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.
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.
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.
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.