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The Violent Aura of Marshall Arisman

Todd Powelson

Chances are at some point you’ve come across at least one of Marshall Arisman’s editorial illustrations. His work has appeared in many nationally distributed magazines including Harper’s, the Nation, Time, U.S. News and World Report, and the New York Times Book Review. He is well known for violent and disturbing images.

Marshall Arisman insists that an artist needs to paint what they know, and when he was first starting his career, Marshall became known for drawing guns.

“I realized, when I was about 28, that the things I actually had knowledge of were guns and deer.
“I made a list of the things I felt I had real knowledge of. The first thing that came up on my list were cows. I was brought up on a dairy farm, and at 28 I had never drawn a cow. The second thing that came up on my list were deer. We hunted deer, we butchered deer, we ate deer, but I had never drawn one. The third thing that came up on my list were guns. My whole town had guns, everybody had a shotgun, my brother carries a gun. And I thought, that’s weird, I’ve never drew a gun. And the fourth thing that came up on my list was psychic phenomenon. My grandmother was a psychic.
“So I picked guns and started doing a series of drawings about guns, and then the series turned into violence that we do to ourselves, and violence we do to each other and suddenly at the end of that year I had 45 drawings about guns. And it never occurred to me that what I had was a portfolio.”*

He went on to publish these drawings as a book, and that book is what helped launch his career.

Marshall Arisman is also a painter, and was the first American invited to exhibit his artwork in mainland China. He’s the chair of the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Program at the School of Visual Arts, New York City. He has written and illustrated many of his own books, and been involved in translating and publishing other books including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Wolf Who Loved Music.

I love to look at Marshall Arisman’s images, and just wanted to share them today. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. | Marshall Arisman
Inside the Business of Illustration

* Zina Saunders (source)

Todd Powelson
Todd Powelson works as a Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Visual Artist.

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