Thursday, April 03, 2014

Alex Ross: "... a mind unencumbered by academic regulation..."

Below is the first Alex Ross illustration I ever saw. It was more than ten years ago and I was just getting seriously interested in mid-20th century illustration. This piece intrigued me. Such a lovely girl... such a knowing look... such nerdy glasses... and such an orange sofa.


That slightly unsavory looking fellow making entreaties... I don't think he knows who he's dealing with. Neither did I...


... but I had a feeling I'd stumbled on someone worth investigating further. This Alex Ross was different somehow.


Alex Ross once said, "As one who has experimented with practically all known mediums, materials, and tools, and has, I hope, a mind unencumbered by academic regulations, I am disappointed that I have not yet come up with that secret technique to mystify all the experts."


"I am convinced, however, that my experiments are not wasted."


Alex Ross was indeed tirelessly experimental in the art of picture-making. He wrote the words above in 1962, but it was already evident to Norman Kent when he interviewed Ross 15 years earlier in 1947: "Your newest work is losing its slickness," said Kent, "and I attribute this in large measure to your experimenting with mixed methods."


"One of these days an art director will call you up and tell you not to bother with making a finish - that he is going to make color plates right from your sketch."

(It happened in Cosmopolitan magazine, 1956 ~ L)

Ross' experiments with media and style - and with subject matter - only accelerated during his busy 1950s period. "I believe I spend more time planning a picture than in the actual painting," said Ross. "The subject is my first consideration. At this point I face a crucial decision. I am one of those odd people who have a genuine liking for both modern and traditional painting."


"Where this paradox will lead me is anyone's guess."


Continued tomorrow

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