Hey so The Shape of Water’s been nominated for Oscars, and there’s a general consensus that it’s a pretty good movie! I liked it for the same reasons as everyone else, as well as one very specific personal reason: it had one of the most realistic depictions of a working artist that I’ve ever seen in a movie.
Minor, very minor spoilers to follow
Giles is an illustrator and during the course of the movie he’s working on assignment for an ad for Jello. He does the illustration, it looks nice, he’s pleased with it, it fits the assignment as it was given to him, and then when he goes to turn the illustration in this happens:
Art Director: Actually, we want the jello to be red.
Giles: But you said green
Art Director: Now we want it red. And the family needs to be happier. Actually we’re going to get a photo instead, thanks for trying.
Dude. Duuuuuude. The only way that would be more reflective of my experience as a commercial artist would be for the art director to change his mind back and ask for it to be green again. I appreciate this so much. It was a small detail but it sold the movie to me as something that seemed possible despite the fantastic nature of the plot. It was a refreshing change from the artist Tormented By His Muse without any apparent need to, y’know, pay the rent.
Look don’t get me wrong, I love art, I am utterly unsuited to any job that isn’t art, but it’s also my job. I recently read a book on the history of the area surrounding the North Sea during the Dark Ages (I highly recommend it by the way) and it had a bit about the commercial art industry of the time.
“They [Florentines] bought work on panels, the masterpieces we still know but they also bought paintings on cloth, the kind that can be ‘wrapped around a rod’ for easy transport. Antwerp sent these out everywhere, dozens of them to England and once a ‘barrelful’. They sold perhaps 2,500 in the course of fifty years.” -p300
The whole idea of creating art for mass reproduction /consumption tends to gets overlooked, even though it’s been around for as long as people have wanted to decorate their homes or their books or their advertisements. There are different ways to make a career as an artist and it’s nice to see this acknowledged in a major film
And, because I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t using this post as an excuse for some fan art, here’s the full painting of the Fish Man: