Thoughts on Inspiration

Seeing as this is my very first blog post for the site, I thought I would share a few of the artists and authors who have inspired me through the years.
Hergé, E.H. Shepard (of the Winnie-the-Pooh institution), Richard Scarry, and Edward Gorey top the list of the artists I most recall from growing up and developing my own style and artistic sense. As an avid reader, it is no surprise that the turn of a phrase or the twist of plot also impacted my appreciation for the work involved in interpreting these things into a visual expression. You'll find that many of the artists I've admired have also either been writers themselves (Gorey), or partnered with exceptional authors (E.H. Shepard and A.A. Milne). 

As children, we grow up with picture books and are exposed to all manner of visual information as a way of introducing us to the way the world works. As such, my early years were spent delving into the action-packed world of Richard Scarry. What I remember appreciating most about Scarry's books was the attention to every last detail. In his city scenes, there was always some new bit to discover - Lowly Worm hitching a ride on an unsuspecting cat, different iterations of what constitutes a vehicle, the various jobs held by characters in the books, etc. It fed the imagination, and gave the impression that the author/illustrator felt that we children were more observant than our adults gave us credit for.

As I grew, I was exposed to Winnie the Pooh, of course. Again, when comparing the illustrations done for the Pooh series. I was always appreciative that the artist didn't take shortcuts. Oftentimes, I felt that when watching an animated cartoon, you could see where shortcuts were taken; a character wasn't fully animated - just his arm or mouth, the backgrounds were static, there was no variation in facial expression. The Pooh books offered a breadth of character expression and positioning that cartoons at the time did not.

In-between, I also discovered a love of a few Disney animated movies: Aristocats - for the sketched look of the entire film; Sleeping Beauty - for the stylistic theme (this, I felt, was carried over again in Hercules), and the color contrast used in outlining. Generally, though, as a child of the 80's, I was not as hooked into the doe-eyed animation in Little Mermaid or Aladdin. I much preferred seeing a little of what went on behind the scenes.

Once I was old enough to be watching more adult fare, I happened upon (Lord only knows how) a selection of foreign cartoons which must have been dubbed or (in the case of the British shows) syndicated for US television. Along with Dangermouse, Tintin was my favorite. While I enjoyed the stories and the mystery, what I really loved was the simplicity of the lines and the way the entire show was drawn. I have come to find out, now, that the style is called ligne claire. Its style is clean and crisp, offering only essential lines to convey the shape of a piece of clothing, a style of architecture, or the texture of Snowy's fur. 

Lastly, I happened upon Edward Gorey on a trip to New York City. It's not what you think, actually. My parents took me to see Cats on Broadway, and when I became obsessed with the show, I had to acquire the hardback of T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats....illustrated by one Edward Gorey. Several years later, my mother and I were somehow tipped off to an exhibit of Gorey-phernalia at the Gotham Bookstore. At the time, I was still a bit of a newbie to the Gorey world - I hadn't yet been made aware of his writing - but I was instantly hooked. 
Again, the message to the reader/observer being that Gorey realized we were not just passive viewers; attention to detail was paramount, and so much humor could be mined from his work beyond the word. 

I am still searching out my own style and medium, but the one constant for my art is that there is a constant attention to detail. Nothing is done half-heartedly. It's either done right, or not at all.