Tuesday, April 26

Shaun Tan: An Alternate Path

We only have to wash & wax our missile on the first Sunday of every month
from Tales From Outer Suburbia) (via Shauntan.net)
Shaun Tan is exactly the kind of Illustrator my teachers would have me look at. Tan's images are technically rich, imaginative and steeped in narrative traditions captured from film, books, painting and just about everything. I don't know much about Tan, but a recent NYT Magazine article revealed the kind of artist I might be if I had stuck with Illustration.

Illustration by James Edwards (via UMassd.edu)
I dropped my Illustration degree during my fourth year. Since I've always believe some of the best painters are Illustrators. I naively distanced myself from "commercial art" and painting brought me somewhere else. With years perspective, I'm not making those sorts of declarations anymore.

But what I admire about Shaun Tan are his sensibilities - all while pursuing a lifestyle incorporating the same craft as me, but pursuing it from a commercial angle. As Carlo Rotella in the article notes, painting is a private endeavor for Tan, more of "pure science, more about the act of painting" and Illustration pays the bills.

And making art in any form has still brought Tan to the same place as I am as a painter - that is, simply aware and hungry for things:
You discover how confounding the world is when you try to draw it. You look at a car and you try to see it's car-ness, and you're like an immigrant to your own world. You don't have to travel to encounter weirdness. You wake up to it.
As the article notes, Shaun Tan has recently won an Oscar for co-directing an animated short based on his own children's book, The Lost Thing, and he has one problem I do not yet relate to: offers to make films and propel his career elsewhere:
I'm not dying to make a feature film which people around here can be surprised to hear. It's about money and therefore audience, and that's somewhat counterproductive for me. I kind of like not having to feel that the work's going to be successful. Money does buy you time, it's true, but I have time now.
It's his implied pace of working which I truly relate to. Simply using time to develop. I remember one teacher of mine, James Edwards, taking on a daunting serial textbook Illustration job. Something about the way he described it seemed nostalgic for freedom to make independently. But he was still painting and it still made him into a great artist - that is, he had learned how to look.

I'm not sure if I would ever had been successful with Illustration, but I see with or without it I still made it to the same point.

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