Thursday, July 21, 2011

A look back 20 years

For this post I am taking a step backwards and looking at where I was 20 years ago with my artwork. I stumbled on the following pieces while looking for something else (which I still haven't found!), buried in a box of files with my teaching lessons from about 10 years ago. Perhaps the idea for this post was generated by the nostalgia of the end of the space shuttle era today. My dad was on the committees that chose the astronauts for the programs in the '60's and '70's. What really shocks me is that I remember doing this artwork as if it were yesterday, even though I had completely forgotten about this series. I had just finished re-reading Kipling's "The Jungle Book" perhaps after seeing film retreads of it from Disney, both animated and live action. I was inspired to do my own version of the classic tale, perhaps also looking for something to sink my teeth into as I became more and more serious about illustrating children's books. This is what resulted done with watercolor and markers on colored paper. As you can see I was hovering between cartoony or realistic for the treatment.

Shere Khan as he tries to escape the fire in the jungle

I never did anymore than what you see here, put everything in a file folder and moved on to other projects. It wasn't long after that, over the period of about a year, three things happened that changed my direction in illustrating and in my life. The first was a complete overhaul of my artistic style. I had been searching for a new and more dynamic style and had been exploring other techniques. Nothing I tried was working for me. But the old saying about operating in a vacuum is true: eventually you have to get out and mingle with the rest of the world. I met the artist Keith Birdsong at an open fantasy/sci fi art show in 1992, who did incredible covers for the Star Trek novels that were coming out all the time in the early 1990's. I had my own work hung next to his and felt like an ant next to a lion. He took a look at my work (and didn't throw up or scream) and described his technique of airbrush and colored pencil that revolutionized my thinking overnight. Next time I will showcase what resulted from that conversation. And the other two things? I'll reserve those for next time as well.

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