If you tuned in to the Order of the Arrow’s virtual Momentum Launch last month, you might’ve noticed an impressive work of art shown, titled Onward and Upward. Eagle Scout and National Order of the Arrow Subcommittee volunteer Joshua Hunt of Milwaukee, Wis., created the piece. It wasn’t the first time he’s displayed his Scouting-themed work.
Hunt, who earned the Eagle Scout Award with Troop 1008 in Green Bay, Wis., has served as the artist-in-residence for the 2017 National Scout Jamboree and 2018 National Order of the Arrow Conference. The Kon Wapos Lodge member’s involvement with the OA’s history committee led him to these roles. He had been illustrating the Scouting honor society’s history through art. These are moments already not depicted on canvas or in photographs, like the first induction ceremony in 1915 or the first Grand Lodge meeting in 1921.
The historical illustration assignments, housed in the OA’s conference museum, the Goodman Edson Observatory, shifted to commemorative paintings to capture present moments in Scouting.
I caught up with the art teacher via email to ask him 5 Quick Questions about his artistic work.
Did Scouting influence your pursuit of an artistic career?
Hunt: I fit the cliche that my experiences as a Scout ultimately led to my adult career. I was on summer camp staff, teaching merit badges and designing patches as an Order of the Arrow lodge officer. Through camp counseling, I developed a passion for working with young people and teaching life skills, which became one of the major reasons for pursuing an art education degree. While in college, the Boy Scouts of America recognized my passion for making art, and I began an internship to create historical drawings of the organization’s earliest milestones.
What are some of your favorite subjects and media to use?
Hunt: I take pride that my work does not rest solely on a single theme, subject or discipline. However, within my practice, I have a few long-standing interests, exemplified in my works for Scouting, which include traditional drawing and oil portraiture. Beyond the work I create for the BSA, I feel it is important for me to pursue new curiosities and innovate my practice. The last thing I want is to settle on a single method of practice.
Generally, a good starting point for an investigation is something either entertaining to me or personally relevant. Moreover, I enjoy artworks that are bizarre, gritty or contain dark humor; these types of artworks, because of their visceral nature, are more memorable and impactful.
Take me through your creative process.
Hunt: I am a firm believer that your first idea is rarely, if ever, your best idea. I begin projects by generating an array of quick thumbnail sketches before committing serious time and energy to a single concept. When a viable idea emerges, I prepare preliminary drawings, which are slightly bigger and more detailed, that illustrate my final proposal. I usually share these with friends or clients for feedback before I proceed further.
At this point, I generally create a full-scale layout — either hand-drawn or digital — that will directly inform my final composition. It may seem like these preparatory steps are meticulous but consider the process of painting a formal masterpiece may take several months to several years to consummate. Proper preparation saves time in the long run and guarantees a stronger final product with fewer pitfalls experienced along the way.
What are some pieces of your work that Scouts or Scouters may have seen recently?
Hunt: Within the last three years, my work has been displayed throughout the country, including the National Scouting Museum, 2017 National Scout Jamboree and the 2018 National Order of the Arrow Conference. At these national events, the display of my early history drawings have been paired with an artist-in-residency where I engage in painting while discussing my process with thousands of participants.
Notably, during the OA Momentum Launch, my recent painting, titled, Onward and Upward, was revealed as part of the remote broadcast. By all measures, this is the strongest painting I have created for the Scouts to date. The work, which depicts youth leadership, is expected to be physically on display at the next National Order of the Arrow Conference.
What advice would you have for Scouts interested in a similar career path?
Hunt: As a beginner, do not be overly intimidated by others’ work. Over time, through research and dedication, you will gradually unlock the mysteries of producing great work yourself. For me, becoming a confident realist painter, it took about a decade of practice and study.
Don’t care what anyone else thinks about your work. The only person you should ever try to impress with what you make is yourself. Let the world catch up to you, not the other way around.
Don’t worry about having a signature style right away. Do not fret, if you simply follow your interests, your authentic voice will develop intuitively.
Importantly, the work you make should not be a carbon copy of someone else’s. Avoid matching someone else’s style, or think that your work should look like theirs. It’s great to learn from others and to admire their accomplishments, but being a great artist is all about developing your own voice. Your background, idiosyncrasies and perceived shortcomings are your strongest assets.