Artist transforms alphabet with intricate illustrations

Artist Victor Stabin visited Geneseo on Thursday April 21 to talk about his one-of-a-kind work and to display his illustrations in an exhibition entitled “Daedal Doodle,” which is currently on display in the MacVittie College Union room 319. Stabin walked chronologically through his lifetime of experience in art, which was accompanied by a slideshow of his many illustrations. Some of the earliest works were explorations “with a pen and paper and cross-hatching” from when he was 16 years old and a student at the High School of Art & Design in New York City.

“Where I really learned to draw was on the subway in New York City,” Stabin said. He would sketch his fellow commuters on his ride to and from school. In addition, Stabin went on to attend both the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California and the School of Visual Arts in New York City before dropping out to work as an illustrator.

It was at age 26—when Stabin had been a full-time illustrator for four years—that he received the opportunity of a lifetime: classic rock band KISS reached out to him for an illustration. KISS wished for Stabin to design the cover of their album Unmasked.

“As an illustrator, most of the time you work for all these different people, but you can’t tell anyone who you work for because no one’s really familiar with your clients,” Stabin said. For this job, though, Stabin received great recognition from places as far as Hong Kong.

Around this time, Stabin also painted a mural for RCA Records. His favorite part of the painting was an illustration that showed “somebody riding a bull at a rodeo waving a guitar around and splashing into the water.” When he pointed it out to the head of RCA Records, though, Stabin was forced to take the bull out. But when he delivered the mural to be installed months later, he learned that the man who made him change his mural had been fired. Stabin regrets not leaving the bull in.

Once he reached his early 30s, Stabin realized that the majority of his illustrations were blue. He decided to start changing his style and painted a series of portraits with a yellow color scheme instead. These portraitures later led to a job illustrating stamps for the United States Postal service.

At this point in his life, Stabin was faced with an enduring battle against cancer. After two years of chemotherapy, he decided to stop illustrating. But this was nearly impossible for him. “As soon as you say, ‘I’m never gonna do this again,’ the next day someone calls you up and says, ‘Do this,’ and you say, ‘Okay, great!’” Stabin said.

Stabin then began to paint for himself, rather than for other people. His “love [for] the area where water meets land” was part of the inspiration for his “Turtle Series” gallery, which includes paintings such as “Tom Over Manana,” “Fearful Symmetry” and “Fish Ferris Wheel.” The series heavily features depictions of both turtles and his family.

Stabin published his book Daedal Doodle in 2011. Inspired by his two-year-old daughter’s use of large words he taught her like “megalomaniac,” he pored through the Oxford English Dictionary in search of esoteric words. The result was a book of alliterative phrases and the illustrations that accompany them. For the letter A, the phrase “Apperceptive achatina” is displayed alongside definitions for each word and a sketch of a snail peeking into a mirror.

Providing an interesting twist on an alphabet book, Stabin uses Daedal Doodle to show that the alphabet and illustrations are not just for adults or for children—they are enjoyable for everyone.