I have had a fairly long career now and feel very fortunate for that. In that time I've met so many amazing artists and some wonderful people. Illustrators are fun to be around, though most are sardonically dark, suspicious, and ultimately so unpredictable. Illustrators are a passionate group and have a great spirit and energy. I've met many impressive folks. Of all the people I've ever met however, none have impressed me more than Marc Burckhardt. This is a fan letter.
Marc is a uniquely talented illustrator who continues to grow as an artist and pour his knowledge and enthusiasm into his work. Marc is also possibly the artist with the most sense, the most integrity. Everyone calls Marc for all kinds of advice. Part of his ability is to weigh any issue and make the most reasoned decision. I've watched Marc write eloquently about our industry and issues surrounding it. He is one that can disagree with someone without being disagreeable.
Earlier this year I received a phone call from Anelle Miller, director of the Society of Illustrators. She told me that Marc won the Hamilton King Award. She knew I would pump my fist and shout my enthusiastic approval upon hearing that news. I hung up and called a stunned and humbled Marc Burckhardt. He was at a loss for words but clearly moved deeply.
Marc then gave me an award that no one else will win and one that makes me extremely proud. He asked me to speak about him on Friday night, June 24th at the President's Dinner at the Society of Illustrators when Marc is given his award.
Finally, below is the piece I wrote for the upcomming Society of Illustrators Annual, soon to be published.
What does it take to be an illustrator and artist who will be remembered as one of the greats? We all know that there is a steady winnowing down from the great pool of little artists that begin making art as children. Some continue through art school; even fewer finally make it into the highly selective and rarified world that combines art and commerce. It takes inner drive, character and the taste to succeed. Marc Burckhardt is one who has what it takes. He is an artist of unequaled talent and skill, who follows his own path and, in his own way, is redefining what an illustrator can be. Marc grew up in Waco, Texas, though he spent his summers in Germany. He drew inspiration from the refinement of Flemish painters and folk art—a unique pairing he alone would combine. Over his career has received numerous awards from Communication Arts, American Illustration, Print, Graphis and several Gold and Silver Medals from the Society of Illustrators. Clients are all top notch and include Rolling Stone, TIME, Sony Records, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and many others. In 2010, Marc was named the official state artist by the Texas State Legislature and the Texas Commission on the Arts. He served as the president of ICON, and is on the advisory board of 3X3. The chairman of the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition,Illustrators 47, he is also on the Society’s museum committee. The art that Marc creates is both unique and ubiquitous, simultaneously new and old. He makes ideas you’ve never seen before look as if they’ve always been on earth. Marc loves museums, and somewhere in his formation, his admiration for vintage set in. Perhaps it’s not only that his work would hang in galleries and museums, but so it would appear as if the work had hung there for ages. Marc’s illustrations convey many things, but one overriding element is that each piece of art is important, iconic and a solid part of history. To me, Marc as a person is a masterpiece. It’s widely understood in our industry that Marc is thought of as a sage and that he charts a course for many artists, both artistically and professionally. He is an independent thinker who makes reasoned and measure decisions. I don’t think a week goes by where someone is not contacting him with a career question. All of this lays out a case for an illustrator of substance, of a man who is admired and whose career is one for the record books. Still, it is in an even more rarified group he’s now in: a Hamilton King Award recipient. Although the award is for a single illustration, it is understood that it also represents an appreciation for a career of meaningful art. Marc could have won this award for at least a decade, and if this were an award that could be won more than once, he would soon be building a shelf in his Austin home. Marc does not do this artwork alone, however. Marc has Janice, his wife. They work together, travel and dream together. Janice cares for Marc in the most loving way, and when Marc tells a story, it’s not “I” but “Janice and I.” They are truly a well-knit couple. I celebrate Marc’s successes, but in one way I find myself feeling tinge of jealousy. In the morning Janice wakes up, takes their beloved schnauzer, Gertie, outside. She makes coffee and Gertie grabs the paper and together they walk to Marc’s bedside to present him this cup and paper to start his day. It is the kind of advantage that seems unfair but Marc is my friend and I am learning to celebrate this particular success. So now, on behalf of so many fellow illustrators who love Marc and admire him, let me congratulate him on the Hamilton King Award. He inspires us and raises the bar for everyone.
Tim O’Brien Hamilton King Award Winner, 2009
Marc and Janice
YES, their beloved Gertie. The top of the food chain.