Music, Lautrec, Classicism, and Cartoons

And many others. I can’t say ’em all, but I would list the myriad of influences that I have known in my (quote unquote) artistic career (for lack of a better term) if I could. I think I’ll focus on these four, and see how they connect.

Here we go.

The first time I’d heard of Toulouse Lautrec was (First connection!) in a cartoon. Like many other kids born in the nineties (and what a senseless and depraved decade that was) I liked to watch Spongebob Squarepants. I believe the joke was that Squidward was being moved to several different areas, and upon being moved into a parody of Lautrec’s “Moulin Rouge” poster featuring swordfish declared “Tou-louse Lautrec!” I get the distinct feeling that I’d heard the name Toulouse Lautrec before, but that I had never gripped the magnitude of its significance. Either way, I absorbed almost nothing more than the fact that Lautrec was a painter until high school when I began to take a keen interest in art history. Of course, the path to Lautrec was long and winding. And naturally the first artist I looked up was…well, I’m guessing it was Michelangelo. Or something. One can be assured that it was an Old Master from the period of Renaissance Classicism. From there, it was almost a direct path to the Impressionists, and from there, the Post-Impressionists(Second connection!).

Now naturally when I began to get truly serious about drawing, I revered the work of the Old Masters (particularly the linear classicists) above all others, and so I tried to imitate what I saw there. Which utterly failed. I would like to stress that I was learning, but one can almost never pick up on the subtle nuances of Renaissance Classicism the first time they try. And especially the first way they try. Now, if you were anything like I was when I first started learning (and how I can be sometimes today) you probably worked…

And I made slight progress, but I eventually learned that I had much more fun doing quick gestural drawings, and working haphazardly. And that’s where Lautrec comes in. His vibrant, gestural, energetic work had an incredible impact on me, and got me interested in using pastels. I realized that I didn’t have to worry about smoothing out each stroke so that it blends, or making sure each color looked correct. I could let the reds and blues, the oranges and yellows sit where they were. After all, they were there. I just couldn’t see them. 

I let this manner of working continue, of course, and I began to realize that I could produce exciting results by allowing my arm to flail wildly across the paper, and letting strokes blend together. Drawing wasn’t just an exercise anymore. It was fun! And music made it even better. (Finally! last connection!) What I listened to often influenced the subject and mood of what I worked on. I started to (and often still do) lay down marks and tone and color to the beat of songs, singing along, and moving like a conductor if the page was big enough. 

And one can be assured that it is a terribly embarassing sight.

Naturally this changed the way I draw cartoons as well. Initially, I drew cartoons the same way I drew anything else. Very carefully, with a very thin line. It went through the same progression, and eventually I moved from trying to make delicate, anatomically correct cartoons, to ones where I wildly exaggerated facial and bodily features.

So, there we have it. Yet another exploration into the people and ideas that inspired me to work the way I do.


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