Throwback: Birth of a Style

I was very excited to receive an email containing these images. I have not seen this piece in years and for some reason I never took photos of it when I first made it back in 2006. Probably because at that time, I was just graduating high school and I was young and stupid and did not know how you act as a proper artist and build a portfolio. I am glad at least that much has changed.

It probably looks familiar, the same elements can be found in pieces like TigerFish and Birdcage, as well as a few others.

The piece I have here is the first appearance of that style, and also the first “commissioned” piece I ever did. Rhonda was kind enough to photograph  my drawing and send me the photos in case I would be interested in posting them on here.

I don’t remember how long this took me, but I do remember working very hard on it. It’s not very large, but as I look at the close-up I can clearly tell that is a .005 micron pen at work (think: hours upon hours of me hunched under my desk lamp with my face nearly pressed up against a paper making thousands of tiny little dots).

My only instructions were the size of the paper and that it should be “black and white” so I had a lot of freedom. I remember actively pursuing inspiration. I looked at other art, graffiti, patterns. Up until this point, I had always worked from other images and copied other styles. I hadn’t ever just done something originating within myself before and I had no idea where to start.

It stressed me out.

But of course, if I was ever going to become an artist, I had to have a style that was distinctly my own. When you study art, it is easy to see similarities between works and other artists, particularly of the same time period. There is the artist and the one who copies him and then eventually, an individuality emerges.

I feel like high school was a lot of learning about styles and attempting to copy them, just to try them on and see how they felt. There is a pretty common saying in the art-education world that goes something like “you need to know the rules before you can break them” and it’s completely true. You will be a better painter if you practice techniques for the sake of mastering them and only copy. But you will be a better artist if you practice techniques in order to understand when and why to break the rules.

It was time. I no longer had an art teacher giving me assignments and I needed to come up with some direction if I was going to continue to make decent artwork.

Whatever it was that I saw, it inspired this. And from this, I have explored different iterations, and probably will continue to explore further. But this was the moment where I understood lines and it was a great moment.

The purpose of this post is really just to express my interest in seeing the genesis of a style that I rely so heavily on now. Nothing I have done since has looked QUITE like this, and I’m not sure I will do something closer in the future, but I enjoy reveling in the nostalgia. Revisiting which elements I have carried on with and which I have discarded.


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