[ July 14, 2009 ]
John Perlock may have been born 100 years too late but he's making the best of it. John is an illustrator whose work is heavily influenced by the painters and illustrators from the beginning of the 20th century. Not just in style and subject matter but in the physical painting process. John paints in oil on panel just like the illustrators of the Golden Age and almost every other painter in those few thousand years prior to acrylic paint. His work has appeared in magazines and book covers, on packages, and in advertising campaigns throughout North America. Sometimes his work is strictly contemporary but more often it has a retro twist incorporating the look of pulp magazines, vintage horror posters, classic advertising and popular works of art.
How did you find illustration?
I first became aware of illustration in art school. I discovered the illustration students work in the school hallways while trying to figure out what to do with my painting talents. It was exciting work and seemed to be a more practical choice than the fine art career that I originally hoped for. I began studying the work of many illustrators. The Golden Age of illustration really called to me. J.C Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and Dean Cornwell were brilliant painters. The illustration program turned out to be a perfect choice.
Are these still the artists that inspire your work?
Yes but there are many more. I'm a big art fan in general, not just illustration. I love the Ashcan Painters and the Regionalists like Grant Wood. I've repainted Grant Wood's "American Gothic" for two separate magazine covers in the past few years and I'm curious to see how close I got. I also listen to tons of music and recently have been experimenting with photography. This is all a part of what keeps my brain going even if it isn't always obvious in my work. I try to store it all away. You never know when circus posters, prison slang or Elvis' '68 Comeback Special will come in handy. It's like hearing a Cole Porter record crackling over a Woody Allen movie. Somehow the 60+ years between the two allow them to breathe new life into one another. I love that.
Speaking of old verses new, how does an oil painter work in an age of computer illustration?
My work is created in almost exactly the same way as an illustration was prior to the 1960s, oil on board or canvas. I now use the computer to have more control of the final art in post production. In the past my work was sent to a photographer who shot a 4" x 5" negative which would then be scanned and color corrected by other people. Now the artwork is photographed digitally and I get the raw photos to color correct myself. The reproductions are much better and it's unbelievably fast. An Art Director can have the print ready artwork on their computer within a couple hours of the final brushstrokes. The fear was the computer would put me out of business but technology is making it so that I can provide a hand painted image to a client easier than ever before. I've fine tuned my process so that working with me is essentially the same as working with a digital illustrator. My oil paint has become a style more so than a medium.
What have been some of your favourite projects?
Next year makes it 10 years as an illustrator so there have been a lot of projects. I've created ads for clients such as the US Navy, Nintendo, Pepsi and Workopolis, Chapman's Ice Cream containers, a cover for St. Martin's Press, Christmas cards for the Luxor Casino and BMW and a 5 year long series for Boys' Life Magazine. Currently, I'm working on an exciting year long project with Maisonneuve Magazine. The most memorable I guess was a campaign I worked on with BBDO New York. General Electric was promoting their new green technologies and together we altered a number of Audubon's prints to incorporate these products. It was a smart concept and a perfect match for me. The campaign was well received and won a World Press and a One Show Award. I'm proud to have been a part of that.
So what's on the agenda for 2010?
I have no idea. I could be painting just about anything, it depends on who calls. I'm a creative person but there are many images in my portfolio that wouldn't exist if a client hadn't called with a project. My portfolio features images of severed feet, Buddha in hockey gear and elves assembling SUVs because of what both the client and I have contributed to the final idea. I'm very grateful to them for that.
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