The Artwork of Hugh Syme to be Featured at The Art Gallery at City Hall
The Fishers Arts Council will showcase the artwork of legendary artist Hugh Syme during the month of March on the second level of The Art Gallery at City Hall. Syme, a Hoosier, is a painter, illustrator and graphic artist. The exhibit “Music Art of RUSH” will showcase 25 prints.
Syme’s love of art and music started at a young age.
“I started drawing at a young age,” Syme says. “Even though my father was passionate about his career as a mechanical engineer in the pulp and paper industry, he also took 10 years of violin. His sister, my aunt, was a world-renowned concert pianist. I was fortunate to grow up around people who were graphically and musically astute.”
His father’s influence helped shape his work ethic in art.
“My father would always engage with me about anything I drew,” Syme says. “He taught me that you can’t throw a pencil drawing together in an afternoon. It might take a week or six weeks to finish. I was always encouraged and instructed on the merits of discipline. The same was true of practicing the piano and everything else. I felt grateful for my mom and dad for being so inclined. I just had a natural passion for it.”
Syme’s formal art training took place in Canada and England.
“My father’s work took us to the Niagara Region and I attended New School of Art in Toronto,” Syme says. “Then we moved to England and I attended York University in York, England. We lived in England during the British Invasion. It was a great time to be alive.”
Syme was hitchhiking in Toronto after returning from England when he found his first gig in the art world.
“As luck would have it, I was picked up by the promoter for the Toronto Symphony,” Syme says. “He asked me in passing what I did for work and without missing a beat I said I was an artist. He questioned me a little further and asked what I would charge for five illustrations. I blurted out $500 each. It ended up being the first $2,500 I’ve ever made enjoying myself so much.”
His working relationship with the band Rush also happened by luck.
“I just happened to play in a band on the same label as Rush,” Syme says. “The management for our respective bands called me into the office and asked me if I’d like to do an album cover for them. I thought I’d give it a shot.”
Fast forward to today, and Syme has created artwork for more than 100 other artists.
“L.A. always seemed to be a place where you could find the work if you wanted it,” Syme says. “I ended up living in New York for a few years in the ’80s. Again, I got very lucky. My father knew someone who made it feasible for me to live in a condo I wouldn’t have been able to afford. I got to be a pretend Manhattan native on my budget.”
New York is where Syme met his former wife, an Indiana native.
“She was modeling in New York when we met,” Syme says. “We were married for 19 years and lived in New Castle, Indiana. We both still live in the town and are great friends. My three daughters live close by, too. I just love the pace and the affordability.”
Syme’s work evolved into advertising campaigns for national brands such as Disney, Time Warner, Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Samuel Adams.
“Doing an album cover and doing an advertising campaign isn’t all that different,” Syme says. “You’re still bringing the same skill set. Oddly enough, the pharmaceutical realm started growing into imagery that wasn’t just pills on a table, or a doctor. It was much more creative.”
Syme describes his art as representational, and takes inspiration from artists before him.
“I always was challenged by Escher and people who painted what they see,” Syme says. “I loved the lighting Ramirez used. It was insane. Then I discovered Dali. I was excited to see you could have what I have now dubbed my work to be as improbable reality.”
Syme credits his father all those years ago for giving him some sage advice about his chosen path.
“I remember my father once told me, ‘Don’t ever undervalue what you do,’” he says. “People perceive your work based on what you say about it. There is a certain degree to what art can become in a lifetime. You don’t have to die first to be valuable.”
The Art Gallery at City Hall, located at 1 Municipal Drive in Fishers, is open Mon. through Fri. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Syme’s artwork will be on display and also for sale. For more information, visit fishersartscouncil.org.