Art, Creativity, Inspiration

How does an artist learn?

Walter M. Baumhofer, master of visual storytelling.

We learn by studying our predecessors, not the subject matter, necessarily, but the techniques — light, color, sound. Whether that’s for words or pictures doesn’t really matter. We are the summation of our antecedents and when we enter into an artistic groove we consciously (or, more often, unconsciously) create something that feels similar to our inspiration. If you don’t have that directed inspiration it can feel like paddling, purposelessly, in the water. How can you grow as an artist…or anything, for that matter, is you don’t have a clear destination in mind?

Walter Martin Baumhofer (1904 –1987) is one of my painting inspirations. He was a popular book and magazine cover artist of the mid-twentieth century. His works appear in both the slicks (Women’s Day, Collier’s, Esquire) and the pulps (Doc Savage, Dime Detective, Adventure). Baumhofer studied under Dean Cornwell at Pratt and you can clearly see the influence, IMHO. His work inspires me for several reasons including his dramatic use of color and excellent visual storytelling ability.  (As an ironic side note, Baumhofer died the same month that I began studying Illustration at the University of Arizona.)

The drama of the Doc Savage covers is not easy to master.

I still have a long way to go as a book artist. I’m gratified to know that modern masters such as James Gurney and past masters, such as Baumhofer and Cornwell, are in some way present to learn from.

In the end, art is about pushing the envelope. I believe that any height can be  reached with the proper intention and what a fun and fulfilling journey that is!

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