IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY
Illustration Master Course – Ep. 5: STORYTELLING & PRESENTATION
*I’m assuming you drink Starbucks?
Haha! This strikes me as an interesting way to phrase this question. Is this assumption just because so many people do drink Starbucks, or because I said something that made it sound like I drink Starbucks? O.o Haha! 🙂 Actually, I’m not a big coffee drinker, so I only go there occasionally. Most of the time, I’m much happier with a proper cup of black tea with cream and sugar. 🙂
Hah! Just wondered. Most people from the Pacific Northwest are hardcore Starbucks fans. I like black tea as well minus the cream and sugar. Earl grey to specific.
*Your profile says you’re a story-inspired artist, can you elaborate?
The short answer or the long one? 😉 If I were to sum it up, I would tell you that I greatly prefer to create art that is based on stories, or has a sense of story to it than working in real-life subjects for their own sake. I can enjoy still life, portraiture, landscape, and figure art to a point, and there are many wonderful artists who work in these genres that I positively love, but ultimately, I’m more interested in how those things can be used to tell stories than I am in those subjects for themselves.
Ok, here’s a more elaborate answer if you want one:
Stories have always had a special place in my life. I jumped from learning to read “Bob Books” at the age of five to devouring the entire Narnia series at the age of six. I can still remember a surprising amount of detail about how it felt to visit some of the different places and events in Lewis’ fantasy world for that first time, despite the fact I was that young.
My love for art started early as well. My mom has frequently recalled that I was about two when I started carefully drawing circles with features that were recognizable as faces, and I could easily spend hours playing with crayons or play dough, even at such a young age. I suppose I heard that story often enough to not feel much wonder in it. I talked, read, and drew “early”. That was just me. Now, watching my nephew and two nieces beginning to grow, I’ve realized that for a two year old to draw anything recognizable or to have the patience and interest to invest that much time in one project really is somewhat of an unusual thing.
I continued to devour books as I got older. “Little Women”, “The Princess and the Goblin”, the “American Girl” series, “Treasure Island”, “The Wind in the Willows”, “The Lord of the Rings”, – I was constantly surrounded by beautiful story worlds. We won’t talk much here about what a struggle math was for me all through school, but my reading comprehension was quite high from the get go, and it stayed that way. I was that weird kid who read a short, illustrated adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and liked it so much I decided to read the original play – at the age of 12. I was also the kid that would critique “terrible” jobs at casting in book-to-film adaptations when it was obvious to me that no attempt had been made to match the descriptions of the characters in the books. (“How could they cast a BLOND in that role when the book CLEARLY said they had DARK hair?!” Oh the horror.)
I think it was this knack for reading comprehension that made the idea of combining my love for stories and my love for art such a natural concept for me. Even as a child, I drew pictures based on stories I read and loved. I particularly remember a long season filled with drawings of Tolkien’s characters. I also wanted to write my own books and illustrate them. For years, I said I wanted to be a “writer and illustrator”. I remember an attempt to create an illustrated story as early as kindergarten, and although that attempt didn’t really get too far, it is interesting to look back that far and realize how much of an inkling I had even then of what I wanted to do.
At some point in early adulthood, I dropped the “writer” from my quick comeback when people asked “What do you want to be?”. Insecurity may have been the wretched imp that launched the decision to “shelve” the writing-related part of my dream (“There’s so many people out there who write better than I do”), and practicality was likely the culprit that sealed that decision (“How many art forms do you think you have time to master anyway?”). Together, they whispered something along the lines of, “Better just focus on your drawing and painting, and then you can illustrate other people’s books”. I bought it, and so fiction-writing and I largely parted ways for a while.
After high school, I attended a classical fine arts atelier. I am beyond grateful for the foundational things I learned there, but at the end of four years of painting still life, landscape, figure studies, and plaster casts of famous statues, one thing could not have been clearer to me – I had very little love and passion for those things in and of themselves; I was interested in them mainly for how they could help me to tell stories visually. Around the time I graduated art school, I was also forced to take a fresh look at my attempt to “stuff” the idea of being a writer. What called it into question for me was the jealousy I felt spring up when someone I knew made the simple statement that they were writing something. I was not jealous of their story or ideas – those were their own to explore, and I was happy they had that – no, I was only jealous of the fact that they were writing at all. That feeling was an indicator for me, and I began to realize that I really couldn’t walk away from that old desire. I landed on an idea I decided to pursue as a story, and it was a joy to “un-shelve” that part of myself again. At first, I thought I would do an illustrated novel, but that left me with the problem of having to muscle through an entire book before I could also draw the characters I was longing to portray visually as well as through words. I began to see graphic novels and comics being done in styles that varied widely off the “Marvel” model I had always associated with comics, and I realized that telling my story in a sequential art format like that would allow me to fully indulge both my writing and illustrating.
Wow! You’re quite a unique individual. I’ve never heard anyone say this before. Story based art is something new and fascinating to me. I’m starting to see a connection with stories we read and appreciate with a pattern of imitation. Many times children do this by imitating or pretending to be characters in their books. Their imagination attempts to recreate what they’ve apprehended in a story. With you, it’s a ruthless desire to create story based art. That’s so cool!
*What were your influences early in life towards art?
I would sum this up quickly by saying the stories that sparked my imagination, and my mom, who taught me the first things I learned in art, and who has supported me in my artistic pursuits for my entire life.
That’s so sweet! In no particular order; you gotta love stories, the imagination and moms.
*What are your favorite mediums to use? Painting, drawing, writing, photography?At the rest of sounding slightly crazy…ALL OF THEM!!! 😀 SOOOOO many kinds of media! 😀
I’ve actually been trying to come up with a short, descriptive phrase to sum up how I work, because I tend to interconnect and flow between different media. I sometimes start a drawing in digital media and transition to finishing it in a traditional media, or vice versa, or I may mix a couple traditional media, such as watercolor with color pencil. I don’t want to just draw or write, I want to interweave the two. I’ve even wondered recently if I could take my hobby pianist skills and create a soundtrack for the webcomic I’m writing. (That would be an adventure!) More recently, I’ve been looking at using photos as a base for digitally painted backgrounds in my story too. There’s so many amazing possibilities out there!
That’s great, have at it! Sounds like you’re having a lot of fun.
*Your Facebook profile says after highschool you attended Atelier Maui art school where I received a….?
I am a story-inspired artist from the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. After graduating high school, I attended Atelier Maui (formerly Ashland Academy of Art), where I received a Certificate of Completion of Four Years. I have also received training as an artist through the Masterpiece Christian Fine Arts Foundation, and I continue to study to improve my craft through self-teaching and other opportunities. I am currently writing/illustrating a graphic novel and teaching art classes though Grumbacher at Michaels Arts and Crafts. I am available for online and/or in-person art tutoring, and I also do commission/freelance work. If you have any questions about working with me, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t miss Jennifer’s epic website at J.N. Garrett Art.
*What made you chose art school?
Well, I knew I wanted to be an artist, and the idea of spending four years in a traditional college where I would be forced to re-hash general education subjects felt like a stifling waste of time to me. I also knew a lot of former students of the teacher I studied with, and I loved the quality of the work they did, so that really influenced my choice to go to that specific school. It also happened to be right in my backyard, so to speak, so that was a huge plus too. I love the perspective of an artist who chose to mentor me for a number of years, that an artist should be a perpetual student. I may have finished school, but there is always more to learn, and the bar is always being raised for the standard of what I want to achieve. I think that’s such a huge part of what I love about art – there is no “peak”, no ultimate mountain top or end of the road. There are always new ways to try things, new levels of ability to push toward.
That’s what I love about art. It’s a continual journey of discovery. What an adventure!
*You’re an Art instructor where do you teach?
I am currently certified with Grumbacher to teach drawing and painting courses at our local Michaels store. I love the opportunity to connect with people in meaningful ways through teaching, whether it’s pouring into a particularly passionate student, or just begin to able to encourage someone who needs it.
I like it. Connecting with others in meaningful ways through teaching. An you do sound very passionate about it. I think passion begets passion in my book.
*Some people say art can’t be taught, is that true?
Muahahahaha! Are you sure you want to get me started on this topic? It might cause a very long rant that wanders into other areas that I see as being connected to this issue. 😉
Honestly, that is one of the most frustrating perspectives I encounter as an artist. Do I believe people can have a natural inclination or bent toward being good at something in a specific area? Sure. In that sense, I do believe in talent, which is the thing inside you, and no, I would say that can’t be taught, because I think that God gives us each areas that he wires us to naturally gravitate toward. HOWEVER, art is just like any subject out there. Just because I’m not a math genius doesn’t mean I can’t learn my times tables and algebra. Just because I don’t enjoy writing chemistry equations doesn’t mean a teacher can’t help me wrap my head around the basics. Just because someone isn’t a “natural” artist doesn’t mean that they can’t be taught how to draw. I have a problem with the “art is talent that you either just have or don’t” perspective, because every artist I know who is any good put in a lot of work to get there, and people don’t talk like that about any other skilled craft I know of. A doctor is not just “talented” – everyone knows he worked his tail off to get through school and learn how to do what he does. A businesswoman isn’t just “gifted” or “lucky” – she learned how to observe and work with the structures and systems in place in order to make smart decisions that would help her make the most of the opportunities that came along.
There are a couple other issues that I see as being related to this. First, there’s the view of art being the “easy class”, that art class is a way for students who don’t want to work hard to get an easy credit. This is a devaluing statement to the students who are there because they DO want to work hard and get better at their craft, and who, if they succeed in any degree, will hear it again as adults in the forms of “Ok, you’re an artist, but what’s your REAL job?”, and every kind of variation on, “Why should you get paid to do something you enjoy?” I feel it also allows a skewed perspective of the arts to start forming for people at a very early age. If students were being taught construction drawing, and having to wrestle through all the complexities of learning form, tone, and color from an early age, I can’t help but feel that art would be taken a bit more seriously by adults who had taken those kinds of classes as children, and therefore understood the inherent work involved in becoming a good artist, even if they weren’t artists themselves, any more than I can appreciate the talent, dedication, and work involved in someone becoming an engineer, because I had to take a certain amount of math and science in school.
Second, a more modern issue I see as being connected to this is the tendency to marginalize digital art as not being “real” art, or somehow taking less skill/talent/work than traditional media. Again, I think if more people were exposed to drawing digitally, it would help dispel some of the myths people have bought about this medium. No, the computer is not doing it for us. No, just because certain things are easier to fix than traditional media or there is more wiggle room to experiment in some ways, it still doesn’t mean it’s “easy” to do.
I don’t know. I get it that writers come up against things like this too, and that’s in spite of the fact that most people have had to take English classes, so I don’t think classroom education is the sole key to fixing problematic attitudes towards the arts and artists, but I can’t help feeling that better education on the subject would still be a great place to start in combating some of the misconception artist of all kinds – writers, photographers, painters and more – have to face throughout their lives, and I do feel that visual arts in particular suffer from a lot of these misconceptions.
EXCELLENT. Spoken like a true passionate person. I wasn’t aware of some of the misconceptions you mentioned. I find it hard to believe anyone would find art as *easy*. No art is easy in my mind, especially digital. To me, digital art is harder and more complicated with all of the technology involved. All the Adobe platforms, Wacom tablets, digital brushes, settings, layering, CS 6 etc. That stuff is definitely not a walk in the park.
*According to your current understanding, what is art?
Wow, big question there! I like it though. It’s a “thinking cap question”. 🙂 I think art can be many, many things, but one of my favorite definitions of art that I’ve ever heard was from Madleine L’engle in the book “Walking on Water”. She describes art as something through which we get to bring order and beauty, or “cosmos”, into the chaos and destruction we see in the world, that the truest form of art as it reflects our Creator is in the creation of things that ultimately affirm what is true and lovely and real and alive. Seen in that way, art is a way we can make a little rightness in a world where there is so much wrong. That’s why, for me, I will never buy into the idea that art is merely “entertainment”. It can be very entertaining, and that is not a bad thing, but if it is creating that “cosmos in chaos” to any degree, then I feel it is also something more than entertainment.
I also like C.S. Lewis’ perspective on this, which comes out in this quote on friendship: “Friendship, like art, is unnecessary; it has no survival value. Rather, it is one of those things that gives value to survival.” It is interesting in light of this quote to consider some of the articles written in recent years that talk about the damaging physical effects of chronic loneliness, which some studies have claimed can be worse for our bodies even than smoking. You could make a strong case that the reality is that art, beauty, and meaningful connections are actually not only important, but actually ARE necessary, not only for the health of our psyche, but ultimately because what affects the heart and mind affects the body, and so those things are actually quite impactful on our physical well-being as well. There are reasons people like Hitler were hellbent on destroying art and the physical beauty of the land. I feel like that’s largely what Lewis is getting at in that quote – there are things that are necessary in other ways than in having immediate survival value.
Very beautiful. Your whole statement stands like a piece of art. Well put.
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