Thursday, 7 May 2009

Issues and Practices: The Rise of the authorstrator

Issues & Practices: ‘The Rise of the Authorstrator’

The tradition of an illustrator is to respond to a brief producing an image/images that communicate an idea to provoke an interest in a subject or theme. Commercial art can be constricting as illustrators do not have a choice in what they are illustrating and arguably have not had the luxury and freedom that other disciplines have in terms of expression. Furthermore an illustrator must be mindful of a wide audience avoiding becoming self indulgent and talking to themselves visually. But more recently it is emerging that many illustrators and graphic designers are producing work in styles that transfer into other areas including surface design, toys, producing books for self publication and their own magazines. More so commercial artists are producing works for exhibition and their own self initiated projects marketing themselves as fine artists as well as illustrators.
The effects of this are that illustration’s boundaries are widening having traditionally been shunned by the art establishment begging the question what is the meaning of illustration now? The meaning of fine art has become increasingly diluted, the benefits of illustration are that the desirable aesthetic that is needed to catch the viewers eye whether reading a magazine or driving past a billboard advertisement can attract and communicate effectively to a gallery viewer.
Matthew Richardson is a great example of this phenomenon having exhibited in collaboration with Emily Mitchell at the George Rodger gallery, Kent in 2008. Richardson is a commercial illustrator with experience in editorial, advertising and book cover design that has used his experience of narrative in illustration to produce exhibition art for the narratives of ‘Conduits, schemes & spheres’.
The causes of this phenomenon are for a number of reasons. Firstly an illustrator may produce self initiated work while the commissions are drying up temporarily in which there is more time to explore deeper concepts to produce ideas from. It is also useful because ideas generated during this time can be drawn on or pushed further for commercial work in the future. Brad Holland, a very influential illustrator whose illustration has been described as a cultural force in an interview commented:

“I have a painting that’s going to be in the Society of Illustrators show this year that was published last year but it was done 10 or 11 years ago. It just took a while for the right article to come along. I’ve also got boxes full of sketches that I can mine for ideas whenever a job comes in.” (Holland, Varoom issue 04, 2007).

Promotion is another reason, many illustrators collectively produce their own magazines to send to art directors while self publicised books are an extra source of income.

Style is an important part of being an illustrator particularly a recognisable one which demands a strong, bold aesthetic. But appropriateness of style is considered when branching out into other areas like surface pattern design and toys. EBOY are a prime example of this having developed a style that resembles toys echoing the charming computer graphics from the 1980s/90s. The result of this is their style transfers well into toy design and it is clear that what is driving them is a love of toys ultimately from their childhood. An illustrators visual language is often informed by their own individual influences including any childhood interests.

They express their art as an extension of their childhood. Their influences come from: "Pop culture... shopping, supermarkets, TV, toy commercials, LEGO, computer games, the news, magazines..." (, 20/04/09).

Illustration is commercial art and commerce is business. What Illustrators are doing is what is common in business practice- diversifying. This means that the meaning of illustration is widening becoming a multi-faceted discipline and cultural influence.

Gillian Blease is an example of an illustrator whose work transfers into surface pattern design, like her placemats for Jenny Duff. Like EBOY her style is appropriate to the aesthetic specifications of surface pattern particularly because of the simple ness of style and use of colour. Culturally now there is a real sense of having everything under one roof particularly from the influence of the Supermarket. This in turn has influenced the mentality of people including those in design. The boundaries of many disciplines including graphic design, fine art and illustration are blurring and in my opinion it is only right that someone should not be labelled as one thing ruling out the option of doing other things. Overall I think there are more avenues for the illustrator to explore.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Matthew Richardson & Otto Dettmer

Practitioners- Matthew Richardson & Otto Dettmer

The two practitioners that I have chosen for analysis are Matthew Richardson and Otto Dettmer to compare and contrast their methods and practices in the context of the industry. Matthew Richardson is an illustrator whose imagery combines collage, printmaking and digital media having had experience in advertising, editorial and book cover design.
The design industry demands an attractive aesthetic to catch a viewers eye and Richardson’s work definitely has this making use of full colour in his compositions. Upon viewing his images he shows evidence of a trait common to successful illustrators, that of being a visual magpie collecting found imagery, in Richardson’s case using textured papers as backgrounds. There is a sense of eclecticism in his choice of media as his style also combines painting, line and photography. Style is an important part of being an illustrator, particularly a recognisable one and utilising a medium effectively is part of this.
Within the Illustration industry visual communication is an important aspect, the communication of the idea in Richardson’s imagery is what is more difficult to read as a viewer. Although the visuals are attractive and very striking, often they have a mysterious quality about them. Within editorial design in which Richardson’s work is largely based however, it is important to take into consideration how the image marries with the text so the illustrator is not just cloning the text, in this respect Richardson’s imagery is strong, his images often communicate feelings.
Wit is valuable in the industry and an important part of a successful visual which is evident in his work too. Often wit can amuse prompting a laugh or a smile from an image capturing the viewer’s attention but also can offer the reward of satisfaction to the viewer having deciphered it. It is about the interaction between the viewer and the image, an example of wit in Richardson’s case would be using a photograph of a pen quill and using it as sail with a boat made out of paper. People semiotically make the link between objects and the positioning of them. Another important quality in an image is charm, trying to capture the spirit of I.e. an object which Richardson uses where appropriate to his advantage. With so many graduates becoming part of the industry highly populated already, using wit and charm can contribute to a successful career as when used properly can achieve unique results.
Otto Dettmer is an illustrator who has enjoyed success in the industry in editorial and advertising having developed a style that incorporates screen-print, collage and digital media. Dettmer similarly to Richardson has an attractive style capable of drawing a viewer’s attention but the styles look completely different. Dettmer’s work tends to be much more slimmed down using a large amount of white space, images tend more to be vignettes contrasting’s Richardson’s full colour backgrounds. The effect of this is Dettmer’s work looks clearer, simpler and communicatively direct to the viewer. Contrasting Matthew Richardson Dettmer tends not to use found imagery but is resourceful in the sense of using unlikely media such as accidental photocopy textures. Dettmer claims not to believe in style but his style does seem more precise in the execution of ideas.
Viewing Dettmer’s work there are strong repetitive themes such as the use of mannequin heads. An important part of surviving as an illustrator is building yourself a visual library as sometimes an illustrator may be commissioned to produce an image with a deadline of a few hours. Having visited his studio in London it was memorable because of all the elements that I had seen in previous works pinned to the wall to be reused and rehashed with newer elements and ideas. Also many illustrators will back up textures, patterns and objects for reuse in the future for the purpose of expediency. Being expedient is important for an illustrator because you need to give an art director the confidence that you can meet a deadline as one of the comments that stuck in my mind when Andrew Pavitt did a talk at College was that the design industry is small and if you cant meet a deadline word will quickly get round and so your career will crumble.
Visual language is integral to an illustrator in the industry and Richardson and Dettmer strongly contrast each other in this sense. Dettmer is more direct and his imagery is punchier, the communication of the idea is often given to you on a plate whereas Richardson’s imagery as mentioned above is less easier to decipher and looks richer. This difference is common within Illustration as an illustrator when developing their visual language will be drawing on not just design theory but they’re own personal influences essentially what makes them tick drawing on childhood influences, TV, film practically anything that has inspired them. But this doesn’t mean one is better than the other I believe that Dettmer’s work works close up and far away because of the simplicity of elements and bold use of white space. In this sense I think his style is more appropriate to advertising. In contrast Matthew Richardson has produced book cover designs including Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ’Love in a time of Cholera’. His style is excellent for book cover design because of the richness of his aesthetic approach whereas Dettmer’s work doesn’t work in this area because of the simple approach. This is an important consideration when working in the industry putting yourself in context and promoting yourself in the right areas. Often when browsing editorial directories they’re will be a brief description of what each magazine is looking for and there will be varying appropriateness of style. Overall with all these industry constrictions and parameters Dettmer and Richardson both have strong visuals achieving success in a competitive industry. Upon this analysis the lessons that I have learnt are the importance of the aesthetic approach and communication coming to the conclusion that I believe in a balance between abstraction and communication.