Norman Rockwell Did It, and So Do We


I recently went to the Norman Rockwell exhibit at my local art museum, The Frist in Nashville, TN. I was blown away by the whole experience. Seeing Rockwell’s originals was amazing. I examined them so closely that a guard had to ask me to step back. I made sure to get the audio tour, and I was pleased to discover that the narrator was one of Rockwell’s sons. It was great to get first hand stories and insight into Norman Rockwell, his art, and his career.

A lot has been written about Norman Rockwell, and every artist has an opinion on him. I’m not going to go into that here, but two things that I experienced at the exhibit stand out as worth mentioning. The first was that the age range of people at the museum to see Norman Rockwell’s art was vast, from babies to senior citizens. It was fascinating to see history illustrated, and that’s exactly what Rockwell’s art is.

In particular I loved watching the elderly folks talk about their experiences with the art. They would point at a painting and then tell the people with them about where they were and what they were doing when that poster or this magazine came out. It was amazing to see Rockwell’s art come to life through the stories of the people who experienced it when it débuted.

The second thing that struck home for me was how much my life and the life of all my illustrator friends so closely mirrors Rockwell’s. He worked from 8am to 5:30pm, with a break for lunch and his afternoon coke. He did this seven days a week. He spent countless hours collecting costumes and reference material. Working tirelessly to find the perfect model, take the right photograph, and get the pose just right. He described his art as “storytelling,” being far more concerned with telling a tale than participating in “modern art.”

We live in a time with many technical advantages, and yet for the most part illustrators still work the way Rockwell did. I’m often asked “how to make it as an artist?” or “how I improved so quickly?” Well I think Rockwell is the best example for both. If you work on your art every day for 8-10 hours a day, you will get better. Art technique can be taught, but that kind of passion is what it takes.

I hope you all find your passions, and if you live anywhere near Nashville, TN don’t miss the Rockwell exhibit at the Frist.


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