Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I met with my favorite professor from college last week for a cup of coffee. My instructor, Elsa Warnick has supported herself through art for the last 40+ years. She was a fine artist for the first 10 or so, then migrated over to Illustration as she had a knack for the narrative. Her work is light and airy, delicate watercolors that let paint play on paper. They are not complicated, they are approachable and kind. For years Elsa had a busy phone, ringing with projects. Her mailing list was extensive and the Art Directors in publishing knew her well. However, with the advent of stock art, a cheap substitute for custom art, her phone started ringing less and the mailing list was met with fewer responses. As we discussed the state of the current economy Elsa was quick to admit she is a dinosaur. That her contemplative style of delicate paintings, drawings that tell the story in one stroke, is all but lost in these new times. 

I asked how she was getting by, and she told me little projects still came and went, but she lived mostly off of an IRA that was quickly diminishing. In listening to Elsa, and thinking about how she has managed to persist, it made me sad that her skill-set was going away. The same as the typesetters. I don't think she can reinvent herself now. She is an old dog that doesn't know how to begin learning new tricks, and is the first to admit it. She is an artist, she bleeds paint. Like almost everyone over 65, the computer is non-intuitive and elusive technology.

After I left our coffee, we both gave one last look over our shoulders at one another. I was met with mixed emotions, one of sadness for my friend, and one of gratitude that I embrace technology and try to utilize it in my art, hopeful that this will keep me from becoming a dinosaur someday.

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