Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lessons from Artists

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to go with the BYU Illustration department to New York. I love New York and was anxious to go back again.
Before we headed to New York we went to Baltimore, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Philadelphia  to visit  different art museums like the National Portrait Gallery in Baltimore, and Brandywine museum in Delaware where N.C Wyeth's artwork is displayed as well as Andrew Wyeth. We also visited the Delaware museum of art where many of Howard Pyle's (father of illustration) work is located.
Me at Brandywine

At the Philadelphia museum of art I got to see Van Gogh's Sunflowers. It was fun to tour the museums with a bunch of other artists. We each contributed our own critiques and observations.

"Sunflower" By VanGogh

While in Connecticut I had the pleasure of meeting Bob McGuiness. He created the old James Bond posters back in the day and helped with the film "The Incredible's." Bob is 86 and works in a small art studio.
 All 16 of us crammed into his small and humble art studio
Bob McGuiness 
and gathered around to hear about his experience as an artist, his advice, and to observe his artwork. Bob said "My art is a reflection of me and no one can take that away from me. It's my best friend."


Although Bob paints mostly nude/ or partially nude women, he does it in a way that makes them look intelligent-especially when the woman is holding a gun. He respects women.                                         

As we viewed many of his nude figure paintings he asked the girls if we thought he was "weird." We all replied, "No!" and continued to praise him on his artwork. To me Bob is a legend and he can get away with any subject matter.

Other advice Bob gave was...

  • If working from photos interpret it and make it your own
  • Good artists are intelligent
  • Put yourself in your own artwork and have other artists as your company 
The last piece of advice wasn't one he said aloud--it was one he lived. Be humble. Bob has had an extremely successful career and still continues to do what he loves. He continues to look up to other artists such as Andrew Wyeth as someone he still strives to become. As we complemented him on his artwork he honestly believed he wasn't as good as we believed him to be. Often times he said he would turn in a piece of art and didn't feel good about it but looking back he said "it wasn't so bad."

While on my trip I had the privilege of meeting other artists such as:

 Paul Zelinsky who created the beautiful art of "Repunzel" that won the Caldecott award in 1998. The images were even better in real life!

Brett Helquist. The creator of the book covers "A Series of Unfortunate Events."
He advised that we should continue to go to our teachers for help and strive to improve and to push ourselves. His artwork was beautifully rendered.

Sam Weber. A freelance and editorial artist as well as a scifi/fantasy book cover artist. 
One thing I really liked about visiting Sam was his studio; he shares a studio with four other artists in an old pencil factory in Brooklyn. I swear there was still a smell of lingering pencils. 

Sam creates the most amazing watercolors and his detail, creativity and craftsmanship are incredible.


Sam's Advice was:
  • Show your work to as many people as possible
  • Promote yourself online
  • Set a schedule when starting off as a freelance artist so you do not waste time
  • Find people you want to work with
  • Uncertainty is a good thing
  • (and my favorite) you don't need an agent

 Peter De Seve. The man who created the character "scrat" from ice age and continues to create character designs for animation studios.

 Peter's artwork is witty, clever and whimsical; similar to his personality.  I enjoy how each of his pieces narrates a story without any words. 


Peter's advice was
  • Be willing to try new things and take risks
  • Observe
  • Use good references (his studio is surrounded by a library of books)

As I visited each artist I noticed their was a common answer when they were asked the question, "how they got started with their career." Most, if not all, said they had a period when they struggled. It's hard to believe that these accomplished artists had a period in their life where they struggled to find work. But because they were willing to take risks and work hard through their struggles they were able to  enjoy the pay off of their hard work. 

There will be times of struggle. I realize this. But at least I know that the ones who work through it end up succeeding in what they love most.

Thanks for reading!

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