able to reproduce realistic images in ones chosen medium or is there more to it?
“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
If there is any work of art that is a glimpse into my soul, I would have to say it is The Slav Epic by Alphonse Mucha.
Although Mucha is more notably remembered for his poster illustrations of lovely women with flowery decor and fanciful graphic lettering, as well as being one of the well known artists of the Art Nouveau movement. For me, even though I greatly admire his illustrations, which are often a source of inspiration, it is The Slav Epic that has always captivated me the most. There’s something deeply emotive about the work. And the many years it took to for Mucha create such exquisitely impressive paintings, which he considered to be his life’s masterpiece, is something to be in awe about. I hope that one day I can create something as amazing from my own cultural history.
The Slav Epic is a series of 20 huge paintings depicting the history of the Czech and the Slavic people as a celebration of Slavic history. Unfortunately with the rise of fascism during the 1930s, Mucha work was denounced and he became a target during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. He died in the summer of 1939…but thankfully his beautiful works live on.
I don’t remember exactly when or how I came across Aubrey Beardsley. Bits and pieces of a high school library on a sunny afternoon seem to be the only clues that my memory can conjure up. But I do remember very vividly sitting in my bedroom and feeling proud of the personal copy of “The Climax” that I had just completed. So I can say with certainty that it was sometime during my senior year in high school that I became acquainted with the fella.
If you have been following my posts over the last year then you know I have a love for the simplicity of line drawings and Beardsley is one of those artists who captures that quite well in many of his ink illustrations. Now anyone who has ever been brave enough to have studied his work is aware that it can be a bit bizarre and risque, especially for the times in which he created. I admit, that was part of what I liked about it back then but now a days, nothing is all that risque. Besides his use of ink and lines, Beardsley was most all my gateway artist into the art movement of Art Nouveau. This was a style and movement that even ’til this day still influences my work and ideas about art.
They say don’t judge a book by its cover. I can’t say I’m one to hold to such philosophy because in all honesty, it’s the cover that often catches my attention, that is, when it comes to actual books.
Book cover art and illustration has a lot to do with my childhood interests in art and has stayed with me even ’til now. While daydreams of seeing my work in galleries, on the walls of collectors and in magazines are delightful and inspiring, I’ve always wanted to walk into a bookstore and see my work on the covers of books, particularly of the scifi, fantasy and speculative fiction genre but I’m open to any genre if my work fits.
Yesterday I made a visit to my local Barnes & Noble and took pleasure in indulging in one of my old past times; cruising the shelves just looking at cover art.
I’m a big scifi & fantasy fan so that’s where I headed. I used to be into novels such as the works of Ursula Le Guin, Storm Constantine, Octavia Butler, Tanith Lee and Charles De Lint. But over the years I’ve become short on time and find myself less able to commit to a full novel. Now I just opt for short stories for reading or watch a movie. It’s not often that I buy, let alone sit down and read a novel nowadays. Hopefully that will change in the future.
When it comes to cover art though, I feel that scifi & fantasy has some of the best work particularly in the area of traditional art. I pay attention to cover art so much that I’m now at the point where I can look at a book cover and immediately know who the artist is. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a wide range of varying styles and I’m seeing more of the same artist’s work on various books. This makes me wonder, are there fewer traditional artists being employed by publishing companies? A lot of cover art now appears to be a mix of design and digital artistry. Not that anything is wrong with that. I myself have a background in digital art, which has its own beauty, uniqueness and skill. But as someone who likes traditional art more, I am drawn to art and illustration that has more of a look and feel of being created through traditional mediums and it saddens me to think traditional arts are being eclipsed by the convenience and speed of digital art that in some ways lack the distinctiveness of the traditional.
Below are a few snapshots along with examples of a few artists whose art caught my eye while visiting B&N. You can see more work by each artist at the links provided.
Magdalena Korzeniewska is an illustrator from Poland whose gel pen drawings are inspired by the world of literature, legends and fairy tales. http://bubug.deviantart.com
Travis Louie is a New York based artist who creates paintings of portraits of mythical beings and human oddities based in Victorian and Edwardian times.http://www.travislouieart.com
Sam Wolfe Connelly is a New York based artist whose works are ethereal, emotive, haunting and quietly evil. http://samwolfeconnelly.com
Tommy Arnold is an illustrator whose art has the feel of atmosphere and action. You can find his work gracing the publications of Tor, Orbit and Wizards of the Coast books. http://tommyarnoldart.tumblr.com
As I’ve been tapping away, laying down small dabs of colored ink on my current drawing “Succulent”, I found myself feeling a bit lonely. Now when I say lonely, I’m not referring to an absence of social interaction or some sort of lack of being understood. Rather what I’m referring to is this loneliness I felt in artistic style. The way in which I create my work is by using a drawing and painting technique generally known as stippling or pointillism. The terms are often used interchangeably but I like to think of stippling as when I use nothing other than black ink and pointillism when I use mostly colored ink. It’s my personal way of keeping the two terms straight in my head. But you see, pointillism isn’t as widely used as a technique in the art world, which I’m sure is probably due to how time intensive it can be. So if I where to go to my local bookstore and pick up a drawing magazine, looking for inspiration, it is very rare that I will flip through the pages and see scores of images of contemporary artistic works done using pointillism. It is in that I felt this bit of loneliness. So for inspiration, instead of turning to contemporary artists, I am led back to the works of Paul Signac.
I first became aware of Signac while taking an Art History course in college. I had already been introduced to the technique of pointillism in high school but I knew nothing of it’s origin and history. (I’m glad that I took Art History instead of some other elective.)
Signac was a close friend and influenced by George Seurat, who also created pointillistic paintings. And although Seurat is more well known for his ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Île de la Grande Jatte’ painting, I’ve always taken a liking to the work of Signac more. Maybe it was how he seemed to focus more on landscapes and natural elements in his work rather than the human world. Being someone who is more oriented towards the world of Nature than man, it’s natural that his work would appeal to me more. But I also find Signac pointillistic paintings more defined, taking on a more realism feel where Seurat’s pointillism feels more diffused and a bit abstract. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Seurat’s work is bad or wrong, I do admire his work especially in regards to pointillism, so I’m not dismissing him. It’s only that if I had to choose between Signac and Seurat as a source of inspiration for my own work, it would be Signac hands down. It’s to Signac I turn when I might need an idea on how certain colors may mix or when I need a reminder of what can and can not be achieved with a pointillism. But it’s also to Signac I turn to quell that tinge of loneliness I feel travelling down the pointillist path.