Sunday, August 16, 2015

Thank an Artist. August is Artist Appreciation Month

"Life isn't about finding yourself. It's about creating yourself."

"Boardwalk" by Rebecca Zook 24" x 16"

And creation is not attained in a vacuum. We are influenced and inspired by everything around us and likely don't even realize how much of our every day lives are influenced by artists. From the coffee cup that starts your day, to the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the music that makes your commute bearable, and of course the art on your walls, you can thank an artist for designing them all. Take a moment and gaze around the room. Look at the flooring, the furniture, your shirt, every little knick-knack and even the office supplies. At some point, an artist sketched out a design for each one of these objects. More likely, several designs. You are only seeing what was eventually approved. Imagine stepping behind the curtain to see what was deemed second best or what slipped through the cracks. August is designated "Artist Appreciation Month," so take a moment to reflect on the contributions of artists in all fields that make our lives a little brighter and a whole lot better.

In my fine art painting, I have certainly had artists that inspired and influenced me. I gravitated to drawing and painting from a very early age. Though they never made their living as artists, both my parents had artistic interests that they passed on to all three of their girls. My father has a passion for photography and writing and even built a darkroom in the garage where I learned to develop film and create prints from negatives. My mother was interested in crafts of all kinds and I'm sure I tried every one of them right along with her. 

The first true artist I remember being enamored by was E.H. Shephard. I had a classic Winnie the Pooh book. I can't remember which one. At the time, the words were not nearly as important to me as the drawings. For some bizarre reason, I kept the book in a bathroom drawer and I remember sitting on a small rug with the door locked studying each illustration very carefully. The book was slightly tattered, well worn. It likely had an owner or two before me. The timeless sketches transported me to another reality where animals talked, had adventures and I travelled right along with them. I wanted to do that. Transport people. Affect their emotions with my own work, but I was only 6 or 7 and likely hiding in the bathroom from my little sister, because it had the only locking door.

E.H. Shephard

Going to garage sales was a major part of my childhood. A few years after my crush on Shephard, my fickle artistic affections switched to a new beau when I ran across the Wizard of Oz books from the early 1900s at a sale and bought them with allowance money. The solid color, poster quality of W.W. Denslow's illustrations was reminiscent of graphic design work prevalent in the 1970's that surrounded me in everyday life, even though these illustrations were from far earlier. I was eleven and drawing was still my primary medium. The color in these illustrations grabbed me and that is what I would explore next. What could I achieve with color?

W.W. Denslow
W.W. Denslow

I continued to take drawing, painting and sculpture classes all the way through 10th grade and commercial art courses in 11th and 12th. Bud Norton, my high school commercial art teacher, and former Disney® artist, made me realize that it would be possible to make art my primary income, though it would be through Advertising and Graphic Design. I went on to study Advertising Art and Fine Art at Southern Methodist University. This is when I met my next great love, Andrew Wyeth, and I fell hard. I was fortunate that the "Three Generations of Wyeth" show came to the Dallas Museum of Art. Andrew's work stood out to me the most. So realistic. Delicate. Color was employed so subtly. The light. Oh, the light. That is what I wanted to capture in my work–light.

"Master Bedroom" Andrew Wyeth

"Sycamore" Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth

I built a career combining illustration, graphic design, photography and writing to varying degrees at various jobs. I returned to fine art painting in my 'spare time' after realizing how much I missed holding a brush, since the majority of my work was now done on a computer. This was 2004 and I had just moved from Dallas to a small lake community. I decided to become involved with the local art association. I was introduced to an artist named Ralf Postulka. She was a wonderful, unique lady that I came to think of as a second mother. I am fortunate to have one of her abstract original paintings. Cancer took her from us a few years ago. I also met another local artist named Jeanette Alexander. I didn't know it yet, but she would be a great inspiration to me. A three time cancer survivor, who was able to walk out of hospice care, she will freely tell you that art was a big part of her recovery. It was a part of mine as well. I all but moved my art studio into a hospital room when doctors couldn't diagnose me. The doctors were all for it. Emotional state is critical for recovery and painting brought me peace. When I became too weak too paint, it was heart-wrenching, but I was determined to survive. Finally diagnosed with multiple rare chronic illnesses, I thought about Jeannette's struggles and knew I could do this. I could come back.

“Toulouse-Lautrec’s Sister”
by Jeanette Alexander

In 2014, through a really strange set of circumstances that really could be the subject of an entire post, I ended up being asked to submit a bid to illustrate a children's book for the Immune Deficiency Foundation. A Primary Immune Deficiency is one of the chronic illnesses I have. Though I had done plenty of illustration, I had never worked on a children's book and I was apprehensive, but the author of the book was adamant that my painting style was exactly what she was looking for. I stepped out of my comfort zone and submitted…and got the job. I also met my next love, Charles Santore. The animals, zebras and horses, depicted in the book needed to be more character-like, than entirely realistic, in order to convey the story better. My fine art animal paintings were realistic, so I needed inspiration and found it in Charles. I was mesmerized by his illustrations. I painted the book in my own style, but I was definitely influence by the expression Charles was able to capture in his work. I felt like I had come full circle. Back to a children's book, but I had a lifetime of experience now.  

Charles Santore

Charles Santore

Charles Santore

I have to thank Patience Brewster for inspiring this post. Her company is celebrating Artist Appreciation Month and encouraging artists to share their personal inspirations. If you aren't familiar with her company be sure to take a look at what they offer. Her whimsical ornaments and figures, all designed by Patience, herself, are crafted and hand painted by a team of artists. Each zebra shown here takes 30 hours to paint. Of course the zebras are my favorite. I am one after all. Though I was familiar with her work, I knew nothing about her life. After reading about her, I have to say she is an inspiration. Another kindred spirit that has experienced heartbreak and loss and was able to move forward in spite of it. She took a chance, believed in her art and is making a difference in the lives of others. Thank you.

I can't wait to see what the future holds.

©2015 Patience Brewster

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