I ignite clarity in all. A window to the Art of Chuck Todd

Posts tagged “Academy of Art

THE INFLUENCE OF BARRON STOREY

I wanted to share an illustration project I did a few years ago for the Contra Costa Times that shows the influence on my work of master illustrator Barron Storey. Barron has done everything as an illustrator, book covers, Time magazine covers, National Geographic…he has a mural in the American Museum of Natural History and portraits hanging in the National Portrait Gallery.

If I have ever seen true genius at work it is looking at a Barron Storey original…once in illustrator Bill Koeb’s old apartment in San Francisco and I have had the luck of catching a couple of gallery shows in the city over the years.  His sketchbooks are legend: His personal visual journals and his graphic novel work have influenced and inspired many artists: Dave McKean, Bill Sienkiewicz, Greg Spalenka, Bill Koeb, George Pratt and Kent Williams among them.

As a teacher he may be without a peer…so I hear. Barron is the reason I moved to the Bay Area in 1996 to pursue a graduate degree in illustration at the Academy or Art in San Francisco. I researched the influences of artists that influenced me…many of them cited Barron as an important influence. That’s how I discovered the Academy of Art and how I ended up in the Bay Area. My timing was a bit late. By the time I started my graduate courses in the fall of 1996, Barron was no longer teaching at the school, but was teaching at California College of Arts and Crafts and at San Jose State. Although I didn’t take one of Barron’s classes I was taught by artists who studied with Barron (Carol Nunnelly and my graduate advisor Bill Koeb)…so I was able to absorb some of his wisdom though them.

I have had the privilege of meeting Barron a few times. The first was at a gathering at Bill Koeb’s pad in San Francisco probably in 2000. About 5 years ago I was attending the  Alternative Press Expo (APE) in San Francisco with Gary Amaro ( another of my graduate advisors. ) I had some samples with me including these Cancer Journey pieces.

About the Cancer Journey project. Contra Costa Times writer Dan Borenstein penned a five part series in 2007 on his harrowing experience with cancer and cancer treatments.  I was honored and humbled by the challenge of illustrating each installment of the series. ( And indebted to Dan for sharing his story and giving me such a poignant project to be a part of.)  I came up with the thought of a sequence of panels, interconnected that could each tell each part of the story individually. But when combined –on the final day of the series – made a sequence of panels telling the more complete narrative. The layering of elements, with drawings and line work is a direct influence of Barron. Not as much in the technique (who the hell can draw as well as Barron Storey?)…but in an approach to storytelling that I have soaked in from Barron’s journals.

Coming full circle: At the Alternative Press Expo, Gary and I found a table that Barron had been at to sign his journal book “LIFE AFTER BLACK.” I bought the book, word was that Barron was around and would be back. As we walked around the hall looking at the variety of local artists and creators we bumped into Barron. We talked for a bit and I asked if he wouldn’t mind taking a quick look at some of my work. He very graciously did…and when he saw the Cancer Journey images has asked me about them. I gave him a quick rundown of what it was about and said that I created them for the newspaper. He said something to the effect “Amazing work. So great that they published this in a newspaper.” I honestly died and went to heaven. I felt like I had come from the world of wanting to be…to being. That I had ascended the mountain top after toiling and struggling for years on the climb. From a dream of wanting to be better than I was as a visual journalist and illustrator in Missouri. From a dream of studying with the master in California and falling short. To finally, the master himself holding my work and finding value in it.

Barron continues to inspire me and give me something to aspire to. If you are not familiar with Barron’s work you should be. Here is a link

http://www.barronstorey.com/

Here is the note Barron scribed for me in his book “Life After Black.” Thanks Barron.

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CONNECTION POINT

In Today’s TECHNOLOGY section in the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times is my illustration for a Peter Delevett story on new startup services that allow users to stay connected to friends from multiple lists and networks from one central location. Many of the services use geo-location features that allows users to track friends, and their locations, in real time.  Here is a link to the story:

http://goo.gl/GjSFY

This was a super quick turnaround. Thursday I had a thumbnail sketch approved, but I wasn’t able to start illustrating on the finished piece until Friday morning. The concept I came up with conveys a connection to many contacts in multiple networks. Of course this meant on Friday morning I cranked out 28 different faces in my sketchbook. ( I felt like I was doing a homework assignment for the late, great Barbara Bradley at the Academy of Art in San Francisco!) About two thirds of the faces are from photo reference, about a third are invented. ( I snuck in a few friends, family and even jazz musician Joshua Redman.) The main figure holds up her cell phone into the singular connection point that all of the other networks of friends are joined to. The circles were created in illustrator, the faces and figure were sketches I scanned in and rest was painted and combined in Photoshop. Starting on the faces at 9 a.m. I turned in the finished illustration to the designer at 5:30 p.m. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day!

Here is how to looked on the page, design by the talented Daymond Gascon:


A tribute to Kazu Sano

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of illustrator, teacher and mentor Kazu Sano earlier this summer (May 31).  Kazu was a master illustrator who was prolific, creating artwork for book covers, for National Geographic and painting a famous Return of the Jedi poster. Kazu was the epitome of what an illustrator should be. His ability to research, and know his subject matter and his masterful techniques as a painter created a lifetime of work that was revered by other illustrators and honored by the Society of Illustrators.

I took Kazu’s Acrylic Figure Painting class at the Academy of Art in San Francisco in the Spring of 1997 – my second semester in the graduate program in illustration. The class and Kazu’s demonstrations and insights were transformative for me as an artist. Beyond techniques Kazu imparted a passion and love for discovery.

You always went early to Kazu’s class. Without fanfare he we would bring in a painting or two of his and lean it up against the critique board.  Seeing these works, leaning up close to them, soaking them in hopes of gleaning from them their magic. Kazu rarely said anything about those paintings. They were there to speak for themselves…and for me they spoke volumes. He would start off the class with a demonstration of one of his acrylic techniques, and then send us off to paint from models. Intense, inspiring, joyful and life changing for me…all in just one semester.

One assignment was a self portrait project and along with that a personal review of my paintings, studies and projects created during the semester. I remember the critique as if it happened yesterday. Inexplicably Kazu did not see just my color, or my brushstrokes or my design and painting skills. He saw what was behind them. He peered beyond the artwork to find the artist. He saw exactly where I was coming from and what I was exploring. He was absolutely in tune with what I was doing in my paintings, and what I was getting at. For me this was an exhilirating and spiritual experience. An incredible validation from a master. I have never had an experience as a student or as an artist that has come close to Kazu’s insight and inspiration that morning in Bradley Hall.

This was only one class with Kazu. Kazu’s wisdom, advice and artwork have made an indelible, lasting impact that continues to inform and influence my journey as an artist.  I saw Kazu a few years ago at Barbara Bradley’s memorial celebration. I had a good conversation with him and was able to thank him for his class and insight. Thank You Kazu.

Below is the self-portrait project for Kazu’s class.

For more on Kazu go to his website: http://www.kazusano.com/sano_website.html

The Academy of Art director of the department illustration, Chuck Pyle posted a great tribute to Kazu on his blog:

http://chuckpyleart.blogspot.com/