Thursday, November 27, 2014

From the Ashes

After years of neglect I am relaunching this blog.  It bears the same name, as it is perhaps more apt than ever, but my aims in art and life have evolved and I think it would benefit me to document them properly.  I am still a freelance illustrator and will be for the foreseeable future, and will likely still post on occasion about commercial illustration.  I love doing it and I enjoy a lot of the subjects I'm asked to paint.  I'm tremendously nerdy that way.  

I'm currently in the middle of my third year in an Atelier, the first at Safehouse and the rest at Sadie Valeri, both in San Francisco.  I entered this training because I wanted to become a professional concept artist and illustrator and believed that the traditional foundations would assist me in that goal.  They certainly have, so mission accomplished, however it introduced me to another aspect of art that I had known once existed but had long thought dead.  Or rather, I had thought that there was no real place for it in fine art today - commercial illustration was its last safe haven. 

When I look at select paintings from the 19th century and earlier, I experience a visceral emotional reaction that will leave me awestruck.  Rarely do I feel that way when standing before contemporary representational art.  I've been asking myself more and more why that is.  What makes a painting of the past so much more gripping to me than a contemporary one?  What qualities make them so instantly recognizable from modern work (barring clothing and technology)?  What is it that makes them seem to me so intrinsically superior to most anything produced within the last century?  I will try to answer these questions for myself in the following posts, both by analyzing the paintings that I love and the artists that made them, and by documenting my own attempts to capture that kind of quality.

I want to end this post by saying that I'm not simply trying to ape a bygone age and style of painting that many people don't think is relevant today.  It is impossible to ever completely recapture the past, because the time is different, the world is different, I am different, and those differences will show in the work regardless of whether I want them to or not.  What I am trying to achieve is the skill that those artists employed in their paintings, and the kind of overarching artistic taste and vision that encompassed everything from their choices of subject matter, composition, technique and beyond.  To understand these things, I've concluded that I must necessarily begin where they left off.