Edsel Arnold is a licensed Wheel of Time artist, widely recognized for his Art Nouveau-influenced style. His art is featured in The Wheel of Time Companion. Edsel has been exhibiting his art at JordanCon since 2013.
How did you first discover art, or that you wanted to create art yourself?
I’ve always been drawn to the arts. When I was in kindergarten I did a drawing of the Gerber baby food kid…does that date me? I’ve really been drawing that long.
My parents drove me half an hour away to UGA for art classes when I was in Junior High, and I was always taking a pottery class or some such in the summer. In high school I convinced myself that Architecture would be a more practical career than painting. I enrolled at Georgia Tech, where ironically my favorite classes were the required art classes for my degree. I think if I had been at the Savannah College of Art & Design, which didn’t have an Architecture program at the time, I would have switched majors to art.
Throughout my architectural career, I never lost the artist’s itch, and I spent my free time painting backdrops, or sculpting rocks, or illustrating sets for plays, or designing posters for different events. Eventually, I tested the waters for a painting career by switching from design architect to interior illustrator at a firm that created high-end house plans for “Southern Living” and “Colonial Home” magazines. I had to watercolor one room a week, and as long as I kept to the floor plan, I could design and paint whatever else I wanted in the room.
I loved working as an illustrator, and I only went back into Architecture when I was adopting my children, and a friend offered me more money to help him out. The job he gave me has served me well and provided my family with security, but as much as I love architecture, the practical and financial aspects tarnish the creative joy. On the other hand when I’m creating art, it’s completely about the imagination, not anything “practical”. The idea that anything is possible really invigorates and drives me, so I guess I’ll never lose the art bug.
How long have you considered yourself an artist?
Interesting question. Most of my life I’ve wanted to be an artist, but actually I consider myself a designer. And for a time I wondered if being a designer was inferior, but recently I’ve embraced it as part of my aesthetic style. I think I’m an artist more in the sense of Alphonse Mucha from the Art Nouveau period, or the Arts and Crafts Movement painters and architects or the Disney/Pixar animators, or Tiffany or Faberge. I’ve realized I’ve always admired these people as artists and designers. I like the way the Japanese don’t distinguish between the fine arts and the graphic arts the way we do in the West. I’ll admit that the first time I heard my youngest daughter tell someone I was “an artist” instead of an architect, I was on Cloud 9!
Which artist do you find most inspirational? Why?
Easy… although I’m drawn to many of the artists of the Golden Age of Illustration and current Fantasy Art greats, the two artists that influence me the most are Alphonse Mucha and William Adolphe Bouguereau. I respond to both of these artists because of the grace of line and extreme beauty present in all their works.
Are you a fan of the Wheel of Time? If not, what is your favorite book or series?
Oh, I’d say I’m a big fan. I was a LOTR fanatic, and read voraciously looking for that next fantasy high, but not quite finding it. Robert Jordan’s world building and character development in WOT made it the first series to capture my attention and affection in the same way. I typically keep one of the books in my backpack as a casual reread. Nynaeve and Mat are my favorite Two Rivers characters, though I hated Mat at first. Moiraine, and Verin are my two other favorites.
How did you get started creating Wheel of Time art?
Through the years, I started to paint religious and fairy tale watercolors just for myself. About the time Robert Jordan left us and Harriet engaged Brandon to finish The Wheel of Time, I came across a quote from Ellen DeGeneres that said, “If you’re not doing what you really want to do, you must not really want to do it.” I thought, I really want to create art and be known for that, and so I tasked myself with creating “Pink Ribbons” and showing it to Harriet and Brandon at their first book signing in Atlanta. I was so pleased with the way it turned out that I decided I would make it a goal to eventually retire from Architecture into painting full time. My youngest finishes college in 9 years, so that’s my “at least by…” goal!