The Artist’s Role as a Professional

By Armand Cabrera

                                                                      Jack lorimer Gray
I have been in quite a few discussions lately revolving around a similar theme. That theme is an artist’s role in a project and should they have a personal style to their work. Depending on what part of the process an artist is involved in, the answer is usually yes they should have their own recognizable style to their work. The exception is in production art of a game or animated film where there is a project style already set by the concept artists or stylist on the project. Then the production artists have a responsibility to follow the project style.
To clear up some terminology lets be specific about some words; style is how you draw and paint something. It is how you make your marks and the choices you make about composition and color and value. Genre is the type of painting your style fits into. Realism, impressionism, abstract painting, photo-realism and all the other subcategories are all genres of painting. Subject matter is what you choose to paint. It has nothing to do with the tools you use or the medium you work in. I see a lot of people confuse the idea of style with subject matter and or genre and this is wrong.
Another topic in the discussions has been about the idea of gallery art and illustrative painting. There is only one difference between the disciplines and that is in the purpose for the creation of the art in my opinion. The purpose of gallery art is the selling of the art itself. Illustrative arts like illustration, concept art or production art, the art is in service of a product to sell, the art is not the final concern. Here is where it gets more complicated though and the lines truly blur. Gallery art can be used as illustration after the fact through the purchase of the image and illustration can be sold as a piece of gallery art after it has served its purpose and been returned to the artist, if the artist created the image traditionally. Even digital artists can sell prints of their illustrative work if they retained the rights to do so after the job. All art should be judged on it quality and impact, not its purpose.
 Let’s return to the artist’s role on a job. I don’t think an artist’s role is to be a wrist when they are hired. That type of art creation is the lowest form of work for an artist and one I have always avoided. My paintings come from my ideas about solving a problem visually. A client provides me with the problem to solve or I make one up for myself but its mine to solve once it’s decided that I’m the one to create the image. While the process can be collaborative if both parties choose it to be, it should never be completely at the whim of a non-artist. That is the kiss of death for any piece of artwork.
If you are hired to paint a commission or create concept art or visualize a brief as an illustrator it is your job to bring your brain as well as your ability to the job. The two should be inseparable really.  Working artists have a responsibility to educate people about the process and what to expect from you as the artist on any given project. The client has the right to expect you to fulfill certain requirements when hired but they don’t need to be in your head telling you every aspect of how to do your job. You must assume that if you are chosen for a job it is because the client is attracted to your work and style. Don’t let them go off the rails and have you create something completely devoid of your talents.  While good art can be collaborative, great art is a singular vision controlled and executed by the artist only.