Fifty Years of Illustration by Lawrence Zeegan & Caroline Roberts celebrates illustration and illustrators throughout five decades. Rather than padding up its pages to include engravings of eighteenth-century artists; the realistic traditions set by the great Victorian illustrators and the stylishly academic (although no less avant-garde) works from the 1920 to 1930s – the book begins in 1960; where cultural revolutions in the East and West began to stir.
Just like art that chronicles each decade with aesthetics that define the times, so it is with illustration – along with its illustrators. The past 50 years has seen many changes in technique, details and ripples within the profession itself as it hinges on relationships with many other industries that are changing still. From the heyday of the Madmen era to the introduction of the Apple computer that forever changed how graphics are created forever; illustrators more than ever need to be quick on their feet; and to think of how they can fit in with the world at large.
While it is no secret that there are diminishing opportunities within traditional illustration outlets, there are new opportunities as well, as we become more comfortable in the digital age:
For the new wave of illustrators, working in the digital domain was second nature, having grown up with a computer in the bedroom, playroom and classroom, and having trained in the studios of art schools where digital and analogue technologies sat alongside each other. For these new practitioners, the challenge was in the crossing of boundaries and territories, working in advertising, design, music, fashion, and publishing, as well as traversing from the commercial and to the non-commercial and self-initiated, self-publishing projects. This new breed of illustrator works globally, and yet lives locally. No longer required to live where the work is, illustrators can work anywhere, anytime and for anyone. ~ Introduction, 50 Years of Illustration
I appreciated that the given introduction to each decade sums up the circumstances and influences that spearheaded the illustrators of its generation. So while the book doesn’t tell you how the future would be like in the next coming decade, it offers you a broad, long, lingering look of what others have done before in the past. It’s up to you to connect the dots and to see how you can envision yours as you move forward. Illustrators need to be conscious and relevant of what’s happening around them – and not just of clients. They’re very much artists of the world at large; communicators if you will – who bridge the gap for people to connect visually.
And this is what I loved best about this book.
Pros: The subject matter of the book is refreshing as it concentrates on the past 5 decades instead of a longer timeline; and thus was able to showcase more illustrators – 250 of them – and their works.
Cons: This is a minor gripe, but I didn’t really like the feel of the inside paper – while it was a retrospective look at illustration, I had hoped for a book that didn’t seem to come out from the 1990s; also, there was a bit of transfer between pages (particularly for full colored pages that were bordered in black).
The book will only be out on October 28th, but you can pre-order 50 Years of Illustrationvia Amazon.
If you haven’t heard of Doodlers Anonymous’ annual coloring books, then you’re missing out. This year in particular, in fact – because there’s an open call for entries and it ends today, the 7th of October. If you think you have got what it takes to be one of the 60 artists featured in the 64-page coloring book, then it’s time to whip out your Sharpies and doodling gear; because it’s going to get intense real quick. Oh by the way, the deadline is less than 24 hours away.
One, two, three – draw!
In the Work/Art/Play class that I’m teaching right now, an interesting discussion began on the topic of having too many ideas, too many experiments that might (worryingly) lead nowhere in an artist’s journey.
It’s a very well known affliction that plagues creatives – and the term creatives is a very loose one. These could very well mean entrepreneurs, who may have a pool of ideas to tap from for their next venture; or a designer who has a big sketchbook ready to go for their next collection or season. For an artist, it could come to mean experimenting with the use of various medias to come up with a series or even to redefine their personal style as they find ways to mix things up.
I have lots of ideas. Some of them didn’t quite turn out, and some of them did. A few years ago I began to keep a sketchbook that listed out my ideas; I filled them with pages of pages of thoughts, comments, figures, sketches and with it, possibilities (although these days, instead of just using a sketchbook, I found that Trello is a great app in helping me sort out my ideas.) And it wasn’t just a continuation of one idea either – every other week I would come up with a new idea; or I would stew on a new idea and blend it with a previous one.
But no matter how many entries there were in my book, I was resigned to the fact that I only had two hands. I know myself enough to know that if I were to dabble in a few ideas, they would never turn out well enough for me to know if it was worth pursuing. So what I did was to just focus on one idea at a time – I owed the idea that much at least. To bring an idea to fruition takes time, dedication and effort; things that I knew would be scattered if I tried to juggle too many at a go.
It was still an experimentation none the less. But I choose to focus on one at a time so that I can properly document and figure things out as I move along. Is it working? Is it not? Can I do better? Do I want to keep doing this? Will I make a difference? I question the idea (and myself) constantly at every step of the way – much like a scientist who keeps a record of an experiment to see its progress.
And once you’re committed to the idea, you need to give it space and room to grow, to breathe, and a chance for it to live out its life. You’ll have to nurture it, see if it can stand on its own two feet, or if you’re lucky – to see if it could fly. But first, you’ll need to make a decision: which idea goes first? Pick one. Just one. And start from there.
A good friend reminded me once when I told her that I had trouble picking one idea, and she said this little gem of an advice that I carry to this day: “It’s good to have lots of ideas – this way we can execute them one by one until we’re 60. We’re all set!”
So here’s a couple of tips and reminders:
SHARE WITH US:
What about you? What works for you when you have lots of ideas? Do share your thoughts and experience in the comments below!
I found the amazing work of Lorena Alvarez, a freelance illustrator from Bogotá, Colombia, over at Behance not too long ago. And her work is just gorgeous. They’re full of beautiful textures, colors and characters. Oh and her characters! They just seem to want to jump off the page in all their illustrated glory. Fairy tales, magic and adventure seem to be the subject matters that are close to her heart; as evidenced by her bio:
Each one of my pieces is an attempt to create a small, colorful and whimsical world. Nature as a protective and nurturing element is always present, embracing playful and elusive characters in a theatrical composition. Im deeply interested in color language, its formal qualities and symbolic meaning. An important part of my work process is putting together a strong color palette, always looking for surprising and unusual, yet pleasant matches.
Although most of my work is digital, it also includes photography, toy making and traditional media. I enjoy trying different techniques and understand their particular qualities in order to take my work to the next level. As I’ve developed my own way to work with materials like paper and fabric, my conceptual work has gained complexity. Drawing, sewing and cutting are ways to elaborate my thoughts about the projects I’m working on. I usually begin with a simple concept that evolves into a narrative piece with multiple associations and approaches that I find through sketching. This process helps me to create elaborated pieces with a strong presence that invites the viewer to sift through their details and discover their inner tales.
Straight lines and text is highly overrated, if I can say so myself. Need convincing? Take a look at a selection of Bori Tompa’s portfolio and you’ll know what I mean. I’m loving her work that’s full of vivid colors with a twist of the unexpected – throw in some creative hand-lettering and you’ve got yourself a smorgasbord of illustrated fun.
I fell in love with Paolo Del Toro’s work. He’s based in Wales, and in addition to being an illustrator, he’s a woodworker – he creates these beautiful wooden boxes in the shape of heads (check out that last one with the teeth!) His illustrations are filled with all sorts of lovely textures and of colors of bygone eras. He has an amazing range of style too, and his blog is a testament to his talents. He’s one to watch out for, mark my words.
I was attracted at once to Sarah Dennis’ paper-cutting work when she sent me an email – and so I invited her to talk a little bit more about her process! I enjoy seeing how others interpret their style in various ways, especially if that means going for your strengths instead of measuring yourself against other people’s standards – like what Sarah has done.
Well, I have red hair and I feel like the red fox is my spirit animal! I love orange, green and turquoise and seeing these colours together makes me just so happy. If you were to take a peek into my wardrobe you would find only these colours in different combinations. I feel like I can speak fluent french but in truth I can’t speak a word, I just like to pretend. I also like eating, cycling and dancing!
I live in Bristol and I love it here! I have just bought my first house with my boyfriend Tom, so it looks like I’ll be sticking around these parts. I moved in just the other day, so my daily routine is a little unsettled. In the flat where we used to live, I worked from home. I had turned the downstairs dining room into a studio, which was great, it was a nice big space with loads of light. Tom also worked at home some days so I didn’t get cabin fever too badly. Our new home is quite old and in need of some serious love, and I keep getting distracted sanding floorboards and digging up the garden, so I’m currently on the look out for a studio in Bristol. It will be really nice working around other artists again. Bristol is the perfect place to be a freelance illustrator, there are lots of artist studios and support networks with lots of opportunities to collaborate with other people in the community.
I am. It was initially quite hard to find enough work but in the last few years I’ve been managing to get by on my illustrations, which is great. For the first few years I had a part time job as well, but I never felt like I was fully applying myself as an artist, so I got my portfolio up to scratch and decided to dedicate all my time to making it work. I put a great deal of effort into sending out postcards, writing emails and connecting with as many people as I possibly could. Slowly the commissions started to come in and it all snowballed from there. It was a great feeling to be finally working on projects that I had dreamt about while at university. I still have the occasional quiet patch, it’s the nature of being freelance but it always passes and it gives me valuable time to set myself personal projects and work on my artwork.
I have never been great at working with paint, I would always end up with more of it on my hands and on the floor than I would on the paper. I’m capable of making quite a mess so I like working with a materials that won’t drip or spill. The good thing about paper is you can make a mess but it doesn’t stain the carpet! And the result is very neat which I like. When I was at university I did more collage based work, I used to collect envelopes, wallpaper samples, old books or whatever I could find and would make my illustrations either digitally or by hand. It was after I saw a great exhibition at the Bristol Museum on oriental artwork, where I discovered Chinese paper cutting, my head exploded with inspiration. After this, I started adding more and more detail to my work and using a paper cutting technique within my art and illustrations.
Last year I was lucky enough to publish my first children’s book ‘Cinderella’. This book is like no other I’d seen before. I designed the book so that between each double page spread is a delicate paper-cut page which interacts and cast shadows over the background illustrations. It has always been an ambition to publish a children’s book and I was so thrilled to be able to combine my illustration’s with my paper cutting skill. Its was very satisfying to hold the final book and to see it in shops.
I do, although for my more detailed artwork I normally develop ideas on larger bits of paper to get the sense of scale right. But the sketch book for me is about about keeping a personal doodle diary and sketching down ideas that emerge at random times.
I love nature, sometimes just watching a documentary will inspire me to create a new piece. I’m really interested in the natural patterns that emerge in nature: from the fractals in Romanesco broccoli to the flocking of birds and fish. I also love to think a lot about the incredible journeys that creatures make to survive. I have recently discovered an artist, philosopher and professor called Enest Heckel. In the 19th century he discovered and named thousands of new species. He has hundreds of detailed illustration of marine creatures. I have recently bought a selection of books all about his work, the detail, composition and alien nature of some of these creatures just blows me away. His work has inspired me to take an even deeper journey into the ocean.
I have done a few different jobs in the past, and I know that working freelance as an artist and illustrator is what I want to continue to do. I believe the harder you work on what you love the more likely you are to land your dream project and have success in your career. I also read a lot of design blogs and talk to other artists, friends and family who help me keep focused and motivated.
The scalpel, can’t live with out it.
I see myself in my new home, hopefully not surrounded by boxes but in a lovely space that I have created to live in. I hope to a have a new studio space thats large enough for me to start making large paper sculptures. I have recently started running paper cutting workshops and would love to have my own space where I can run classes and even have a space that other artists can use to teach their own workshops. I hope to be working on new and challenging illustration project’s as well as having my own shop on my website, not just selling prints, but lamp shades, cushions and cards.
I have starting planning a project where I work on a larger scale on a theme of jellyfish and light. My dream is to develop these ideas as part of an artist residency in Japan, I love paper and have begun a journey into finding the perfect paper to work with. I’m really interested in Japanese washi paper, I would love to learn the process of making my own. I feel that making the paper from scratch and knowing more about the material and its history would really benefit my practice and feed my knowledge of working with paper and progressing as an artist.
One of my favourite creatures is a kakapo, its a flightless bird which almost looks like a cross between a parrot and an owl. Its only defence mechanism from predators is to stand still pretending its invisible. Unfortunately this tactic has not worked out very well for the poor kakapos and they are almost extinct. I adore them, I have made myself a kakapo plush toy which sits in my room and looks after all my things.
Thanks so much Sarah!
You know how I’ve been dropping subtle hints for when the second session of Work/Art/Play will begin? Well the wait is over – because enrollment officially begins right now.
If you’ve ever wondered if there’s a better way to navigate your journey as an artist or illustrator, I’m here to tell you that there is. I’ve designed an online course that will not only help focus your strengths into creating works that you will love, but others as well. I’ll show you how self-promotion can be a lot less scary (because it really isn’t!) and by the end of it, you’ll see how the whole process allows you to stay true to yourself. You’ll also learn what works and how to find (and create) new opportunities you’ve never thought of before.
If you’ve ever met me in real life (or online), you’ll know that I love working with people. I’m a life-long student myself, and above all, I love teaching. I didn’t just come up with the materials for the class – I’ve also designed the online classroom myself – to ensure a great learning environment that’s conducive for students: one that’s beautiful and easy to navigate. It’s truly a full-on learning experience that you can carry with you wherever you go!
So without further ado, I’d like to invite you to join the Work/Art/Play experience. We’ve gotten lots of amazing feedback from our first batch of students, and we’d like for you to be a part of our smart and generous community. Click here for the complete syllabus, and learn if it’s right for you.
Enrollment ends on 10th September 2012 – and there’s a limit on the number of students I’m taking in for the Personalized Program, so if you’re looking for targeted feedback + extra help one-on-one, I’d suggest you hop on over right now (it’s already 1/5 filled!)
Folks, it’s time to hang on to your horses.
If you’ve been wondering when my Work/Art/Play online course will be opening its doors again, wonder no more – the date is set, and it’s going to be next week. The 25th of August, to be exact. The inaugural program we did last year was a success, and I can’t wait to re-live the experience with new students! For those of you who sent me emails asking when it would come again (there’s quite a few of you!) the nail-biting waiting period will be over soon. To make sure that you’ll be among the first to know when that happens, head over to the Work/Art/Play website to sign up to be notified. It’s going to be a good one, I can promise you that!
Watch this space for more details, and until then, have a great weekend folks!
I have a love for optical illusions. Maybe it’s the fact that I like to figure things out a little – a sense of mystery behind a piece of art is a great thing. But when you add a surprise factor into it, a work of art can truly be an engaging experience.
I’ve been spotting amazing optical illusion works of art lately and these are a few that caught my eye:
What’s amazing about the Swiss artist Felice Varini is that he started creating optical illusion installation/in-situ paintings in 1979. If you think that his work is mind-boggling right now, think of how it must have looked like in the 1980s. He uses a projector and stencils to create perspective-localized paintings in rooms and other spaces. [Via]
Felice paints on architectural and urban spaces, such as buildings, walls and streets. The paintings are characterized by one vantage point from which the viewer can see the complete painting (usually a simple geometric shape such as circle, square, line), while from other view points the viewer will see ‘broken’ fragmented shapes. Varini argues that the work exists as a whole – with its complete shape as well as the fragments. “My concern,” he says “is what happens outside the vantage point of view.”
With perspective as its theme (both in it’s music video and the meaning behind the song), I was glued to this music video from start to finish.
The one-take video was done on a single handheld camera, with 28 different illusions set up in the giant workspace in Brooklyn. The setup took about three weeks to build, involving over 50 people.
Art is when something old is made new again, and in this instance, Alexa Meade’s work of art is alive, and well, breathing. Instead of merely painting portraits onto canvas, she’s turned people into works of art by painting on them directly – I liken it to a reverse artistic take on the movie “A Scanner Darkly” (in which live actors were re-rendered in digital form to create the movie). [Via]
Ukrainian artist Oleg Shuplyak creates oil paintings that feature the portraits of famous figures hidden behind a seemingly normal scenery. It’s not hard to decipher though, and these portraits are easily recognizable – I found myself trying to piece together the entire picture after I’ve picked out the faces instead. It is during this time that I can truly appreciate his work although unseeing things can be tough! [Via]
Portland, USA-based artist and educator Damien Gilley reconfigures built environments by giving an alternate view of what could be. Empty walls (along with their fixtures) become a pathway into a whole new world; one that can be seen but never entered. His style – though simple and plays on the depth of vision created by lines – is one that offers a mysterious scaffolding to be filled in by thoughts of one’s own. [Via]
What about you? Have you seen any interesting optical illustion based art recently? Which are your favorites?
A few weeks back, I was obsessed with growing my own herbs.
You should have seen me – I was way into it. I love herbs and while I buy mine at the supermarket when a recipe calls for them occasionally, the thought of growing it myself never really occurred to me. That was until I caught episodes of Jamie Oliver doing his 30-minute meals. I have to say; watching him going about in the kitchen, snip-snip-sniping away at his herbs whenever he needs them really just flipped a light bulb in me – not only did he inspire me to take more initiatives to cook more, he made me interested in creating my very own herb garden. Watching that show also made me feel like I could do anything at all too, if I maintained a sense of fun and curiosity about it. I’m hoping one of these days to do a full vegetable patch, but with two jack russell terriers tearing around my garden, it doesn’t seem likely that it will happen very soon!
So I had Mr. T buy big packs of potting soil (because using the rather unfriendly looking reddish-clay earth we had in the backyard yielded poor results too many times to be a coincidence), and we had plastic cups all ready to go for germinating. I bought seeds of herbs that I liked – and as with anything I start, I did it with gusto.
After I sprinkled over my seeds of sweet marjoram, dill, rosemary and sage – all in individual pots – and stuck ice-cream sticks with the plant’s name on a washi-tape (because markers on wood looks icky when it gets hit by water). I gave myself a pat on the back and stood back to marvel at my handiwork. Hurrah! Then the waiting began. I watered them everyday, and looked at them in the morning, and once again in the evening. Nothing. All that stared back at me was black soil. I had hoped for a glimmer of green to peek through. Nada.
I waited and lowered my expectations. I peeked in nonchalantly (and yet hopeful) for a week before I spotted something popping out from the fresh ground. YAY! A quick glance over my other 3 pots of herbs however, signaled a nay. Maybe they weren’t ready to come out just yet? Maybe I got some bad seeds? Maybe the ants got to them in the middle of the night. Or slugs munched on them maybe? I don’t know. All I know was that my web browser history is ridden with gardening vocabulary, of the amateur sort, trying to figure out what went wrong.
Which got me to thinking. Creating anything – work, art, writing, etc – is almost like growing your own little garden. The same goes for businesses too.
You can sprinkle your seeds of imagination and ideas and be careful about them – judiciously watering them, feeding them, talking to them – but sometimes they don’t turn out the way you want them to. Which is why you spread them all around, in different pots, in different forms: through seeds, new cuttings, or the bulb of an old sprout. Some may take root and grow upwards, strong and tall. Others don’t take, and ends before they begins. Some grow new shoots, only to be eaten by a passer-by snail; leaving only the barest of signs of being grisly eradicated before it could fully form.
Creating anything – work, art, writing, etc – is almost like growing your own little garden.
And once you get these seeds on the ground, all you can do is wait. And water them. And wait again. And this process repeats itself as it grows; needing a complex combination of efforts to not only keep it stable, but to allow it to thrive and bear fruit.
It’s a nod to the universe in so many parallel ways – your labor of love is as complex, and yet while you can control a big portion of it, the rest is up to fate. One hopes for the best, and yet prepares for the worst. It’s a little dance in which you won’t know how it all will turn out; but one thing’s for sure: if you keep those seeds hidden, locking them away from soil and sunshine – you’ll never know how it all turns out.
So toss your seeds – your ideas, imagination and creativity – into the ground. Let them take hold and burst through the ground fresh and alive with hope. And what if it doesn’t turn out? Well, then it’s time to plant new ones.
Just remember to add water and love. And watch out for those sneaky slugs.
P/S: Here’s my dill (the only one out of four herbs that made it!) I’m replanting new seeds – and this time I’ll know what to watch out for.
I’m very much for the interesting juxtaposition of things old and new. And sometimes once in a cold, blue moon, I see something that just makes me laugh till my sides hurt and cry “why didn’t I think of that in the first place?!”
The work of James Kerr of Scorpion Dagger has this very effect on me.
The premise behind his ideas are simple: he uses characters from Renaissance paintings and makes them come alive through animated GIFs. In ways you wouldn’t expect, and typically not in the fashion you would think. Niceties are out the window, and in comes the culture of the 21st century, embodied by characters who belong in museums (who look much too solemn to be twerking, you say? Prepare to never look at a painting the same way again.)
On being a self-taught artist:
I don’t necessarily have any formal art training, I actually studied History and Political Science in University, but have been making art in one capacity or another practically my entire life.
On where his ideas come from:
My ideas pretty much just come from silly thoughts that I have.
On how he creates his GIFs:
Once I’ve decided what I’m going to make, I start looking through paintings to pull out elements that I think would work best for that GIF. It’s then cut, paste, animate in Photoshop until the GIF is done.
I was speaking to a fellow well-known artist the other day – it was the first time I met him after conversing through email for the longest time. And it was just brilliant. I always love meeting new people – even though the relationship wasn’t technically new, the experience of meeting someone for the first time is something I treasure, because of the wonderful little surprises I know that lies in store.
Whether it’s nuggets of advice and inspiration, or a forging of new bonds; my mind just buzzes with excitement at the thought of hands that are extended in friendship, and where a new thread becomes interwoven in the colorful fabric that has become my life.
So we sat down and talked over lunch, and the more we talked, the more I was fascinated at his ideas. “All I wanted to do was draw,” said the man who turned to art after studying to be a mechanical engineer. “And now I can.” It was inspiring, and to which I thought was incredibly zen-like. My head was brimming with ideas on how he could take it further, and I told him what I was thinking of. He just shook his head and said “I’m happy at this point of my life – I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m drawing, and I’m earning a living for myself and my family. I don’t have to go big. I’m happy.”
If contentment had a face and a voice, it would be his.
His name? Lim Heng Swee of I Love Doodle.
You’ll be able to read more of our conversation through the Work/Art/Play online course that starts in September – sign up for more details when we launch in a couple of weeks!
Dutch illustrator Antigoon has recently curated an excellent looking new exhibition at Walls Gallery in Amsterdam, open until 24th August, as an extension of his Exquisite Corpse website (last image, shown below). I love referring to the Exquisite Corpse as a creative exercise in my classes and his website was able to showcase the illustrations brilliantly.
For his new exhibition, Antigoon asked ten of his favourite illustrators – including Hedof, Nick Liefhebber and Joren Joshua – to work together in two’s, and for each pair to create a limited edition risograph print together. Just like the online project, the illustrators worked in sequence, with one creating the top half of the print before passing it on to their partner, with the partner only allowed to see a very small slither of what had already been drawn. The result is 5 prints which can see in totality at his Behance page, which are also up for sale.
So you might notice that I’ve been a little quiet this week. It’s for a good reason – I’ve been busy putting together the data collected during the last survey (it’s the one that touched on money and income!) into a handy 32-page PDF that’s available for all to download.
I wrote down a few caveats for those who are interested in the results of the survey: the problems that went into it, and how I should have made it better. Some of the entries had to be discarded/disqualified due to technical errors, and while I was disappointed with that, I’ve learned to take this experience forward and have learnt how to avoid repeating the mistakes I’ve made the next time round. It was the first time I did such a survey and through your comments and suggestions, I learned a lot – so a big thank you to all of you who participated (and to those who chose not to, and wrote to me to tell me why!)
So without further ado, you can click on the below image to kickstart the process of downloading the survey! And remember, I’m always learning, so don’t hesitate to write to me if you have any suggestions or advice to share.
Have a great weekend folks, and I’ll catch up with you next week!