Though several years it appeared alongside delightfully snappy graphics in the Fort Wayne afternoon daily, the name Sam Minick might be familiar to many area residents. A Fort Wayne native who loves his small city, Minick started with the newspaper soon after his 1991 graduation from IPFW. But in 2008, at the urging of fellow illustrator Bryon Thompson, he left the paper to grow a freelance business and currently is a successful independent illustrator working primarily with publications such as Outdoor Life, MotorTrend and Smithsonian Magazine. (For examples of his illustrative style, visit www.samillustrations.com.)
At IPFW Minick studied in the fine art’s program with a major in graphic design.
“My graduating class was the last one to have classes down on Berry Street,” he says with pride, referring to when the college’s art department was still centered at the legendary downtown Fort Wayne Art School.
Minick received the best of both worlds in that program: a rigorous schooling in the principles of design and also classes in the traditional studio arts. He cites faculty members George McCullough and Norman Bradley, both noted painters, as having been particularly enjoyable and influential instructors.
So it comes as no surprise that Minick has been steadily developing a body of fine art as a personal sideline to his daily output of graphics for hire.
In his current show at the Firefly Coffeehouse, Old, New and Ultramarine Blue, it is easy to see how so many years as a graphic artist have informed his painting style. Each composition is taut and executed with aplomb. But there is nothing slick about their polish. Using acrylics for the most part, Minick presses his professional skills into high gear to kick up some fun.
An amusing conversationalist, Minick employs the kind of wit you’d expect from a guy with an intelligent eye. According to his artist statement, “The only common themes between the pieces is the pure escapism in creating them and the frozen moments of bliss they illustrate. Sam often creates work that is a window into promising comfort.”
The result is a retrospective array of creative, humorous and/or thoughtful canvases, each perfect in their individual conception and treatment. And you will feel quite comfortable at the Firefly.
His works on canvas manage the difficult trick of being both painterly and linear at the same time. He builds his images with layer upon layer of thin color, often over a wash of ultramarine blue (hence the exhibit title). This technique yields a soft, velvety finish to which highlights are added using a deft flourish of thicker paint to further embellish the surface.
His signature use of line, however, is what makes his paintings sing. And, oh, what a line: sinuous and quivering with rhythm and ever-changing intensity. In the hands of many artists, the use of such a contrasty, heavy outline would bring the image to a frozen halt, like leaded glass. In Minick’s hands, however, the undulating delineations seem to propel the image and suggest movement and energy.
Of course, in these works, the significant departure from his day job is in the selection and execution of the imagery itself.
“For my own work I’m sketching out of my own head,” he says. And he literally means sketching with pencil on paper, as opposed to his commercial illustrations which are done in the computer.
Having free rein flips the process for him. He is not shackled to a theme pre-determined by someone else; he just lets loose and allows the piece to make a natural evolution and then evaluates the result for a title. Exploration of this kind may lead into sci-fi fantasy (Minick is a big fan of the genre), magical landscapes or into pure experimentation with materials and paint.
In fact, the show at the Firefly contains some of the artist’s recent ventures into heavy impasto, like the wonderful textured surface of “Storm Giants.”
“Those pieces were totally experimental. I tried an acrylic modeling paste that I will surely use again; I love it. So, in all truthfulness i was playing with the medium’s potential on those paintings.”
In Old, New and Ultramarine Blue, we clearly see Minick playing with his own unfettered potential. The exhibit stays up through the month of August. The Firefly is open daily until 8 p.m., and you can see Sam Minick’s fine art any time at www.bluecanvas.com/minick.