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4. February 2022. CREATIVE


By definition, artistic illustration is a drawing or image that interprets, complements or decorates a text. There are also documentary illustrations, such as realistic drawings of plants in an encyclopedia, or pictorial instructions for using a washing machine, but in this blog we will talk about – artistic illustration.

In this day and age, when we are overwhelmed with information, attacked by posters, flyers, screens and speakers, the average person has a reduced attention span. If you fail to catch someone’s attention in a matter of seconds, chances are your information or message will not reach the consumer. Therefore, let us talk about the importance of illustration.

As the saying goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words“. With an illustration, you can convey a message very quickly, but also create an emotion that goes with it. One look at the illustration is enough to create a certain emotion in the viewer. It doesn’t matter if that emotion is produced by its color, shape, composition, or something else. That is why illustration is a very important communication tool.

The purpose of illustration

However, an average Croat is not very familiar with illustration, and does not understand what an illustration is and what it is for. Speaking from my own experience, I will illustrate this thesis with a dialogue I have conducted several times:

– What do you do? – I have been asked.

– I am an illustrator. – I answer politely.

– Oh! So you are a designer. – and the conversation ends.

I have had conversations like this with people who are not interested in illustration, design and fine arts at all. But this does not diminish the fact that most of people have no idea what illustration is, or where it’s useful to use it.

And that’s why illustrators spend half their careers explaining what they actually do and why their art is useful in a variety of businesses. If I can be so free as to give advice to younger colleagues – don’t fight these windmills. You will have poor results, and only grow tired.

But sometimes, windmills attack the illustrators and you can’t avoid them. By talking to various editors, book authors, and executives in publishing and marketing, I’ve heard everything. There were people from whom I learned a lot, there were those with whom I had a great collaboration, but there were also those who got lost in the industry and actually caused damage to their product.

A Client is not always right?!

I experienced comments to the illustration, that the characters are ugly, and I should draw them differently. It was a particular case, where I illustrated an excerpt from a novel in which the king and the beggar talk. In the end, this beggar was finely dressed, ironed, combed and shaved, and if the king did not have a crown on his head, it would be difficult to distinguish who is the beggar and who is the king.

I also experienced complaints about the colors because “…our director can’t stand purple“. Which is to some extent a legitimate objection, but not in a situation where it is a mascot that has been purple for the last 50 years.

The worst example I know of (thankfully, happened to a colleague of mine), was a conversation about illustrating a textbook for elementary school. The author of the textbook said he hated when the text was contaminated (!) with illustrations.

And you can tell them that “… a picture is worth a thousand words“, and that it’s easier for children to understand something when they see it, and that you were invited to the meeting by an editor who follows rules of the profession, but… the author sees you as an enemy, and tries to make your job as difficult as he can.

To those clients who approach me in that way, I always tell the story of Quentin Tarantino. That very popular, award-winning film director has not graduated from the film academy. He attended a course with Terry Gilliam, who explained that film consists of screenwriting, acting, directing, lighting, scenography, costume design, photography, editing, music… At one point, Tarantino asked Gilliam how he can learn all these specific skills. The answer was – you don’t. You find people who have the knowledge, explain to them what you want, and let them do it.

Illustration as a craft

With this story, I sometimes managed to explain that the result would be better if the illustrator was allowed to illustrate without being interrupted, because he knows much more about illustration than they do.

But the situation with illustration is not nearly as bad as with comics. I had conversations like this:

– What do you do? – I have been asked.

– I draw comics. – I answer politely.

– Aaa! So you do cartoons. – and my head explodes.

Ivan Prlić – Prle

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