* We pick up our story as the young Austin Briggs tries to find work during The Depression...
There followed some years of varied work doing anything that came to hand, including book illustration and movie posters for Fox films. It was a period of discouragement, for Briggs considered himself a failure after a brilliant beginning. But it was also a period of self-appraisal and criticism; an eventually healthy interlude that lead to better things.
He was merciless in his scrutiny of himself. "I realized that I just wasn't doing acceptable work, because if it had been good, they would have wanted to buy it."
"With that new attitude I set about learning to draw, which I never could do before, in spite of the fact that some of my illustrations had been more or less acceptable. I really didn't know the craft of my profession. I think I had imagination then, but really didn't know how to use it. The intervening years when I did movie posters and a few book illustrations were spent in trying to find myself. I used to think that when some other artist did an illustration in a particular way, that proved it was the way to do it. It was only when I began to look at the idea from my own point of view that I started to get any place. It was better if I didn't try to figure out what Parker or Von Schmidt would do and realized that it was my problem, and that from my point of view my experience was just as good as theirs."
"I really don't know myself what makes my own point of view. I do know that it is what people want to buy, whereas they didn't want to buy my idea of how somebody else would do it. One can't achieve any sort of success as an illustrator until one concentrates on and expresses one's own point of view."
A great many young illustrators have stood at the same crossroads that Briggs faced. Most of them have refused or been unable to take the right turn, because they have lacked, first, the downright fortitude that is required for a merciless self-examination and, second, the stamina to slowly and painfully work out their early mistakes.
Excerpted from the October 1950 issue of American Artist magazine, written by Henry C. Pitz
* My Austin Briggs Flickr set.