One or the other? Or both? Nathan Ariss ponders these questions and more…


Picture: “Cartoon or illustration?” From a series of Hutchinson Design and Technology books, 1991.

An occasional borelog on artists and subjectivity, and whether one really decides what kind of artist one actually is: do you let the market (eventually) decide, or do you just persist in what you feel best expresses yourself or the subject at the time… (I always think rhetorical polemics don’t require a question mark).
I haven’t the foggiest, to answer myself, as curiously I rarely actually try to over-analyse it.
As an ‘artist’ artist – please forgive if I include cartoonist in that (Arts Council England don’t, and they ‘should’ know) – I spent years surrounded by painters, illustrators and the world of graphics, and was dissuaded by school art teachers from my cartoony, ‘lower’ form, and encouraged first into realism, then interpretative, and very nearly driven to abstraction. So, I asked myself, more not than often, does it really have to accurately ‘represent’, beyond the plain patronage and rather sad aggrandising caricature commission, and particularly after photography superceded the whole superball game?
With the exception of one brilliant person on here, I very often see artists just copying their photographs, using them beyond simple reference material for their artwork, and invariably am left with the impression that the photograph might have done just as well. Perhaps it’s easier than standing ‘live’ and working the eye/brain/hand gateway to mastery, let alone adjusting to the nuance of light and texture – it is after all what gives us form, colour and ‘life’. If practising the technique is all, why is it invariably just the one technique that is worked on and comes to dominate?; to me that is as restrictive as having no technique at all. I seem to have many techniques; my commercial downfall is I seem to have too many, and often produce work in different modes even in the same batch. Perhaps it’s a lack of discipline, or intelligence, not to limit myself. The expectation for similitude is in great demand from an editor, a viewer, a buyer: how do they know they can rely on something turning out the way they expected it to? My stream-of-typing thought process here thinks that that is a very boring ‘artistic’ world indeed. ” don’t actually like the work, but at least I knew what I was getting”.

So, for years, I guess, I became technically, photographically ‘good’: boring, to my eyes, but it paid the rent. Safety in (drawing by) numbers. But even then I think I was subverting the thing and channelling my inner cartoonist. There’s no one quite so stupid as someone not applying their intelligence, I now realise.

I need to stay in more.

This article was first seen on Facebook.

See for yourself the variety in Nathan’s work right here.


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