Sunday, October 23, 2011

What's The Difference?

     Years ago I made my livelihood as a professional illustrator. I started out as a landscape painter but that didn’t pay the bills. A friend suggested I become an illustrator because the client tells you what they want and often pay before you begin. This seemed like a good alternative to all of the unsold paintings in my closet.  
     Before long my specialty was conceptual illustration: book covers (yes you can judge books by their covers) magazines and newspapers. Eventually I augmented my income by teaching illustration at a local art college. Students often asked me to explain the difference between painting and illustration. This is what I told them: When I finish creating a picture, if the result conveys a logical message and can be easily understood by many people—it’s an illustration. If I’ve created something ambiguous, something that is hard or impossible to understand and is capable of making most people scratch their heads—then I’ve created a painting. 
     It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I wasn’t popular with the highbrow instructors who taught painting. I often got into heated discussions with those who looked down their noses at “commercial art,” in spite of the fact that painters like Rembrandt and Rubens also created illustrations. 
     Over the years I’ve created thousands of images, and some of them continue to confuse even me. Art has a habit of influencing its own creation; the end result is often unexpected. Sometimes this is a problem; other times it feels like a miracle. 
     I recently prowled through my storage closet and sorted out all of the art, segregating published works (which are usually returned to the artist) from those I couldn’t find buyers for. Some of the unpublished pictures were favorites, even though no useful purpose has yet been found for them. Most of these defy explanation. 
     I’ve decided to blow away the dust and post some of the curious images from time to time, to see if you can come up with a title or caption. I have a fairly thick skin so I promise I won’t be offended by anything you write. (A lie! My skin is actually as thin as rice paper.) But I’ll try not to be offended. Here’s one of my favorites; it hung on my wall for a while. I like the way it makes me feel when I look at it, but if you ask me what it means, I can’t answer. 
     What is your opinion; is this a painting or an illustration? Does it make you think or feel anything? Got a title or caption for it?   


  1. A painting for me as I'm scratching my head. I'm terrible at captions too. For me this shows the egg survived, but where is the mother? All is left is that feather? Or this egg is sitting on a throne but why? See I'm not very helpful.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  2. It looks like the answer to which came first the chicken or the egg!

  3. It makes me want to take the egg off the seat and sit in it myself. It looks like a painting to me. A rich one. Like it.

  4. "The Very Sore Queen" would be a good title.

  5. "Glory Past and Yet to Come" "The Swan is Dead, Long Live the Swan!" It's as though we are waiting for the next generation of Royal Swan to appear and take her throne.

  6. "The Once and Future King"

    Do you still illustrate?

  7. It's a painting to me.
    I like it. Rich colours, a feeling of grandeur, but peacefulness.

  8. Guys:

    Thanks for the good responses. Some of these answers made me laugh out loud, and two of them I'll consider using for this picture.

    Mike: I haven't illustrated anything lately (five years) but my work is sold on line through several agencies. I continue to receive royalties. It's fun opening magazines and seeing my work.