Friday, July 10, 2020

Wisdom of Austin Briggs

The new issue of Illustration Magazine (#68) takes an insightful look at American illustrator Austin Briggs (1908-1973).  

One thing that makes this issue special is that it quotes extensively from Briggs's rare master course that he made for the Famous Artists Course, so we get wisdom from the artist himself. Here are a few excerpts:

"When a painting is going well, I am conscious only of the fact that I am having a wonderful time. When it is going badly—and very often it is—I am miserable until I find out what is wrong. This may take minutes, hours, or even days. But by hanging on and never giving up, I finally get something close to what I want."

"I cannot imagine anything more frustrating than the life of an imitator. When the vogue for the originator is over, or when the originator stops painting, the imitator is finished, too. Imitation is the blindest of all blind alleys, and the most destructive habit a beginning artist can possibly get into. I know. I can speak from experience, because when I was an immature artist I imitated like mad. Eventually I discovered that this kind of thing doesn't pay in the end. The only way to paint is to go to life and reality for material, and to express the excitement and emotion you feel as directly as you can in your own way."   

"Every element in the advertising illustration must be slanted to appeal to the particular audience or 'market' the client is trying to reach. The picture must tell its story directly, so that the page-flipper gets its message in one quick glance. Above all, the painting must create a positive emotional response which leads directly to an enthusiastic acceptance of the product."

"If I have a style, it is not a deliberate, conscious attempt to exploit a group of popular clichés. It is rather an unconscious projection of my personality into paint. Style is never created out of whole cloth. Style is the natural and inevitable reflection of my personality. Style is the direct expression of what you are. It is as intimate a matter as your manner of speech, the way you walk, the way you sign your name. Everyone inevitably has a style of his own—if he tries honestly to express what he feels, without trying to imitate someone else. Therefore forget about the question of style. Instead, concentrate on becoming a person. Learn to react—to feel, to love, to want, to dislike—and style will take care of itself." 

Previous posts on GurneyJourney about Austin Briggs


Steve Gilzow said...

“Concentrate on becoming a person.” Perfect. Thank you. The words and images are gems.

Hey, where have I seen a black and white buffalo plaid shirt lately?

Terry said...

Seems like his philosophy applies to more than making art. I love his style. Side note: I thought at first the attendant in the first picture was wearing a mask! Shows how current conditions affect what we think we see.