Saturday, April 20, 2013

Does Illustration Hurt Your Fine Art Career?

Central Park - Colored Pencil 2001
I went to school for Illustration. I didn't have a choice. When I went for my interview at SVA, the person looking over my portfolio was a guy named Jack Endewelt. He quickly flipped through my book, looked up at me and said, "Well, you can draw so we can't put you in fine art" He then proceeded to make up my entire schedule. I just sat there and watched. 

All these years later and I still love illustration, but I have been told not to admit it. When I post Blogs on it my galleries cringe. When I put the Illustration page back on my website recently, one person I know had a heart attack. Oh my God, ( yeah I still spell it out) she said, don't you think it will hurt your sales?

 I don't know I said. Do you think someone out there is going to say "I would have bought those apples, If he didn't draw a cute cartoon dragon for that dentist in Seattle, ten years ago! That seems a little silly to me. 

"All Sorts Of Apples" Oil On Panel 10 x 24 2012

"Quinn" For Children's Dentistry Of Issaquah 2001
It is a conversation that has been going on for years. A great instructor of mine said that a conversation between a Fine Art major and an Illustration major goes like this:
"I love Andy Warhol"
"I love Norman Rockwell"
"You sold out"
"You can't draw"
"You suck"

"F#@k you!"

 Page one of an article titled "America's Bad Art", which ran in the New York Times Magazine, was a Norman Rockwell.

I am not considered an Illustrator, in fact when I get called one, it is usually meant as an insult. If my still life paintings get too illustrative, they don't sell as well.
But, fuzz the lines a little and put a dark background on it and it will fly off the shelf....

I am proud of my illustration work. In fact, I'll still take a job if someone likes it too and asks. I enjoy doing caricatures, and drawing out of my head, using lighting arrangements that don't actually exist, etc.

"Strawberries and Cream" 2013

This "Strawberries And Cream" painting to the left is an example of a work which has recently been  accused of being "too illustrative".
It's one of my personal favorites...

"Quimper" 2001

To the right is a sketch I did in 2001 while I was in France.
I really love the buildings there and think they lend themselves well to being cartooned.

I'd like to think that loving Illustration and making some once in awhile won't hurt my painting least I hope not.


  1. I guess it's the classic case that one's upbringing determines their outlook on these things. I'm currently studying at a school of visual communication, specialising in illustration, and the stigma here goes that, generally speaking, you won't make money as a fine artist whereas you have a better chance somehow if there's commercialism involved. I think it's silly too - I can appreciate both your paintings and your illustrations in different ways.

    1. As another old saying goes "There is always room at the top" - and that applies to almost any field.
      I have friends in both fields who are doing well, and others I know are struggling. Personally, I am making more money in Fine Art then I ever did in Illustration.
      I would say that Illustration seems more "locked" right now. I keep seeing the same names over and over and not too many new ones.