This is the first in a new series of posts (not that I am giving up any of my other series). In this series I will examine the various artists and books that have influenced my own art over the years. The trigger for this is actually feedback that I have received in recent times that my digital art is not art.
“What?!?” I hear some of you cry. Don’t worry, it’s not from any of you. It’s from some non-online people that I know.
The criticisms include:
- it’s not realistic enough
- it doesn’t look like art
- it’s not art if it’s not painted by hand
- digital art takes no skill or talent
- it doesn’t look like the CGI in films
Besides being incredible displays of ignorance, such comments are also hurtful. So dwelling on these comments got me thinking about my own artistic influences and that got me into writing this.
Anyway, the first artist that I chose to feature is not actually my first influence but is certainly one who taught me a lot through a book. His name is Patrick Woodroffe and his book “A Closer Look at the art techniques of Patrick Woodroffe” really made me re-examine everything that I had done up till then.
I bought the book in 1986, the year it was published. I recall the shop was Galaxy Bookshop, a specialty fantasy and science fiction shop in Sydney that I used to haunt at lunchtimes. I had already been oil painting for a decade when I purchased this, but I had never been happy with my technique. Indeed, I was pretty ignorant of technique because I dropped out of art at high school due to an inconsiderate art mistress. (Long story – maybe another time)
Up until this time I had fancied a lot of science fiction and fantasy art but knew little about the artists. OK – there were a couple of exceptions. Because of my copy of the Sword of Shannara and also my copy of the original Star Wars poster (taken from a cinema at the time it was playing) I knew of the Hilderbrandt Brothers. And Boris Vallejo was known to me because his work in the Magic Goes Away by Larry Niven (I so practiced copying his style but to no avail). But Patrick Woodroffe was an unknown. Nevertheless I flicked through his book in Galaxy with great delight.
The book had so many instances where I could watch a picture develop. Remember, this was before video streaming on the internet made watching an artist work almost commonplace.
The book was divided into five parts:
- Mixed Media
In each section he thoroughly explored the tools that he used, how to maintain them, how to use them and also the associated techniques. This said, I think my favourite section was on Mixed Media and it really got me experimenting when I was younger. Indeed, he convinced me that I did not need to be constrained to doing things the conventional way. So when computers began to have art programs, I progressed to those as just another medium available to me.
OK – another thing. Some people do criticise the state of some of my books. If you look at my photographs of the book you can see the curled pages. This is not from manhandling. None of my books get treated poorly. I adore books. No, this is from frequent referencing. You see, I don’t believe that books should merely sit on a shelf. They should live with us and that means read and flicked through and enjoyed. Indeed, during the painting of every oil painting since 1986 I have had this book open next to me.
I think that one thing that I really got from Woodroffe’s book was a sense of whimsy in art. I’m not sure if it comes across in my own work, but due to it I don’t feel the need to be “realistic”, not in colours or anything else. I can play as Woodroffe clearly played when he painted.
As a final observation, I feel that this is a book that would go well on any artist’s bookcase.
Woodroffe passed away in 2014. I never met him or even sent him a fan message. Nevertheless I continue to admire his talent. His website is still up and can be found at http://www.patrickwoodroffe-world.com/index.htm.
Anyway, that’s enough from me. If you have made it all the way down here, then thank you for reading :)