January 28, 2010

'Dear James - Letters to a Young Illustrator'

Lunch is always best eaten standing up... at least that's the way I do it. After having been sitting down all morning, it just makes sense.

Today's lunch was also prepared whilst crouched over the toaster. Even though the first camellias have opened their bright pink petals, the weather is on the freezing side. Huddling over the glowing coils of the toaster with the heavenly scent of baking herb bread brings out the writer in me.

I've finished reading the great book, 'Dear James - Letters to a Young Illustrator' by R.O. Blechman. It's sort of the illustrator's equivalent of the E.B. White book 'Elements of Style'. It is chock full of spot-on observations about illustration and publishing and art directors and all... like these:

"I think it's such a disservice to the public that galleries and museums display only artists' successes, but never their failures. There should be a Museum of Failed Art. It would exhibit all the terrible art that would have ended up in trash bins and garbage cans, lost and unknown to the public. My museum would give a true picture of the artist's life and provide much consolation to fellow artists."

"You'll find that getting a commission puts you on the fast and easy track. You're given a format, a subject, a deadline, so your boundaries are set. How much more difficult it is to self-start a project! You can get overwhelmed with possibilities, like a car whose engine is too flooded to start."

I guess the part that bothered me is the ending though, where Blechman felt like he was done in by digital art and the changing tastes in illustration. I wonder if every illustrator is destined to end up like last week's newspaper?... done in by changing tastes and the endless quest for novelty?


Kathy Weller said...

Thanks so much for commenting on this book. I got it at a $1 sale over the holidays and I have yet to read it. I will surely read it sooner now!

I saw your illustrations in High Five today and was so charmed - I love your work!

paula said...

Good quotes from Blechman's book, John. I bought it myself at Christmas but have yet to read it. Thanks for the reminder!

Paige Keiser said...

Sounds like a great book, even with the somber ending - I'll check it out!