Illustration and Me

IMG_7707I’m back! For a few years now I have been working my tail off in the illustration program at the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) here in New York City. I’ve been painting, drawing (a lot of figure drawing as you will soon see!!!), sculpting and generally honing my skills. The one thing I haven’t been doing for just over a year now is posting my work and process. There is only so much time. But that has to change! I’m going to be posting more regularly, hopefully once a week. Thank you for your patience.

What prompted this? A class, of course. I am taking a portfolio for the web class and we are discussing how illustrators can use social media to help get their work out into the world in hopes of it finding a good home. We are also discussing what illustration today is. Why does it still matter? Has its purpose changed in any way from the past? Who is it for? So, I’m going to try and answer how I see these questions.

What is “Illustration” today? Well, as far as I can tell this is an extremely broad subject. At its root Illustration with a capital I is the job (important part of the definition, getting paid for your work) of providing images to accompany ideas and frequently words (but not always). For me personally, it means creating artwork for marketing purposes. But what kind of artwork? The simple answer is any and all. Much of this work ends up in print format but, can you create a sculpture as “illustration”. I don’t see why not.IMG_7752 The bull sculpture down on Wall Street may be a perfect example. It’s pure advertising, conveyance of information, the image of an idea/ideal, an icon. This is not to say, that this is “traditional illustration”, Norman Rockwell being a perfect example of classic work but just an example of how broad a definition we may come up with.

I have had discussions with a few teachers about art, artists and illustration. I argue that when we go to a museum or out and about to look at “fine art”, much of what we are looking at was created as illustration. Michelangelo was hired to paint the Sistine Chapel…Illustration. Marc Chagall was hired to do stained glass windows…Illustration. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha were hired to do theatrical posters…illustrators both. In fact many, if not most, artist were hired to do work outside of the realm of the idea of “fine art”. Artists gotta eat too and propaganda pays well. This makes me sounds cynical but this could not be further from the truth. Illustrators created the posters that mobilized the United States and helped them forge a path into the Second World War. Illustrators are hired to do a job IMG_7735and that can be a great thing. Illustrators are able to manipulate the viewer and happily, artists tend toward the progressive. Think of all the inventions that were created before they were actually created! Some forward thinking artist designed and drew a smart phone as a prop for the original Star Trek 50 years before they were a real thing!!! Illustrators were hired by NASA to create images of potential space travel and vehicle ideas well before they sent anything into space. Illustration has power, invention, imagination and creation in it. So, illustration has history and import. It is alive and well. We are heralds of the future. A huge responsibility.

How has illustration changed? Everything changes. The big changes in illustration over the past 2000 years are in the technology. Printing technology, the invention of photography and the use of the computer have been the biggest changes but even materials such as plastic (acrylic paint, artists tools) have made huge changes. Advances in printing allowed for speed of reproduction and the quality of color and paper to increase allowing the artist to develop more and more complicated, colorful work. Photography was and is its own art form as well as a supplement that allowed artists to mix media as well as use photo reference in their artwork. And the computer…it allows for powerful, quick editing and creation of artwork. IMG_7737In a more practical and less artistic sense, the computer also allows ease of transfer of images. You no longer have to mail an oil painting to a photographer and then send the photograph to a publisher for print. Now you can scan the work and email it off. The computer is a tool of speed. This has allowed publishers and advertisers to get their messages out so much faster.

So, on that note, I will be posting more often and more quickly. Hopefully, there will be more pictures and less prose. Be well and thanks for reading.

Nick

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