It used to be that I was jealous of every artist I liked. I saw their work and it was beautiful or emotive or funny and I wished that I could do that. I wanted their colours, their compositions, their ideas, their details, their rendering, their vibrancy. All of it.
I hadn’t thought about it in a while, but I checked in with my brain the other day and realised I’m not all that jealous anymore. I can appreciate an illustration, ask myself ‘do you wish you had made that?’, and the answer is usually ‘nah, not really, it sure is cool though.’ Every now and then though, the answer is still ‘oooooooh, yeah, I guess I do a bit.’
And so now jealousy can become interesting, where before it was overwhelming. Is there a specific aspect of the illustration that makes me jealous? Is it the idea behind it? Is it everything that illustrator makes, or just this one piece? What am I missing?
Most often, it’s a technical skill, or the ability to use a medium that I have no experience in. This is, in some ways, an ‘easy’ fix, if a time-consuming one. I just need to learn the skill, or medium, and then either adapt it into my work or choose to leave it by the wayside. It’s good to be specific though – about what the skill is – or it’s harder to address.
It’s trickier if I’m jealous of someone else’s ideas, but I think Blaugust is helping with that. By looking at the themes I try to express, and the habits I have formed, I can see where there are gaps. I can see themes and ideas I wish I could express, and how the habits I’ve formed are not conducive to that. I can imagine new habits, that might help me to create images with a wider range of meanings and interpretations. I can imagine no longer being jealous of ideas, because I am proud of my own ideas coming through in my own work. I’m not there yet, but I can imagine.
Something else that I find myself jealous of is a little harder to parse. Perhaps it’s something along the lines of artistic intuition or freedom of interpretation. Freedom to stylise. I’m jealous of this in Victoria Semykina’s work, in Nuria Tamarit’s, in Charlotte Ager’s, in Rovina Cai’s, in Pascal Campion’s. It’s perhaps the main reason I’m doing Blaugust at all. There’s a sense of freedom about their illustrations. No longer tethered to imitating reality, they’re showing something that still feels tangibly real but also vibrant and unique.
These illustrators mentioned are all so different that it feels odd to group them together in this way. But it’s an important reminder that I don’t want to imitate any one of them. I do want to find my way to a practice of illustration that has some similar sense of freedom. I’m not certain of how to apply this. It’s something that people seem to say ‘comes naturally’, which is the sort of answer that has always infuriated me. I like to learn. I like to study. I don’t like the idea that you’ve either got it or you don’t. And generally when people say it ‘comes naturally’, they just mean they don’t remember how they learned or developed something. So I’m choosing to believe it’s something that I can develop, that it’s not a mystical magical thing, but just that I’m not quite able to understand it yet.
And honestly, so far for Blaugust I’ve covered such a tiny section of the artistic decisions that people make. I’ve learned a lot, but there’s a lot to learn. It’s just about midway through the month, and I think I need a mini reset, a little stocktake to assess what’s going on, what I’ve learned and what more there is that I want to achieve. So, tune in for that tomorrow!