Friday, June 29, 2012

Guest blogger - Bill Carman

-By Petar Meseldzija

Bill Carman is an artist, a very fine Fine Artist. He is an illustrator, too, a very unique one. He is different, strange, sometimes a little weird; he is funny, but at the same time he can be deadly serious. No matter whether he is creating pictures for a gallery show, or for a children’s book, he is always the same, whole, recognizable, himself and brilliant.

As far as I am concerned, his work stands for honesty and being yourself, for daring to openly and publically dream your dreams through your pictures. And although these “visual dreams” are reflecting Bill’s personal mental and emotional landscape, they are in their essence yet another emanation of the same, hard to express symbolic language of the subconscious that we all share. This, perhaps more than any other quality of his work (and they are many), makes him a true artist.

I secretly (apparently not more) hope that this post, that contains a significant dose of Bill Carman’s imagery, will help people, especially commercial illustrators among them, to awake to their own unique creative personality, instead of endlessly running after other people’s ideas and depicting them…This “awakening”, after all, might be bad for your finances, but on the longer run it will bring the always sought after internal satisfaction and contentment, for no money, or any other kind of external material compensation, can (permanently) fill the gap, the hole, in the troubled artist’s soul. This is my personal conviction.


Gallery Stuff
-By Bill Carman

Being asked to contribute to Muddy Colors is a tremendous honor. Being asked to contribute to Muddy Colors twice in a lifetime means I should get paid. Seriously, I would like to thank the Muddies for their continuing wisdom and specifically Petar for inviting me again.

My immediate thought when I was asked, other than no time or no one wants to read what I write, was that I would write about humor in art. But I’m not very funny. Then came the suggestion comments a while ago. One arena in which I am pretty confident is the gallery stuff arena.

I have been in galleries pretty much since I graduated 8,124 years ago. After school, the recurring theme with my work seemed to be, “Oh, I love it but how can I use it.” Hence galleries became the immediate default route. Because I had some ability I continued to do illustration but the gallery world always sucked me back in. The latest version of that sucking is the result of what I believe to be a natural development in the art world; the recognition of image based work (again) as a marketable commodity for wall space.

In the past 10-15 years there has been a major shift in the gallery world resulting in an exciting playground for not only the serious (no humor in art), all black wearing, philosopher quoters but for image-makers who like to tell stories and make things people like.

Could have used a painting example much cooler than mine but this is my post after all

There are many reasons for this shift, including pop surrealist/low brow art and the digital explosion in entertainment, I won’t go into because it would take a book sized post.

And there is certainly no way to cover all the possibilities of the gallery world in a single post, so thankfully I’ll limit this post to one man’s recent experience. I’ll leave the exhaustive how to get into galleries list to someone good at such lists like Greg. (See how I did that whole shift of responsibility thing)

I was one of those kind of old school guys who plugged along doing illustration and the local gallery thing. With some reluctance I started to build an online presence. Getting in to certain annuals like Spectrum and Society of Illustrators helped my cause and scoring awards didn’t hurt either. Now with the magic of the internet (still not quite sure how this happens), the result of this plugging away was that my stuff got passed around a little.  When I was first contacted to be in a “theme show” I thought it was a scam.

My memory is a little foggy, I grew up in the 60s and 70s, so my memory is a little foggy but I believe the fist theme based show to which I was invited was “Rom”. I had no idea what a Rom was. Turns out he’s a comic book character of some renown in Rom circles. I answered the invitation by informing them that I am not a comic book artist. To which they replied, “That’s even better we are looking for different takes.” I was prepared to just ignore things from there but went to the site and saw work by very good artists whom I admire. When I saw Renee French’s work, an online friend and acquaintance, I thought OK if she’s in it I’ll try something new.

My take on Rom
After that fairly positive experience things seemed to steamroll. The next show was in LA and it was a comic book character of choice. I chose The Main Man.

The show that really turned up the heat was Terrible Yellow Eyes a Maurice Sendak tribute organized by Cory Godbey. It was held in conjunction with the movie release.

The Sendak show generated a lot of publicity and my work was seen all over. Theme shows started to pile up.
He-Man (How could one say no to this?)

Airships (Right up my alley)

Twilight Zone (Didn’t need to think long about this)

A blockbuster Alice in Wonderland show coinciding with the Burton movie.

High profile pro bono and charity shows can garner great publicity. The first was for Artblocks for Ghana”  and the second for “Art Tails” benefitting the Japan disaster.

There were more, and more I had to turn down but the result was people in big cities and all over the cyber realm saw my work. Seeing my work led to buying my work, which is a good sign that someone will give you a show. They no longer say, “I love your work (well they thankfully still say this), but what do I do with it?” they just put me in a show and let the public decide. So now I get to sit in my wonderful studio, living much like an art hermit and paint things like this:

"Amended: Albino Narwhal Synchronized Swimming Doping Law"

“3 Wishes”

"Batgirl and Batsquid Ride Batpug as Batbat Leads the Way"

Remember, this is one man’s recent route to gallery fame and fortune. There are many ways to approach and work with a gallery. I said I would leave the lists to Greg, and I will, but I wanted to offer a couple of thoughts:

  • Be honest, work hard and your unique voice will find you.
  • Be ready if the opportunity comes.
  • Find where you belong. (Personally my most difficult thing)
  • Reward your viewers. Gallery work is about presence. The image should, of course, look great in print or on screen but when it arrives at the gallery people should gasp, swoon, and faint. Surface, presence, craft all work toward making not simply a picture but an object. So even if your work is digital how do you make it stand out among all the other prints on the wall as something that should be on a wall?

Bill Carman FaceBook


  1. Shoot Patar - you beat me to it.... I was going to ask Bill to do a guest post!

    Nice post Bill. Great work! I do want to see your perfectly shaped round head in person one of these days!


    1. Thanks John, we will meet. It's in the stars, it has been since I first saw your work as a student. You know the head with the blue glow around it. Think it got you some heavy recognition. That and the fact that you use acrylics almost as well as I do, smile, makes it destiny.

  2. Beautiful,inspiring,weird,passionate stuff Bill.Wheres is the personally signed, weighty tome that these wonders demand?

    1. High praise Paul, thanks. The world is not ready for a book of my work. Pearls before swine. Seriously, it takes a lot of work to put a book together and I'm too lazy. Really I think it's a case of where do I fit, same thing that has plagued me since birth. I'll make it happen though.

  3. You're not funny? Could have fooled me... that was some dry, dry wit.

    Excellent read.

  4. William, when it comes to your art I "gasp, swoon, and faint"--but strictly in a He-Man, no nonsense style. Must maintain at least a degree of decorum, you know.

    (Great post!)

    1. You, Arnie, are the decorum poster child but stay He-Man just for me. Thanks!

  5. Great article! And great teacher!!!! Thanks for being the best! Melody

  6. Great to see you on here, Bill! Thanks, Petar!

  7. wonderful! thanks for sharing! :)

  8. Thanks you all, Corey a lot of this is your fault. And Cathy, you'd be amazed at how many women say that to me.

  9. It's fun to hear about your gallery experience. I hadn't heard that kind of stuff about you before in class. You've pretty much made your own space to fit in. That is a really great thing. finding a voice is the hardest part for me as i try to develop as an illustrator, and I have this constant internal struggle about WHERE I WANT to fit. which of course then trips me up about what sort of "style" or medium to work in...its a vicious loop!

    thanks for the post, Bill.

  10. Great read. Your very distinctive, individual 'visual voice' is incredibly inspiring, as always.

  11. My mind is officially blown - apologies for not reading the text but was too captivated by te images:D....

  12. You have time Kyle, We'll talk more about it.

    Thanks again for the compliments. Hard to stand out here.

  13. Great post, Bill. I would have said something earlier but I haven't had the internet for about a month. It's actually been nice in some respect, keeps me from staring at great work and makes me make my own, crappier work.

    Ryan Johnson

  14. This is a REALLY inspiring post, Bill. Being an illustrator with dreams of a gallery life myself, that was pretty encouraging. And I cracked myself laughing - not that I don't take you seriously, but... you're just SO funny, man! ;^)

    Well, back to work - someday, the "some" will leave and the "day" will be right now.

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.


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