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!