114 First Impressions
Edward Howard talks colours.
You’re a kid. You see a painting that changes everything. What are you looking at?
Frederic Remington’s The Stampede. I was intoxicated by the art, and it – and many other works – fed my desire to pursue art. I also marvelled at Antonio Mancini’s Resting, John Singer Sargent’s An Interior in Venice and Frank Brangwyn’s Buccaneers. All these works say so much with such beautiful and seemingly loose brushwork. They don’t paint things, they paint the mere suggestion of things. The viewers unconsciously fill in the blanks. I remember being stunned by that little realisation, and I’m still in awe of it. Name one person who’s helped you on your way? Rachel, my wife, is my biggest fan and my greatest critic. I’m here because she had faith in my ability. Everyone has that one person who’s their cheerleader, who supports them and keeps them pushing onward.
Who’s tried to get in your way? Me. I’m my own worst enemy and perhaps my harshest critic. This can be good and bad. The good is that I always ask the highest standards of myself. The bad is that my standards might be too high, resulting in very few pieces ever making it out the door. However, the more experienced I become, the more I learn to not get in my own way. Your art is always evolving – what’s the most recent experiment you’ve made? I’m coming to the realisation that I’ll probably always be experimenting. When you step back you realise all you’re doing is applying different-coloured viscous pigments to a flat surface and hopefully in the end you’ve arranged those colours in such a manner as to
I’m my own worst enemy and perhaps my harshest critic
evoke an emotional response. The quest for the artist is to convey this non-verbal, visceral message more precisely. Do you remember the first image where you thought you’d nailed it? Secret Revealed seemed to strike a chord with people. I feel like my technique and execution came into focus, and I was finally able to translate what was in my mind to canvas. I still get great pleasure from listening to people tell me what they believe the story of the piece is, and I also love seeing them make new discoveries when they view it in person.
What are your painting rituals? Organisation and preparation are imperative to me. When I begin a piece I already know my palette, I’ve already done colour studies, have determined my colour gamut, and know my composition and lighting down to the last centimetre of canvas. I use as many references as I can, to study the interplay of light and shadow, texture and depth. Painting is hard enough without having to guess on the fly. I just want to focus on painting. I don’t want to have loose ends in my head while I’m working.
What’s wrong with the industry? A lot, but recently there’s been a concerted effort by many to begin the process of reform. I’d recommend all aspiring illustrators to look at Art PACT ( www.artpact.com), a community dedicated to helping the illustrator navigate their way through the industry and help them achieve a living wage. What advice would you give to fantasy artists just starting out? Paint what you love. Paint what drives you. Paint what inspires you. When you do that it will come through on canvas. People will see that passion and will be drawn to your work. And don’t be afraid to explore different genres, different styles. What’s on the canvas is something that no one but you has ever seen before. We want to see what your unique ideas and dreams are. Don’t hold back – paint them!
What’s the first thing you teach a pupil? Don’t guess. Trust me, you’ll almost always get it wrong. Try to observe it in nature and then replicate that on canvas. The amazing thing is that if you get it right, it probably won’t be noticed by the viewer at all. It’s only when you get things wrong that the viewer notices.
discovery This recent painting eschews the artist’s usual fantasy trappings in favour of more emotional beats.