How is illustration talked about?
There is no canon of illustration theory. Books that are published on illustration are for undergrad students, and primarily help them to get into the industry.
Lawrene Zeegan on what illustration is:
- Book covers
- Posters and prints
All of these are industry-based and client-responsive. This limits the way illustration can be discussed.
Steven Heller in Illustration: A Visual History:
Illustration is a clearly defined act of making art, the goal of which is to illuminate a painted (or for that matter any) page - or as say most dictionaries, a visual representation (a picture or diagram) that is used to make a subject more pleasing or easier to understand.
Full of assumption: Making images (rather than finding them, handling them), the idea that illustration has a role to make a text easier to understand (rather than subverting it, making it harder to understand)
Alan Male (2007) in Illustration: A Theoretical and Contextual Perspective has a definition that opposes illustration to photography (maybe this comes from a fear that illustrators might be replaced by stock photography). Of course photographs in these context function as illustration.
Shaughnessy (2013) in Making great illustration:
What could be more necessary for authorship than the possession of a voice?
This is the idea that style/voice is what makes you recognisable as an illustrator and gets you work. This might be why there isn’t much thought about authorship/voice in illustration discourse. Also the idea that illustration has a job to do is reductive - there isn’t really ever a way to “clearly communicate the brief” to everyone.
Understanding Illsutration (2014)
Illustration is an important global economic force, providing employment for a significant number of people. Financial transactions underpin its creation, application and distribution
This is true, just like any other discipline. But also the illustration industry is where illustration practice is the least interesting.
Illustration is a creative industry and a cultural phenomenon at the same time.
[Writing with images]
How could we talk about illustration?
Things at aren’t being recognized enough
- Appropriated illustrations, usually moved from a factual to a fictional context Javier Marias [your face tomorrow uncle], [Murder on the orient express map]
- Indexical (and indical) illustration including torn paper, aged paper, dirt stains, coffee rings, handwriting, signatures, fingerprints. [Who killed Robert Prentice], also [the JJ Abrams book]
- Illustrations whose authorship is given to a character in a story
- Elliptical illustration that do not appear in the text but are implied by it through suggestion
- Critical illustrations - illustration which in their style as well as their content directly undermine the authority of the writign they accompany. This is basically impossible to do inside the illustration industry. [posters spelling out nazi] Ernst Bettler
- Appropriation or plagiarism, where illustrators explicitely make use of another illustrator’s style and content
- Moving images that repeat in different contextx (ie sharks)
- Real time illustrations we make use of in text messages, facebook posts (emojies in text messages, amina arraf)
- Images that illustrate the experience of the reader (tristram shandy)
- Images that suggest how a text should be read or reveal a hidden agenda (Alice through the looking glass chess diagram)
Problems with the above
- Operational illustrations (see also Farocki operational images, and Paglen’s critique: Farocki’s images aren’t actually operational - they’re designed artefacts for humans to look at). Images that can only be read by machines (Hubble images, and images that have text encoded inside them).
- Horizontal Illustrations. Images that are created trough aggregate authors and gain meansing through aggregate audience. These images are less individual moments, and more like a geological strata.