In 1968 the editors of American Artist magazine presented the work of illustrator Robert J. Lee. Accompanying his art they compiled interviews, correspondences and "several pages of informal notes" into a single 'digest' of Lee's thoughts on a broad range of topics related to his life as an artist.
Here is the 3rd excerpt:
"I have little patience with exhibitions of "black on black" or a green circle on a white ground and all the psuedo-intellectual gibberish that usually accompanies such shows. It's all been done a thousand times and the individuality of the painter is lost completely."
"I fully understand the protests, the rebellion, the need for change; the sloshing of paint with rude brushes, the solid red canvas. This was inevitable. The things I object to are the "taste makers" throwing everything else out, and the misguided young artist who has been duped into thinking the art field is all a crazy, a wild, mishmash of self indulgence, completely without discipline. Make no mistake, the life of a real working artist is tough work, mentally and physically."
"The most troublesome problem I have is time. Working six or seven days a week seems less than the time I need to illustrate, experiment, paint and teach. I'm not sure about the line, "an artist should reflect his times." I estimate I paint about seventy illustrations and paintings a year. Each of these involves a new situation, a fresh idea, and usually research of some kind (one does not paint a very realistic illustration for a nature book on North American mammals, from memory.)"
"I work in just about any media depending upon the assignment or inspiration. If someone is paying $1,500 for an illustration I can afford to stretch a four-foot canvas and spend some time doing an oil."
"For a textbook page paying $150 I work in wash or casein, and usually in small scale (one-and-one-half times larger than the printed illustration is my normal procedure.)"
"Preliminary sketches bore me, especially if the sketch is made or required to be so complete as to take the creative surge out of the final painting. I normally do a "comp" for clients buying an illustration from me, and I find that sometimes it is much better than the finished art because of the spontaneity factor which the rough had and the painting lacked."
"I draw my pictures in charcoal rather roughly, then go over these lines in brush and ink, because my next step is a series of neutral washes, and without the ink lines my drawing would be lost. Painting on a flat white surface would be most distracting to me."
"I once did a mural on a yellow wall, and within less than an hour my normal good color sense had left me. Reds looked brown and greens went dead, and yet, upon arrival each morning to begin work, the mural looked fine - all the colors made sense, but as soon as the work of mixing colors and resuming the job had gone on for a time, the same reaction took place."
"I find the best tone for me on canvas is gray-green."
"I work standing at a beat-up easel. My palette is about three feet square and hasn't been cleaned in ten years, so it looks like a relief map of the Andes Mountains! My palette is rather limited, probably harking back to my student days of limited means for buying paint. However, I see no reason for six blues or eight reds on the same palette!"
* Continued tomorrow