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“Who are your artistic influences?”

The Ancient Greeks of course started the ball rolling. They’re pretty much responsible for Western culture.

Then you know what came next. The Romans conquered them and borrowed their culture.

Rome fell. We had the Middle Ages.

Whereas a lot of history happened in the Middle Ages, art took several steps backwards. Their paintings looked, well, funny. No perspective. People almost as tall as the castles they’re defending.

The Italian Renaissance (and also giving credit where it’s due – the Flemish) brought it all back and then some.

So my first chronological influences were Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Hieronymus Bosch. In high school, the Garden of Earthly Delights was my favorite painting. I was stoked to see this painting in real life in 2015. It’s currently in the Prado in Madrid.

Hieronymus Bosch - The Garden of Earthly Delights
The Garden of Earthly Delights

I of course also studied the Italian Renaissance masters. But to be fair, I studied them because I had to. They’re not my favorites. Just like me and Baroque music. It’s great. I’ve hit those books hard. But my heart is elsewhere.

I’m a Romantic

For me, Romanticism is where it’s at.

Romanticism defined simply – humans became too logical, too stoic. And forgot how to be human. So, let’s bring back awe, wonder, mysticism, love, and passion – the things that make us human.

More specifically, I absolutely loved the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Especially John William Waterhouse.

When I worked in the mall after high school, we had a poster shop. I was already heavily into fantasy imagery. And I saw Waterhouse paintings. I immediately knew, that’s where it’s at.

Yes, if you know this part of art history, you’ll know Waterhouse became a Pre-Raphaelite after the original band already broke up.

Doesn’t matter. I’m not too hung up on labels. I will say though that the Pre-Raphaelites are a subset of Romanticism. A lot of art historians would agree with me.

Waterhouse - La Belle Dame Sans Merci
Waterhouse – La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1893)

If I had to pick a second of the Pre-Raphaelites, it would be Edward Robert Hughes. Although he too came by after the original band broke up and he was already drifting into the next style I like…

Beauty for beauty’s sake

I’m also a huge fan of beauty for beauty’s sake. I don’t need to make a political statement.

And you know what? Maybe that is my political statement. Beauty for beauty’s sake.

This world has so much cynicism, so much pessimism, and we’re really trying to push the lie nowadays that obesity is beautiful. Yeah, makes no sense, but that’s what the Post Modernists (my enemies) are pushing nowadays.

Hughes falls someone into that, although he also did the fantasy worlds that I absolutely love. John William Godward, a Classicist, overlaps into that as well.

If I had to pick a favorite of the beauty for beauty’s sake artists though, I’d take Bouguereau.

I wrote an article awhile back on The Birth of Venus. You’ve seen Botticelli’s version a million times. You may or may not have seen Cabanel’s, which I think is spectacular. My favorite though is Bouguereau’s.

Bouguereau painted for the sake of beauty. No deep meaning. Just straight up beauty. And beautiful his worlds were.

And I also have to give a nod to Luis Ricardo Falero who not only painted beauty for the sake of beauty, but also threw in fantasy.

Speaking of fantasy

As previously mentioned, Waterhouse, Hughes, Folero, all painted fantasy themes. For pure fantasy though, if you’re a fantasy nut, there’s no way you haven’t seen the work of Arthur Rackham. He did the fantasy illustrations for a lot of fairy tale compilations. He even did Alice (of Wonderland fame).

That’s where we start to venture into the 20th century. If you’ve been over at my house, you’ll see Frank Frazetta posters up. Yeah, I know. Those are supposed to be for high school kids. Well, I ain’t taking them down.

Frazetta is hands down my favorite 20th century artist. When I get around to doing male heroes to go along with my hot chicks, I’ll borrow from Frazetta. A lot.

I was heavily into fantasy in high school. I know that was a long time ago for me, but it played such a role in my life that it imprinted the later years. I’m one of those weird kids who actually liked high school (but absolutely loved junior high!), and have so many fond memories that I have anchored in my mind.

So everything from the imagery to the music is anchored in my brain. It makes it easy for me to paint because of this. I simply take old ideas and make them my own. Or come up with some original ones (which are often subconsciously based off of something in the past).

It was actually junior high when I first started getting into fantasy. But in high school, I did a lot of physical labor and could actually afford to feed my fantasy habits.

Pinups

Which leads to pinups. Olivia de Bernardinis is my favorite living artist. Frazetta was until he died recently. Now, Olivia is all we have left of artists I absolutely love.

She’s amazing. Super talented. My newest model, Sophia, looks like an Olivia model. I told her that the first time I met her and she was flattered.

If you don’t know who she is, definitely look her up.

For straight pinups though, Gil Elvgren. My favorite pinup artist. Nobody did the S Curve quite like Elvgren. In fact, I’ve had Allie, Roxy, Sophia, and Jin all model at least one pose from that Elvgren book my wife bought me from Barnes and Noble years ago.

The 40s, 50s, and 60s had a lot of wonderful pinup art. You saw pinup art on our World War II planes. Now with the world turning politically correct, we won’t see those on military planes any more.

Which is a shame. These brave men often die for our country and can’t put a pinup girl on a plane? Absurd.

In the 50s and 60s, Elvgren and others had good careers painting for ads. Yet another thing killed by political correctness. These ads would be considered offensive today.

Other 20th century art I like

I’ve mentioned before how much I hate Post Modernism. I don’t like Modernism either, but Post Modernism is pure crap.

Luckily, there still was good art created during the Modern era. I love Art Nouveau. Alphonse Mucha especially. Some day, I’ll own a Mucha. One of my life goals.

And, I have to specifically name Gustav Klimt. He does wonders with golds and yellows.

All my paintings of Allie have her wearing a double gold bracelet on her left arm. All my paintings of Roxy have her wearing a gold necklace.

That’s a direct homage to Klimt.

So there you have it. Yeah, I have a long history of artistic influences and a pretty good variation of styles.

If I had to declare a style, I’d say fantasy pinup. I do pinup art because Allie and Roxy are two of my besties in real life. Allie pushed me into taking my art seriously and Roxy followed suit.

Fantasy because I love fantasy everything. I used to play Advanced Dungeons and Dragons v1 back in the early 80s. I love Heavy Metal music from the 80s as well, especially the ones who dealt with fantasy themes before Metal split Glam vs Thrash in the mid-80s.

For video games, my favorite games of all time were Legend of Zelda, Heroes 3, Myth II, Kohan, and Majesty. Yeah, they all go back a ways because I haven’t played video games in a long time. But I still have great memories playing those games.

For books, I love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. They’re a long series of books featuring Harry Dresden, a wizard in Chicago who starts off sloppy and broke and evolves to be one of the most powerful creatures in the realm.

As I’ve enjoyed The Witcher, I’m really hoping another TV show series, comes out for the Dresden Files. They had one in 2007 and 2008 but it got cancelled after one season. I heard it wasn’t bad. It just didn’t take off.

I love the way Butcher writes. His main character, Harry Dresden, is very relatable. He screws up a lot at first and half the time, he has no idea what he’s doing. He ends up winging a lot of his life. Which I often feel like I do the same.

That’s the other thing – you can be influenced by pop culture. And that’s not a bad thing.

I don’t think artists have to be snooty. If you look at all my influences, they’re a combination of both high art and pop art anyways.

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Roman’s Tchaikovsky Top 10

Peter Tchaikovsky 1874

You hear me talk about Beethoven often. But it is Tchaikovsky who is my favorite. Aesthetically, nobody can touch him.

The very first time I heard his 6th, I was 17 years old. And I thought to myself “this is the greatest piece of music ever written”.

My opinion hasn’t changed. But it was his suicide note. I can’t listen to it more than once a year.

Too much emotion. Too tragic.

And Serenade for Strings? Listen to it with your lover. If this doesn’t lead a passionate moment, you’re with the wrong person.

Tchaikovsky melodically is in a class by himself.

10. Romeo and Juliet Overture 1880

You have heard the Love Theme from this ballet numerous times as it has been adopted into pop culture. The whole fantasy is brilliant, having been rewritten numerous times. Had this been written by any other composer, it wouldn’t have been so far down on the list. But you know how much I love Tchaikovsky.

9. Sleeping Beauty 1890

Still a beautiful ballet, this one falls behind Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

The music is gorgeous. My dream of course is to see this in St. Petersburg. I’ve seen the local ballet perform it and it was quite lovely.

8. 1812 Overture 1880

Being a Metalhead, you’d assume I’d rank this one a lot higher. I love it, don’t get me wrong. But doing a Tchaikovsky top 10 isn’t easy – he wrote so many great compositions.

One thing that makes me proud about being American is we have adopted this piece for July 4th. I couldn’t tell you how many times and in how many cities I’ve seen this performed. Some of the orchestras were mediocre, but regardless, they’d pour their hearts into the performance and it showed.

7. Serenade for Strings 1880

I adore this piece, and I’m sure a lot of people would say I overrate it. I don’t care. Show me a composition along these lines this that is more beautiful. You can’t.

If this doesn’t make you want to dance, you may be missing your soul. I also had gone so far that I used this as a test to gauge if a woman was worthy of my love. I’d play the Waltz (the second movement) and if she found it boring, we were through.

Yes, I’m quite serious. I won’t apologize for having high standards and I refuse to fall in love with a philistine.

6. Symphony No. 4 1878

I absolutely love the Finale but the whole symphony is quite good. Dedicated to his patroness and best friend Madame von Meck, purists would argue it had weak parts.

I’d counter that those parts are what helps it stand out. As much as Tchaikovsky wanted to be Western, he also wanted to be Russian. If that doesn’t define Romanticism…

One thing I especially liked was that an American critic called it too Russian and “semi-barbaric.” One of these days, I’ll do a write-up how Russian Romanticism was a precursor to Metal and of course this symphony would be an example.

5. The Nutcracker Suite 1892

We all know how gorgeous the Suite is. You’ve heard it many times, even if you never looked for it.

I find it fascinating that despite being an intensely patriotic Russian, two of Tchaikovsky’s pieces have a huge influence on American culture. Every Fourth of July, we get to hear the 1812 Overture. And every Christmas, we get to hear the Nutcracker.

4. Swan Lake Ballet 1876

My favorite ballet. If you’re young, you probably know this ballet from the movie Black Swan. Of course, I won’t thumb my nose up to anyone who knows it that way – it was a pretty good movie. The ballet itself is chocked full of delicious melodies.

We’ve seen this ballet twice live now. I’d love to see it in Russia.

Musically, the best ballet ever written.

3. Piano Concerto No.1 1875, 1888

I’m a lucky man. I got to see the great Van Cliburn perform this on his comeback tour. The best piano concerto ever written.

The main theme is one of the most lovely themes ever written. However, Tchaikovsky barely does anything with it. It only appears a few times. That said, there’s so much excellent content in this concerto that it doesn’t need to keep coming back.

2. Violin Concerto 1878

As depressing as his Sixth Symphony (the Pathetique) is, this piece is joyous. Which is ironic considering he was writing it while recovering from his famously disastrous marriage. Contains one of the best melodies ever written. If that melody doesn’t move you, you have no soul.

One of my Grandfathers only loved Jazz. He hated rock and roll with a passion. He didn’t like Classical music at all. And when he heard Heavy Metal music for the first time, oh boy. He had nothing good to say about it. At all.

However, he still loved this piece. It was the only Classical record he owned.

1. The Pathetique 1893

Best piece of music ever written. Period. Peter Tchaikovsky killed himself nine days after its first performance. I have a minority opinion (although you will hear other Historians agree) that this piece was a suicide note. It’s hard to listen to and I only listen to it on special occasions.

I’m not the only one who said it. For the record though, I said it immediately upon hearing it, and I thought it before I read other critics say it. Yes, as a teenager, I came up with that thought independently.

Definitely give it a listen and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Was this piece a suicide note?

Regardless, it’s the most tragic piece ever written. The fade out at the end is hard to listen to. It sounds like a slow, lingering death, like Tchaikovsky had been dying inside for months and finally decided to commit and end it all.