The purpose of this research task was to critically evaluate why I admire and draw inspiration from ten of my favourite illustrators.
Key words from the brief:
- What is the subject matter of your designers/artists/illustrators’ work?
- What are they responding to in their work – industry, advances in technology, public debate, social concerns, political argument, creative research, a particular audience, or something else?
- What makes their ideas contemporary and have criticality?
- How could you start a conversation with them?
Reviewing my OCA research tasks over the entire course reminded me of the many designers, illustrators and artists that I’ve taken inspiration from; far more than ten and many no longer alive.
The brief asks for a selection of practitioners that are currently active.
In no particular order…
1. Varya Yakovleva
I discovered #Varya_yakovleva on Instagram. She represents a very distinctive visual style that seems prevalent in Russian illustrators. I love the inventive use of mixed media and how she effortlessly breaks conventional rules of reportage through exaggeration and caricature.
2. Jonathan Twingley
Twingley is a writer, illustrator and educator based in New Jersey. He typically works in pen and ink and his work combines observational drawing and storytelling with humour, caricature and exaggeration. His work often combines text and image.
3. David Hughes
The AOI describe his work: “David Hughes’ work grabs the eye through powerful, sometimes challenging images” (AOI, 2021). I first came across his work researching how illustrators were responding to the Coronavirus pandemic. His Pandemic Sketchbook (2021) combines biting political satire and personal commentary that powerfully capture the extraordinary events of 2020 in the UK as they unfolded.
His work is uncompromising, dark and often ironic and humorous.
4. Melanie Reim
Melanie Reim is a New York based reportage illustrator and educator that I’ve been lucky enough to meet through attending a number of bootcamps, workshops and classes.
What I find instructive about her work is how design comes first. Illustrations are organised around the different principles and elements of composition that provide the building block to layer carefully observed people and place.
I particularly like her emphasis on not just drawing people but creating characters with her distinctive visual style.
She frequently collaborates with Veronica Lawlor, running an annual Life Drawing Symposium, workshops and classes.
5. Veronica Lawlor
Veronica Lawlor is also a New Yorker. She is freelance illustrator, author of a number of books about different aspects of drawing and painting within a reportage context, president of Studio 1482, and an educator.
As with Melanie Reim, what I love about her work is how good design process, a deep understanding of composition, creative use of media, experimentation and attention to detail are all focused on finding and telling the story within a scene or location, and telling it in the most authentic and impactful way.
6. Dave McKean
Dave McKean is a prolific illustrator, author, film maker and photographer. His work spans graphic novels, advertising, editorial, children’s books and many other genres. He has exhibited extensively.
He is a storyteller.
There are many aspects of his work to draw inspiration from, and currently I’m interested in learning from his drawings. A series titled Nitrate illustrating different aspects the silent movies provide a great example. Beautiful design and technically fabulous.
7. Paul Davis
I like the work of Paul Davis because of it’s dry caustic humour that is a piercing commentary on being human in the UK in 2022. Nothing is off limits and the work delights in breaking social taboos. The work takes a position.
The combination of simple illustrations, hand written captions with mistakes and crossings-out left as part of the image have immediate impact.
He has worked for advertising and branding agencies as well as freelancing for numerous clients with work featuring in many magazines/publications.
8. Lucinder Rogers
Lucinder Rogers is an English reportage illustrator and author with a long list of clients.
She has an expressive and fluid visual style; I like her use of different line weights to add emphasis and surprise to her images.
Her London drawings resonate with my own experiences of being around the city and recording an ever changing cityscape.
9. Olivier Kulger
For me, the work of Olivier Kulger sits somewhere between reportage illustration and documentary filmmaking. Illustrations are based on observation captured through reportage drawing, video, photography and sound. The images are constructed digitally in the studio from reference materials collected on location.
His reportage subjects typically relate to current affairs. He travels to the places where the news story is happening and documents what he sees and hears.
10. Evan Turk
Evan Turk is an English reportage illustrator. I really like the design of his drawings, his depiction of people and use of different media.
What is the subject matter of your designers/artists/illustrators’ work?
All are telling stories through the people, place, politicians that they depict. Most use direct observation and all use drawing with physical media as a starting point.
All have a point of view and express themselves through a singular and distinctive voice. There is an honesty, immediacy and rawness in their approach.
All are inventive in the media that they use and several combine text and image.
I like the honestly and directness of the work which gives it an authenticity and expressiveness that I try and achieve in my own practice.
What are they responding to in their work?
Current events, what’s in front of them.
Many use their work as a form of protest or to stand against injustice or to support a cause or position.
Some voice strong opinions and ask difficult questions.
What makes their ideas contemporary and have criticality?
What attributes make the work of an illustrator contemporary?
|Creative||The themes and/or subjects of the work|
|Creative||Interactions/relationships with other practitioners|
|Cultural||Interactions/relationships with ideas/trends/movements|
|Cultural||How the work is distributed/published/exhibited/consumed|
|Cultural||Audience – who consumes the work?|
|Socio-economic||If/how the work generates income|
|Technical||The processes used to create the work|
|Technical||The tools and techniques used to create the work|
What attributes make the work of an illustrator have criticality?
|Cultural||The value that it is perceived to have from the point of view of it’s audience/customer/client/artistic community/artistic establishment|
How could you start a conversation with them?
I am in conversation with Melanie Reim and Veronica Lawlor through participation in courses and workshops.
All have a presence on Instagram and other social networks and so ‘cold calling’ is easy.
This was a useful exercise in helping me to reflect on the qualities of my own practice, what is important to me and why.
List of illustrations
Figure 1 – #Varya_yakovleva Instagram (2020) Figure illustration At: https://www.instagram.com/varya__yakovleva/?hl=en (Accessed: 20/03/21)
Figure 2 – Twingley, Jonathan (2019) David Foster Wallace at the laundromat in Chinatown At: https://www.twingley.com/graffiti-drawings/jmlcgoe6nzo4oeeutgorf7acdgv9jx (Accessed: 11/06/22)
Figure 3 – Hughes, David (2018) Ghost At: https://centralillustration.com/illustration/david-hughes#portfolio-15 (Accessed: 11/06/22)
Figure 4 – Reim, Melanie Lower beach, Saturday At: https://www.wanderarti.com/stylized-travel-sketches-of-stories-and-scenes-by-melanie-reim/ (Accessed: 24/06/22)
Figure 5 – Lawlor, Veronica, (2018) Book cover illustration for Reportage Illustration, Visual Journalism In: Embury, G. and Minichiello, M. (2018) Reportage Illustration Visual Journalism London: Bloomsbury
Figure 6 – McKean, Dave (2020) War brides (Herbert Brenon) 1916 (Ink on paper) At: https://artizar.viewingrooms.com/content/feature/128/artworks-9471-dave-mckean-war-brides-herbert-brenon-1916-2020/ (Accessed: 21/06/22)
Figure 7 – #Paulcopyrightdavis Instagram (2020) Just throw the fucking ball https://www.instagram.com/p/CIfHArtBZtG/ (Accessed: 20/03/21)
Figure 8 – Rogers, Lucinder Under a VW At: http://www.lucindarogers.co.uk/tottenham/under-a-vw.php (Accessed: 11/06/22)
Figure 9 – Kulga, Olivier An illustration from Escaping War and Waves At: https://counterpointsarts.org.uk/artist/olivier-kugler/ (Accessed: 24/06/22)
Figure 10 – Turk, Evan (2015) A travel illustration from England At: https://evanturk.squarespace.com/travel#/england/ (Accessed: 26/06/22)
List of tables
Table 1 – A table showing the attributes that describe how the work of an illustrator is contemporary
Table 2 – A table showing the attributes that describe how to judge the criticality of the work of an illustrator