Illustration is about visual communication of ideas. We have many tools to use to create images to express these ideas- so why paint? Ideas can be expressed in many ways but I find that making images that retain a sense of the the hand of their author can make an intimate bond with the viewer, and carry an implied sense of personal viewpoint. Sometimes the WAY an image is executed can amplify the concept being illustrated. A concept is an idea- and an idea is not always a metaphor or a pun - it can also be a mood. Primarily through painting I try to express a level of humanity and mood. But painting is hard, and for illustration you have to be able to do it fast. So it takes work- practice and development of skill, and for me I have to keep on it all the time, to try to move forward. I wrote this article to talk about some of the things I do to push myself forward, and why.
Sometimes you can express mood through the brushstroke.
if you do something in a way that can be percieved as old- fashioned, you have to find a way to keep it relevant.One thing I try to do is by keeping it rough- so that a viewer feels, if only in their subconscious, that somewhere someone made this picure, and all the decisions behind it - that there is a person, a human being, behind it. This takes an important skill - knowing when to stop.
Painting landscapes outdoors on location presents so many technical problems that it almost can't help but make one a better and more versatile illustrator. Teaching others to do it is almost better because you have to articulate the principles you use, and demonstrate how they work. It's a different kind of pressure but I find that it greatly improves and informs everything I do.
of course there are many failures along the way.
Returning to the same place and trying a different approach often results in something better. Sometimes these things are just stepping stones on the way to something else. This one- maybe I should have stopped a little bit earlier- not sure.
Im still figuring out how to approach this location.
Technology has made it possible to do far more with painting in illustration than before. At one time I had to work in a thin, quick-drying way because I had to send opriginal art to clients. Now I can work in impasto and make repro-quality photographs of paintings while they are wet - and even photograph it in stages as I work, making possible painted animation, which wasnt possible in the past. Modern technology and old-school painting are not mutually exclusive ideas- using them together opens the way to many more possibilities.
Another reason I paint is because I like the tools. I would rather use a brush than a stylus. I like tools, and space and I like to work with my hands and make things. I like my studio. My studio has evolved to be a sort of hybrid -technology is there, to make it possible to do things the way that I can do them best.
I have a lot of brushes. I could never throw one out- but lately Ive started to give them to students who don't have their own.
In illustration, the tools one uses are irrelevant except to the extent that they allow an artist to express their feelings and ideas effectivley. Technology levels the playing field in many ways, and one good way is that it has made technique pretty irrelevant to clients...they care about the result, not how it happened. For me, I can get closest to what I hope to achieve by using paint. I get a little closer every day.
I recently spent a weekend doing many small experiments. This was one of the better ones.
When I can, I go to a painting group to work from life. I dont get there as often as I'd like but it's always a good challenge.
Of course the traditional way to woodshed is to do master studies. I do them too...
Here's a master study I did last week based on a painting by Sorolla
As an illustrator Ive always been far more concerned about value than color. Only recently have I started to seriously think about color theory, trying to make colors work for me in new ways.