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September 7, 2009 / margikimball

Readings! (Pages 1-51)

Puck Magazine Cover

Ciao, Illustrators.

To re-summarize the readings, here is how this will work. Each week, we’ll have a section of our book – Illustration: A Visual History – to read. While everyone is reading, I’ll be posting questions to the blog to have a kind of discussion about the ideas presented in the book, specific styles or cultural periods and illustration in general as a craft and industry. I want for this to be an open and respectful forum with the collective goal of gaining a better understanding of our craft, and how it relates to our fields (for instance, graphic design, sculpture, whatever).

Additionally, please feel free to begin your own threads or postings, and place them in the Readings category, so we can all hop on and respond. I’ll try to make my own questions open-ended enough for lively conversation.

So! For the first week’s reading (pages 1-51), here are some questions:

1) What is the difference between style and form?

2) The book refers to illustration as an art for the masses, because of its ability to be widely reproduced. This relates, one imagines, to a broader trend of the democracy of both information and agency. For instance, when moveable type showed up around 1450, suddenly we had printing presses and books could be broadly distributed. Much later, personal computers were made accessible. Now we have desktop publishing, YouTube, the Internet, etc. How do you perceive the relationship of this trend of accessibility to illustration, art and where do you think it will lead?

3) On page ten, our authors write, “Illustration styles can never be so radical or unfamiliar as to be incomprehensible to audiences.” What do you think of this statement? Is it true? Does illustration need a decipherable message?

4) How is illustration (image) related to text? How has this relationship evolved over time? How do you see the two mediums [merging or separating] in the future?

5) What is the relationship of style to technological advances or changes? (Ie. how do trends in technology manifest?)

6) How are science and art related or not?



Leave a Comment
  1. ashlee cain / Sep 8 2009 6:02 am

    In response to question 2, the popularity of the internet has and will continue to transform the many possibilities for artists to create and distribute their art. Even websites like facebook allow artists to display their work in an album at no cost. Not only does it provide audiences with a lack of art background to be exposed to new art, but it provides an outlet for struggling artists to post their work. In turbulent economic times such as these, blogs, youtube and possibly even new artists websites will be a great forum for artists. Additionally, as the popularity of online art increases, so will graphic design and computer based artwork.

  2. ekarr / Sep 9 2009 1:43 am

    There are also great websites where artists post tutorials on painting (mostly digital). It becomes a whole community where people post their work and other artists offer critiques and suggestions. Check out

  3. ula / Sep 9 2009 3:26 am

    In response to question 4:
    I believe that illustration styles do need to be comprehensible to the masses. Illustration is a branch of art used to explain and clarify and to take that fundamental component out of the mix, turns it from illustration into some other art form.
    Since illustration is used to convince/persuade, incorporating the familiar is helpful because people tend to like what they know. However, I do not believe familiarity to be essential. This can be seen in Lucian Bernhard’s daring switch to extreme simplicity in 1906 (which was unfamiliar at the time).

  4. timc26 / Sep 9 2009 4:48 am

    In response to question 4:

    Usually image and type form a complimentary relationship, each relying on each other to solidify the composition and overall concept. Commonly, images are used to gain notice and type is used to deliver a message. Much like any form of art, this relationship is not set in stone. Type can (and often is) used to catch the viewer’s eye, while imagery can deliver a clear message. Though both type and image are often linked, either one can be used individually with equally satisfying results. Isn’t freedom wonderful?

  5. Clayton Schwarder / Sep 9 2009 5:10 am

    Question 3 is an interesting one. I like the point Ula made, that people are more likely to enjoy something that they are already familiar with, but familiarity is not essential.
    If we were only stick to that which is familiar, we would never grow. People need to have the unfamiliar introduced to them somehow, so they can expand their horizons.
    Illustration does not need a decipherable message. Sure you can have an illustration with a straight forward message, but to me that’s just an advertisement. Illustration with room to interpret is much more appealing.

  6. zahammer / Sep 9 2009 5:31 am

    What is the difference between style and form?

    When the topic introduced is the history of art and illustration, style coincides with a date or period of time. Styles have been established throughout changes in environment, economy and technology. Style could be simply defined as the procedure or means to which art is created.

    The book states that “form addresses distinct genres that span stylistic periods…” To expand on this, form can be defined as the way a certain style is introduced via “politics and comics.”

    So in short, style is the way art is created and form is how it is used.

  7. kamount / Sep 9 2009 5:46 am

    Question 2: Art appreciation has and will continue to follow the trend that literacy, in that it will continue to go up as it becomes more widely available to a greater mass of people around the world. Much like hardly anyone outside the upper class could read before the printing press, many lower class people probably never even saw art. Now that art is more accessible to the masses and cheaper to produce it opens up a broader forum of discussion. For example, before the printing press it was mostly the church that had control over written text, similar to a small elite group of artists having much control over the subject matter in art. Now that many more people can contribute to art, there is wider base of perspectives from which to see the world. I think that the new electronic media will open this gap even wider and make it accessible to anyone who wants to find it and help expose new artists. It also gives artists the opportunity to have conversations and comparisons with any artist in the world from inside their own studio.

  8. Caroline / Sep 9 2009 9:05 am

    1) Style refers to the aesthetic characteristics of a piece or a group of pieces. For example, a stylistic characteristic is how simple or complex a composition is, whether the images use block color or are more modeled like a painting, or whether the text is delicate or bold. These characteristics all come together in different ways to form different styles, like Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, or Expressionism.
    Form refers to the type of art it is. This could be thematic (political, children’s, comics), subject matter (toys, caricature), or intent (propaganda, parody, satiric).

    2)I think the line between illustration and art is blurring and changing from what it used to be. If illustration is art for the masses, almost anything could be illustration at this point in technology. The masses have internet, so does that mean if we put our art online it becomes an illustration? I think the definition is changing. Illustration seems to me to have more to do with creating a visual representation or accompaniment of text, whether it is a newspaper, magazine, book, advertisement, website, name of a plant, poem, or anything else.

    Illustration can also depict ideas even if the text is not present, but it is meant to be understood by the masses. I think illustration is art, but art is not necessarily illustration.

    3) If the purpose of illustration is to depict text or communicate an idea, I think the statement is true. If the style in which the illustration is made is too radical for audiences to understand, it can’t do a good job of communicating with the masses. Comprehensibility is a prerequisite for illustration as a medium of communication, but not all art must be readily understood.

    4) Illustration is often a visual representation of text, or at least of an idea that is complementary to text. I think that with the line blurring between art and illustration, since most art can be readily available to the masses today, illustration as a definition is becoming more closely partnered with text. If text is not present, it is because the illustration is communicative enough to serve as a substitute for text. I think this trend of illustration being related to text will continue as long as the internet and mass printing are popular.

    5) As technology has advanced, more doors have opened for stylistic possibilities of illustration. Since historically illustration was art for the masses, the style was partially determined by what could in fact be mass produced, like lithographs or wood cuts. However, with the advent of chromolithography, people could make advertisements that were more colorful. Today, with printers and the internet, there really is no limit to the styles available to illustrators. We can still use wood cuts, or we can create the most detailed, colorful illustrations and only be limited by budget. I suppose when technology advances further and it is less expensive to add things like foil, embossing, or other effects that are currently usually too expensive, that may open even more possibilities for illustrative styles.

    6) Not only can we do scientific illustrations like botanical illustrations, science affects everything we draw. Whether we are drawing an anatomically correct human or animal or if we are deliberately distorting the figure, we must start with the scientific basis. Caricatures wouldn’t work if we didn’t have a sense of the scientific accuracy that is being parodied. The same goes for just about anything, not just living creatures – landscape, plants, or anything else.

  9. Lindsey Paige / Sep 13 2009 7:30 pm

    6) How are science and art related or not?

    Science can be the subject of art (with scientific illustrations, anatomical drawings, etc) but I think it goes further than that. I believe that art and science are very similar. Art is and will always be a process of experimenting with medium to get to your choice result. The process mimics the scientific method.

  10. ekarr / Sep 14 2009 1:45 am

    In response to question 3, I think it depends on the illustration. If an artist is creating a illustration for a company or an author, they probably have to make sure their illustration is decipherable. However, I believe there are other branches of illustration that allow for more freedom. Sometimes illustration can be used to invoke emotion or illustrate abstract ideas, therefore, they can be less straight forward. It’s always fun when the viewers can bring their own interpretations to art.

  11. christi3420 / Sep 21 2009 8:12 pm

    3) On page ten, our authors write, “Illustration styles can never be so radical or unfamiliar as to be incomprehensible to audiences.” What do you think of this statement? Is it true? Does illustration need a decipherable message?

    I think that this statement has some truth and to a certain extent I believe that illustration does need a decipherable message but not one that is so obvious of course. I mainly feel this way because if the illustration is so unfamiliar to the audience then the ultimate message is lost. Part of Illustration after all is to help convey or put forth a better understanding of the text. So, if the illustration is too radical or unfamiliar for the audience to comprehend then the entire illustration could be lost in ways.

  12. foshoshine / Sep 23 2009 2:29 pm

    3) On page ten, our authors write, “Illustration styles can never be so radical or unfamiliar as to be incomprehensible to audiences.” What do you think of this statement? Is it true? Does illustration need a decipherable message?

    I agree that when it comes to illustration there is a limit of how abstract the piece can get. Illustration is an art form used specifically for communication purposes and is often times related to commercialism. So there does need to be some level of clarity in the piece.

    I don’t think that illustrators shouldn’t push the limit, because they should. I don’t think the message always has to be super clear, especially in the underground world, but it has to be there somewhere: either the audience gets it right away or they think about and discuss it and then get it. But it’s there.

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