Ever since I was a child I loved anything that belonged to another time other than the one I lived in.
I loved old movies from the silent era to Film Noir. I loved big band music and scratchy recordings meant to be played on a Victrola. I loved padded shoulder jackets from the 1940’s, spats, and fedoras. My parents used to call me a “throwback”. These days, I’m just Old School.
As an artist, my love of old things extended to using old photographs as inspiration. Images of wasp-waisted women in big ornate hats, mustached men in vests with pocket watch chains, peddlers and immigrants, daguerreotypes in gold frames or tiny tintypes with a blush of hand coloring. Formal portraits or early snapshots of day to day life fascinated me. I’d try to imagine their lives.
I would stare at these photographs endlessly as if by staring at them I could somehow transport myself back in time to New York City circa 1908 even for just a few moments. Of course, the world would only be sepia colored.
Eventually, I began using these photographs to draw from by putting my own twist to the images.
Needless to say, the drawings were and still are done on paper using pencils, pen and ink and paint.
As much as I enjoy poking around online, I struggle with the idea of actually creating artwork using the computer.
I recently read that Thomas Nast, the great political illustrator from the late 19th century couldn’t keep up with the latest technology of his time, which was photo engraving. He was an old school wood engraver. It somehow made me feel better knowing that even then it was difficult for an illustrator to change with the times but there was a lesson in there too.
There is always a choice. You can stubbornly choose to live in the past or you can find a way to live and make a living in the present. Of course it’s just not that black and white.
I am trying but somehow I keep hoping hats will make a comeback.