The one thing that connects all artists, no matter when they lived, what culture they represent or medium they use, is the desire to create. For some, this desire is inborn, a natural part of their being while, for others the desire may be discovered through chance experimentation. I believe that no matter how the desire manifested, its seed is planted first by exposure to art and then nourished by influences from past masters and peers, who impact the product of the artist’s expression. Through careful observation of the cycle of exposure, influence and impact, you can begin to see connections between artists, concepts and styles take shape and expand, much like a great idea that takes off.
To me, the perfect metaphor of the connections that artists share is the thought bubble. All great things begin with just a thought, a thought that becomes an idea that expands as it gains acceptance. I view the various art movements in much of the same way, as an interchange of ideas with artists gathering inspiration their peers and those who came before them, adopting some facets of the different styles or movements while rejecting others, in an attempt to resist antiquated notions or to forge new ground. What I found the most interesting is seeing how much I have in common with some of the artists who influence me as to where we find inspiration.
In the vast world of art disciplines, I consider myself akin to the likes of comic artists and illustrators. From a young age, I like many young children loved to doodle away for hours on end. Growing up, as my peers set their Crayolas away for good, I continued to sketch the products of my imagination to pass the time, sometimes to the displeasure of my grade school teachers. Most of the time I’d draw whatever cartoon or video game characters I that I happen to be into, usually Mickey Mouse, Ninja Turtles, Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario. Basically, if my friends weren’t around to hang out and I wasn’t engrossed in some video game, I was at my desk, drawing away.
It was around the 4th grade that I began to develop an interest in making drawing more than a hobby. Though I did well in school, I wasn’t much of a reader, which probably affected some of my performance in class. To encourage me to read more, my eldest sister introduced me to a manga (Japanese comic) called Dragon Ball. It appealed to me because it reminded me of the cartoons that I loved to watch, but it was much different. There was a sense of sophistication about it that drew me; the characters and backgrounds had a level of detail that was appealing while maintaining a sense that it made for younger readers. I became instantly hooked, and my parents were happier that I was at least reading something. Now I can’t speak on the academic merits of reading comic books, but for myself, it opened me up to reading other books, novels, and even the occasional textbook. This introduction to Dragon Ball was also my introduction of my biggest influence, Akira Toriyama. I became obsessed and resolved to emulate his style into my own, drawing many of his characters and designing some of my own in his style. As my interests expanded and I exposed myself to more artists, I began to pick up little bits here and there to incorporate into my style. Eventually, I got to the point where I wanted to study the works of old masters and learn to render the human figure more realistically.
As mentioned earlier, Akira Toriyama is a chief influence in my artistic development while two of his greatest influences is Osama Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy and considered the “God of Manga”, and Walt Disney. I myself consider Disney and Tezuka as direct influences, not only for their styles but also because the two were also pioneers in the animation industry, with Disney creating the first feature-length animated films and having an impact on Tezuka, who later created the first Japanese animations. My initial interest in Japanese comics extended to western comics and I began to appreciate the work of Jack Kirby with his designs of various Marvel characters.
As my interests continue to expand, I found myself drawn to artists beyond my foundational influences. I gather inspiration from illustrators, such as Gil Elvgren, J.C. Leyendecker, and Norman Rockwell, with their sense of composition and ability to render the human figure realistically. Alphonse Mucha, synonymous with the Art Nouveau movement, an excellent draftsman, graphic designer, and painter, continues to command my attention when I view his work. I appreciate the work produced by Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, not only for their contribution to the art world as a whole but also for their devotion to the study of anatomy. More contemporary comic artists and animators such as Jeff Smith, Frank Cho, Bruce Timm and Chris Sanders continue to shape my approach to character design and style development and I still have a strongly rooted affinity for a number of manga artists, such as Rumiko Takahashi and Takehito Inoue.
At the point that I am in my current artistic development and due to my number of interests, I find it hard to peg down exactly where I might land in the grand organism we call Art. I feel that the art worlds that I have strong interests in are still considered somewhat of a niche set disciplines or genres, byproducts of post-industrialism that may not find the same favor of more long-standing forms of fine art, despite their high consumption by the public. Thankfully, as time passes and these disciplines gain wider recognition, I believe that these areas will be afforded that same validity as the many art movements that have come before and I am excited how my contribution, whether large or small, will be a part of art history.