December 30, 2008
Recently, I've been contacted more frequently. Considering the economic climate, it is no surprise. It is a strange feeling being on the other end of the telephone. To be the one giving advice instead of seeking it.
I often question why I teach illustration, art and image making, especially in these times.
When I get the question "Do you think I have what it takes to be an artist?", or similar, I often respond "If there is anything that I could say in this moment that would dissuade you from pursuing art as a career, then you should find something else to do with your life."
The truth is that I justify educating artists by attempting to give full disclosure, with the hopes of preparing individuals who MUST make art. I feel that I can arm them as well as anyone with current, pertinent information.
The world of the professional artist is grueling, anemic, and it will test you every moment of every day. You don't get to stop being an artist because you have chosen a different path, or a different course was set for you. I was an artist long before I was paid to make art. It isn't something that I was taught in school (although I was taught many very important lessons in school). Being an artist is in the way that you see things differently than everyone else. It is being sensitive to the nuances in life, the things that fall between the lines, and turning those things that you see, feel, hear, know, learn, into something tangible that helps other humans feel more human.
I have always looked for the mistakes that artists make. This makes me feel more human. The things that great artists have seen as beautiful errors that others would never have noticed. Recognizing beauty is easy. Appreciating flaws is hard.
December 24, 2008
...to our dear readers of such persuasion. We know many freelancers (our artists included) are working through the holidays. We hope you all find the time to squeeze in a little Christmas magic nonetheless.
Illustration by C.F. Payne for Reader's Digest.
December 22, 2008
Through January 16, 2009, The Society of Illustrators will be hosting a food drive:
In New York City, one of the richest cities in the world, food poverty is around every corner. Throughout the five boroughs, approximately 1.3 million people – largely comprised of women, children, seniors, the working poor and people with disabilities – rely on soup kitchens and food pantries.
In an effort to maintain social responsibility and give back to the community, the Society of Illustrators is holding a Food Drive from December 12 - January 16. We are contributing to the Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry at Saint Peter’s Church, a part of the Food Bank of New York, on Lexington Avenue and 54th Street. Saint Peter’s is also a haven for the Momentum Project, which is dedicated to feeding disenfranchised New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.
Whether it is a few cans from your pantry or a few boxes of household supplies, any donation to the Food Drive will be greatly appreciated.
- All items must be:
- Non-perishable (soups, pastas, beans, peanut butter, canned vegetables, etc.)
- In their original, unopened packages and containers
- Within the expiration date on the package or container
All donated items may be dropped off at the Society of Illustrators 128 East 63rd Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues. Thank you for your contribution and we wish you a happy holiday.
Illustration by Barbara McClintock
December 21, 2008
December 19, 2008
Art On a Grand Scale artist Vicki Khuzami was commissioned this year (and last) to create artwork for the Bloomingdale's holiday window display. The results were a charming tribute to Christmas as we knew it in the 1950's. The display is accompanied the music of Tony Bennett who, incidentally, is a member of the Society of Illustrators. Or at least he was years ago when I stood next to him at an awards ceremony.
Take a closer look at the windows on the AOGS blog.
December 18, 2008
- Lilah Books and Cotton Hanbags by Fernanda Cohen, available at fernandacohen.com
- 8 Feet Under T-shirt by Doug Cowan, available on tenbills.com
- Squirtle T-shirt by Rob McClurkan, available on zazzle.com
December 17, 2008
Before working for Richard Solomon's Empire of Fun and Repping,* I was a semi-full-time assistant for several super star artists. I split my week between the studios of Steve Brodner, Burt Silverman and Peter de Sève. Peter, in particular, was a huge collector of art books, periodicals, prints, originals, graphic novels, doodled napkins and anything else with a beautiful image on it.
Peter introduced me to a magazine called ImageS published by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Jim collects old and rare illustrations of a myriad of well known and relatively unknown illustrators. The magazines (I use that word loosely as they are gorgeous collections and hardly what I'd call a "magazine" in the common sense) are a who's who of beautiful and sometimes forgotten illustration. Many times, where institutions like The Society of Illustrators may gloss over an artist or group of artists in favor of legends like Wyeth, Leyendecker and Rockwell, ImageS highlights and showcases those names and pantloads of other brilliant artists including Harry Rountree, Edmund Dulac and Gustav Adolph Mossa to name a few.
Vadeboncoeur's collections truly shine in their respect for classical pen and ink work. He's published 4 black and white annuals highlighting work by people such as Herbert Railton, Heinrich Kley, Winsor McCay and T.S. Sullivant. Illustrations and cartoons from the golden era of pen and ink illustration 1858-1922, images plucked out of Life Magazine and Simplicissimus that many would never even know existed.
They are all for sale at http://www.bpib.com/imagesmagfolder/imagesmag/index.html but, sadly, some editions are already sold out.
*Slogan pending official approval.
December 15, 2008
What a nice surprise from the Society. The art was produced for a winter poster Series for a Canadian land development named Ambleside. Art directed by Jeff McLean from Calder-Bateman in Edmonton, Alberta.
December 12, 2008
December 11, 2008
If you're a New Yorker, you've likely eyeballed your share of art posters in the city's subway cars. Since 2000, the MTA has been commissioning these horizontal pieces so that we commuters have something interesting to gaze at while we stealthily avoid eye contact. As a strap-hanger, I have to say that I love them.
The latest artist to interpret our daily commute is Chris Gall. This is a rare opportunity as only one or two are commissioned in a year, and the MTA takes great care in picking an artist.
You can purchase this piece and the other commissioned horizontals as Art Cards from the MTA website.
(Click on the below image to see it a bit larger)
December 8, 2008
May 8-16, 2009
(includes two nights in Rome)
"You desire to embrace it, to caress it, to possess it, and finally... your visit becomes a perpetual love affair."
—Henry James (on Tuscany)
Art and architecture. Food and wine. The landscape. These are what inspired by love affair with Tuscany. The Uffizzi Gallery in Florence. Botticelli. Michelangelo. The towers and frescoes in San Gimignano. Trattorias and mercatos. Amazing gelato. Wine tasting in Chianti. Rolling hills colored with forests, vineyards, olive groves and medieval hilltowns.
Join me as we tour, taste, look at art and, perhaps, make some art. I'll be drawing and painting along the way, and I've set aside some time specifically for us to explore the landscape together as "artists." Feel free to bring a sketchbook and an open mind. Just for fun. No previous experience necessary. Cordial criticism is free!
Vive bene; di risata molto.
For more information, contact your Humble Travel Specialist!
December 7, 2008
Interview by Jason Moriber of Wise Elephant.
"I met Richard Solomon the Artists Representative a few years back at his former office, flat-files stocked to the gills with images, his team deeply quiet in their work, Richard with the phone at his ear. A lot has changed since then, but Richard’s firm belief in “art” has guided his shop to continue to offer the best work available from the best artists working today. This interview with Richard was conducted earlier this Fall, just as the economics of our time hit their low point."
Read the interview here.
December 6, 2008
December 5, 2008
There are many honors bestowed every year in the world of picture books, but few are as widely respected as being included in the the annual Kirkus "Best Children's Books" list. The newly released 2008 list includes a picture book I wish I had owned as a frequently relocated child, "There's Nothing to Do on Mars", written and illustrated by Chris Gall. To Chris we extend our many and sincere congratulations.
Chris Gall’s book tucks right into one of childhood’s bugbears—moving house. In this case, Davey’s family is off to Mars. You’d think that would be plenty distracting, but “I’m bored,” he complains after a day on the Red Planet. As Davey zips around on his space scooter trying to scare up some action, Gall catches the adventure in nostalgia-fueled engravings with flair. “Witty details abound,” according to Kirkus’s starred review, “from Davey’s home, which is an old Airstream trailer perched atop a giant rocket motor, to his pop-eyed robot dog, who tends to leak battery fluid when stressed. Taking the barb out of moving is the book’s genius. “When I decided to write a book about a boy moving to Mars, I wanted it to be a metaphor for the challenges all children face when moving to a strange new place,” says Gall. “After doing lots of research, I found myself confronting an unnerving possibility. There actually might be nothing to do on Mars. So my journey of discovery became Davey’s. “That discovery cures a lot of Martian body odor, sparks a plague of tourists and makes Davey’s parents itchy for Saturn, where, as Kirkus put it, “There probably won’t be much to do there, either, right?”
From the publisher, Little, Brown, and Company:
"There's Nothing to Do on Mars", written and illustrated by Chris Gall has been named a 2008 Kirkus Best Chidren's Book. It's the stirring tale of Davey, a boy from Kansas transplanted to the mysterious Red Planet. No trees to swing in, no fish to catch, just plain no fun to be had. But with the help of his faithful robot dog Polaris, Davey will discover a a whole new batch of fun… and a little bit more. Chris will be at the International Reading Association in Phoenix this February. If you're in the area, please drop by the show.
December 4, 2008
December 3, 2008
Every year the US Postal Service sets philatelic societies aflutter by announcing its annual batch of newly created postage stamps. The USPS is notorious for using great illustrators to portray people and scenes from America's history. The 2009 preview is now up, and includes our artists Mark Summers and Gregory Manchess. Also in the mix this year are Michael Deas and Kam Mak, two artists whose work we really adore.
From the USPS:
Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial, Feb. 9: Artist Mark Summers used his scratchboard style to portray Lincoln as a rail splitter, a lawyer, a politician and president. The block will be issued before Lincoln’s February 12th birthday.
Oregon Statehood, Jan. 14: The sesquicentennial of the 1859 event, using a seacoast scene by artist Gregory Manchess. This design was released in late August in Oregon. The stamp will be issued in Jan., although statehood date was Feb. 14.
December 2, 2008
Irene Gallo of Tor Books commissioned Gary Kelley to create a series of monoprints for the web-only story "The Film-makers of Mars" by Geoff Ryman for Tor.com.
"The films just started showing up, everywhere, old forgotten silent movies turning to jelly in warehouses all over SoCal: Anaheim, Burbank, Tarzana.
I got a call from Al at Hannibal Restoration. “They’re mindblowing!” The old hippie.
Eight reels of a film about Santa Claus from 1909. Filmed in Lapland. And forty reels of a film it says was produced by Edgar Rice Burroughs. In 1911?
Cinefex sponsored a program at the LA film festival. They invited me, of course; Hannibal invited me as well. I gave the second invitation to my friend Amy.
I don’t know what I was expecting. L. Frank Baum went bust producing Oz movies. They’re terrible and have very silly special effects, but you couldn’t film them now, or even fake them. They just look like they’re from their era, or even maybe from Oz itself, if Oz were poverty-stricken."
December 1, 2008
November 25, 2008
November 24, 2008
"I am most affected by artwork when it alludes to a mix of emotions that cannot quite be articulated. Much of Brad Holland’s work has that effect—like waking up from a dream and thinking that it seemed like a good dream... Maybe. His use of clean, simplified spaces creates an image that at first seems emotionally detached, but the somber colors, abstraction, and exaggeration presents a deeply subjective and personal point of view. Like a dream, you may not be able to fully express what you feel, but those feelings resonate long after the experience." More...
Today, the economy is as bad as it has ever been. All artists are feeling the financial pinch- art budgets are reliant upon advertising dollars. When advertising slows down, so does the purchase of art. My business is slowing down to a trickle. So, what to do?
Now is the time for personal projects. Development of multiple revenue streams. Diversifying, to put it into proper fiscal terminology. I am working on all of those personal projects that have been kept at bay in light of a flourishing business. I assume that this economy will rebound, but you never know. It is best to hedge your bets.
Analyze your product. What do you have to offer?
Your art- what venues are you not pursuing? Illustration, Gallery work, design, books, editorial, advertising, self generated assignments, licensing, comic books/sequential, video games, children's books, competitions with financial prizes, etc.
Remember, that you are also armed with information- how to make an image, build a website, draw, think, etc. Who could benefit from those skills? Advertising agencies, video game companies, universities, people wanting to attend workshops, etc. Be proactive, and you can find an audience for the things that you produce.
The projects that generate the greatest financial rewards, are always the most personal projects. Imagine creating a character, and a story line for a comic book, or graphic novel. Seek a venue for a publisher of your collected works (if it is realistic). Collect stories of others, and illustrate them for a children's book. Find a local gallery, and paint a show of your personal work.
These are actually all things that I am actively pursuing. Hopefully you will find the ambition, the drive, the ability, etc. to focus your own personal vision into a final product that you can then market. Lord knows we have the time...
The NY Times also reviewed the book along with two others which push the alphabet format into more sophisticated territory. Of "A Is for Art" the review says:
"For a magnificent medley of works produced over many years, some on a huge scale, read Stephen T. Johnson’s 'A Is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet,' one of this year’s winners of a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award. Johnson has works in prominent collections, and New Yorkers may know his 66-foot mural in the DeKalb Avenue subway station. In the author’s note he explains this project: 'For the past six years I have been exploring the English dictionary, selectively choosing and organizing particular words from each letter of the alphabet and, based solely on the meanings of the words, developing a visual work of art. I took ordinary objects and made them unfamiliar, removing functionality in order to reveal their potential metaphorical associations, which can lead in turn to overlapping and sometimes paradoxical meanings.' The art is also just plain fun to look at. The colors and materials are eye-popping, and Johnson hides a letter in each of the 26 pieces.
One work, “Dotty Diptych,” is made of nearly 2,700 white and black dominoes; dots in the right-hand panel of white dominoes form a tricky letter D. This is a grown-up’s alphabet, but for children it is also a whimsical introduction to the realm of abstract art."
Incidentally, this is the second time Johnson has had a picture book on the Best Illustrated Books list. The first was Alphabet City. When asked about his fondness for conceptualizing the alphabet, Stephen says "Indeed, I do have many more alphabet book ideas...!"
November 23, 2008
"A painting is a collection of decisions."
November 20, 2008
Below is a sample post to whet your appetite:
Each artist should think of him or herself as a brand. And as such, we become memorable. People think of brands and the brand brings up an association. And an artist, if they have a very strong brand, will bring up associations in clients. This is what you need and what you aim for.
To use an analogy, think of actors who become movie stars. Need I say more than Clint Eastwood? He brings up mental associations, and they use his name as shorthand when discussing a project, or another actor. If the actor fits the mold, everybody gets it.
As Eastwood's career has matured, he has been allowed much broader roles including the incorporation of vulnerability and introspection. But his core (his brand) has remained the same.
...this is my take on a strong signature style that grows and flowers over the years.
November 19, 2008
November 18, 2008
I went on a ride with some friends on Sunday from Cuajimoloyas at around 10,200 feet in elevation through the mountains and down to Oaxaca about 55 kms away. I had ridden this area once before but this was a new route planned out with satellite photos on Google Earth and topographical maps of the area.
The ride should have taken us about 5 hours but we returned over 24 hours later. The problem was there was simply no trail. What Carl thought was a trail on Google Earth was actually a cut line through the forest marking a regional divide. And while there were no trees on the cut line the brush had re-grown so thickly it was almost impassable.
Rather than carry our bikes back up the mountain we continued moving forward. As a rule, there are lots of trails through the mountains, most used by mule teams that collect firewood. We saw signs of trails but nothing rideable. Simply, the area was remote and unused.
After 9 hours we had gone 13 miles, mostly by pushing or carrying our bikes. The sun was setting and we were deep in the woods with no sign of a trail. Just as the sun went down we managed to make a ridge and could see the lights of Oaxaca far in the distance, but without enough light to find a way through the forest. So we decided the only choice we had was to spend the night.
On the ridge top we found a grassy area to bed down. We had filled our water bottles at the last creek crossing but no one had any food. Since the morning had been so sunny and warm most of us had left our layers of extra clothes in the truck where we unloaded. Through the night there was always someone awake to feed the fire and had we not had that it would have been really unpleasant. I think I got about an hour or two of sleep at the most. I figure we camped at about 8000 feet and the temp got down to around 5 degrees C.
By 6:30 am there was enough light to continue. A couple more hours of bush whacking and we found a trail that was actually in use. Two hours after that we rode out of the canyon and headed for the nearest town to get something to eat.
I arrived home at 11:00 am had a shower and went to bed. An hour later Kari woke me up saying there was message from Richard who had a rush job for me, get back to him ASAP. Well, this was one of my favorite clients so I couldn't say no. I got up, called the art director, Larry Gendron, and went down to the studio to start sketches.
I worked through the day on Tuesday and finished the painting at 2:00 am Wednesday morning. Then it needed to dry. By Wednesday after breakfast it was dry enough to scan and I sent it off, relieved and tired.
November 17, 2008
Every year we go down to the Lower East Side's Angel Orensanz Foundation for the annual American Illustration book release party (except those two years it was someplace else—what was that all about?) Every year I have way too good a time. Really, way too good. It's one of the only times we get to meet, talk to, and hang out with our friends and idols in the industry. Often we find out they're all (with kid-like enthusiasm) fans of each other too, and that is why I love this business!
If you missed the party, it's ok, you can still check out the artwork.
All photos by Rick Theis
November 15, 2008
I have completed two new canvases for my fall show at Ghostprint Gallery in Richmond. Several details are shown above. The finals won't be shown in their entirety until the pre-show opening. I hope to produce enough canvases for two shows, so that I can edit down the final numbers for a better all around show. We'll see what time allows.
For Shepard Fairey, the work’s creator, the thrill of perplexing the public with a mysterious slogan (is it a band? is it a cult?) was the beginning of a prolific career making street art—the catchall used to describe not-always-legally-installed stickers, posters, stencils, murals, and 3-D sculptures. More...
November 13, 2008
November 12, 2008
Western Union developed the national program to celebrate Latino Heritage and honor America's Latino roots.
The project was created with the purpose of beautifying and uplifting the communities where these murals are erected. With the creation of the murals Western Union has taken an active role in building relationships and developing closer ties with the community that it serves. The mural consists of mostly Central-American imagery including traditional Mexican sunflowers, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint, and an Indian sculptural-like form at the center. It is inscribed with Gutierrez’s words “Conectando, Uniendo, and Inspirando" (Connecting, Uniting and Inspiring).
The unveiling in Miami (Homestead) in May 2008 was a great success. Award winning Mexican singer Lupe Rivera demonstrated his support among 500 guests who partook in an afternoon of activities celebrating latino heritage and tradition.
On July 10th 2008 Primer Impacto (First Impact) a prominent national Spanish language television news program, broadcast by Univision in the USA, aired an interview with Rudy Gutierrez featuring the mural.
October 2008 brought another unveiling of the Mural art, this time for a Western Union in Dallas Texas.
Remember, there are things which you are in complete control of: How hard you work, how quickly you grow (this is closely related to how hard you work), recognizing opportunities, and taking advantage of them, what you know, and what you learn, being a great student with a curious mind (this should last your entire life), your willingness to share, to be taught,surrounding yourself with more talented people, more driven people, etc., committing to you goals and embracing them as part of your lifestyle, etc.
Equally as important as what you do , and those things that will help you to attain your goals, are being aware of your weaknesses, and the things that will keep you from realizing your dreams. Beware of laziness, nay sayers, arrogance, unchallenged fear, and life choices that take you away from your path. Often times, bad habits from our life in school continue to affect us long after, especially if we live in the city where we graduated. There are associations with people that are unhealthy, and decisions made out of boredom that grow into bad habits and addictions. Do not let the doubts of parents, friends, family, boyfriends/girlfriends, wives, or anyone for that matter direct your life.
I moved to Kansas City soon after graduation to be around a group of artists affiliated with the Illustration Academy. It broke my heart to leave my new girlfriend behind (she is now my wife), and being away from this life that I had established in my home town was the hardest thing that I ever did. Still, all of my distractions fell away, and once I got over my "social withdrawal", I was able to focus on my goals. The year in Kansas City became one of the most important times in my life.
I have noticed that that the rare moments of true, soul-fulfilling contentment in my life are always on the heals of fears that I have faced. We tend to fear the unknown. If knowledge is power, then the more we learn, the less we fear.
November 10, 2008
The original "Pearl Fishers" illustration is now available for sale in the "Purchase" section of my website
The original, gold medal winning "Death of a Salesman" illustration is now available for purchase, as well.
Last week I attended the Asia Society in NYC. The current show is entitled “Art and China’s Revolution.” I was curious and openminded, but did not know what to expect. As a long-time member, I’ve grown to trust the Asia Society’s curators to always successfully mount wonderfully intriguing shows. This certainly was no exception—it blew me away.
The first thing that I thought of on opening the doors to the show was the incredible skill level of the painters. And almost immediately I thought of Greg Manchess, an artist who I have represented, admired, and become good friends with over the past years. Gregory, in my opinion, has a great facility of laying down a heavy brush stroke in a manner that I feel is similar to many of the artists represented in this show.
These artists worked under unbelievably dire conditions. The vast majority of the art was propagandistic in nature. But what you have to do is get past the subject matter and look at how brilliantly the artist painted these subjects. To me, that’s a lot harder than facing a blank canvas and doing what you want, when you want, and how you want.
If the communist authorities really understood how these artists were ‘getting away with murder,’ they’d probably have them thrown in a gulag. But because they were able to bring to the subject such a high level of skill, the authorities kept them working.
All of you who are going to be in New York City on or before January 11th, 2009—I recommend you spend a couple of hours at the Asia Society and Museum, 725 Park Ave NY NY 10021.
November 8, 2008
Halloween on the 31st of October and “Dia de Los Muertos” on the 1st and 2nd of November make for an interesting cultural contrast. Halloween reminds us to protect ourselves from the spirits that move among us by placing a candle in a Jack o’ Lantern while Muertos invites them in for a drink. Leave it to Mexico to take any occasion and add good food, music and drink.
Muertos is unique in that Mexicans take the remembrance of deceased members of the family and proudly share it with anyone, stranger or friend. On the November 1st and 2nd families gather in cemeteries to elaborately adorn the graves of loved ones with flowers, candles, sand murals, and welcome the souls of loved ones back to spend the night together. Throughout the night family members alive or dead come and go to the graveyard, musicians sing songs, hot food is served up and of course glasses of mescal are passed around.
They do the same in their homes by building altars made of cane stalks to welcome back the souls of the dead, the bright orange flowers serving as beacons to attract the souls, the glasses filled with water a place the souls can occupy. Favorite foods and drink, or favorite items are placed on the alter.
For our part we built an altar on the patio of my studio, a place for wandering souls to spend a couple of days. In the evenings we visited two cemeteries beautifully decorated for the reunion between this world and the spirit world.