Edward Binkley, artist interview

I love it when an artist so clearly enjoys inhabiting the world he creates. I ran into these drawings by Edward Binkley in Spectrum 16 and was immediately touched by their easy humor and impeccable craft. Edward graciously agreed to answer a few questions below. You can see more of his artwork on his website and in his Tor.com gallery.

Edward BinkleyDo you remember the first time you knew you wanted to be an artist?
I drew a lot as a little kid but I used to make a drawing, show it to my Mom, then completely erase it and make another drawing on the same paper. As soon as she found out she started taking them from me and gave me lots more paper. She passed away when I was young, but when I left home for college another relative handed me a box and said to open it when I got to school. In the box I found four-hundred drawings I had done before age seven. I think that moment was pivotal, although I believe I never seriously considered any other career.

How do you feel your schooling prepared you for real life?
It didn’t, and that’s why I teach the way I do. I teach animation and concepting at the technical college in Madison, Wisconsin, and it’s a perfect fit. We prepare students for work as professional artists.

Do you have a clear image in your mind when you’re sketching or do you start abstractly and let the process of doodling take over?Edward Binkley
Usually the latter. Sometimes I scribble until I see something, and that something can suggest an entire narrative. Then that narrative begins to feed on itself and the illustration takes over. It’s a lot of fun when that happens.

Your biggest influences?
These change over the years of course, but Rembrandt and Arthur Rackham above all, then the Northern Renaissance artists Van Eyck, Brueghel, and Holbein. I also love the work of many contemporary artists like Andrej Dugin, Mark Ryden, and Peter Milton. The creations of Bach and Shakespeare always stay with me, and lately the book Little, Big by John Crowley has had a tremendous effect on my thinking and my work.

Favorite painting you did in the past year?
That’s easy—”Desideratum.” [Top left image.] It was the first image I’ve done in which I felt everything came together without some sort of struggle—the composition, the line and value work, the concept. Some of my other illustrations may have more appeal or are more narrative or more complex, but they don’t quite have the unity I felt in that one.

Dream assignment?
To write and illustrate my own picture book. Problem is I’m apparently not as much of a writer as I am an illustrator.

What painting do you wish you painted?
Wow, there are lots. I’ve always loved the Rembrandt 1659 self-portrait (at the British National Museum) and the “Arnolfini Wedding Portrait” by Van Eyck. I think Brueghel’s village scenes with something profound (biblical, historical, mythological) happening in a little corner are fascinating. His “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” is poignant and humorous, and even the title suggests how tragedy is personal and happens unnoticed around us all the time. It inspired poems by Auden and William Carlos Williams. I’ve always made art with a narration to it (at least in my head) and I absolutely love that connection between visual art and beautiful writing. So maybe I’d choose that one, Brueghel’s “Landscape.”

What are you working on now?
I’m beginning some single-character maquette sculptures along the lines of my illustrations, and I’m having a blast. I used to do a lot of sculpture but not in the last ten years or so, and it’s really fun to get back into it.

Advice to a young illustrator?
Maybe some advice for illustration students: The computer is a powerful tool, but don’t think that it will compensate for poor basic skills and old-fashioned practice. Take the time to learn foundation skills—composition, solid drawing, anatomy, perspective, all the stuff that’s out of vogue at many art schools—and then determine your passion and work, work, work.

Edward Binkley


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