Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ode to J. Otto

When I first saw J. Otto Seibold's illustrations, I was instantly mesmerized. I can recall the first time I saw his work: It was in the summertime. We were having a cook out in the back yard with friends. (My husband Matt's brother) Jim's friend, Laura, came - and she brought the book Monkey Business, which had just come out at the time. What amazing artwork! I'd never seen anything like it. The art was like a magnet for my eyes, and I just couldn't take my eyes off of it. At the time, I had never seen vector illustration done in such a fantastical, whimsical way, with such vibrant, rich, saturated, loud colors all demurely dressed with subdued complimentary tones (I do think that his early works were color-trend trailblazers of their time. I mean, the stationery market still can't get off the pastel/dark and deep infatuation...not that I'm complainin' too much). And the detail was fabulous, and the flourishes so appealing! Everything was like candy, and I wanted to eat it all up.

It's hard to push the boundaries and run when you are just barely walking, but in that book I saw the future of computer illustration, and it was really cool. Monkey Business was my first glimpse of the cultural broadness of it - vector illustration in a children's book! Was J. Otto the first, I wondered? In J. Otto's work, I discovered proof-positive that the art world was moving at a pace that, at the time, I was trying desperately to catch up with - and it was sink-or-swim time. These were computer graphics - but not the boring, safe, corporatey-looking kind. Just looking at J. Otto illustration showed you a big, bright, wild world of what was possible in Adobe Illustrator with vision, perseverance and a penchant for pushing boundaries. I'm also quite sure he was really stubbornly working his butt off to improve his Illustrator skills. Being that good in Illustrator is no accident.

Learning Illustrator - really going through that particular learning curve - while I was also learning how to use computer programs, just in a general sense - was not as effortless and natural as J. Otto's illustrations would have me wish for it to be. Illustrator is not an easy program to get under your belt! You start out feeling like your brain has been turned backwards in your head, then picture that you feel as if you are upside down and drawing with your feet. (Left foot if you're right-handed, right foot if you're left-handed.) Ok, good. Not easy, is it? Thank goodness it improves from there, over time. Lots and lots of time. (And I'm still not where I would like to be with Illustrator. But a beach house in Hawaii would be nice, too. ;) I can't complain about it. I've come a long way, and I'm always working on improving my skills!)

Discovering Monkey Business - and J. Otto's work - was the dawning of a new era for me. It was early on in my computer-graphics literacy, and I was SO green - I don't think I had even touched Illustrator at that point (I was still trying to wrap my brain around photoshop). But seeing the artwork in Monkey Business was so inspiring to me. It was artwork that both inspired me to create more of my own original artwork in my own voice and vision, inspired by things in life that inspire me and no one else. But, at the same time, it also incited this crazed, uncomfortable, nervous-anticipation feeling of jealousy inside me. I was struck completely envious of his vision and talent! It was a very weird feeling, in fact I think it may have been the first time -and maybe the only time - I'd ever felt that particular mixture of feelings about anything. In the end, (ever the optimist...) it actually served me well because it incited me to delve deeper into my own artistic id (...I guess you could say...) eventually allowing my own creative vision to show itself to me, rather than me trying to drag out something out of myself that was not authentically there, or forcing a creative vision which did not naturally grow out from within me. That "wacky J. Otto feeling" ultimately helped me to develop my own unique artistic voice in my own unique way - something I am very proud of, because getting there is not easy. Because my feelings about J. Otto's work was so intense, the psychological spotlight was then turned on to myself and my own creative life and voice, to work more consistently and more intensely on developing my work- but in a totally intuitive, subconscious, non-forceful, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may way. Just WORK with blind trust in my own process happening. Find my inspiration and draw (upon) it. Turns out that I discovered J. Otto right around the time I uncovered the bunnies.

J. Otto's web site is nowhere to be found these days. I would sure like to see it live again. I miss it. It was brightly colored, sort of a crudely coded html-looking web site (bright blue links abound) which I thought was kind of funny and goofy because he's clearly a designer and the site was clearly in dire need of a redesign (and I mean that, for a long, long time, the site was in dire need of a redesign). Like I said, there was something charming in the primitiveness of it all. Very Johnny Depp. Rebellious with a wink. Whether or not it was intended that way, there it was. There was one or two big interactive Flash animation things in there (kind of like an elephant in the middle of a mouse convention) but the rest of the site was as described. (HEY...maybe the site is off being redesigned and will be relaunched soon? One can hope..)

J. Otto has a new book out now - Quincy the Hobby Photographer, which is about a photographer of dogs, something I can relate to. (I am expecting this one for Christmas).

1 comment:

Jeff G said...

I'm a huge J Otto fan too. Disappointing to see that the domain was taken over by an online Poker site?! His site was fantastic!