Thursday, July 30, 2009

crossroads at midnight

Illustrations by Gennady Spirin.

I wince a little when I hear the word “talent”.

To me the word implies that ability is merely a gift. Magic.

For someone to say “She’s got talent” does nothing to suggest the years of hard work, planning and intelligence that go into producing great art.

If asked how long it took him to paint a watercolor, my instructor, Irving Shapiro would say: “30 years”, or just about as many years as he’d been painting altogether.

A friend has gotten up at 5 in the morning for decades to get a few hours of painting time in before going to his “real” job.

While I was at art school, I invariably painted until midnight or one in the morning, several times falling asleep at my drawing board -- once with my eyes wide open.

There is a legend around blues legend Robert Johnson; that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his red-hot guitar ability. A more romantic explanation to savor than sweat and determination.

If the illustrator Gennady Spirin has sold his soul, it was to a very benevolent spirit, for that man’s got “Talent”!

I’ve never seen such an ability with watercolor, even surpassing the great Sir William Russell Flint.

To tear our eyes from the lovely handling is not easy, but once we do what further marvels we see: rich moods, superb compositions, flawless drawing, color to break your heart.

Natural ability factors in, sure, but I’d say most of what we see in Spirin’s work is the result of a purposeful, intelligent, long laboring soul rather than mere magic.


Adam Rex said...

Hear, hear.

Richard Jesse Watson said...

I am working on a book that is a part of a series of which Gennady Spirin is one of the other illustrators. When I saw that he had done one of the books, I thought, great I'm screwed. Because he has set the bar up in the stratosphere. Finally the only way I could proceed, and because I needed the mula, was to say, "Oh, well..." And so I am proceeding. But I agree, Paul, the guy is a genius. His work is like a cross between Bilibin, Beatrix Potter, and some pre-Raphaelite who lives above an Espresso shop.

Paul Schmid said...

Oh, man Richard, having my work in the same vicinity as Gennady's would terrify me! You should have nothing to fear though, your work is amazing!

Adam, I knew you would relate to this one. (Even though you can toss off wonderfulness in 20 minutes)