Monday, October 30, 2017

Austin Briggs's Philosophy of Illustration

(Link to YouTube)
Here's a vintage reading of a 1952 essay by Austin Briggs about the profession of illustration, from The Famous Artists Course.

This recording comes from a cassette tape which circulated among a group of friends in 1986. Please excuse the poor audio quality from this old cassette tape, as well as the male-only language of Mr. Briggs.

Topics covered by Austin Briggs
1. What it takes to be a success as an illustrator.
2. Why fun is important in illustration.
3. Avoiding formulas and injecting novelty.
4. How to improve your technical abilities.
5. Having something personal to say.
6. Developing an original approach.
7. Where to get inspiration.

Plus, readings from Henry James on the importance of experience:
"Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue."
Previously on GJ:
Austin Briggs's Artistic Revival, Part 1 and Part 2
Purchase the original Famous Artists Course Lessons 1 - 24
Austin Briggs Flickr set by Leif Peng
Briggs Flickr collection by Matt Dicke


Susan Krzywicki said...

It is interesting how information gets tumbled in the surf of time. These people were riding the waves in the 50s, then they nose dived in the 60s and 70s, only to have their boards pop up again, artist in tow in the new century.

I don't want to push that metaphor any further, since my point is just that I can remember looking at illustrations like this and thinking them dated. Now, I realize these people were pushing their art as far as they could.

And, thank you for making the point about the silly gender-based language. Our outlook on humanity is slowly improving, isn't it?

Bob said...

Thanks for sharing this reading. The views presented are helpful not only to those engaged in illustration as a career, but also to hobbyists like me. Ever since beginning to draw my little cartoons and such, my surroundings have grown in detail which formerly went unnoticed. It's the Sixth Code of Dinotopia in action -- Observe, Listen, and Learn.

Rich said...

Yes, Susan; these illustrations may appear "dated". But there's a whole lotta timeless stuff in them as well.

Sheridan said...

It saddens me that "craftsmanship" is fading away in all facets of life, mainly due to technology. Work that is created by hand; whether it be , furniture, sculpture, toys, or graphics, etc. always has a quality that is rarely achieved by computer or mechanical means. There are very few occupations now that don't require use some sort of electronic device. Electronic solutions are extremely precise in output, but seem to lack in creativity in the end result.

It seems there are many that want to learn the "Tricks", without learning the trade.

James Gurney said...

Susan and Rich, I like the perspective you're bringing to this -- seeing the same art from two different sets of eyes: our modern eyes, seeing the pictures as a bit dated and predictable, and from the POV of the artist who made them, who was putting everything they had into it and hoping to break new ground. I love your metaphor: "how information gets tumbled in the surf of time."

Bob, you say: "my surroundings have grown in detail which formerly went unnoticed." That happens every time I go sketching. Stuff I never noticed shows up.

Sheridan, I know what you mean. I remember when, for example, the sale signs in the front window our supermarket were hand-painted, and I remember getting so much more hand written letters. But I think one could make an argument that the internet has actually fostered the hand-made arts: witness the huge growth and success of the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, and the flowering of ceramics, calligraphy, and other crafts on Instagram.

Missouri_Wilderness said...

I zipped this to mp3 as an inspirational read while I walk. Thank you for sharing. It makes me want to invest in a copy of the FAS books.

Leland Purvis said...

Do we know which FAS course the original essay that is being read was printed in?

James Gurney said...

Leland, the reading may have been in Austin Briggs master course, which focuses even more on his personal philosophy. His work is found throughout the regular course folders, but he (and each of the other instructors) did a special volume of his concentrated teaching.

Missouri, what a good idea. In case you want a cleaner file, Matt Dicke says: "The hiss was pretty bad and I cleaned it up and thought you and your fans would appreciate it - you can download the noise reduced file here

I convert old audio tapes from time to time and use Audacity ( a free app ) to clean up the hiss. It is quick and really easy to do once you have the file as an mp3 or Aiff file just import it and in effects there is a noise reduction effect. select a second or 2 of the his ( usually in the beginning or during a break from your reading) and then once the effect has a sample of what you want removed select the whole timeline and apply. i did this twice on your audio. I am not a pro by any means and i am sure it can be cleaned up more but without all the hiss makes it more enjoyable."