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PROLOGUE Continued

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Joseph Browning Early Art 12
Early Art No. 12 - Study of Nude Back
Prismacolor pencil on colored paper
Collection of the Artist

Joseph Browning Early Art 13
Early Art No. 13 - Life Drawing - 2 Minute Poses
Chalk pastel on colored paper
Collection of the Artist

Two minutes goes by very quickly when you're juggling little pieces of chalk pastel to try and get as much definition of the model's body with color as you can before the pose changes. That was a great day and this ended up being a successful page of poses. I look at it now and wonder how I did it.

Joseph Browning Early Art 14
Early Art No. 14 - Self Portrait via a Mirror
Chalk pastel on paper
Collection of the Artist

I don't remember if this was a school exercise to complete at home or if I just wanted to practice life drawing using a mirror. When I came across this drawing I had forgotten that I even made it. And I am surprised at it's accuracy given the circumstances of its creation. Yet there I was, or am, on paper making a silly face.

Joseph Browning Early Art 15
Early Art No. 15 - Harmony
Lithograph print on archival paper - Edition of 28 Prints
Collection of the Artist

For lithography, the image to be printed is drawn with a greasy substance, such as oil or wax, onto the surface of a smooth and flat limestone block. I used black wax pencils specifically made for lithography along with a black oil wash. The stone is then treated with a mixture of weak acid and gum arabic to create an etch that made the parts of the stone's surface that were not protected by the wax/oil drawing more hydrophilic (water attracting). For printing, the stone is first moistened with water to have the water only adhere to the gum-treated parts, making those areas even more oil-repellant. Then an oil-based ink is applied, and sticks only to the original drawing. The ink then gets transferred to a blank sheet of paper, producing the finished printed artwork. More elaborate lithographs can utilize multiple colors with great detail. It was fun making this relatively simple black and white drawing and then be able to print multiple copies of the exact drawing.

Joseph Browning Early Art 16
Early Art No. 16 - Portrait of Author Hermann Hesse
Prismacolor pencil over dye ink colors on paper
Collection of the Artist

The art of illustration allows a greater range of visual options than standard photography. Illustrations by definition illustrate an idea or concept so that an objective viewer can look at it and "read" it to get a story about what's being illustrated or presented. This aspect of being able to tell a story through illustration was what attracted me to learn more about it in the first place. As an artist I am very much a storyteller through the visuals I create in my art. What's fun is that the story can be presented realistically or surrealistically through illustration, where a photograph is usually a straight up realistic portrayal of a subject. And illustration always has that very personal feel that can only come from an artist's viewpoint and style.

Joseph Browning Early Art 17
Early Art No. 17 - Fragmented Ballerina
Prismacolor pencil over dye ink colors on museum board
Collection of the Artist

Joseph Browning Early Art 18
Early Art No. 18 - Still Life with Wine and Rock
Prismacolor pencil over watercolor on paper
Collection of the Artist

Joseph Browning Early Art 19
Early Art No. 19 - Lady of the Grapes
Prismacolor pencil over dye ink colors on museum board
Collection of the Artist

Joseph Browning Early Art 20
Early Art No. 20 - Plant Woman at the Beach
Prismacolor pencil over printed plant pattern over watercolor on museum board
Collection of the Artist

Mixing media in art and illustration is an endless opportunity for picture making. Prior to the use of computers and the internet we did it freehand with knives, pencils and brushes. It was a completely tactile experience during a time when the idea of surrealism still belonged mostly to fine art. But with the advent of the computer and digital art making in all formats, surrealism has become the norm. Look at any commercial via television or online and you'll witness the impossible interactions between inanimate objects now being fully animated and engaging the viewer with surreal moving storylines 24 hours a day. Surrealism has become so commonplace that no one is surprised by it anymore. It has simply become another version of reality that we all witness and then get inspired to buy something from. Because after all, isn't manipulating each other into commerce what life's all about?

Joseph Browning Early Art 21
Early Art No. 21 - Evolution
Oil on canvas
Private Collection

I wanted to return to working with oil paints towards the end of my illustration studies at CCAC. I felt I'd learned a lot about creating representational art via my illustration drawings and so I took some photos and made this painting using the photos as reference. I wanted to get the details correct and I wanted to make sure my painting actually looked like the photos, especially regarding the recognition of the model. I was pleased with the outcome and learned how challenging it was to paint with small brushes to get all the details correct. Again this was all done by eye with no other visual aids, so that made it even more time consuming. Painting realism with oils is all about patience and a steady hand. Lots of patience.

Joseph Browning Early Art 22
Early Art No. 22 - Still Life with Two-Mouthed Vessel
Oil on wood
Collection of the Artist

At the end of my final year at CCAC, the pottery studios were having a sale on students' works that had been completed that year. I came across this strange two-mouthed vessel in white and blue and loved it for it's uniqueness if not for it's confusing purpose. I bought it and brought it back to my apartment in San Francisco and soon painted this picture with it as the centerpiece. I was remarkably happy with the result of this painting. It felt like I had finally figured out realistic oil painting in a way that was easier and more fluid for me than ever before. Eventually I gave the two-headed monster vessel away, and just kept the painting. Afterall, the vessel really didn't serve any functional purpose other than existing in strangeness.

And that's basically what I wanted to do after graduating from CCAC with my Illustration degree: exist in the strangeness of my imagination. Rather than seek the approval of art directors that may or may not still be looking for illustrators to hire, I wanted only to paint pictures that revealed the stories I had bubbling up inside that simply needed to exist as three dimensional objects of art. I don't remember hesitating much, but was definitely mindful of trading in potentially decent paying illustration jobs for carpentry and home maintenance jobs in my spare time while being a painter full time. I'm glad that I didn't spend too much time weighing the pros and cons of this decision as that can be a dream crushing exercise. I was already very clear that becoming a painter of fine art was perhaps the boldest dream there was. A foolish dream many said. An insane and impetuous dream others said. Yet clearly it was a dream I was not having alone, being pushed and prodded by a voice deep inside of me which constantly said, "Go for it!" And to make this absurd dream go from being just a dream to being full on reality all I had to do was start...

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