Thursday, 25 September 2014

Illustration Symposium at AUB and VaroomLab: Day Two

Looking Towards Interpretive Illustration Narratives

Roderick Mills is an illustrator, lecturer at the University of Brighton and also the Deputy Chairman of the A.O.I. He also is involved in Mokita founded in 2010 to debate on the growing culture of critical discourse around illustration. He began with a definition of the word ‘illustration’ or to ‘illuminate – through Spiritual or intellectual enlightenment’. He highlighted the words of Steven Heller, that illustrators can’t afford to be parochial anymore. An ‘authorial instinct’ has become accepted as part of illustrative practice, with illustrators generating and being much more in charge of their own content.

 Roderick Mills, Heart Agency 


The definitions of illustration can somewhat restrict it, how we view illustration has been very much changed by the iphone and the proliferation and availability of images. In a conversation about the Iphone between film-makers David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky, (see HERE) , they view the iphone as a multi- tasking tool which offers freedom and is empowering.

The first type of book to explore how illustration has responded to technology was ‘Pen and Mouse’ (2001). 15 years ago the only way to view illustration was via the A.O.I Images annuals. Sites like ‘It’s Nice That’, have massively raised its profile. So much that we are almost paralysed by the amount of illustration, we are consuming. This must be especially confusing for many undergraduates who are encouraged by tutors to find ‘themselves’ in their work.

 Pen and Mouse: Commercial Art and Digital Illustration by Angus Hyland (2001)

Images 27: The Association of Illustrators 

In her essay ‘Designer as Producer’, Ellen Lupton, says “The challenge for educators today is to help designers become the masters, not the slaves, of technology”.

Thinking about the context of illustration is vital, when Titian painted ‘The Assumption of The Virgin’ ( 1516-18) in the Venice Church, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice , it was painted to be viewed by the public. An illustrator must understand how their work is mediated into the world. As illustrators, we should strive to be the ‘illustration thinkers’, not simply about following fashion or style.

In an article in Frieze magazineRonald Jones joined a debate about a term for designers called ‘super-hybridity’ – connected to ‘the dynamics of globalization, digital technology, the Internet and capitalism’. He describes that the different platforms to work on now means that the best designer would be T-shaped ‘very deep in one discipline but promiscuous enough to have the grace and confidence to move across disciplines in search of the hybrid or super-hybrid’.

The illustrators of today are the laptop, TV generation.  An illustrator needs to be adaptable and evolve, it is suggested that the lifespan of an illustrator is approx. 5 years until they are ‘out of fashion’. Illustration agencies also need to change, new agencies like NY based, Hugo and Marie, who represent a range of creative with different skills, involved in projects for art direction, design, illustration, interactive, and art production. Their clients include Stella McCartney, Sephora, Pepsi, Nike, Target, (Red), BeyoncĂ©, Rihanna, Coldplay, Wired magazine, W Magazine, and Penguin Books. 

The fashion industry are often a step ahead, with work like, London based animator, director, illustrator, Quentin Jones, whose illustrations are not still images but change.  This is also shown in the short film by Mother London who introduces 'The Engraver' in an Animated Video about a 76 year-old man who has engraved Wimbledon cups by hand since 1979. Roderick advocates that ALL illustrators should be involved in ‘moving image’, collaborate to learn form each other and think about how their work would move. This was highlighted by examples of the ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ by Nosy Crow’s app

Quentin Jones for US Vogue: See film here

                                                                                                     Mother & Stella Artois 'The Engraver': See animation here

The Nosy Crow: Jack and the Beanstalk: See App Trailer here

‘Re-imaging a re-imagined Europe: Illustrating the Prisoner of Zelda’.

A presentation by Mirelle Fauchon and Four Corners Books about the process that Illustrator Mirelle Fauchon  had, working with a publisher on their series ‘Four Corners Familiars’, this features new responses to classic novels and short stories. They look to reinvent the tradition of the illustrated novel, with each artist choosing a text to be reprinted in full as part of a newly created work. Mirelle created new images for 'The Prisoner of Zelda' an adventure novel by Anthony Hope, published in 1894. It was clear that the art director, very much trusted and encourage the illustrator to work in a more ambiguous way – allowing the images to reflect a ‘sense of place’ in a curious way, rather than merely duplicating the words. Mirellle created fake yet plausible objects, crests and collages to allow the viewer to step into the imagined place in the text. There is an article about the relationship between the illustrator and client here .

Four Corners Familiars by Four Corners Books

Double page spread from: The Prisoner of Zelda

How does cross-disciplinary exchange influence interpretation of the Natural History illustrator?

Dr Andrew Howells is a Lecturer in Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle in Australia. He used drawing as enquiry to help in the conservation of elephants. Through drawings studying the elephants skull, size of ribs and amount of wrinkled skin he helped to develop a visual tool to assess the health of elephants in captivity. 60 illustrations became a reference index for Body Conditioning Scoring (BSC). Andrew studied the elephants at first hand at both Fort Worth Zoo, Texas and Taronga Zoo, Sydney. As described in Australian Geographic.

The index is six sets of nine illustrations, with each set representing the range of body conditions from a different angle. The physical changes in each of the stages indicate the health of the animal: the elephant graduates from emaciated to obese, and the ideal weight is somewhere in the middle. The accompanying skeletal reference, which Andrew sketched from observations of an articulated skeleton at the Australian Museum, Sydney, highlights the bones that become visible during weight loss.”

The Toploski Residency Programme 2013

Gary Embury is an illustrator and senior lecturer at UWE. He is actively involved in reportage and documentary illustration and is the editor of, an online journal showcasing this area of work.

Topolski drawing

Drawings made by Josh Morris on the Residency Programme

He talked about a project involving the Topolski Studio in London. Between 1953-1982, Topolski hand-printed over 2,300 of his drawings as his broadsheet Chronicles.  Many drawings were made in situ and document the life of that period such as the Queen’s Coronation and London street scenes. These drawings make ‘comment’ and observe the issues surrounding the people of that time.  Six young people had a residency at the studio and are involved in using the archive / chronicles of his drawings to inspire their own practice. They have masterclasses from practitioners and draw what they see on location. drawing has taken place at the courts, Nottinghill Carnival and at the WW1 Centenary. See the article in Varoom here. Drawings were brought together and printed in the form of a broadsheet newspaper in the spirit of Topolski. Gary Embury,  advocates that drawing from life stops contrived, derivative styles as the illustrator has to return to their natural state and draw from life. This is not simply however about observational drawing and wants the experience of looking at the Toploski Chronicles to encourage ‘visual journalism’.

Keynote Speaker- Cyriak

Cyriak is a freelance animator based in Brighton. After a dull day job and trying to get work as an animator film- maker, he started making humorous GIFS and uploading them . See GIFS here  They gained interest and he worked on bigger projects for music videos. He made a one for 'Bonobo' Cirrus track, using copyright free images from a 1960's film about consumerism. His process is very painstaking and labour intensive. He uses After Effects to make a mask for every moving part. He has noticed a few copycats of his work but think that the secret of his success, is never really knowing what he is doing, being playful and that 'animating is so boring that no-one else wants to do it'. He has also worked with Bloc Party and created an entirely new video out of old videos of theirs. It was difficult to lip-sync the song to the moving images. 

Bonobo Cirrus Music Video

Ratchet, Bloc Party Music Video