Jan 2012

Working Old School

Steadfast, Acrylic on gessoed hardboard

Scouring Craigslist, Ebay, and a few of the other usual suspects, for weeks, brought no luck. But then, a spur of the moment trip to a local second hand shop, and-bingo! A bargain priced set of Polk Audio Monitor 10A’s (mid eighties vintage), in nice condition, great speakers to pair with my late seventies Pioneer SX 980 stereo receiver. And what a great match it is. My old records never sounded better. Yes, I have an iPod, and enjoy all of the convenience and advantage of carrying around an entire music library in my pocket, yet I never did wander off the path of real “Hi-Fi” sound. The fact is, the old school system just has a certain something that all of the latest tech can’t capture. There’s even a resurgence in the 12” platter again, as the earbudded mp3 listeners discover the sweet sound of vintage vinyl.

The reason for bringing all this up, is that lately I have been working more and more with traditional materials. Digital painting has innumerable advantages over traditional methods, no argument, and I certainly don’t plan to go Luddite. I enjoy digital artwork. But, there is an undeniable something that traditional methods and materials have that is hard to match. (If you look at the sci-fi and fantasy areas of illustration you’ll see that interest and appreciation of traditionally painted work has never been greater.) Plus, let’s be honest, it can be a lot more fun for the artist to wield a real paintbrush than its electronic doppelgänger.

My traditional work of late, has primarily been personal paintings. I regularly post them to www.WalkerBrushWorks.com, my fine art blog and website, and put status updates with links on www.facebook.com/johnwalkerillustration. But as the year progresses I hope I have the chance to integrate more traditional working methods into the illustration side of things as well. I realize this comes as a wayward idea to some, after all, aren’t we firmly ensconced in the era of the epub/animated/interactive/connected book? But it’s not like the two approaches can’t work together, they can play along quite nicely.

Maybe old school artwork is primarily geared to the collector, or the purist. Maybe it can truly be appreciated only if viewed in person. Then again, maybe there’s a desire to rediscover and value the traditional methods of working to make art. We’ll see what happens. But for now it’s time to drop the needle and give those new/old Polks a workout.

Repainting an Icon

Illustrator Mort Kunstler has revisited one of the most iconic of American historical paintings with his version of Washington’s famous nightime raid during the Revolutionary War. The 1851 painting of Washington crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze became the standard visual reference when learning about the event, but it was most likely very inaccurate according to veteran illustrator Kunstler. You can read the full news story via the Washington Examiner here. And see a large format version of Kuntsler’s painting here. By the way, I love the photo alongside the Examiner article which shows Kuntsler using a dollar bill as reference for Washington.