MFA Visual Narrative Chair Nathan Fox has built his reputation on illustrations that capture the “happily twisted path” of his imagination. From graphic novels and comic strips to skateboard decks and commercial campaigns, Fox typically dwells in a world that is inhabited by superheroes and off-center characters. Perhaps some may be surprised, then, to learn that his latest illustration project includes a foldout spread in the April issue of Golf Digest.
Commissioned to capture the sights and energy of one of the PGA’s most prestigious and competitive tournaments, The Masters, Fox spent a week last year touring the grounds of the illustrious Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, the tournament’s annual site. With the first round of this year’s Masters set to tee-off on April 9, Fox’s illustrations capture the course’s natural beauty along with the fever pitch atmosphere of the tournament, as onlookers anxiously peer out of frame in anticipation of a smashing drive or nail-biting putt and dart across fairways to catch the next moment of action at another hole.
Though the setting may seem unlikely, Fox is actually a casual golfer himself, and wouldn’t pass up the chance to be on-site while working: “Working on location is like diving into the unknown face first. It’s an exciting, scary and anxious proposition… I really enjoy the immersion and documentation of it all.” Being on location was especially important at The Masters since photography is prohibited. The benefits of experiencing the environment first hand as opposed to relying on images had a major impact on Fox’s work: “There is no doubt in my mind that being there, experiencing those colors, sounds and energy, and taking in that atmosphere had a profound effect on the studies and final works that I produced.”
When asked about working outside his comfort zone, Fox said that all artists should seek similar opportunities “to rise to the occasion, experiment and take chances; embrace the process and don’t be afraid to fail—that’s how work and our perceptions are challenged and elevated. It’s that energetic, uncontrollable and immersive experience that can sometimes reveal new ways of working or seeing things.”
Though Fox admits he won’t ever walk away from Augusta wearing a green victory jacket, he says that he’ll miss being so close to the spectacle of this year’s tournament, as well as spending a week sketching on a golf course, because, in his words, “Who the hell gets to do that!?”
Images: Cover of the April 2015 issue of Golf Digest, and Nathan Fox’s illustrations of Augusta National from golfdigest.com.