Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Illustrative Street Art Event


Street Art has by now been established as a true art movement. Young and used-to-be-young creative minds won't let anything stand in the way of restricting their expression. Their medium is the street, the city, the public space.

Street Art itself doesn't need institutionalised exhibition spaces. Just keep your eyes peeled and you'll find it everywhere. The sea of monochrome and monotonous cityscape cradles these graphically designed islands of individual expression. Still, they combine a head-spinning mixture between legitimacy and rebellion, design vs. civil disobedience.

The strong influence of graphics and illustration that can be found in street art and its great visual impact gave way to the impulse to include this important movement in Illustrative '08. This was done in two ways: Firstly with activities in the public space, secondly as part of the Illustrative '08 exhibition. Here visitors had the unique chance to observe the artists at work, who usually prefer to remain anonymous.

Illustrative would like to thank all participating artists, who contributed far more than what is visible on the site.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

OBJECTS – Journal of Applied Arts

First Issue

On October 17th, 2008, the first issue of „OBJECTS – Journal for Applied Arts / Magazin für angewandte Künste” was published.

The two publishers, Berlin curators Katja Kleiss and Pascal Johanssen, intended to launch a magazine which presents international trends in new craft and discusses them in photo spreads and essays. The title „OBJECTS – Journal of Applied Arts“ is programmatic: OBJECTS is interests itself in the individual artistic craft work: the object. It covers the entire range of applied arts, from illustration, graphic and textile art, to pottery, glass works, and book art. It discusses the importance of material and craft, taking into consideration the genres of art and design as well as their social relevance and context. OBJECTS will be published quarterly and is bilingual (German / English).

Every issue offers academic essays, non-academic contributions by artists, and photo spreads spanning several pages. The publication primarily targets the 20- to 45-year-old age bracket: young readers with an interest in art as well as a specialist audience made up of designers, illustrators, graphic-designers, architects, artists and researchers.

Authors of the first issue’s essays are art critic Colleen Schindler-Lynch(Toronto), artist Robert Revels (San Francisco), designer Scott Ballum (New York), as well as Gregori Saavedra (Barcelona).

Every new issue gives an overview of the most exciting and recent trends and is designed by
renowned graphic artists and illustrators. The first issue bears the artistic style of the well known graphic artist and art director Roman Bittner.

The production of the magazine is done in cooperation with first-class partners. OBJECTS is printed on 150 g/m² and 350 g/m² EuroArt Plus Silk by the renowned paper makers m-real. We chose EuroArt Plus as a high quality paper that has lower environmental impact thanks to its lighter weight and sparing use of raw materials. Printing is done by Besscom AG, Berlin.

The cover price is € 10,00/ CHF 16,00.

OBJECTS. Journal of Applied Arts
Gormannstr. 23
10119 Berlin
Tel.: 0049 (0)30 48 49 19 29

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The Artist's Hand

by Susan Leopold

Susan Leopold, Bird's Nest

The following case study revolves around the creative process involved in making the collage entitled “The Artist’s Hand”. Providing a thorough analysis of the steps involved in creating this collage and linkage of the steps to humanistic, psychoanalytical and cognitive theories of personality is crucial to understanding this artistic process as a means of connection to the conscious and the unconscious. In addition, a discussion of consciousness and its relationship to the creative process is essential to comprehension of the proposed rationale(s) as to why this individual artist/illustrator chooses self-expression through art.

It is important to note that stylistically the creator of this piece works in an intuitive manner and in an abstract (nonobjective, nonrepresentational) style, as opposed to a realistic (representative) style in which the artistic process deals primarily with creating a recognizable person, place or thing. This realistic style of working involves a more conscious manner of problem solving and following established rules and techniques. In contrast “an abstract image can be grounded in an actual object” or “it can give visual form to something inherently non-visual, like emotions or sensations” (Atkins R., pg.39). The intuitive, expressive style used to create “The Artist’s Hand” collage enables the artist to connect to hidden aspects of consciousness previously outside of mental awareness. In some ways the intuitive artistic process of this individual can be seen as a bridge or connection between various states of consciousness. Steve Winn writes in a recent San Francisco Chronicle article that “only by mastering certain rigorous skills and navigating a highly conscious sequence of decisions can an artist hope to unlock the deep chambers of human experience that make the end results matter. It’s in the delicate negotiation of craft and inspiration, conscious choices and the summons of the unconscious, that art finds its form and communicative power” (Winn, S. 2007).

“The Artist’s Hand” is described in roughly five stages in the following discussion. Each stage involves creative processes connecting the conscious to the unconscious and vice versa in order to facilitate the process of creation. A comprehensive analysis of the complexity of debate regarding the terms “conscious” and “unconscious” is well beyond the scope of this discussion. For the purposes of this essay “Information processing in the brain can be divided into two classes: processes that are accessible to consciousness and processes that are not. The processes that we are not conscious of we label unconscious, or outside our mental awareness” (Gazzaniga, Heatherton, 2006, pg.142).

The demarcation between fine art and illustration is in fact irrelevant in today’s age of marketing and branding. Throughout the history of art the marketplace has played a role in the life of the “fine” artist and in the production of artwork. Contemporary artists/illustrators increasingly have seen the need to generate and license their own work in response to a changing marketplace in addition to being aware of protecting their creations through an awareness of intellectual property, contract and copyright law. For simplicity’s sake the term fine art illustration is used to describe a form of visual art that is used to communicate either the personal vision of the artist or client for an end use media or user, which includes the “fine art” gallery arena. The case study of “The Artist’s Hand” is an example of fine art illustration that communicates a concept for print publication (end use media) for an audience of readers (users). Simultaneously the artist illustrator expresses a highly personal view in an original piece of “fine” art that will ultimately be displayed to an even wider audience. An additional distinction that is made between fine art and illustration is that of deadline and time constraints. However, that argument is up for debate when consideration is given to the fact that galleries must market and advertise (at considerable expense) art well in advance of the exhibition.

The stages involved in creating this artist’s collage can be divided into and gathering reference revolving loosely around the abstract metaphor of “hand”, letting the concept emerge as a sketch, physical creation with materials, combining/gluing/sewing and finally embellishing the surface of the work. With commissioned work an initial client consultation is essential, however with an artist generated project the consultation is much less specific as in the piece discussed here. Within each stage of the creative process a dialogue between what is seen and what is hidden becomes an integral part of the creative process. This process relates to Freud’s process of free association in psychoanalysis in that it “allows free association to temporarily bypass the censoring mechanism the ego employs” (Burger, 2008, pg.56). As a result the artist accesses the unconscious or alternatively defined as another level of awareness.

The first stage of gathering reference consists of speaking with the client(s) or end user(s) to determine pertinent information regarding the work (contracts, deadlines etc.) and assembling physical materials such as handmade paper, historical anatomical references, dolls, acupuncture modes, plaster and gauze fabric hands, old letters and odds and ends around the studio. All material must relate in some way to the “hand” metaphor. This stage involves consciously observing materials and the environment in order to select the physical elements to form the collage while at the same time “absorbing” the metaphor of the hand into the artist’s mind in order to let the concept percolate. These artistic decisions and associations are made intuitively. Perhaps this process occurs using many states of awareness simultaneously or through what some would call an altered state. “These altered states are associated with unusual subjective experiences” and “enhanced levels of self awareness” (Gazzaniga, Heatherton, 2006 pg.146). Many of these artistic decisions occur at lightning speed and often the artist is not aware of them as they are more guided by a bodily sense of what feels right. There is an inner confidence of trusting artistic impulse or inspiration. This stage particularly involves the visual and tactile senses as the artist handles and chooses materials and objects. It could be proposed that handling of materials evokes connection to early memories triggering emotional states that are part of the process of accessing that other form of awareness previously described. The creative process is the “bridge” itself and the inspirational spark (energy?) travels in both directions between states of awareness throughout this process. As the materials and environment inspire the artist to connect to previously unknown thoughts, dreams and ideas previously outside of conscious awareness, the creation of the art as a separate entity enables the artist to bring into conscious awareness those previously hidden dimensions, which in turn further inspire the continuation of the artistic process. In the collage under discussion the chosen elements must embody relevant characteristics to the hand metaphor and also to the as yet to be discovered implicit themes inherent in the artwork. This is an intuitive process that includes Freud’s free association method in addition to the concept of schema that comes from the cognitive approach to personality. According to Burger “One of the main functions of schemas is to help us to perceive features in our environment” (Burger, pg.434, chapter 15). In this case the artist is conscious of looking externally to activate memories, associations, dreams and desires that remain outside of awareness but will all contribute to layers of meaning in the art. It is the goal of this artist to create a work that is meaningful on many layers, some obvious and some more veiled.

The artist in this analysis used a hand as focal point in the art initially because it seemed a simple and obvious choice. The hand is a universal symbol especially relevant to the visual arts and has many layers of meaning. In this sense the hand might be seen as an archetype from the collective unconscious, a concept attributed to Carl Jung’s school of analytic psychology (Burger, 2008, pg.106). However there is an additional layer of meaning to the hand that will only emerge upon completion of the work. This experience of discovering a surprise or hidden meaning upon completion of a piece is a frequent occurrence for the artist. The subject finds the research and gathering stage often leads to creating and relates to the psychoanalytic process in that “if the client truly expresses whatever enters consciousness, both client and therapist could be surprised by what emerges” (Burger, 2008, pg.57).

The second stage is that of using the act of drawing (creating a sketch), while simultaneously letting the largely unconscious material percolate and emerge to form additional layers of implicit meaning in the collage. The concept consciously chosen to base the collage around was to portray a hand (as cocoon) releasing a butterfly (the creative spirit). The very physical act of drawing led to the mental associations of mummy wrappings, the use of very old, quill pen scripted correspondences and old Buddhist rubbings. These associations are made outside the level of conscious awareness as is much of the artistic decision making process. The unconscious associations between material and imagery are apparent in the depiction of metamorphosis and the choice of the artist to make rubbings from an old wooden block with ideograms referring to ancient Buddhist texts which complement the East meets West typographic component of the “Hand”.

The realization of the piece begins with the third stage of physical creation of the collage. Techniques employed in this example are handmade paper forming and sculpting, painting, encaustic (hot wax) and printmaking. These activities involve artistic/illustration techniques and skills that are employed on a conscious level to facilitate completion of the artwork. This stage is a form of dialogue between the artist and the artwork, requiring immense concentration in order to facilitate resolution of the work. Mihaly Csikszentmihali describes this intensely rewarding experience as optimal experience, or flow (Burger, 2008, pg.305). “Optimal experiences are intensely enjoyable but they are usually not restful, relaxing moments. On the contrary, most often flow experiences are quite demanding” (Burger, 2008, pg.305).

One element that must be noted as part of the creation of any fine art illustration is the consistent time dimension or deadline. For this artist/illustrator working under the restrictions of a deadline frequently enhances the creative process. Time pressure and the boundaries of the specific assignment create sharper focus and editing power in terms of both concept and product.

The fourth and fifth stages combine synthesis of elements both consciously and also on a level outside of conscious awareness. By gluing, stitching and finding ways to combine the parts (familiar/old) into the final (unfamiliar/new) piece, the final discovery is that the individual and familiar elements of the collage are transformed into a new combination relating to Aristotle’s formal cause (whole-part). Perhaps this transformation refers as well to cognitive processing of information in that a new way of looking at existing elements has occurred. The final fifth stage is to embellish and make conscious choices as to where to add final touches of color and texture. Usually the artist will let the piece “rest” or find a way to create some distance in order to facilitate completion. It is at this point that the unexpected surprise element may appear to the artist. In “The Artist’s Hand” the implicit meaning of the piece became apparent rapidly upon completion. The initial choice of the hand metaphor was chosen to solve an illustration assignment from a client. The problem this assignment posed was how to communicate the concept of artistic creativity as simply as possible to an audience of aspiring artists. On the most obvious level the artist solved this problem by using the hand releasing the butterfly as a metaphor for creativity while creating a work of art. The surprise or hidden level revealed more personal emotions and hidden concepts relevant only to the artist. In this way this artist’s process my also be a therapeutic one. Perhaps the creative process for the subject provides a means to overcome or resolve fears or early childhood trauma. As Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Arthur J. Deikman said “Creative action platys with the unknown. But as the child fears the dark, full of big dogs and mental monsters formed from fantasies, the adult child will be fearful too, faced with the dark world of the unknown mind, with vast concepts looking enormous just beyond the front yard. Peering out, he sees no parents in the darkness of that land where he has never been. The unknown is uncontrolled no strategies exist that will enclose the endless territory or the new. Only trust in yourself and in the world can carry you past the watchdogs of your fears and out of the iron gates of the already-known” (cited by Deikman, M.D., A.J. 2007). By seeing the final art reflecting back these hidden elements the artist is able to understand and make connections previously outside of conscious awareness thereby facilitating mind/body healing. In this sense the art is both a commissioned piece for a client, a problem–solving vehicle for the artist or what is commonly called “a personal illustration”. The creative process itself is of the utmost importance to this artist. As evidence of the high regard/respect for personal process inherent in creating “fine art illustration”, this artist employs many steps such as fine stitch-work on the back of the art, unseen buried imagery in the layering of paper and textiles, use of archival material to ensure the life of the original art beyond the secondary print use and excellent archival documentation of the work. While the end product ultimately will be used in reproduction, many of the finishing techniques go beyond the reproduction stage in that the original art maintains its own integrity beyond the “camera readiness” stage. The original art can be described the remains of a particular process taking place in real time and as such it takes on a life of its own in its relevance as a psychological “mirror” for others after completion and more immediately as art for secondary media use.

This article has discussed how the artistic process utilized in creating the collage entitled “The Artist’s Hand” serves as a bridge between the conscious and unconscious and supports that concept with psychoanalytic, humanistic and cognitive theories. The artistic process may also be a therapeutic one by providing what Abraham Maslow defined as peak experience or what he called “a visit to a personally defined Heaven” (Burger, 2008, pg.304). Perhaps the creative process also provides a means to overcome fear as well. There are many extremely self-actualizing aspects to making one’s living as a fine art illustrator. Abraham Maslow famously said “Finding one’s lifework is a little like finding one’s mate” and “If you are unhappy with your work you have lost one of the most important means of self-fulfillment” (Burger, 2008, pg.310). Many feel fortunate to be paid for creation and self- expression. As psychologist Carl Rodgers said “Whether one calls it a growth tendency, a drive toward self-actualization, or a forward-moving directional tendency, it is the mainspring of life” (Burger, 2008, pg. 292). Connection to self, sense of completion and unity with something larger than self is achieved through the creative process and is the ultimate reward for the artist. For this artist those are the reasons to continue to make art along with the fact that it is a joy to feel fee to experiment, explore and play.

Maslow, A. H. (1968). The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: Viking.
Gazzaniga, M. S., & Heatherton, T. F. (2006). Psychological Science (Second Edition ed.). New York: W.W.Norton & Company.
Burger, J. M. (2008). Personality (Seventh Edition ed.). California, U.S.A: Thomson Wadsworth.
Deikman, M. D. (2007). Personal Freedom: On Finding Your Way in the World. Retrieved July 20, 2008, from
Winn, S. (2007, May 29). What Happens to us When Art Connects Us to the Unconscious. The San Francisco Chronicle, p. 2.
Atkins, R. (1997). Art Speak (Second Edition ed.). New York: Abbeville Press Publishers.

Susan Leopold received a BFA in Fine Art from the University of Michigan (1979) and an MA in Medical Illustration from University of California (1982). She has been on faculty of Ontario College of Art and Design. Since 1983 she has been a full-time practising artist.
Her work has won numerous awards both in Canada and the USA, and has been featured in publications nationally and internationally including a new book called “The Art of Feminine Drawing” which showcases contemporary artists from around the world and also many of the Fiberarts Design Books.
She was recently invited to exhibit at the Eisner Museum in Milwaukee in a show called “Right Here in the USA”
Her work is currently featured in the winter issue of “Cloth, Paper, Scissors”, a magazine about contemporary collage and has been featured in Somerset Magazine.
Currently teaching as course leader at Sheridan College and Instructor at the Ontario College of Art and Design, guest lecturer at McMaster University and the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design Susan will be heading up the art program at Voice Intermediate School in the Distillery District, Toronto, where she maintains her studio/gallery space.

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"What colour is your Chicken?"

by Scott Ballum

This image is on strike!

It is surprising to find myself as a graphic designer in the seemingly irreconcilable position of having more interest in discussing socially and politically relevant work than the relevancy of design itself. Perhaps that it is because to me, talking about the potential of design is like talking about the potential of language. Talking about design is like talking about the diction and eloquence of a speaker before considering the content of his address. It is not to say that studying and understanding the nuances of such form is not important, or to ignore the fact that in most cases the form will highly effect the reception of the content. But it does seem that reaching this level of dissection, of understanding, would really only be worth the bother should the content be pertinent enough to warrant further examination.

The visual illustration of an idea, as an act itself, is not much of a challenge. Most simple to moderately complex concepts can be visually conveyed by most individuals. Party games such as Pictionary and Charades and their imitations rely on the basic human ability to indicate the abstract with referential, metaphorical or literal expressions. That is to say, anyone can draw a pictogram of a chicken crossing the street. This ability itself is not unique to those who call ourselves designers or artists. Drawing a more life-like or highly stylized chicken, if the only goal is to depict that same scene, is nothing more than an exercise in excess. To imbue emotion or tension, or some other level of information into that scene, or rather the notion of even the benefit of doing so, is where we begin to impart anything particularly special to the situation. However, it is not until the chicken is petrified, wearing a burka, and looking over its shoulder as it races across a war-torn avenue as a symbol of on-going everyday violence in any one of several Middle Eastern nations would the image begin to warrant a further inspection into its composition, scale, choice of medium, line-quality or color-palette.

This is particularly evident in the realm of graphic design. Ours is a considerable industry based on the creation of logos and identities, the study of the strategies of doing so and the marketing of one’s aptitude do so as better than another’s. We aim to reflect the characteristics, attributes and values of our client in as few strokes or shapes as possible, often only by the choice of typeface in which to set the client’s last name. Thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in the attempt to do something that should anyone think critically about, even some who are regarded of as masters of it, he will tell you is completely impossible. The very best that can be done is to create a design that is socially appropriate to the industry in which the client is looking to compete, meaning one that looks at least a little bit like everyone else’s design, with some slight variation and hope that no one’s already done it exactly like that before to avoid embarrassing cease-and-desist notices. Values and attributes can only be alluded to by referencing the logos or visual representations of more established companies that share our client’s carefully selected viewpoints. No meaning or subtext, or emotion or tension, can truly be infused at this point. It is a tactical speculation of what will please the subjective tastes of a client. Or to put it more crudely, guessing what color the client wants his chicken.

I’m not the first to point out what should be obvious. We live in an era in which we are defined but what we own and who we do business with. Appearance is everything in what we buy, what we drink, what we wear. And we, as designers, are not only subject to that scrutiny, we are the ones creating the definitions. By the associations we create or the styles we emulate or riff upon, we decide what cool looks like, smells like, where it travels to, and what it drives. We play along with the visual and stylistic definitions of success, and with a few flicks of the wrist, we can dress up just about anything in its clothes. We can assign associations between distant cousins of commodities, make the old look new and the new look old. Whether we are influential enough as designers to have the most influential clients, or we are independently bucking the trends for clients who want to look like they’re bucking the trends, we shape perceptions, define styles and establish the criteria by which we ourselves are then judged.

Every time we send something out into the world that perpetuates, or even redefines, what cool/success looks like, we are urging others to consume it. Our goal is to tell them that they need it, that in order to remain cool or successful they need to own it, wear it, eat it, drive it, smell like it, and listen to it. And then we leave the studio and buy, wear, drive, spritz, and turn on what another designer has convinced us we need. We are part of our own machine as we fulfill the desires to maintain our inclusion in the status quo. You would think we would know better than this.

This overwhelming cycle has been a long time coming and will continue to consume us well into the future unless we partake in some unforeseeable dramatic evolution. For decades we’ve been working towards this point. Advertising and marketing has made us, has given us the content, if not the language and tools, and we in turn have made them the most dominant modes of communication that they are. We’ve created a world in which anyone, any organization no matter how noble or trivial, must look the part to play the game. As much as there is to be said for the un-designed, unpolished zine or local business, wider acknowledgement and distribution is dependent upon meeting a certain criteria of aesthetics. It’s a yardstick that we have created and trained society to use and now nothing is free of its scrutiny.

What this tends to mean is that those with the most money, the wealthy business or the established publications they sponsor, get to hire the biggest brand-name designers. Visual artists who have the most experience making people look good – or have already created the visual landscape of an entity’s competitors – are hand picked to bring others into the fold. By investing in us they are following the rules of capitalist economy: the wealthy look wealthier and get to be the wealthiest, and the have-nots get completely overlooked. When we aim only to satisfy our clients, to draw the chickens they hire us to draw, our creations are devoid of authenticity or authorship. We will occasionally take the time to serve a client or two in the cultural or social non-profit world, but most often we’re as motivated by the prospects of stretching our wings a bit creatively, as well as adding something new and shiny to our portfolio, as we are by the notion of actually helping a cause we are truly passionate about to play in the design-conscious world we’ve built up around them.

This image is on strike!

But here lies a dissenting proposal: What if we just stopped?

Imagine that every working visual artist employed in the product or service promotion economy stopped working. No new logos, no more chickens. If we’re any good at our jobs, which also demands problem solving, creative thinking, project management, business and interpersonal skills, technical proficiency, and presentation abilities, there are many other things we could do to sustain ourselves. No more slick advertisements. No new commercials, no new billboards. No more magazines in which you can’t discern what’s content and what’s sponsorship. No more websites with flashy homepages and bells and whistles. No new groundbreaking book jackets, no clever posters, no redesigns of redesigns.

The world would not fall apart, the mass hysteria we would like to believe would devour First World nations would not occur. Everything in existence would remain for quite some time, and to be honest I wonder how long it would take before anyone noticed Coke hadn’t re-branded itself in a while. Trademarks and publications that have been part of our culture for decades would live on. Billboards would stay up, and it would be many months before they showed weather-wear and sun bleaching. Some magazines would cease to publish, but any based on real journalism, literature or academic writings would manage to carry on. It would be several years before anyone noticed that the web’s exponential expansion had slowed. Customers would keep shopping.

But time would pass and the playing field would start to level out. Corporations would have little else to do but actually talk about what they manufacture. Retailers would resort to listing the products they sell and the prices they sell for. Car companies would finally explain how their vehicles are or are not unique. Non-designers would begin using their own creativity to figure out how to wrap presents, make birthday cards, reinvent their wardrobes, and pass their leisure time. After a transition period filled with starbursts and powerpoint-created graphics, our visual world would quiet down. We would expect less from graphic appearances and demand more from content. Promotions from the telephone company would begin to look no different than information from the local theater or charity drives from a soup kitchen—but suddenly the messages would be immediately distinguishable. With real information at their disposal, consumers would be able to make more educated decisions, and more frequently decide that the clothes, gadgets and cars they already own were enough.

Once content had become key, we now-latent visual designers would have the opportunity to flip the tables. Already established in our other careers, we would be free to take graphics projects at our choosing, calling local service organizations, workers unions, cultural institutions, environmental and political agencies and international human rights leagues. With content we could feel truly passionate about as our guides, we could elevate these humble clients to levels of popularity and notoriety only reserved for computer and sneaker companies today. The sudden novelty of combining beauty and messages would rock an economy of individuals unsure of what to do with their disposable income. Education and philanthropy would become the norm, society’s expectations would center on decipherable and informative content. When a powerful and significant message comes first and we as designers see our jobs as one of providing clarity and platform, our successes would be measured on a completely different scale. There would be no industry standard we try to make our clients fit in to. No references we borrow and steal to provide context in a saturated market. We would actually be free to be as unique as our client’s messages without financial burdens and expectations.

We would have the freedom to experiment, to be wrong, we would even have the freedom to be ugly. As long as we had something to say, we would have the freedom to say it without our voices being judged before we were heard. Instead of drawing chickens whose sole goal was to get to the other side, they would have noble purposes and interesting narratives. Form, color, composition and structure would reveal their importance as appropriate to a specific message as they supported understanding. More than likely, I believe we would decide that intention and significance would play a far greater role in how we measured ourselves and our successes.

This idealistic, design-as-a-luxury-for-the-culturally-and-socially-relevant world is not likely to happen soon. It would be too naïve to suggest that the most popular and economically successful amongst us would have any desire to shake the status quo and put our industry, with our clients, and the rest of the world on equal footing. It is true that, short of this scale of revolution, we will continue to be trapped within the wheels of commerce so if there is any hope at all of escaping the machine in which we draw ourselves, we must find some other option aside from this instantaneous global shift in priorities. We will have to do it on our own.

Even as individuals we can choose to dismiss the choices currently before us, to check ourselves out of the cycle, be deliberate and conscientious about both what we consume and what we produce, and focus our attention and energy on messages and causes shaping society in ways in which we feel emotionally and intellectually connected. When conversations and critiques prematurely turn to composition and color, we can push back with answers about content and context. When assessment of our work or our value as visual artists is measured by the language we speak rather than the substance we bring to the table, we can decide to align with our dissenting priorities and our new-found worth as messengers of social and political urgency. And when we find we have more important things to say, even the most colorful and masterfully designed chickens will no longer hold appeal.

Scott Ballum, graphic designer and writer in New York, is the founder of Sheepless, a studio created with the intention to separate from the expected herd mentality and make deliberate, considered decisions in both production and consumption. In his professions Scott works to educate himself and others about consumerism and individual choice, and to support social and cultural organizations affecting positive change.
Clients and collaborators include the Art Directors Club of New York, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Parrish Art Museum, School of Visual Arts, Signature Theatre Company, Webby Awards, and the Alhurra Television Network. Scott has served as Design Director of Housing Works, the nation's largest community-based AIDS service organization and a leader in social enterprise, and Senior Designer at C&G Partners, a multi-disciplinary design studio catering to the arts, media, and public spaces.
Scott also founded Consume®evolution Magazine in 2005, dedicated to exposing a growing complacency with globalization and consumerism and offering viable alternatives to a "mass-produced" lifestyle. In 2008, he began the Consume®econnection Project, in which he aims to spend a year meeting individuals involved with the production of every item he consumes.


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Different, but the same

Ilustration in a Synoglyphic Visual Culture
by Colleen Schindler-Lynch

left:Sara Cerilli, sewing and paper, 2005
right:Kim Hyun-Ji, Mixed media collage, 2008

From the Beginning

Visual culture is constantly undergoing shifts in the perception of traditional norms. There exists, a rather large indefinable grey area between the fine art world and the world of illustration. Throughout the modern history of visual communication, illustration has often flirted with the other side of artistic expression– crossing back and forth over established categories of image making, blurring distinctions and cross-pollinatingwith the other for a time, confounding critics, academics and even the public.

There was a time when watercolour was considered low art. Printmaking and photography in their infancy fought the same uphill battle against historical precedent and preference. So to, does illustration. It has long been defined by the allegory and its supportive role in publishing, providing images to accompany a story. Amusing pictures intended to grab a reader’s attention – truly, an early form of info snacking - read the pictures rather then the story. From humble beginnings illustrations were made to be printed alongside adverts, visually describing products or scenes to an illiterate public. Shop owners and newsmen soon discovered that images sold more products and papers. It is here that illustration became relegated to a submissive genre of art – not charting new ground – text is the driving force with illustration along for the ride.

Without its commercial attachment, illustration stands alone, freed it from its obligatory shackles. Time and again, illustrators are proving that intent is a better barometer – a stronger measure of the medium, and that the label is far broader then the restrictive definition allows. Perhaps, a new, expanded and more open definition is in order.

Illustrators are using traditional media that usually fall into the realm of fine art such as paint, pencil and multi media. They are not just delivering client-based work but developing bodies of images with thesis driven explorations of subject matter. Far from the origins of the discipline in depicting quaint scenes for advertising, we find visually challenging, thought provoking, morally questioning and engaging images. Like fine art, illustration can be rich in subject and masterful in technique, yet it is commercial by nature and it is here that we see the divergent path illustration typically takes from the intent of fine art. Or is it where we wade into a grey zone between the two - playing bumper cars with the world of fine art, sometimes crashing head-on into it and sometimes falling in line with the flow.

Illustration’s recent renaissance, burgeoning in the 1980s, owes much to the fashion industry. The collaboration of Barney’s and Jean Philippe Delhomme’s illustrations for the retailer’s ad campaign put illustration on the map again as a viable, important and useful genre. The playful illustrations for theI am, campaign were the perfect reaction against the slick, technological, over prevalent use of photography. Illustration has grown broader in its context – new media, old media, traditional and non-traditional ¬– championed by artist/illustrators who soldier on.

Expanded Vision

Today we see exhibitions, festivals and events present the category of works called illustration on a fine art platform. The sister exhibitions of Illustrative 07 in Paris and Berlin presented illustrative material in gallery settings akin to fine art exhibitions and in London, Designersblock: Illustrate 2007 offered both conventional and experimental forms of illustration as an interactive and performance based event, enriching our visual culture. Freed from its commercial intent, the work transformed and commuted its restrictive definition – blurring, blending, and even embracing the ambiguity, while simultaneously separating the disciplines of art. Together, these events presented visual material in a context and with a vocabulary that we recognize as belonging to illustration’s prestigious counterpart.

The purveyors of this visual language are at the same time dividing the disciplines by defining themselves as illustrators rather than artists – working both in an artistic pursuit and for commercial endeavors. The politics associated with the labels of illustration and fine art need to come under question.

This multiple approach to roles and definitions finds a lot of illustration practitioners and visual material crossing what seems to be, at times, a chasm between the disciplines. Not unlike the 1970s when Pluralism was initially defined, we are experiencing its resurgence. Globally we see the questioning of established values and institutions. In North America, giants of industry, like Enron and Nortel, see their executives serving time in prison for unscrupulous business practice, while the occupation of foreign lands and the questionable tactics of governing bodies call our collective morals into question. Events such as these fracture singular viewpoints and expand pluralist opinion. This recent paradigm shift also affects the practice and perception of illustration. Therefore, alogical first step in developing a new definition is to examine the pluralist visual climate.

There isalso a shift in the perception of what constitutes art. We find a segment of illustrators using media relegated to a DIY craft aesthetic exploring a resurgence of the decorative arts – surely a humanistic response to our technologically bound and mechanized world. As most of us try to tabulate our carbon footprint, there is a global awareness of our presence on the planet. An awareness of the individual singled out from the collective (your community, your city, your country, your continent), craving perspective on our ever-shrinking planet – a planet that is noticing dwindling supplies and resources and the prevalence of technology replacing human contact and connection.

The Janus-Effect

With one eye on the future and one eye on the past, Neo-craft illustrators are charting new or should I say old, ground. They have a long history to follow – William Morris’s vision embodied in the Arts and Crafts movement was a response to the dehumanization of the industrial revolution and is, of course, extensively documented. The Decorative Arts and Feminist movements of the 1970’s, yielded artists such as Judy Chicago and Faith Ringgold, whose practice involved working in media typically relegated to women’s handwork. Quilting and embroidery possess a tactile quality and speak to a human history – a connectedness with the hands that fabricated the work. Now the Neo-crafters are revisiting similar media, maintaining evidence of the hand as a response to the dehumanization of our technological age. The physicality of the media attracts not only the hands of the maker but also the gaze of the viewer with an appreciation of slight irregularities and imperfections that speak to our humanity and inherent flaws.

From around the globe, artist/illustrators such as Sandrine Pelletier, Claire Ann Baker, Laura McCafferty, Eleanor Bowley, Borja Uriarte and Jenny Hart utilize hand stitching, machine embroidery, fabric and photo collage in their work. Sandrine Pelletier’s work possesses both a modern perspective and an antique heirloom feel – brocades and lace coupled with the controlled chaos of twists, knots and tangles of threads. In works such as her “Experimental Faces,” Eleanor Bowley’s technique could easily be mistaken for a digital line drawing with spot colour. A closer examination reveals fabrics and stitching. Both Eleanor Bowley and Claire Ann Baker have a collage-like nature to their work incorporating found objects, photographs and reclaimed garment details. Jenny Hart’s embroidery is reminiscent of kitschy souvenirs collected from places like Niagara Falls and Nashville – embroidered images that impart a note of nostalgia. All have reinterpreted old-fashioned techniques and re-fashioned them with a contemporary edge.

The broad range of styles and techniques that make up Neo-craft illustration is unified by a common exploration of simple materials transformed into captivating images. Peter Callesen, Robert Ryan, Robert Sabuda, Sherril Gross, and Pierre Louis Mascia, cut and engineer simple paper beyond its intended function. Peter Callesen makes quiet, contemplative, delicately exquisite pieces out of simple, unassuming A4 copy paper. Flowers fall and drape, buildings stand sturdy and structured, no longer part of a two dimensional existence they occupy a physical presence in our space. Robert Sabuda engineers marvelous works for children’s books, creating remarkable images in the tradition of the pop up book. Pierre Louis Mascia’s figures can be characterized as the ultimate chic fem. The folding, cutting and re-assembling of a variety of papers, including common paper doilies and lace, coupled with his use of positive and negative space creates vogue figures for the fashion industry. The cut lines in his illustrations are every bit as sensitive and interesting as in an image rendered in pencil or conté. The material manipulation by these paper pushers is sophisticated, direct, poetic and whimsical. The simplicity of their work is captivating despite its lack of technological ties.

Anti-Body Aesthetic

Appearing to be at odds with Neo-craft illustration is the fodder of the Nouveau Surrealists and Neo-Constructivists. Subject matter exploration involves the dissolution, deconstruction and disappearance of the human form. With the global population soaring, there is a perceived disinterest in physical identity. We are defined by and distilled down to a set of numbers that make up our presence on the planet – bank accounts, passwords etcetera. The domination of digital technology in every field, establishes the fact that the emphasis is not on the individual. Deconstruction, a theoretical position popularized in the 1980s & 1990s had a global effect on all aspects of art and design ¬– fashion, graphic design, architecture, literature and fine art. Currently, it is being revisited and has morphed into the mainstream becoming a style unto itself.

Reinvestigating the academic methodology, contemporary designers and illustrators are utilizing its theories, structures and details to communicate visually. This form of figural representation in illustration is characterized by a lack of figural components ¬¬– realistic or believable representations of ‘the body’. Edited into anonymity, by diminishing its visual impression, the role of figural identity is heightened by its lack of appearance. This faction’s usage and cognizance of the figure in illustration does not infer disinterest, rather the images convey a celebration of the body by removing it from the quotient – dissolving and deconstructing it altogether. By removing the conventional depiction of a figure – by contorting, deconstructing and recomposing – this breed of illustration underlines a use of disparity in the balance structure of illustration particularly the relationship between garment to figure and figure to environment.

The historical underpinnings of these “Anti-body” illustrators, resembles Surrealist and Russian Constructist theory.

“…Surrealism would liberate the unconscious, reconcile it with the conscious, and free mankind from the shackles of logic and reason…”1

We end up following charted territory provided by art history. Fragmentation of conventional drawing rules in this annex of illustration, forces an acute awareness of what is wrong with the composition or subject. It compels and cajoles your logic and rationale. You are pressed to search your history of visual experience to fill in the missing information, thereby creating a new whole. The Surrealists epitomize all that is illogical. Maren Esdar’s quasi Victorian, contortionistic figures remain beautiful in spite of their twisted dreamlike existence. Marie Gibson’s Giraffe Woman (2005) is reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s work Elephants (1948). Her figure has long stretched legs and a body type that follows the standard fashion figure formula. However, dwarf elephants with butterfly wings trail her. Gibson utilizes other Dali devices such as the low horizon line and barren landscape.

“Down with art! Long live Technology!”2

The constructivists believed that humanity was second to technology and so it is logical that this branch of illustration usually finds its manifestation in the digital environment. Ingrid Baars’ images embody whiplash energy and dissolve in a fluid-like form. Similarly, Shiv’s figures fade in and out of our focus occupying several dimensions or realities. Tied to an environment and eking out a temporal existence. Whereas, in the work of Redouane Oumahi, the body becomes line based and simple shapes assemble together in a rather Mattise meets Calder manner.

Different, but the same

To come to the end you started at the beginning, and so, although seemingly disparate, these analogue and digital initiatives in illustration share a commonality. A pluralist viewpoint does not yield an easy and compact definition. At face value they are polar opposites – one emphasizing the evidence of the hand, the other stressing its absence, both figuratively and metaphorically. They are synoglyphs of our visual culture – images that appear different but mean the same thing. At their core, both areas of illustration – whether rendered by hand or by technological means – celebrate the essence and the presence of humanity in our visual culture but from opposite sides of the table. The marginalized, often trivialized role of illustration is expanding its scope under multiple gazes and so has more freedom to flow across that indefinable grey area – a trepidacious line drawn in the sand, between fine art and illustration. The broadening of the definition helps to elevate the profession and proliferate visual culture.


1. Demsey, Amy. “Styles, Schools and Movements.” pg.153 Thames & Hudson Ltd. London. 2002
2. Demsey, Amy. “Styles, Schools and Movements.” pg.108 Thames & Hudson Ltd. London. 2002


left:Sara Cerilli, sewing and paper, 2005
right:Kim Hyun-Ji, Mixed media collage, 2008

Colleen Schindler-Lynch finished a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Windsor in 1990. She continued with graduate studies in printmaking at Louisiana State University completing her degree in 1993. She teaches in the Faculty of Communication and Design at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, instructing both accessory design and illustration. Her research in current thematic directions in illustration, led her to present at the IFFTI conference in April of 2007. Entitled “Lost Innocence.” The paper examined the global presentation of sex and violence in illustration. Her next area of research focuses on digital mimicry. She is studying the use of digital technology as medium or tool in her search for humanity in our visual culture. Additionally, she is an award winning jewellery designer translating garment details such as cuffs, collars and pockets, into couture accessories for her company, Coco’s Closet.


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Illustrate Your World!

by Gregori Saavedra

Gregori Saavedra, Not For Sale

Just a question. Why illustration? Why not art? Where is the difference? In the beginning, illustration meant a way to visualize a text. But now… Illustration usually works on its own. So? Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather be an illustrator than an artist. Artists live too remote from reality. Too remote for me. I live here, where life is, where people are, where the money is. I have to. No way. But that’s just me. I started doing illustration because I needed to express myself. Just that, nothing else. Funny enough, it turned into a job. That wasn’t my intention, but, sincerely, I feel happy. The point is that clients call me because of pieces they saw in a magazine or in a gallery. My most critical pieces. That’s a huge contradiction. They want me to work for them, although they know I am against them. Amazing. Sometimes I think they just want to domesticate me. Another puppet.

Illustration is a great discipline anybody is fit for. Look at me. I just pretended to say the truth. Four years ago I decided to describe myself, to create my own website. Then I decided to do it through the collage technique. I realized I was 100% collage. My complexity, my thousand faces, my infinity could all be visualized.

Then I finished. But I became a fountain. A source of images. I couldn’t stop it. I had too many ideas to launch out. I don’t always feel like an illustrator, I feel like a creative. It’s what I have been for 15 year now. Simply a creative director. That’s the reason I always look for ideas. Not just for images. That’s the difference between illustrators and artists. It’s not a question of style, aesthetic,… It’s about ideas or no idea. There are millions of illustrators. How many ideas? Millions? I don’t think so. Ideas come from brains. The majority of artworks is produced by hands. Illustration will be illustration and does not become art because nobody is asking illustrators to think. They just want them to create pleasant images that go perfectly with the ideas of others.

Sometimes I use illustration as a weapon. That’s my way of finding a balance. I use my artworks as self-protection. Objectively, I am an extremely lucky person, believe me. I’ve got everything I ever dreamed of. Not fair, don’t you think so? I don’t do anything against injustice but to illustrate. My illustrations show my critical side. My antagonistic point of view. Every artwork is a shot. Against the monster: our stupid way of life.

Gregori Saavedra, Inspiration

Every morning I get my inspiration pill. Where? Newspapers. Pages and pages of pure reality, full of ideas, full of lies. But there’s also a problem, because we live in a world invaded by extraordinary photographs. If you have to create new images and want them to be relevant, you can not just do the same as newspapers. You need to be more powerful. New. Original. Surprising.

Yes, I am great liar. As a creative director in advertising, I lie to sell products. As an illustration artist, I lie to say the truth. I mix hundreds of real images to get a new unreal one. But unreal does not mean false. Newspapers provide sliced reality. I provide my completed version, my private vision of the reality designed by the media. My own truth. As any other illustrator, I am a reality re-designer. Free? Of course not. There are limits everywhere. Money means limits. Politics means limits. Sex means limits. And, obviously, religion means limits. Every time I get a commission for designing an illustration, I also get detailed information about the limits I should never cross. That’s the reason why I think that we are just technicians. Our clients know perfectly what they need from us. They would do it by themselves if they could. They do want us to do something “great”, but the meaning of “great” is different for everyone.

In my case, when I do commercial work, I never feel free. Probably like any other illustrator or artist. I imagine that’s what happened to Michelangelo when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine’s Chapel, or Velazquez when he portrayed the Spanish royal family. Maybe that’s the key. Illustration, like painting, becomes art just when it is not directly commercial. But, sincerely, every artwork is a commercial work. If it is not a work for a client, it is a work for our portfolio. And that means possible clients.

Portfolios are a perfect description, not only of the work and style of an illustrator, but they also transpire the personality of every artist. There are illustrators who just pretend to show their skills, but others prefer to make their personality absolutely clear.
I feel more comfortable with the latter. It could mean that I’m not worried about money or that I don’t mind if I get the project or not. It’s not about that. I prefer showing me exactly as I am. That’s the reason I always include my most critical pieces in my portfolio. I want any possible client to know who I am, how I think and how I do things. Dangerous? Maybe. I am liar, but not of this kind. Of course I loose a lot of projects because of this. But I am not interested in all kinds of projects. Money is important but my ambitions are driven from within.

Gregori Saavedra, The Cheater

I started illustrating as a research project. I didn’t know anything about myself for 35 years, I was too busy, too lazy. Then I discovered aspects of me I’d never realised before. That’s what my illustrations are about, they are landscapes of my mind. All the information, memories, experiences, relationships, everything around me turns into these landscapes. Sometimes I walk through them like a tourist, and sometimes I get trapped. There are a lot of common elements in my work: trees, cables, pylons, birds,… But I never visit the same landscape twice. Never. I hate copies.

In my 12 years working in advertising agencies I’ve met a lot of art directors and copywriters who systematically copied from books, design and advertising reviews. They don’t have any problem with that. But I do. In my opinion, it’s not fair, neither ethical. I buy tons of advertising and design books, but I not for copying of them. I buy them to learn from them to avoid to repeat what has already been done. This is my philosophy. That’s why I never create twin artworks. I felt tempted a lot of times, but… Like any temptation, it’s a question of mind power to forget the idea and keep on searching for something 100% new.

But sometimes clients ask me to create an illustration similar to one I already did for my portfolio or an exhibition. They just want me to adapt it to their idea or product. Obviously, I do not love this working method, but it is different from copying from someone else. Some creative teams need to know what image they will get exactly from me. Low self confidence, I guess. Easy money, that’s true. But my mission should always be to design something original, something that has never been done before.

This magazine for example. I am sure there will be a lot of designers and creative departments who will buy it to get to know interesting people. But unfortunately there will also be some who will get it just to know what to do. It shouldn’t be this way. It should be for getting the names of the illustrators they would like to work with on a project. But instead of taking names from these pages, they will take our ideas. One day they will be in a hurry. Their client will ask for a one-day-made campaign or design and we will become their inspiration. Brain-work is not required. That’s the reason, as I mentioned above, there are so much hand-working-illustrators. It’s cheaper. Easier. The ideas are the expensive part of this business.

I landed in illustration coming from the ideas’ planet. I know this is not the usual way, but illustration is a way of communication. If you do not have anything interesting to say, better shut up. It sounds radical but silence is a treasure. Think of it as a sport. A mind’s sport. Anybody can practice it. It’s healthy. And also profitable. Unless you decide to be a different kind of illustrator, a street artist for example.

I deeply admire them. In my opinion, for years, the best illustration artworks weren’t published, nor exhibited in galleries. The most interesting ideas were anonymously painted on our cities’ walls. Blek Le Rat, WK Interact, Banksy, Dr. Hoffmann and so many others were punished by law because of their art. We are so stupid. If Leonardo da Vinci was still alive, would he be the most important artist on earth or a jailed vandal? Is that the way we award genius for? Each of their vandalism acts was a master class for free. I learned so much from them.

They did not have any limits. Their limits were themselves, I guess. That’s only possible if you just work “against”. You can be a modern Robin Hood and illustration your arch, your arrow. Their work, more than landscapes, were portraits of their minds. Political and social stars were the starring, and street artists were visual-synthesizers. That’s what I loved them for, the capability to reduce so much information in one unique image. I guess that’s also the reason why they are such well known artists. They knew the rules. They faced their enemies using the same weapons. They are the infantry. Direct confrontation. But there are another ways to fight. Secrectly camouflaged like spies. Quite. Underneath. It’s another kind of war. Where everything is coded and nothing is what it looks like. Here is where I feel really comfortable. I am a great liar, do you remember?

Easy things, easy come, easy go. The more difficulty, the better prize. For me, pain is the only way to success. This is something I learnt when I was a kid. I hate to spend more than two hours in front of the same document. The only way I know to get the results I imagine: fuck me. Less is more does not mean anything for me. Sorry Mr. van der Rohe. In my neighbourhood, more is more and less is less. This philosophy fits perfectly with the skills demanded for a camouflaged warrior.

In my works it looks like there is an information overdose. But that’s not true. There’s always just one big idea. The other elements are defenders, bodygards. I add them to protect, to cover, to distract the attention from the important issue. It’s just a way to discriminate the wrong from the right audience. People who just see my work as extremely detailed images do not get the right message.

In illustration there is a decoration excess. The majority of artworks just look for beauty. Trendy fast-food. This kind of illustration does not last. Maybe this is another reason why illustration is not taken seriously enough. I am not an expert. That’s true. But it’s not necessary to study art history to realize this. Nasty illustrations are everywhere. But if you want to find nice illustrations you have to look for them.

Now, at the very beginning of the twenty first century, illustration asks for respect. Is it necessary? Respect comes with well done work. Let’s do things right and recognition will come to us. If we respect our work, everybody will do the same. Those who already did it, are now in art galleries and published by the best editors worldwide. We should care about our work like we never did it before. Until now, the kings of illustration were just the commercial ones. That’s not bad, but it’s not real. Illustration, like so many other disciplines, is not just a question of money. Sometimes there are mountains of talent and there is no buck. We should change it. Illustration is pure culture. And culture, dear friends, it’s the most valuable that we create on earth. People come and go, are born and die. But culture remains for generations.

A lot of articles assure that illustration is living through its best moment in history. Well, compared to the isolation suffered until now, that is maybe true. But I’m afraid it is just a question of time. Maybe I am wrong but I think what is happening can be compared to what photography experienced 60 years ago. When suddenly, photography became art. But then there came the digital edge and rules changed. Advertising is 95% visual. Photography is too classy for some creatives. Then illustration comes with its freshness and variety of styles. But in ten or maybe less years all the gold will be finished and then… adaptation or death.

But, sincerely, I am not worried about that. I just worry about important things. I love my worries. It means I am alive. My work is a collection of worries. What else could I illustrate? Is there anything more important? They settle in our minds until we expel them. My method to expel them is easy. I illustrate them. Like nightmares. Someone told me the way for not dreaming the same nightmare was to explain it to somebody. I use the same method for my worries. As soon as I threw them out, they disappear little by little.

Gregori Saavedra, One vs. All

Sometimes my worries are really stupid. Tiny. Sheer personal. I also transform them in artworks. But usually my worries are absolutely global. One day, when I die, there will be a diary, because my illustrations reflect my presence in every piece. Maybe I illustrate something of the future or past but if you look closely you will realize they are built through actual elements. That’s great. I can imagine, also invent, but reality prevails.

What I really love about illustration is its open minded public. Wide opened to everybody. It doesn’t look like illustration has any complex. Or maybe, nothing to loose. Anyway, whoever wants to enter may get in. I am a perfect example. I took all my fears, my memories, my obsessions, mixed all together and here I am. All the elements from my childhood revived: the comics I read, my father’s engineering drawings, the retro aesthetic of my summer holidays in a little village of central Spain. Everything is there. And I am really astounded people love it.

Illustration is my psycoanalyst. I discovered so many things while working on it. For example, I realized through it, that I inherited the curiosity of my mother and the meticulousity at work of my father. Her heart, his mind. I feel free but I use to show myself tied. Everything in my illustrations tells something about myself. Like playing a clue game. Sometimes it is even more sincere than the artist himself/herself. Just look at me. I am just 1,45m tall, but in my artworks I love to play the giant’s rule. It’s so obvious. I could think about it and visualize myself as the dwarf that I am. What a mess. That would be pure reality. Fiction as symbol is more interesting. Don’t you think so?

As in my case, there are a lot of illustrators who are not 100% dedicated to illustration. Illustration makes up just 25% of my income. I know other illustrators who have a similar problem. They live two lifes. By day, they work in a graphic design studio or in an advertising agency. But then, at night, they become the great artists they really are. It looks like a superhero’s life. Illustration is more than their scape valve, it is their secret superpower. All they can not be at their nine-to-five journey, they permute in their illustration work.

Some years ago it would make me feel really sad if I would know cases like these. But now I realized that, maybe because of this, illustration is more popular than ever. If designers or art directors become illustrators then it is perfect. If a designer or art director needs an illustration work, he/she just has to call another designer by day/illustrator by night. It works perfectly. Both talk the same language. Both know the market rules. Both are used to manage the same kind of problems. It is really easy. Probably it is another reason why illustration has this high.

I still remember the moment when I was invited to illustrate. I was reading a design magazine. At home, while working. I still do not understand exactly how it happened. But somehow, all those designers, talking about design, motion graphics, also illustration,… they did something. They opened the door. And said: -Come… Come and have fun.” That magazine was not just a magazine. It was an invitation. The right invitation I was waiting for. The one.

I would like this magazine, these pages, these words, these works, these images, these minds, to be also an invitation for you. Not just a nice book. It would be great! Simply magic! Perfect! So, I say: come on. Join us. Come and have fun. Do illustration. Take paper, pen, scissors and glue, a Mac,… It doesn’t matter at all. Whatever. Then think. What do you want to say? Remember: “you”. Just “you”. Got it? Ok. Now be great! Be new! Be rare! Be crazy! Be true! Be this! Be that! Be here! Be there! Be anywhere! Be anybody! Be you!

If you are lucky, extremely lucky, five years later, you will be writing 2968 words for an illustration’s international review like this.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Serving Swiss Graphic Art

With no doubt there is no other region in the world which has a comparable density of high class graphic artists as Switzerland has. Day-in, day-out freelance artists and graphic designers are working there on new creations on a high level. Nonetheless these artists are little noticed in their country – in contrast to regions abroad. The artstübli is going to tap this source to give the Swiss population an understanding of the well established Swiss creativity.
Artstübli figures itself as support, network, and platform of Swiss graphic arts based in Basel. We would like to reconsider and pilot the exchange within the national creative scene. Due to our curiosity we are already woven in the Swiss creative network. We feel at home within it, know where the strings lead to, and watch this network with tension and confidence. It is necessary to provide a new platform to this by appropriate gallery-exhibitions, the annual ARTig exhibition for graphic arts and the new the new online art-shop.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Artist's Dilemma

Dilemma of Service

Centuries have passed, yet a major dilemma remains for the artist. How does one find a balance between art and commerce? Is it possible to achieve exceptional artistic merit while providing a service for our patrons? This conflict has consumed many gifted artists, and sometimes to the detriment of their physical and mental well being. Achieving this balance is essential to the growth and prosperity of every artist. Our patrons provide us with revenue and an audience. Moreover, the patron’s request keeps the artist’s concept grounded in the reality of communicating to an audience. Without that audience art can potentially become meaningless or irrelevant.The advent of digital technology has deepened this conflict. Traditional media vs. Digital tech-nology is a debate heard in art studios and schools around the world. This debate is more pas-sionately engaged in by artists trained in a traditional atelier approach in an academic setting. The belief of the atelier school is that digital art is not a valid art form. Also, lacking the training and dexterity required with traditional mediums.

So what is the answer?

Pros and Cons of Service

With many things in life there are pro’s and con’s — working with a client is no exception. I am not unlike many illustrators who, at times while working on a project for a client, wish to be in-dependently wealthy to avoid torturous compromises. The temptation is to forgo the project, to pursue my own artistic vision. As luck would have it, escapism is not my usual reaction. The many disadvantages are obvious for us all to see. We must respond to our clients’ needs and desires. Some of our greatest conceptual ideas may never see the light of day. A number of clients do not speak the language of the illustrator. Artists speak in the romantic language of the visual world: the patron speaks the language of numbers and bottom line. Then there are the looming deadlines, the deadlines that can cause us to serve our wine before its time. Every illustrator I know wishes they had more time — time to perfect the wry smile of a child, to add the twinkle of life in a grandmother’s eyes, or to magically capture the sunrise on the rolling hills. All of these external constraints can cause an artist to question their vision.

Through the years my perception has changed. I no longer view a patron as someone to be en-dured or, a changeable advisory. Admittedly, the con’s can seem quite dreadful, but I actually perceive them as a benefit. The advantages that a patron brings to the table far outweigh the con’s. The patron can act as a compass, guiding us along a path to real and effective communication. We have the responsibility to clearly convey our message to the target audience. Our message can range from an insightful political satire, to something as simple as “buy this product”. This responsibility is paramount and can deliver us from a focus on self-indulgent, narcissistic work that can be a trap for many students and young artist. To create and prove their worth they choose to journey down a road of self aggrandizement, astounding themselves and their viewers with their virtuosity. Lost in this fog, they lose sight of communicating the purpose of their illus-tration. Many times when I question students about the content and meaning of their work, I receive comments similar to: “I just wanted it to look cool!”. Looking cool does not define the pro-fessional. A seasoned illustrator wants the image to communicate both the visual artistry and the message.

Once your work enters a public forum, you are responsible for communicating to that forum. That forum may be one or many persons, but the goal is still to communicate to your audience as clearly as possible. Moreover, strong visuals come from the innermost place. The feelings generated “in the heart” derive from intense opinions we have about the current subject to be illus-trated. The client provides the structure within which our vision reveals itself, and can assist us in communicating effectively to our target audience.

The restrictions a client places on the illustrator can be very beneficial. I am a firm believer in the “Less is More” theory. True beauty is about what is not there as much as about what is. Creativity is a process of dealing with the limited things that are around you. Great ingenuity does not come from having a great abundance around you. Discoveries, are made from a void in your sur-roundings. Impoverished people the world over, have learned how to stretch whatever food they have to feed their families. How many more ways can I cook this potato? The illustrator faces the same scenario. How can I paint the same character again and again, while making them feel fresh and new to a viewer. Sometimes our restrictions will not be about keeping continuity of a character. Maybe the restrictions will limit our color choice, or size dimensions. All of these constraints present the artist with a great opportunity to expand his or her ability to create — an opportunity to think beyond the obvious. These restrictions can make the struggle for the correct visual image daunting, yet, this is where true growth originates. Anyone can paint their own picture and make it visually striking. The question is rather — can you bring your patron’s vision to reality? This is what the best illustrators achieve, day in and day out. The professional must come to terms with this, being held to a different standard than a hobbyist. The hobbyist can create art for arts sake, but this is not the luxury of an artist. Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Valezquez, Rembrandt, Holbein, Daumier, Sargent, Mucha, Leyendecker, Rockwell and countless others confronted this same issue. They all struggled individually in a unique way, either coming to terms or never finding the balance. Each personal struggle left a legacy for the world to admire. When we struggle and conquer these restrictions, we receive our compensation of artistic growth. We are also compen-sated monetarily, allowing us to make our way in the world and perhaps to have time to realize a wholly personal vision.

Each artist has to find a balance with which they are willing to live. For some, working as an illustrator may not be a good fit because that balance cannot be met. Some feel that their artistic integrity is being compromised. They may feel that fine art is the answer. A word of caution for those — the patrons change but the conflict remains the same. I have reconciled the struggle in myself. The reconciliation has been to provide whatever talent or gifts I have for others and with spare time I pursue my vision. Whether it is painting for a patron, family, or myself, the goal is to give them something accessible and heartfelt.

Digital vs. Traditional Media

The last ten years has seen a dramatic explosion in technology. The advent of the personal computer has shifted the way the world works, and thinks. We are no longer separated by our continents physical isolation. This shift has been jarring for some. While the internet can unify people, it can equally keep people hidden behind their computer screens, fully detached from one on one interactivity with others. Automated voice mail service leaves us hungry for conversation with a real person. It leaves many yearning for the good old days. As this relates to the craft of illustration, you have three camps. The older generation trained in the traditional atelier system. My generation, a generation trained in the atelier system, yet the first to begin to embrace the technology. Lastly, the generation completely raised on the new technology. The older and new gen-eration are usually clearly divided as it relates to the argument of “Is it art?”. The middle generation usually bears the greatest conflict on the subject. We were trained to love and respect all as-pects of the atelier system — the perfecting of one’s draftsmanship, the intimate connection be-tween oneself and his or her medium of choice. It is a romantic spiritual experience to create something with one’s own hand. Nothing can compare to this. In contrast you have the ease and convenience of digital technology, allowing faster realization of our vision. A parallel argument exist in photography. Is the convenience of digital photography worth the sacrifice of the beauty and technical proficiency of film. The artist and photographers who have not experienced the traditional methods do not typically feel this conflict. It is hard to have emotional feelings about something you have not experienced.

As an educator, I have seen the attitudes of successive generation reverse on the idea of working digitally. I personally teach traditional and digital methods. When I first began teaching Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop 9 years ago as a painting medium, many if not all students did their best to avoid the class. Why would I want to learn how to illustrate on the computer? Tradi-tional art looks and feels better. You had to strongly encourage taking the class. Today is a com-pletely different story. The classes are full. Students have a much higher proficiency with the software before they come into the classes. The interest in the technology is at an all time high. Moreover, the digital software is currently dramatically more proficient at providing a painting experience for those who long to paint with real paint. Digital technology is not going to disappear anytime soon. We must stay current and grow with the times in which we live. This does not mean we have to for go all traditional mediums. Some are mixing the two mediums to pro-duce amazing results. This brings up another disturbing trend affecting some newer generation students. Many ignore the advantages of the traditional atelier academic system. Students have expressed their love for the computer, because they do not want to clean up their paints, or to spend the time to learn how to paint traditionally. This is lazy and absurd logic that typically leads to a failed career. They are looking for the easy way to solve problems. The goal should be to find ways to solve your problems in the best artistic way, not the easiest or cleanest. Digital is a wonderful medium that can do both, aid the challenged and help the innovative.

Can you teach an “old dog” new tricks? I believe you can, if that “dog” wants to be taught. I have seen many of my mentors pay the price for not being willing to learn the digital technology. Now, many of them are rushing to learn. When I graduated from college, I was a purist. I abso-lutely refused to learn about computer illustration. I wanted to produce illustrations in style of the great illustrators past. My refusal cost me many job opportunities. As I accepted the realities of our changing times, I slowly dabbled into the digital world. Hating every stroke of my wacom pen. Lamenting the fact that this is not like traditional paint. Then, something changed. I stopped comparing digital to traditional. Once I did this, my appreciation and fondness for digital media grew. I still prefer traditional mediums but I realized that it is not an all or nothing proposition. I can create in both. Therefore I do. I quiet the purist voice in my head by recognizing the fact that all artists created art with the technology of their time. Illustrators began with etchings. This is what could be mass produced. One and two colors were slowly introduced. We finally arrived at a place where we could paint in full color. The printing process is the fastest and cheapest it has ever been. This allows the illustrator to push the boundaries of the visual medium. With the internet’s presence, illustration will continue to evolve into a non-print forum. Animated illustra-tion is already popular with web banner’s and interactive media. The technology is changing — the need for visual images will not. Beginning with the primitive drawings in the caves of Las-caux to the wonderfully 3D animated films of today, the illustrator is here to stay if he or she chooses to work with and be open to all available media. Adaptability is a virtue — we can change the paradigm of our thinking. Traditional media will always have its place in the market-place. To what extent? Only time will tell.

Technology has many benefits for the illustrator. The biggest advantage is the ability to make drastic changes to your illustrations without having to destroy the original painting. This has always been the biggest challenge with traditional illustration for me. How can I make changes in my work retaining the freshness and not overworking it. Digital technology has completely removed this impediment from my process and has completely refashioned my working relationships with my clients. I can provide them with their vision while preserving one of the earlier preferred iterations for myself. Digital technology has also assisted in meeting deadlines. We can provide press or web ready digital files through e-mail or through secure web servers. I remember shipping paintings overnight, hoping they would not be damaged during transport. The beauty of it all is that I still have a choice to do traditional painting and can simultaneously use technology to make changes to my traditional paintings, as well as to bypass shipping by converting my paintings to a digital format.

In conclusion, “Good illustration should never be based on the medium. Its strength of design should be apparent in any medium.” These are words taught to me as a student. They penetrated my core and have never left. I approach every illustration with the same inner dialog. What is this for, who is this for, and why am I doing this? If I can answer these questions resolutely, I have a good chance to create a strong illustration. When I fail to answer any of these questions, often my illustration fails right in front of me. The medium was not the problem, I was. Digital and Traditional offer different working methods, but serve the same end. It will be used for print, web, or TV. The choice of medium is deeply personal. Every artist has different needs and philosophies. Use everything, experience it all. You will be in the best position to make a choice that suits your artistic vision. Some want speed, some need a more visceral tactile experience, and others may incorporate a mixed media approach. The choice on the spectrum are yours.

Robert Revels is an award winning artist from the United States. As a student athlete his art education began at College of San Mateo. This is where the love of art began. Choosing to forego his athletic career, he enrolled into The Academy of Art University, San Francisco. After receiving several awards in college, he earned a BFA in 1995. Immediately he began to work as a professional illustrator. The projects he has worked on has varied from children’s stories to large concert backdrops for Lollapalooza, Carlos Santana, and U2. In 1997 he began working as a graphic designer for Hull & Honeycutt Marketing and Design. Robert has since returned to teach at his alma mater to give back to the next generation of artists. When not teaching or working on freelance projects — he loves to travel to different countries with his wife.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

I am in Favor of Nonsense


Cédric Quissola, winner of the Young Illustrators Award in Paris 2007, reports back from Marais.

How was your personal feedback after Illustrative? Did any positive news evolve from that?

First I went home by Metro rather tired. The success at Illustrative confirmed my plan to become an illustrating author.
I became acquainted with several agencies for illustrators. Since then my work is represented by, by whom I also became involved in works for the press. French graphic-design magazine ETAPES is going to feature a double-page in August.

Your works presents surrealistic series in crayon. Is there a topic you would regard as a leitmotiv of your drawings.

No, actually there isn’t. There are no real repetitions regarding what I make a topic of my work. It is more a similar production process that the pictures have in common. Of course certain subjects such as the human body are more interesting to me, but actually it’s more about formal modules than integrative subject. My work separates in different phases. I’d say it all runs a rather scientific way. I can do something with the idea of a different reality and with the idea, that there is an alternative to every-day life. The work of David Lynch touches me. His movies fascinate by a subtle dose of surrealistic delirium and deliberate fiction.

Has surrealism taken influence on you?

My works don’t have the dream-poetics of surrealism. They are closer to our every-day world regarding their background as well as form. The pictorial aspect and the subjects considered are thoroughly contemporary. Some of my pictures are interpretations of images I found in the internet, others are mountings of sketches and personal photos. I also attach much importance to words at the beginning of a project; I write much and pen the concept which controls the drawings in the end. Actually it is a permanent exchange between the written and the drawn idea. In the end you can behold my pictures as well as read them, no matter if they contain a sentence or don’t.

Though the absurd idea is important to you, isn’t it?

We are used to monosemiotic pictures, pre-digested pictures. I am in favour of nonsense and the multivocal. I feel the urge to create pictures which are not complex in the perspective of formal understanding (I draw a dog in its traditional form), but which are complex in perspective of content (like a greyhound with a snail-shell). If I had to label my work, I would combine terms which otherwise do not agree with another: figurative abstraction.

What keeps you busy at present? What are upcoming projects?

I work on different projects like the corporate identity of a fashion label, Illustrations for a major aperitif-brand, and a personal project in the field of publishing.
Hitherto I did not have the time and even less the courage to knock at gallery-doors, but this idea is on my mind for month now.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sandra Nuy-Flashy Constellations

Illustration and Memory


“It is neither the case, that the past sheds light on the present nor that the present sheds light on the past, but the picture is the thing, in which bygone things coincide with the present moment in a flashy constellation. In other words: A picture is dialectic on a halt. For as the relation of past and present is one of time, the relation of the bygone things and the present is dialectic: not by nature of time, but by nature of picture.” (Walter Benjamin, 1991, 578)


Pictures are older than scripture: Before perceptions of the world were written down they have been depicted – the cave-paintings of Lascaux and Altamira are among the most important and most beautiful examples. At all times drawings have illustrated reality and saved it for following generations. And it is not by coincidence, that the German words “Zeichnung” (drawing) und “Aufzeichnung” (chronicle) are etymological that close related. For both describe documentation of cut-outs of reality, fixations of frictions and on-passing of relevant cognition.
Also apart from its dispositions from primitive times the picture is regarded the oldest memory-system of mankind. As a vital part of ancient rhetoric, ars memoriae derives from a founding myth formed by picture. The Greek poet Simonides once had left a feast for a moment, when suddelny the ceiling suddenly collapsed and buried the guests. He was then the only person who was able to identify the disfigured guests for he remembered the seating arrangement. This allowed the bereaved to entomb their relatives appropriately. Since then the combination of pictures and places is regarded the ideal way of mnemonic techniques. The myth of the invention of ars memoriae as art to conquer oblivion refers to the fact, that memory is not only an individual, neuronal, and psychical phenomenon. It is a social phenomenon as well – and it is always a phenomenon of communication and media.

But what are the characteristics of pictures within the discussion on a social, a collective memory? The following remarks try to give some answers, though necessarily cursory. Too multifaceted is the discussion on pictures, too complex the imaginable perspectives of theories on this topic. The memory-oriented paradigms of research are very popular for some years now: Memory became a “main term of humanities” (Aleida Assmann). Also politic and journalistic practice is constantly dealing with this topic; the different cultures of remembrance are controversial subjects of discussions in public and in politics.
Let’s come back to “dialectic on halt”. How can you describe this in a not only iconographic way, but considering aspects of cultural history and cognitive sociology as well? Ariadne’s threat of this consideration will be outlining illustration as media of cultural memory. Put another way it will be asked, what specific characteristics illustration as form of cultural knowledge-management has.

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