I often site the American Regionalist painters from the 20’s and 30’s as my biggest artistic influence. It’s true, I love the art that was being created in America in the first half of the 20th century. But there are many contemporary, working illustrators who influenced me early in my career in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I was getting started, just trying to figure out how I could possibly make a living as an illustrator, long before I did my first children’s book.
There were many, but today I’ll share just a few… Gary Kelley, Mark English, Brad Holland and C.F. Payne.
I first saw Gary Kelley’s work at a design conference in West Virginia while I was still at the University of Kentucky. Gary is a brilliant draftsmen, a master designer, and a true original and when I heard him speak I first realized, this is what I want to be. See his work here http://www.garykelleyonline.com/.
Back when I was a student, Mark English was widely known as one of the biggest names in the illustration field. He once gave me a portfolio review at a conference when I was a student (shaking in my boots) and he told me I needed to work on drawing hands. He told me that my painting is only as good as it’s worst part. I’ve never forgot that, since that moment I began emphasizing hands in my illustrations, making sure they were believable. You can see Mark English’s work here http://markenglishonline.com/.
There is no shortage of illustrators, young and old, who were in no small part affected by the work of Brad Holland. I was no exception. I studied his work and learned as much as I could from the free expression and power of his imagery. You can see his work here http://www.bradholland.net/.
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet each of the illustrators I’ve listed above but none of them impacted the daily approach to my career more than C. F. Payne. My first job as an illustrator brought me to Cincinnati and Chris Payne had just moved back here (where he grew up) from working in Dallas. I took a night class from Chris when he was teaching at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I loved the work Chris did for Rolling Stone magazine and a host of other editorial publications. Chris is such an open, friendly, enthusiastic guy and he invited me over to his studio to work alongside him. I would show up sometimes around 10 or 11PM and work on little parts of his pictures while he was trying to make some of his important deadlines. On a few occasions I did not leave his studio until early morning, just enough time for me to go home and shower and get off to my job at Gibson greetings for the day (no wonder I could never get there at 8:00 sharp). Chris was the bigtime and I was allowed to witness his work firsthand. His artistry and work ethic left a huge impression on me as a young artist. You can see Chris’s work herehttp://www.cfpayne.com/.
Many famous American fine artists in art history certainly helped shape the way I work, but I can’t forget what an impression the living, working illustrators of today have had on me as well, especially when I was just getting started. Thanks for reading this.