Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Season of Gold and Silver


The view from my studio


Lady Autumn has descended on northwest Michigan, laying her golden hued gossamer cloak upon the earth and imbuing the air with a soft glow that no other season knows. Like the squirrels and birds which scurry about stashing nuts and seeds for the impending winter storms, I am busy cleaning out flower beds and putting away the garden equipment. 

This fall, more than any other, I feel a part of this golden season as I seek to find a new place for myself, a new meaning in daily living and art. I am becoming more comfortable in my own autumn season. It was quite timely, therefore, to encounter an admired artist from my past this morning. 

Burton Silverman, now in his eighties, was interviewed in The Artist’s Magazine. It took me back over 30 years to my final year in art school when our class took a field trip to Chicago. One of the highlights of the trip for me was a visit to a top advertising design studio where we were able to peek into the tiny cubicle spaces of illustrators as they worked. Lining the walls were original paintings by some of the top illustrators of the day. 

I was awestruck. Although enrolled in the commercial art program at Northwestern Michigan College, it was the Illustration courses that excited me the most. The nineteen eighties may not have been the Golden Age of Illustration, but its top illustrators were golden in my mind. The likes of Robert Heindel, Bernie Fuchs, Bob Peak, Mark English, Bart Forbes, Nelson McLean and Burton Silverman inspired me to make art my life’s work; to have something to say through art. 

Looked down upon by the Fine Art establishment, illustrators were all blue ribbon winners in my mind. While following the constraints imposed by clients and art directors, they were still able to create great art. To tell a story or illustrate a point is the purpose of commercial illustration, but isn’t that exactly the same goal that fine artists strive for? They create without having to follow the dictates of outside voices. Who, then, is the better artist? Consider also that many illustrators become some of the most respected fine artists in their own right, having honed their skills and sensibilities in the commercial art world. 

Getting back to that interview with Burton Silverman, he discussed his endeavors to make his models not just objects but flesh and blood people with real lives, putting them in some sort of context in his paintings; telling a story and making a point. Isn’t that what the greatest paintings have always been about, going back through the centuries? 

It was a small reminder to me of what I’ve long wanted my own art to do. It was a nudge from a fellow artist in his own golden years to do my own thing. 

My life has wandered many paths since art school days; some led nowhere, some through briar patches and dark woods, but now in my Autumn years, I am finding my way along the path that destiny laid out for me in the birth of my own Spring. I am finding my destination. 

As a child, I earned the nickname of “Silver” because of my silvery blonde hair. Now here I am in the Golden Years, the Silver One again. When the flower beds are cleared and the garden tools put away, Burton Silverman will follow me as I enter my own winter hibernation in the warm inspirational walls of the studio. 

There I will embrace this Season of Gold and Silver and look forward to the promise of Spring. 

Looking northwest from the studio

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