Realizing your Artistic Journey, with Jeffrey Watts
I’d like to thank everyone for their overwhelming response to my youtube podcast, “How to Train to Become a Successful Working Artist.” I’m thrilled to see so many artists and students interested in learning what it takes to become a working professional. With that in mind, I’d like to expand beyond the realm of “training” and take a moment to talk about the “Artistic Journey” you’ve embarked on, and share with you my personal stories and experiences, in hopes that they will help you navigate through your own travels.
I have heard my current style of painting described as very expressive, colorful, and full of bravura brushwork. I have indeed been painting much more expressively as of late, and I must say that I greatly enjoy the art of “controlled chaos” painting.
What many of you may not know is that I have gone through dozens of phases and have explored a multitude of styles, methods and techniques, all in the name of finding myself as an artist and painter. My journey to find my voice began in my early 20’s, when I worked extensively in the movie industry, where I cut my teeth as a young professional. I was heavily influenced by artists such as Frank Frazetta, Norman Rockwell, Dean Cornwell and Drew Struzen, as well as many others. During this period of my life, I worked as a conceptual movie poster artist and did a fair amount of storyboarding. At this time I also dabbled in the comic industry, working for clients such as Wildstorm, DC, Marvel, Darkhorse and Heavy Metal.
While working as a freelance illustrator, I began to throw my hat into all sorts of arenas. As I was always influenced by both illustrators and fine artists alike, I decided to begin showing in galleries. Most of my work from this time was heavily influenced by an accomplished fine artist by the name of Clark Hulings. I had always loved to travel, and I was searching for a style that seemed to fit this aspect of my personality. Although ultimately this style did not stay with me, I meticulously executed hundreds of tighter oil paintings under this Hulings-inspired aesthetic
This tighter style of painting taught me valuable lessons about layering paint, the importance of comprehensive studies, the preparation of the painting surface, and quite a bit about the importance of patience and careful execution. Many of these paintings would take months to complete, and as this phase of my career ran it’s course, I ultimately returned to my roots as a looser painter. When I look back at my work from that point in my life, it is hard for me to believe that I had once painted that tightly, especially considering how loose and expressively I paint now. As I continued to grow and leave the meticulous, tighter painter that I used to be behind, and found myself gravitating towards narrative western work.
As the years pass, I continue to peel away the layers of my personality, in search of who I am as an artist. I am writing this blog post as a reminder to all of you who are searching for your identity. The best advice I can give is to paint from your heart. You will go through phases as an artist, you will grow and advance in skill, and the only true constant through it all will be “change.”
My friend and great artist John Asaro told me some valuable advice at the beginning of my artistic career. He told me to “Paint what you love, and everything else will fall into place.” His statement was such a simple-yet-elusive concept, and I have managed to take it to heart and remember it throughout all of the phases of my artistic journey. I wish all of you the best of luck on your own journeys. Remember to embrace each new phase you grow into, as each of those phases will contain a portion of your inevitable voice. Only by embracing the journey itself can one finally come into his or her own artistic style.