by Ilana Kohn in New Illustration on Sunday 21 December 2008

I’ve admired the work of Portland illustrator S Britt for as long I can remember. I checked in with him recently and asked him what attracted him to the unique retro aesthetic that his work so clearly possesses: ‘Much like a small town débutante, or casaba melon, I feel that’s a label and a genre that’s been a bit overused and tossed around in the market these past few years. It seems like a lot of up and coming artists have jumped on the retro bandwagon, because they either see it gaining popularity or they don’t feel confident enough in creating their own unique style of art, like decorative macramé wall hangings! It’s not a particularly difficult type of art to ape, in some instances, but to lovingly create an homage to any category of art, be it illustration, music, taxidermy, or so on, you must first truly appreciate it, then learn to understand it and finally add your own personality into your work. It seems like a lot of art and animation schools are cranking out cookie cutter clones of Mary Blair and the Provensens, without any of the heart and vision that the original artists brought to their craft’.

‘I actually bristle at being categorized as a “retro artist,” because you eventually paint yourself into a corner that your fans may not follow you out of (if you ever do decide to change your style or experiment with livestock). There are some really great “modern-retro” artists out there that you’d swear just stepped out of the UPA studios, that I both envy and marvel at their talent. However, if I had to categorize my own work (other than “crude participant”), I’d feel more comfortable calling it vintage (as in “moth-eaten”) or classic (as opposed to New Coke), as in the type of art I loved as a child and still continue to admire. I’m not trying to recreate a specific era or decade with my work, but rather appease my spoiled inner childish critic and hopefully bring something new, yet oddly familiar-feeling into the world (like your favorite old footed pajamas or your childhood dog, soiling your favorite pajamas).

If you were to span the history of my artwork (and you’d be a sorry fool to do so!), you would see that my style really hasn’t changed all that much over the years, although hopefully I’ve learned a few things since creating the mascot for my fourth grade alma mater, the Jackson Keller Burrowing Deer Tick’s.

I have slowly seen the retro fad rise over the past few years, but I try not to focus too much on the trends, which would explain why I got such an excellent deal on my boss new Quement SWB-2 Ham radio!

If anybody else has got their “ears on,” you can always contact me before bedtime (8 PM) and we can shoot the breeze. Just ask for Wizard Glick’.

s britt