May Art in the Café Artist: Todd Cummings

Born and raised in Bennington, Todd Cummings has lived his entire life in Vermont, save for a few years in San Francisco. After living there with his wife for a few years, he returned to his home state, where he spends plenty of time in the outdoors, surrounded by inspiration. We spoke with him about that love of the outdoors and how it influences his art.

In what ways do you enjoy the natural beauty of Vermont?

I spend a lot of time enjoying Vermont’s outdoors year-round. Canoe camping, fishing, hiking, motorcycling, boating, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, campfires in the backyard. The list goes on…safe to say that I spend as much time outdoors as possible. My wife and I also have a sleeping porch and an outdoor shower for the short summer months!

Have you always been an artist? If not, when did you start?

I am an illustrator, freelance graphic designer, photographer, and artist. I studied illustration at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA. I have been drawing and creating art my whole life. It is my true passion and what I live for.

Was there a specific moment of inspiration that started your artistic pursuits?

I think I realized that I had a talent for drawing and creating art early on and decided when I was a young adult that I could make a living at it. I have worked as a professional graphic designer/ illustrator for 20+ years and recently decided that I wanted to make a go of it with my own work. I still freelance to supplement my Forest City Designs work but someday soon will make the transition to selling my own work exclusively.  

What exactly are giclée printed sketches? What does that mean and how are they created?

“Giclée” is a French term, which means to spray ink. The pronunciation of giclée is “zhee-clay.” Essentially a giclée is the reproduction of an original 2-dimensional work of art using a highly specialized inkjet printer.

My process begins with a specific destination or memory of an outdoor place that I love and know others have a fondness for as well. A mountain I have hiked, a lake or river I have paddled and fished, or woods I have skied or rambled. Being a realist, I try to compose each piece with authentic detail, sketching and photographing multiple views until I am satisfied with the composition. I then simplify my renderings, reducing landscape details in favor of graphically bold fields of color and strong silhouettes. I do occasionally alter the true landscape in favor of simplicity and my own artistic expression.

I use a combination of techniques in my work, utilizing both traditional tools and modern technology starting with sketching, drawing, and photos taken in the field. I then return to my studio and import these photos and drawings into the computer, digitally composing the scans using Adobe Illustrator and Procreate software. My computer is a powerful illustration and design tool that I use just like pencils, brushes and my camera. My work is then printed in limited runs using the giclée technique.

Do you take your own photos that you use for your art?

I am an avid, self-taught photographer and take all of the photos I use as inspiration for my work. I post my photos regularly on Instagram. You can follow me their @Forest City Designs. 

What does it mean that you use archival inks and paper?

Archival ink is specifically designed to be resistant to weathering and fading so that it will last for a long time. It is used in high-end digital printing such as giclée printing.

Archival paper is an especially permanent, durable acid-free paper. Archival paper is meant to be used for publications of high legal, historical, or significant value. It will not fade, yellow or become brittle over time. Many high-quality art prints are made using archival papers.

Can you tell me about the cards and apparel you also create?

Currently, I’m primarily focused on my fine art travel prints. I am offering some of them as postcards and may begin offering all of the prints as postcards. My apparel designs consist of men and women’s t-shirts and are available through Threadless. I plan on expanding this line of designs in the future.

What parts of Vermont or places in Vermont inspire you the most?

I live in the shadow of Camels Hump, and I spend a lot of time on this mountain in particular. The name Forest City Designs comes from the Forest City Trail on Camels Hump. So, Camels Hump and the Green Mountain range offer much inspiration. I spent summers growing up on Lake Willoughby in the Northeast Kingdom and still spend as much time as I can in that neck of the woods. This is a very special place with many fond memories. My Willoughby print was one of the first prints I created. I also do a canoe camp of Green River Reservoir every summer, which is an amazing place of endless solace, peace and Vermont beauty.

What do you hope the experience will be of people who view your art?

I want people who buy my prints to have a reminder of time spent enjoying Vermont’s beautiful, wild places. John Muir said, ‘Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.’