Those who know me, know that I love the academic painter, William Bouguereau. I recently had the opportunity to purchase a letter, written and signed by Bouguereau. I wanted to share this letter and its translation because it might be interesting to other people also. I'm so grateful to my friend, Mr. Arnaud Courgey for his beautiful translation. Please see below for the translation.
I also learned that the black border on the paper means that Bouguereau was in mourning. I did some research and found out that in 1880, his grandson, Willie, was born which was a joyous time for Bouguereau, but before that, Bouguereau experienced much grief from family deaths.
My interpretation of the letter is that an artist wrote to Bouguereau to ask about why they weren't selected for a salon exhibit or other show and Bouguereau wrote back to explain the jury's selection. I like this letter because it shows Bouguereau's compassion by the fact that he took the time to write to this artist. I hope any fellow Bouguereau fans enjoy this letter and will share the information!
My Mom and I picked up a couple frames yesterday for some of my paintings and it's got me thinking. One of the frames is for this painting below of our cat, Lily, who passed away over a year ago. I did a little 7" X 5" portrait of her around 2012-2013. I'm not entirely sure of when I painted it because I didn't sign it with the date in those days. You can even see the early beginnings of my current signature, which is directly inspired by Bouguereau.
The painting is small and not particularly well executed, but I really like it. It captures the emotion of our cat as I remember her; maybe that's the reason why I like this painting. It feels more sincere to me than some of my recent work. I know I've been improving a lot lately, but I've decided to go back to basics with a lot of my techniques. I always have to remind myself to go back to basics because I get caught up in technique.
I'm making some linen panels today and I'm going to do some paintings on them with a more basic medium and see how they turn out. Stay tuned..
I was sketching Maea today while she was asleep and it hit me really hard that I miss oil painting a lot. I miss the pet portraits that I used to do. I miss the power that oil painting has. I really really miss Bouguereau.
For me, a lot of my fascination with art comes from my family. We have a few watercolor paintings around our house that my great aunt did and they really make me proud to be a painter. We also have a few oil painting by my great grandmother, which look eerily like my style; they really look like I could have painted them.
Oil painting is so powerful and I truly love some of the paintings that I've done over the years. Especially the painting of my dog, Maea, with a butterfly. I still love illustrating, but it doesn't feel like my fullest potential is being achieved with it. I'm extremely proud of Little Karl, but it's not the same feeling I get when I look at one of my oil paintings.
I'll definitely be doing some oil paintings soon and setting up my easel in the garage again.
I've been realizing more and more lately how diverse my influences are. I'm on this journey and picking up influences as I go along. Some of my earliest influences were watercolor paintings that my great aunt painted and we have in our house. And now I'm influenced by tons of people and ideas, from Bouguereau to Skateboarding. I'm currently blending a lot of my influences with a huge emphasis on my love for Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki + Kazuo Oga. If you don't know Kazuo Oga, then definitely check him out.
The point of this isn't to rehash articles about my influences. The point is that you can find inspiration in everything, no matter what your field of study is. I used to have a sort of tunnel vision in regards to my influences; then I'd find someone else whom I loved but feel a need to stick to my original influences. That's a limiting belief and held me back for a while. Now, I know people are more like sponges than islands. We absorb any influences whether or not we know it; we're not isolated, even if we wanted to be.
The tricky part about being an artist is that you believe that you can follow someone else's path to success. This is confusing in terms of following materials + techniques also. The truth is that materials play an important role in your development, but something more important is to try your best to tell your own story. When you focus on telling your own story, then you will reach your full potential and technique will become secondary.
If you like something that someone does, then learn how they do it. The myth of the lone wolf artist is detrimental to creativity. It's okay to be influenced by different people, ideas and techniques. Remember to work a little bit each day and tell your own story.
"Be yourself, everyone else is already taken."