Book review: 50 Years of Illustration

50 Years of Illustration

 

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 Illustration via Amazon.

Doodlers Anonymous’ Coloring Book Vol. 4 Open Call

Doodlers Anonymous Coloring Book Vol. 4

 

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!

Life as an experiment: What to do when you have lots of ideas

Adrian Woods & Gidi van Maarseveen

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:

  • Don’t let fear stop you from experimenting. And fear takes on many forms: fear of failure, fear of missed opportunities, or even plain old irrational fear.
  • Experiments always leads you somewhere, and often times it leads you down a path you might have considered before. Enjoy it and soak up the process!
  • Ideas on paper are just worth the paper they’re scribbled on – especially if you don’t start.
  • If you can juggle a few experiments at a go, by all means feel free to do so! Just be aware that if you drop the ball on one, the rest might follow – and you might not know what the outcome would be if you had focused on just one.

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!

[Photography by Adrian Woods & Gidi van Maarseveen]
Pages:1234567...717»