Sunday February 13, 2005

Deep in the Art of Texas.

Ages ago, as a means to pay my way through school, I worked as a picture framer. All in all, it was an enjoyable trade that helped reinforce a lot of the visual precision that is so important to me now. I enjoyed the challenge of taking images and surrounding them with the textures and colors that best suited them. In a way, it was a lot like what I do now; full of careful measuring, designing to enhance content, allotment of resources, planning and patience.

But I digress. Being a picture framer meant that I saw a lot of, er, pictures. Sure, there was the usual fare; carefully staged photos of suburban families all cheesily dressed in denim, little Sally’s first finger painting and basketball posters. But there was also artwork. Real artwork. Working that job, I was exposed to a lot of really great artists.

I bring this up because I recently found myself missing that part of my old job. The other day I participated in a meeting with one of our clients. As I walked into the reception area, I recognized one of the paintings hanging there; it was a simple vignette of children playing in front of a house by local artist Joe Villarreal. I had met Joe several years ago while—you guessed it—working as a picture framer. In that moment, I realized that I missed my connection with art. It caused me to recall artists who have inspired me over the past few years.

One of the only artists that stands out from my picture-framing days is Charles Dwyer. The Awakening was the first of his pieces that I ever saw, and I was struck by his unique marriage of portraiture, architectural references and collage-like features. Similarly, most of his other works are fascinating combinations of drawing, painting, and illustration.

On a recent visit to my downtown public library, I saw a magnificent piece of artwork by Dale Chihuly displayed in the main atrium. I remembered that several months ago my wife had suggested that we go down to the San Antonio Museum of Art to view an installation of work by Chihuly. I was probably less than enthusiastic to go, but once I was there I was mesmerised. If you’ve never witnessed a Chihuly exhibit, and you have the chance, I do suggest you take it. The experience this man creates with colored glass is awe-inspiring.

Aside from the joint show by our friends Neal Cox and Ashley Knudsen (which was amazing in concept and execution) a couple months back, I haven’t felt that visual and intellectual engagement that comes from the experience of great art in quite some time. For me, a good experience at an art show can be just as inspiring and motivating to my job as a designer as the latest beautiful CSS site du jour.

Are you inspired by the art they call “fine?” What artists influence your view of the world and, in turn, your view of design? Is art important to you? Do share!


Nathan » 6060 days ago #

I am inspired by fine art. That’s not to say that a lot of what I like makes it into stuff I do, but I feel priviledged to be at a place where I can take it in. At Asbury Seminary, we have several very skilled painters, who just so happen to be students.

A few issues ago, on the back of The Witness, our campus magazine, there was an oil painting of the crucifixion entitled “Darkness Attempts to Comprehend Light.” Above the painting were these simple words: Behold Your Curriculum.

That’s been an image that has stuck with me, and helped keep me going, when the classes start to seem like drudgery. It’s good to be reminded that, however tedious, my time at seminary will never have been wasted because it serves a greater purpose.

I think that on some level, that’s what all great art does, touches a chord deep within us, which makes us feel connected with something beyond ourselves. Sometimes, it triggers themes or memories that the artist never even intended.

I suppose that’s why, in an age increasingly lacking in face to face contact, where text messaging and email are the preferred methods of communication, fine art endures.

hynes » 6059 days ago #

Chihuly is amazing. I caught his art show when it stopped at the Dayton Art Museum in Dayton, OH a few years ago. Some just mind-blowing stuff.

Addison Hall » 6057 days ago #

I find that fine art—particularly painting—is a fantastic resource for applying color in graphic design. In fact, painting was my color theory education in college. Since then I’ve applied that knowledge to all of my graphic work, including websites.

To stand before a real Degas and realize that the brightest color in the entire composition is a small dab of red around the dancer’s waist is really amazing. One opposing color can make the whole thing sing.

Fine art is very important to me in that it’s the root of color and composition. Ideally, the fine artist is free to explore and express while being restricted only by their materials.

mikulla » 6003 days ago #

Hey Jared.

I, like you, have spent several years of my life as a picture framer. In fact, I am doing it part time while I market my fine art and eventual design services. I also have a fine arts degree.

It allows me to save tons of money while keeping my work tight. I am very proud of the work I do and more often than not, I am more concerned with the presentation of the art than the art itself.

Picture framing has installed in me precision and logic. It works well with creativity and passion too, for this left brain / right brain balance thing that goes on. Some of the concepts have helped me with design.

I am insired usually by the work of friends or folks who I know something about. Maybe the relationship allows me to understand the artwork more.

I frequent to see creative alternative photography. I feel like I belong there.

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