In anticipation of our Illustration Intensive, we’re presenting a series of interviews with our fabulous faculty. Here, we spotlight artist Howard Lyon.
You’ve run workshops for years through your own Lyon Arts Studio. What should artists keep in mind when attending a workshop?
Something that I tell my students when I have taught past workshops is to put any stresses away for the week. Enjoy the time painting. The goal will be to gain knowledge, not to paint a masterpiece. Sometimes those who gain the most from the workshop don’t actually even finish a painting, let alone do their best work. Don’t base your success in the workshop off of how well your work stacks up to the person next to you. I have seen people get stressed and depressed if they feel their work isn’t measuring up to those around them. Come to the workshop relaxed and ready to take in as much information as you can! Whatever you can get done, great! Build relationships and work hard, but know that what you learn will be much more valuable than what you finish.
You’re able to create stunning pieces of art, both traditionally and digitally. How important is it for illustrators to be versatile in today’s illustration field?
I find that using digital tools in my creation process for traditional works allows me to iterate faster, go through more ideas, and arrive at something I am happy with, sooner. I also think that utilizing 3D modeling tools to generate reference for oil paintings also expands the boundaries of my imagination. I think it is important to embrace the tools available to us, use them and see what works, and then put aside any distractions. Be versatile but determine what you need in order to produce the best art you can.
You spend a lot of time developing your artistic skills, especially through regular portrait sessions in your studio. Why is continuing education a staple in your life and why should the rest of us consider it?
I think that above anything else, the thing that makes me most excited as an artist is the opportunity to improve. I don’t think I will ever be 100% satisfied with a painting, but that is acceptable as long as I am improving. Speaking specifically about painting from life, when you are limited in the amount of time you have to just a few hours, you are forced to make decisions as to what is most important with each stroke. You have to decide how to simplify the information in front of you and deliver it on canvas. It trains your mind to work quickly and efficiently, and it has had a great impact on my easel work. I believe it is the fastest way to improve.
What mentors, books, or philosophy has helped you along your artistic journey?
Be generous, not jealous. Be kind to yourself and view others with empathy. Give when you can and accept help when it comes your way. Many artists have been examples to me along the way and helped me move upwards in my journey. I don’t believe I have ever been held back by helping someone else forward. Share your insights and experience and don’t guard your secrets. The book Imaginative Realism by James Gurney is, in my opinion, the best book on how to go from an idea to a finished painting. I also love Norman Rockwell Illustrator.
Do you have any current or upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
I am working on a Christmas picture book that will come out in 2019. I have never done a picture book, and the opportunity came across my path, and I had to take it. By the time the Illustration Intensive comes around, I hope to be able to share images and details for it. I am also working on a medium sized painting, 24”x40”, that evokes the era and artists I love so much from the 19th century. Here is a shot of the painting in progress.
Howard Lyon began his career studying illustration at Brigham Young University working with artists such as Robert Barrett, Don Seegmiller and James Christensen. Over the past 21 years he has worked in the video game industry as an art director, concept artist, freelance illustrator and gallery artist. For much of his career he painted dragons and trolls or scenes from science fiction. His work can be found in products from Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering, and Star Wars. He has studied art in Italy, France, and most recently at the Grand Central Academy in New York. Howard creates work in the fantasy illustration market, for fine art galleries, as well as religious and inspirational art markets. Howard has a passion for learning and studying the artists of the past and their working methods.