Charles “Chuck” Gilliam
Ever since I was a small boy I wanted to be an artist. Fortunately for me, my Mom and Dad encouraged my art. From kindergarten forward I was drawing whatever struck my fancy. By high school I knew that this was what I wanted to be. So when it was time to go to college I selected Fine Arts as my major. Then I joined the Air Force. Even there I was fortunate to go into a career field that would lead me on a path for the next 45+ years that would allow me to do my art. I became a graphic artist and illustrator. After the service I went back to college and continued to work towards my Fine Arts degree. Finally, in 1978 I enrolled at Georgia State University in Atlanta working on a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree in illustration. I was extremely lucky to have an instructor that was a professional illustrator, both of children’s books and architectural rendering. He was an inspiration to me and many others. Plus we had a Dean, Joseph Perrin, who was an exceptional colorist and was kind enough to share with me his perspective on color and how to get the best effects with color. All of this added to my ability to create exciting graphic designs and illustrations. And so, after graduation with my degree, I pursued this line of work as a vocation.
But along the way I continued to develop my illustration skills. I had to paint a story. I wanted the viewer to look at my work and see a story. I know this comes from my doing illustrations for advertising and books. Each illustration had to tell the story of the product being sold, and so it is with each of my paintings. I paint the image with a story in mind, and with the hope that as you look at my work you will write your own story and thereby connect with the painting.
Over the years I have met and made friends with a lot of outstanding artists like George Boutwell, an artist in Texas, and Bart Forbes who in one way or another have been an inspiration to me. Plus, I continue to study the art and techniques of some of arts most famous painters, from Leonardo da Vinci to Charlie Russell and Howard Pyle. All of these great artists have inspired me in one way or another. I have learned a lot and continue to learn from them and many others. I truly believe that an artist must never stop learning for their art endeavors to grow. And it is through this growth that they can accomplish wonderful things.
As for me, I began to utilize color pencil (Prismacolor) as my main medium to work in around 2010. I have found this to be an exciting medium and one which allows me to execute my subjects in a way that catches the imagination. I have concentrated many of my paintings on the MiTientes Pastel Paper in its many color selections. I have found that by using a color paper that helps to accentuate the colors in the painting I am able to produce a more vigorous image. For some other paintings, especially the ones done in graphite, the Canson Bristol paper works very well for me and my style. But as I have said earlier, an artist must continue to study and grow as they work towards being the best they can be. So I am constantly on the lookout for new surface to work on and see what kind of image I can achieve. Artists like Helen Bailey and Linda Lucas Hardy have been two more artists working in color pencil that have helped to motivate me to try new pencils and surfaces. I continue to experiment with this medium as I continue to grow in my artistic endeavors.
As for my subject I have always been drawn towards the cowboy. Growing up in the fifties I was always watching the westerns on TV. I loved their way of looking at the world. They were honest and true to the Code of the West. They were strong in their devotion to the land that they worked whether it be on the open range or in the corral. They respected the land. Sure there were bad guys but that only added to the image of strong righteous men, and women, who understood their place in the sun. I continue to look for those characters who to me epitomize the West and its best.
And finally one last thought. What has been a most interesting journey for me is the one that has developed alongside my painting the West. I have begun to write poems that go with many of my paintings. It began as a way of giving words to a painting to help tell the story. But along the way the poems began to write themselves as an inspiration for a new painting. This has become a exciting extension of my painting. I many cases the words go hand-in-hand with the painting and I am enjoying the “whole” process of creating even more.
So, never forget painting is a growth process for every artist. Never be content with what you have done. Always look towards the future and what you can do. Always study and learn. Your art can only get better.
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