Commerce & Art: No Hard Lines by Joe Nalven PDF Print E-mail
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I went out into the postmodern world of San Diego to pull together a sampling of artists. I asked them to think about the influences on their art – about the world of commercial and fine art they see on a daily basis as well as the mundane process of crossing over between client-driven and personal art.


First call:  
“We like your art. Do you have something with a San Diego building?”
Second call:“That was a nice architectural detail, but can we see one that has a recognizable building? The building doesn’t have to be in San Diego.”
Third call:“That building is kind of funky in that image. We have another client that would like it, but this client has an upscale designer. Do you have an image with another type of building.”
 Fourth call:
 “Wow. That’s it.”

I went out into the postmodern world of San Diego to pull together a sampling of artists. I asked them to think about the influences on their art – about the world of commercial and fine art they see on a daily basis as well as the mundane process of crossing over between client-driven and personal art.

Nadia Borowski Scott and Cristina Martinez create illustrations for the San Diego Union Tribune; Ron Kipnis and Bill Harris are at 619design working for clients such as the Old Globe, the La Jolla Playhouse and the Lung Association; Jack Davis is a master teacher and author of numerous books on Photoshop; and Greg Klamt is an accomplished fantasy fine artist who has a day job doing graphic work at Aldila, a company that produces graphite shafts for golf clubs.

Art content and art process – big picture/little picture

 JD:    If we look back at the history of art, we find that it was pragmatic. It was commissioned work for rich people, the church, or glorifying the empire or the more magical kind of practicality when art was tied into religion like with Hopi kachinas or cave art from Lascaux. Once photography came on the scene, and again with digital imaging, artists were freed from this pragmatism to deepen their personal expression so much so that many contemporary artists have gone out of their way not caring if anybody got it. They’ve forgotten the storytelling part of it.

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Jack Davis                     LB-Surfer

 RK:    You could call that art for no reason – to have a good time. But when we are doing our design studio stuff – a kind of modern pragmatism, we start out with an idea, even something as mundane as Adidas socks. The product still needs to be presented in a pleasant manner. Artfully, if you will. And we attack everything with the same aesthetic.

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619 Design    Lung Association Poster

BH:    It is worth noting that digital is an artistic sensibility not borne of the exacto knife, but with the hands-on mouse and instant manipulation. The world changed in the mid 90s where you could find anything you wanted online, even digitized fine art from museums. There was more accessibility to art, more sampling just as musicians do. You no longer needed classical training in the same way.

JD:    True. The digital era has helped democratize and make art-making more accessible, but as with all good art we need to avoid visual pollution. We need to force the brain to go beyond the snapshot and into interpretation. In a photoshop world, we can layer multiple messages, art and text, into our 2D work – complexifying the art while keeping the message simple.

Influences in doing art

GK:    The design culture around us has strong influences on many artists - both commercial and fine art. Even so, I do not feel like there is that much impact in my work. Though I work digitally, I work hard to stay away from looking like much of the work done in my medium. I stay away from that which is pop culture and standard style - not just for the sake of not looking like everyone else, but because my style originated in a particular genre that was rooted in me before the digital age became part of my world.

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Greg Klamt                                                                    Mischeifish

 NBS:   My assignments and the content of stories I illustrate dictate how 'commercial' or 'fine art' I can be.  If I work as a documentary photographer, I have to quietly witness events and try to find a way of capturing moments in an honest way that is also visually compelling. I don't think in commercial or fine art terms, but just quietly try to observe. If my task is illustrative, or creating imagery that is conceptual with no actual people in these stories to photograph, then I feel more freedom to create as if I have a canvas and perhaps be more 'fine art.'

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CM:    My illustrations work more as commercial art. Most of them appear as cover art for the features sections of the San Diego Union-Tribune. I see my clients as the editor, designer and reader of the newspaper and my ultimate purpose is to entice the reader and sell the story. While my fine-art influences are painters such as Manet, Renoir and Mary Cassatt, I find most of my inspiration comes from contemporary illustrators such as Anja Kroencke, Brian Cronin, and the local Rafael Lopez.

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 RK:    I developed as an artist doing cover art and logos for bands. Night club art. Maybe that tilts us toward the theatre arts, but the important thing is making the art work for the client. That means talking with the client from the beginning. If we need an illustrator with a particular style, then we will bring that person in.

NBS:   I like to study images of all kinds and don't necessarily see the hard line separating these approaches.  I enjoy studying commercial photography, for example, because so much commercial work is visually mature and sophisticated in its storytelling.  It has to communicate clearly and well. Commercial work often references fine art imagery, but if you have no understanding of fine art, or if you don't open yourself to allow a more subtle way of seeing, you miss out in your own creative process.

Additional art by those interviewed can be found at their websites:

Nadia Borowski Scott
Jack Davis                           
Greg Klamt      :                        
Ron Kipnis and Bill Harris      :  

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San Diego to Belgrade by Vladimir Konecni

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I was thrilled
to find that
art photography
travels well
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