First off, thank you!
I used to define “voice” (in regards to illustration) as “what you’re saying” combined with “how you are saying it.” Then, I’d make two fists and mash them together, as if that helped drive my point home. I’m a hand talker, guys.
I don’t know how other people define it, but for my purposes, that seemed like a reasonable definition: what and how? The big trick then, is how do you go about developing those two questions?
It’s funny that you say that I have an established voice, because I feel like I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. But, let’s take a look at the premier example of an established voice:
Ok, so that Rockwell guy. Pretty good huh? We closely associate Rockwell with hyper-rendered, almost saccharine-sweet depictions of a mythical Americana. In the majority of his illustrations, he shows us an America without murder, prostitution, sexism, and racism (although he would tackle this in other paintings later), etc. He was quoted as saying “I unconsciously decided that, even if it wasn’t an ideal world, it should be. So I painted only the ideal aspects of it - pictures in which there are no drunken slatterns or self-centered mothers…”
The key words there are “it should be.” So in countless Saturday Evening Post covers, he presented to the public an idealized America, shown in the most realistic way he knew how, in an effort to make his fictional America manifest. And in a way, he succeeded, mostly in part because we Americans are a sentimental lot. Flip on the TV and watch any commercials around Christmas, or July 4th, and tell me that America hasn’t bought into that mythology.
So his “what”: an idealized America. “How”: realistic painting. What happens if you throw either one of those things off? Robert Weaver, grandfather of the “avant garde” within illustration, once said “I wonder how Norman Rockwell would handle this article I have to illustrate titled ‘The Psychological Complications of Being Left-Handed’?”
It’s not that Rockwell was in any way limited by his voice. In fact, most of what we know about Rockwell flies in the contrary of his work (“The life revealed here is one of anxiety, depression and loneliness, with feelings of failure, neglect and inadequacy.”) It’s that he had something very specific and personal to him that he wanted to express in the best way that he could. And that’s how I think you should approach your own investigations towards a personal voice.
What is it that you care about? What is personal to you, and only you, that you can speak authoritatively about? What injustices do you see in the world? What stories aren’t being told that you think deserve to be? If you don’t think you can’t answer those questions yet, just sit down and do some writing. Start with what you know. Then branch out, get out of your head; go live your life, read books, have conversations, fall in love. All of this informs your work.
The “how” is the technical side of this equation. It is your classes on color theory, your countless newsprint pads from figure drawing, and your experiments in your sketchbook. Honestly, it’s the easiest part. It just takes time and good practice to develop.
And there’s one more little bit that I’d throw in there for good measure, and that’s “why?” Why are you making the work that you are? Dean Cornwell said this of Harvey Dunn’s Leonia school: “Perhaps the most valuable thing that Dunn taught us was honest dealing with our fellow men and a constant gratitude to the maker above for the privilege of seeing the sun cast shadows.” Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, I like this idea of “honesty and gratitude.” As an illustrator, artist, however you choose to define yourself, if you’re in this trade and you have the skillset, you have to ability to influence. What will you do with this ability?
For example, have you guys seen this illustration about “stop and frisk” that Richie Pope posted yesterday? Absolutely killer. I know that the subject matter is very close to Richie’s heart, and you know what? It shows, man.
If you’re not making good work right now (and let’s be honest, that’s a hard thing to admit to yourself), then you should take heart: that means that for every failed piece, you are one step closer to finding that voice. And that means that tomorrow has the potential to be a much better place than today. You just have to keep at it.
YOU GUYS are my heroes. Images have power. Stories have power. You guys have superhuman, mutant powers. Use them for good.
perfect words from John Lee for all of us trying to find our ‘voice’.
work in progress for a poster. can’t wait to do the type for it it’s gonna be sweeeet
now go to bed
GUNS MAKE KIDS TARGETS.
My newest illustration for the Political Arts Initiative Blog is about the elementary school shooting on December 14th.
As a European, I feel a disturbing alienation from American culture which allows for guns in daily life. To pretend that guns have any other purpose than to kill or wound is such a strange denial, such a medieval attitude to other living bodies. Rather than remove guns to protect innocent unarmed people, the solution appears to be, make sure everyone has a bullet-proof vest. Make sure everyone has a gun. There is no such thing as an unarmed innocent.
People who say it is a fundamental right as granted by the constitution, which should not be taken away, are they actually convinced that they will next be robbed of free speech? Cannot they consider an alteration of law as a real step forward?
The terrifying thing is of course that, when there is a confrontation on the topic, the people who disagree are the ones with the guns..
"type design" (yeaahhh)
for a poster for the upcoming ANDERLING exhibition at school which will include my work and yeah
concept art for Mister Motley art magazine postcards.
And I used SketchBook Copic Edition, Tamtu!
A tally of 162 faces for 162 deaths in Gaza.
No one seems to know the precise death count for sure. When someone said “one hundred and sixty-two” it was a precise number, so I stuck to that for this drawing. This is because the news is the worst when they say how many people were killed and they only need three seconds to say it.
A small drawing of a human face doesn’t say very much about a human life. Each face required individual attention and consideration. This took several hours, rather than several seconds. Now their imagined faces take up space for them to be considered people again.
“And unto the Lord the Devil said
You guide his sword, and I’ll take his head
Must we? Said God, who was still in bed
Can’t we stay home, and
Watch movies instead?”
GO VOTE, AMERICA. MAY THE SHINIEST KNIGHT WIN THE JOUST.
My newest illustration for the Political Arts Initiative (it should be up on the site pretty soon). Even us Europeans are anticipating the election. Copyrighted to the Political Arts Initiative.
Winter winds! This is my end of the bargain in the art trade with Somer <3 It was supposed to be something wintery but my brain skipped ‘snow’ and ‘hot chocolate’ and stepped right into ‘cuddling’ and ‘quilted underwear’ because let’s be honest.
UM and I was working on this before I heard about the USA’s impending doom by
Romney Sandy so.. this Blustery Goddess wasn’t meant as an insult.. consider her a guardian spirit for your darker days. Good luck you guys.
Also HEY NEW FOLLOWERS GOSH I feel shy
I would use a GIF except not sure how to insert
did this work
exercise for class— an illustration for Nina Simone’s amazing song, My Man’s Gone Now.
Can’t wait for Korra’s Avatar State, be it flagrantly abused or piously achieved to battle the darker regions of Republic City’s noodle restaurants.