Jason Herzog is the type of artist who leaves you saying, "Holy crap I wish I could do that with a Bic pen and Photoshop."
A tour through his Web site (jzog.com) reveals masterful sketches, accomplished paintings and eerily entertaining digital media works. Still, the Boulder-based illustrator feels he, like other artists who work with computers, has to fight for respect.
"There's still a stigma around digital media," Herzog says. "People still think the computer is doing most of the work. I think it needs to be recognized more as a fine art method."
Herzog, who starts his portrait illustrations from sketches, then brings them into the computer for refinement, cites the machine as a mere tool for manipulating artwork. He prefers to finish his works by bringing traditional media, such as watercolor or oil paint, back into the final print. Often, Herzog says, he will save multiple versions of a work, so he can branch out from but also safely return to different stages.
"Digital media is pretty forgiving," he says, "but oil painting is really just as easily reworkable." Herzog will sometimes spend up to 80 hours on a piece, only to end up cropping it down to a 10-hour segment for the final. "It's like doing a sculpture and then cutting off the head to use the rest."
The majority of Herzog's artwork relates to figures, drawn mostly in public as sketch-exercises or in the studio but rarely, if ever, from photos. "When you are drawing people that are talking to you and moving around, it adds more life to the work," he says.
As one of about 50 participating Nocturnal Mockery 4 artists, Jason Herzog approaches the annual show to which he's contributed since its first year with exclusive works that are constructed in subtle ways upon his past NocMoc entries. This year, he will contribute a series of four commonly themed portraits, the subject of which he prefers that viewers decipher for themselves.
"It's an evolution ... every year I look at the previous year and try to step things up a notch and push myself further," says Herzog. "It's always a challenge to do something way better than before."
Herzog graduated from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and now manages an art gallery in Boulder. Coming from a traditionally trained approach, the artist has had to find a balance in his work, which now fits more into a graphic design category.
"A lot of graphic-design, art-school dropouts find they don't want to go into commercial work because they'll lose their freedom, so they take their training and use it in a fine-art way fusing and branching together the methods," he says.
Nocturnal Mockery 4
Cedars Cigars & Jazz Club, 3125 Sinton Road
June 9-11; Friday, 5 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, noon to midnight and Sunday, noon to 7 p.m.
Admission: $5 per day; call 578-5744 for more information.