Some artists expand their craft through a structured classroom education, first obtaining a degree in art followed by additional classes throughout their art career. Other artists come into their own by figuratively being tossed into the deep end of the pool—given opportunities to create art that are beyond their immediate expertise. Acrylic artist Harry Borgman is just such a deep-end artist. In the Summer 2016 issue of Acrylic Artist we introduced you to Borgman and shared the story of his spectacularly diverse art career. Working as an illustrator, storyboard designer, art director, art instructor, and even writing his own textbooks, Borgman just kept swimming back up to the top of the art-world waters. We caught up with Borgman and talked about his art life of challenges and evolutions.
Acrylic Artist: You’ve received outstanding art instruction, but tell us about those times when you felt pushed beyond your ability or experience and how that discomfort helped you grow.
Harry Borgman: From a very early age I had guidance from intensely caring teachers. Some sent me to other schools with special art teachers after my high school art classes. One teacher even sent me to attend special classes in the Detroit Art Museum on Saturdays. My high school art teacher, Margaret Stein, saw that I was only drawing with pencil in black and white. She sat me down at the window with a set of watercolors and brush and instructed me: “Paint!” Surprisingly I did just that. She was tough and demanding, but I learned an awful lot from her. Stein instilled a sense of wonder in me. It seemed to me that anything was possible and it was also interesting to attempt new ways of creating art. Failing never seemed to discourage me.
AA: We often hear about performing artists reinventing themselves to stay relevant. If not for your willingness and ability to reinvent yourself, do you think you would be an artist with an illustrious career?
HB: I had a very long 60-year career as an advertising artist because I was able to change and do different things. As the illustration business diminished I worked in graphic design, even became an art director at Campbell Ewald on the Chevrolet account. Later I worked as a storyboard artist, something many illustrators refused to do. As far as fine art goes I always did paintings throughout my whole career as a commercial artist. Doing so helped me a great deal when I moved to Paris, France, where I began working immediately and entered many fine-art exhibitions. I just love working and experimenting in the fine arts.
AA: What advice do you have for artists who may have become too comfortable in their work?
HB: Challenge yourself. I’m very active, working every day. I especially enjoy experimenting because I get tired of doing the same thing. This experimentation, of course, confuses art critics and galleries because people like to pigeonhole everyone. I have always fooled around creating sculpture from an early age. My wife, Jeanne, always thought that I was a better sculptor than a painter. I’m not sure if I agree with her, but I do enjoy both mediums and especially enjoy working on the computer.