The Story Behind My Two Illustrations Hanging at the Muskegon Museum of Art
BY GARY SCOTT BEATTY, AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR, AAZURN PUBLISHING
Two of my drawings have been accepted into the prestigious Michigan Contemporary Art Exhibition at the Muskegon Museum of Art. Here is the story behind it all.
The 94th Michigan Contemporary Art Exhibition showcases the work of Michigan artists. A competitive show, the Contemporary presents a look at the issues, themes, and materials inspiring today’s Michigan artists. The exhibition engages, challenges, and inspires conversation.
I guess that's where I come in! I submitted work for the Contemporary again this year, considered the submission fee a donation to a great museum, and forgot about it. I didn't expect work so slick and illustrative (and a bit disturbing) would be chosen to hang among the paintings and sculptures.
Exhibit Juror Etsuko Ichikawa proved me wrong! She was not at the opening to talk with, but her statement in the program offered me some insight. "…the stronger artworks presented skillful craftsmanship, compelling conceptual visualization, and authentic expression."
OK, then! I always try for "compelling" and have been working hard on "craftsmanship."
I have office space, but often work at the kitchen table. Digitally drawn, inked and painted means my hands, not the computer, are actually doing the work.
Medium. My two illustrations are titled "Tick Tock" and "Without Choice." They were printed on an offset press (a printer, not a copier) and limited to 20 copies each.
I was trained to paint with brushes before the rise of computers but I haven't used a physical brush in decades. The illustrations are digitally drawn, inked and painted by me. A human. By hand.
Influences. Over the last couple of years I have been working hard on my brush stroke technique, studying the work of magazine illustrators of the '40s and '50s. This really was a golden age of illustration, when even lesser known, published artists had command of that thick/thin brush line that separates amateurs from professionals.
For years I have been thrusting my head into amorphous shadows and, using new tools, recording what I see there. Fear has come to fascinate me: how it affects people and those around them, and how easily it can be used to manipulate others.
"Tick Tock." Run against the clock if you want, a hamster in a wheel. Like it or not, we're all in this together. Everyone receives one lifetime and one death.
I thought of this while looking through Weird Tales magazine covers. Weird Tales was a 1920s and 1930s "pulp" magazine, so called because the paper was so cheap chunks of wood pulp were sometimes visible. It gave voice to writers we still know and read today: Robert Bloch (Psycho), Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian), H. P. Lovecraft (The Call of Cthulhu) and many others.
So, yes, very imaginative covers. I came across a Matt Fox painting of a demon chasing a man around a clock and came up with "Tick Tock." Fox's flat, symmetrical composition and gothic clock became a modern and bright, off-kilter clock, madly swirling. The adversary became not the demon, but the clock itself.
(Also, I really, really wanted to draw a clock.)
Without Choice. The quagmire is the absolute fear: decision without knowledge or council, betrayed by biology.
I nearly died when I was young, my trachea closed by bronchitis. My mother grabbing me by my heels and flipping me upside down to clear my breathing is the only reason I’m alive today. Hospital staff cut through to my trachea and sewed a stylish, metal hole accessory on my neck.
There is not much scarier than being on an operating table. Graham Ingels (as Ghastly) knew that when he drew the Haunt of Fear #16 (1952) cover that inspired my headless man splash. The theme of this page is “helplessness is scary.”
Why did I put the head in a jar? Because I could! (Maniacal laugh.)
Me speaking to Art Martin, Director of Collections and Exhibitions/Senior Curator (left) at the 94th Michigan Contemporary Art Exhibition Opening Reception Thursday, September 28.
The 94th Michigan Contemporary Art Exhibition runs through November 8, 2023. There are some wonderful pieces and they are not all as wacky as mine. There is a wide variety of styles and media, like painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and installation. Thursdays are free admission.
Find out more at https://muskegonartmuseum.org/
As always, you can find me at StrangeHorror.com.
Writer and illustrator Gary Scott Beatty is excited to share projects, art, video and other updates with those who are interested in illustrated fiction. For more visit StrangeHorror.com.