Meeting Artist Simon Bull

Michael O. Varhola

Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet renowned artist Simon Bull and to spend a couple of days chatting with and getting to know him at a May 12-15 Park West Gallery event at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, Texas. Bull is known for having achieved commercial success in his lifetime, the holy grail for an artist, and to have done so with many elements of a broad and appealing creative portfolio. Amongst gamers and those who run in pop culture circles, of course, he is certainly best known for recently becoming licensed to paint D.C. Comics characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. 

Bull is notably bright and personable and it is pretty clear that it would be fun to talk with him about almost anything, but obviously it is especially enjoyable to hear his perspectives on art. During one of the presentations he gave at the event where I met him, for example, he talked about the relative scarcity of the color red in nature, as compared to how prevalent it is even in depictions of natural settings in his works and those of many other artists. 

One of the things that most impressed me about Bull was his appreciation for ancient art (and, conversely, I tend to be singularly unimpressed with creators in any field who opt not to know anything about their roots of their craft; e.g., if I knew a writer had never read the Odyssey I would have trouble enjoying anything they wrote, no matter how good it might seem at a glance). I was thus especially pleased to find myself having a conversation with him about the art of the Minoan people of the Aegean, and to hear him describing to me the details of their cultural connections between the ancient peoples of Crete and Egypt.

"I love pots!" he said of primordial artifacts and some people's tepid response to them. 

I was also pleased to be able to regale him with one thing related to that subject that he said he had not known previously (although there is a chance he was just being kind to me). That is one of my favorite art history revelations, namely that Minoan art did not feature deep-sea creatures like giant octopi until after the cataclysmic volcanic destruction of the island of Thera, c. 1,700 B.C., which led to such monsters being washed up on shores around the Mediterranean. 

One particularly fun thing Bull did during the weekend was to create four paintings in about 20 minutes during a demonstration of his prowess at Fleming's steak house in San Antonio, and anyone interested in seeing this impressive feat for themselves can check it out here

All in all, it was a great weekend, and the time I spent with Bull went a long way toward making it that way. Steel sharpens steel, as they say, and interacting with a creative spirit of his caliber was both a pleasure and a chance to re-hone my edge a little. Hopefully I gave some of that to him as well.