Illustrators to talk “Roots of Inspiration” at Rockwell Museum

By Christopher McDermott

STOCKBRIDGE — These days we’re surrounded by images and illustrations on giant billboards, our handheld devices and every imaginable bit of media. The best illustrations can cause us to stop and smile, reflect on life around us, or adventure deeper into a promised story. But every illustration starts with a human idea.

The Norman Rockwell Museum will host distinguished contemporary illustrators and dive into the journeys of these ideas with “The Roots of Inspiration: Contemporary Artists Speak” on July 22 from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. Artists, such as Hartford Art School professor Dennis Nolan, will share the lessons that have stuck with them from peers, teachers and the world around them.

Learning to draw begins with learning to see, Nolan said.

“What [my teachers] taught me was to see, to observe the visual phenomena that [were] out there. The world’s a beautiful place, and they let me see it,” he explained, adding, “If you’re going to tell a story with pictures you have to know what the world is like. We don’t dream anything that we haven’t already seen. We might rearrange them. But there aren’t any new colors.”

Nolan will be joined by Hartford Art School colleagues Doug Andersen, assistant professor of illustration, and C.F. Payne, director of the Low-Residency Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Illustration program, as well as Bill Thomson, professor of illustration. As longtime artists and educators, each of the speakers have thought long and hard about what motivates and strengthens an artist. Payne said the artist’s vocation should be one always driven by experimentation and learning.

“If there’s one trait best for an artist to have it’s curiosity,” Payne said. “To be a little better today than you were yesterday. That’s to be willing to experiment and not being afraid of failing…. Very successful artists are always trying to plow some new field.”

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