Is Illustration losing his edge?

  • I'm a little confused about some of your points. We are talking illustration specifically, correct?

    You seem to equate gallery work, to illustration, where I'm not sure if that's a relevant comparison. Illustration in the past has typically been seen not in real life, but on a mass-produced scale, many of them in a small format. When Norman Rockwell was commissioned to paint his pieces for the saturday evening post, or for the boy scout calendar, was he painting them to be seen in a gallery? Or did he paint them first and foremost to fulfill the commission to be printed on a mass produced, smaller scale product? Was his work chosen by art directors because they saw it in a gallery and it was work only art connoisseurs could recognize as great work, or because he submitted it to them and they saw that it would appeal to a wider american audience? Remember that Rockwell was also snubbed from a lot of art critics of his time for being easily digestible for the masses and cliche.

    Artists still strive to get better and achieve quality with their work. There has always been "easy ways" to produce art and you can still tell if something is done with "skill", even on a mobile device.

    I think something that has perhaps changed is that illustrators can now become celebrities and entertainers in a different way than just purely through their art. If you look at Bob Ross, some might argue that he's not that great of an artist, but people still love to watch him and "hang out" with him. Same with some popular social media artists. There are a few youtubers where I don't particularly like their art, but I do like to watch their videos because I like their personality and their perceived lifestyle. It's like watching an interesting tv show or hanging out with a friend. It's entertainment.

  • @tessaw Good point. Yes, in YouTube are a lot of channels for the same thing and the way they really can separate themselves from the rest is with is personality. Which by the way is an art in itself.

    About "There has always been "easy ways" to produce art and you can still tell if something is done with "skill", even on a mobile device." I don't think that that is always the case. A lot of times I thought that something it was good in the thumbnail or a Little image and when you turn it big are nothing alike. It happened to me with photography, illustration, and tattoo flash a lot. But again, my mobile has like 6 years which today is a lot of time, and I chose the small I could find. If you mean a "flat-screen type mobile", it can be...
    About this theme, did you watch the documentary "Exit Through The Gift Shop"? If not, I recommended it, is clever and funny as hell!

  • Pro SVS OG

    @zombie-rhythm Yes, I know a couple of artists like that, and yet I still have fun watching their videos 😉 They fulfil a different role than doing great illustration - or maybe sometimes in addition to doing great illustration. I'm glad there are people who invest the time and the effort to talk to other artists in a compelling way, maybe teach some or share some of their experience. I love listening to many of them while I paint and I appreciate how much time and effort and charisma flows into making a good YouTube channel. It's just not the same as doing illustration and the two don't necessarily always go well together.
    James Jean, a uniquely successful artist living in Japan, did not even have a website until not long ago, let alone a social media presence. Now he has an incredibly successful Instagram channel (things change!) but I wouldn't be surprised if he had a team behind, including a social media manager.
    As for Peter DeSeve covers - I only chose one of many. His images often convey some form of social criticism in a humorous way. In this case, it's about a high society dame's fear of walking a lonely road in the dark - but the potential robber is actually a racoon who would have all reason to take vengeance...and she knows it.
    Here is another famous one: the title is "Spctclr Riv Vu" - I think it speaks for itself:
    alt text

  • Are thumbnails a 100% fool proof method of skill evaluation? No. Have I been fooled before and find a thumbnail is not as great as I expected? Probably. But in my greater experience, thumbnails are a pretty good indication of what a piece will look like. I would also argue that sometimes the opposite is true, and when you view a larger image of the same piece it looks even better.

    Right now there's a popular trend on instagram of people drawing the same subjects, but in their own style. If you search the hashtag #drawthisinyourstyle you can see the same art topics done in a variety of skill levels and art styles. When I enlarge those thumbnails, they are generally in the style and skill set I'm expecting to see in the smaller version.

    If your argument is that because a lot of people see art at thumbnail size, in return artists do not have the incentive to produce good work- I don't agree. Illustration is being experienced in a massive degree beyond tiny thumbnails on a phone screen. If someone is interested in producing art, I don't think that they are typically just viewing artwork at thumbnail size on their phone.

    But if we do look at artwork that has traditionally been viewed at thumbnail size- Magic the Gathering cards- by your theory, artwork for these cards should be getting worse throughout time. I would argue that artwork for these cards have gotten better and that you can tell, even in their smaller size. This is of course subjective to my own tastes.

    No I haven't seen that documentary. It came out when I was kind of sick of Banksy already, but I'd give it a shot!

  • Pro SVS OG

    @tessaw @Zombie-Rhythm I actually have the opposite problem. Some sizing for book spreads is huge - 22 inches across at 450 dpi on what I’m working right now. . It`s a lot of work to make every mark look good at that size!
    The greatest majority of commercial art is not produced to be viewed on small screens.The biggest image I’ve ever made was printed at 18 ft - for a billboard advertisement - luckily it was black and white....but it was still several weeks of work. If you see small „rough“ images on social media, often they are intended to be sketches or studies and are knowingly done small. I actually post very small color studies on my IG channel now and then which are very rough - knowing that they will only be viewed small. Sometimes it´s experiments. Sometimes there’s no time for anything else....

  • @smceccarelli Exactly. Which is why I think that illustration will be just fine and illustrators won't suddenly become skill-less, just because people view some artwork on their phones.

    It can be hard to make art look good at any size, big or small. I just personally feel that you can generally tell if artwork is "skilled" (subjective as that is) even at a smaller size.

  • @zombie-rhythm I firstly want to say that understand your sentiments about social media. I get that frustration and where you are coming from. But I disagree with some of your arguments.

    While Norman Rockwell painted very large, participated in gallery shows, and now has a museum dedicated to him, just as @smceccarelli said, he did hundreds of Saturday Evening Post covers, not to mention other magazines, publications, greeting cards, calendars etc, that scaled his work down a lot and were provided to the masses. I'd say it is safe to say that his reproduced work has been viewed in these small formats by millions upon millions more people than those who have seen original or life-sized versions of his paintings. Not to diminish the glory of seeing the art as it was created, but for centuries illustrators have created work that is shrunken and mass produced. (Also almost every single instructor I've had and plenty of established artists I've talked to or heard speak have said that as a general rule, if it doesn't work at thumbnail stage or small, then it doesn't work. And though there are exceptions, I'm inclined to agree with that.) Classic and master artists like Rubens, Da Vinci, (and many illustrators as well) etc worked largely by commissions, patrons, books, and the like and not with the intention of having all their work to be enjoyed and displayed in galleries or museums. If you look up the history of many older paintings and pieces in museums, the artist didn't usually complete them and ship them to a gallery for public viewing.

    Illustrators, by the nature of the job, are always judged by the mass public, as those are our customers. Whether they are judging with their money or their likes, the general public is giving their opinion. I don't feel illustration has the same gilded gates that fine art does. Instead of a piece not getting likes, before social media, people just didn't by it, or complain to the publisher, and the illustrator would stop getting work. Rockwell's work was super popular and in line with the times. He's considered America's Favorite Illustrator, and his work wasn't even that 'edgy' or innovative in the content until the latter part of his career.

    In my opinion, illustration is about 'communication' not necessarily 'storytelling' of the traditional sense, even though that is certainly included. It's about the artist intentionally communicating something to the viewer whether that be with an overt narrative or another device. There are more facets to the illustration industry than narrative storytelling. That's what I feel differentiates it from plain artistic expression or fine arts.

    Yes, change does make people suffer, but it also frees people and helps them thrive. Saying very good musicians couldn't earn a living and that talentless ones are charting, is a bit short-sighted and a fallacy of an argument. Are only professionals allowed to judge what 'good' music is or what 'good' art is? What does good even mean? Are they not creating commercial stuff for a market? It might not be a timeless piece, but being popular is not necessarily bad either. Your argument sounds like the artists who diminished what illustration was in the days of Pyle and Rockwell and said that it was a lesser art form because it was made for the public.

    Illustration is doing great right now, and there are so many avenues people can work now that technology has served to help. Yes we get to see more stuff and it's not always that great, but isn't it amazing that we get to see it at all and see people grow? You speak as if people only view art on phones, but that isn't true or else many of us would be out of jobs. Artists might not have to create great levels of quality, but many, many artists do. Social media is also a tool in the journey, and not really the end of the journey. So what if they only draw a posed character? Social media is like a public sketchbook so people can see what you're working on, who you are, and how you work. That doesn't translate to ego to me. I love that I get to see and know artist's lives and working process, things that before our time could only have been learned maybe in an obscure book somewhere a little bit or posthumously through letters and correspondence. (Websites do exist of finished polished work, not to mention the actual products that illustrators work on) There is so much I wouldn't know about art if not for the accessibility of it. I certainly wouldn't be pursuing this field, that's for sure.

    It's a massive advertising tool, and if you think that many of the artists of old if they had the chance wouldn't have posted on social media or the internet so more people could be reached and experience their work, I think you are mistaken. I mean, to think that illustrators like Rockwell, Leyendecker, Parrish, Mucha, Coles Phillips, Sundbloom, Tenniel, Nast, Homer, Toulouse-Lautrec, who literally painted covers, advertisements, political cartoons, and posters for mass market, and even painters like Sargent, Monet, Rembrandt, or Michelangelo who generated a massive body of work and whose livelihood depended on the goodwill and reputation they held with wealthy patrons, would not have made their art accessible on some level to as many people as possible and instead relegated it to only galleries or museums is absurd to me.

    Rockwell and other brilliant illustrators did not make illustrations for other artists to coo and caw over. (Especially Rockwell, who made art depicting everyday people and everyday situations) They made illustrations for everyone. And so should we.

    Thanks for starting this discussion.

  • @tessaw Perhaps we don't look for the same things... for example, I valiu a lot that the art doesn't feel forced. This is very obvious in the strokes of a painting, to put an example, and not so obvious in other cases. And I give you that have a factor of subjectivity. Anyway, in the former post, you put "skills" between quotation marks and I understood instantly. Is not easy to grasp what elements define great art. And they can be, and in fact they are, different for different people.

    You mean you are sick of Banksy's art because you feel like bombarded? In another case, I don't understand.
    Here is where I make the difference between art and piece of art. Art is what makes us think and realized, the meaning, the sense, the cry for awareness, etc. We don't have to like the art, the style, etc to recognize the good art. Me, for example, I can't stand Andy Warhol nor his work, but I have great respect for his art, which message is very similar to Banksy's.
    And for the art to be good, doesn't need the piece of art to be good, or to be made with skills. Jackson Pollock is here the perfect example.
    I can't ever be sick of Banksy's message the same I can't ever be sick of N.C. Wyeth illustrations or Amy Winehouse songs.

  • @smceccarelli Some photographers analized how big an image has to be for a Billboard and the thing is, Billboards are design to be look at from a distance. They conclude that 2 Mp was enough, which it wasn't really a surprise. The reasons why photographers shot very large resolution images are others like elasticity when you are retouching, etc.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @zombie-rhythm 🙂
    This particular billboard is in the corridor of an airport and the viewing distance is a mere 6 ft. You get carried along it by the conveyor strip.

  • @tessaw Yes Illustration is in his best historic moment and is going to be better and better. I agree on that. In his good side. But when you have that, you have the other side two. One without the other it can't be. And we can learn sometimes even more from the bad side than from the good one.
    Communication and discussion about this themes makes us evolve and grow unles we are close in a side.

    And I never said that Illustrators are going to become skillless. You did.

  • @smceccarelli My God!!!!!

  • @teju-abiola Thanks for your contribution. Is very rich and make me think in the subject from a different point of view.

    I'm so glad that you mentioned a lot of artists that if fact I know. Because I was disconnected from illustration since 2000 when I started working as a full-time tattoo artist and I think the last "new" artist I discovered was Simon Bisley :D, so you can imagine... Now I have to google search for every artist mentioned in the fórum so I can keep the pace of the conversation.
    Yeah, I'm stuck in Pyle , N.C. Wyeth, Jefrey Jones, Frazetta... etc era. I think I have to learn a lot now and watch a lot of new artists and new médiums and possibilities and not let one simple YouTube channel to make such an impression on me.

    One thing, changes don't make people suffer. Sudden changes does. Perhaps I explained myself badly.

    I don't think that my argument is a fallacy. For me is a fact that in all fields there are people with talent who don't have success and people without talent who has success. I don't say that that is a bad thing or a good one. is simply a fact, a circumstance.
    Of course good or bad is subjective, But I value the opinion about my work from someone who I consider a master and I respect more than the opinion of some random person who doesn't work in my field. Anyway, there a lot of things that are not so subjective, all things related to technique and hours of experience. And for someone to say if something is bad or good, the natural thing to do is compare it with the rest of the art from the same time, and find a place for there. Of course everyone probably is going to find a different place but I suspect that in general is going to be very tight.

    Rockwell was very well known and loved for most of the people. I think his worst critique was himself. He lived regretting that couldn't be a fine art painter and that is reflected in all interviews I watched. Is so common a phenomenon, cartoonist Hal Foster wanted to be an illustrator and Frazetta wanted to be a professional baseball player.

    Like I said thank you very much for taken the time to answer the post with such detail. I appreciate it!

  • @smceccarelli Yeah is great!!!!!! That Peter DeSeve's cover makes have a good laugh! Great ironi!!!! Thanks for sharing it!

    I've been disconected from the illustration world and YouTube channels are a great way to catch up again. There's one: "level up" who is great, in every sesión they interview a different artist over 2 hours while they are painting.
    Jake Parker channel is very good! Marco Bucci is great too. His series "10 minutes to better painting" are fantastic!
    and more and more...

  • @zombie-rhythm I wanted to chip in although i am not quite as good at expressing myself as other people here( great points everyone).I actually thing social media is an amazing tool for artists I am old enough to remember a time before social media,I would maybe do a painting or sketch my mum would look at it say it was nice and then it would go in a drawer never to be seen again.Now I can post art online people will like and comment and give feedback this has really helped me grow as an artists.Before social media I feel the only thing for artists was only local art gallery's ,who maybe only gave their friends or influential people a chance. So it is nice to see ordinary artists being appreciated and given some encouragement. As for likes on Social media you can not tell people want to like they know if the art speaks to them and this is as individual as the person viewing.This is a fascinating subject and no I dont think illustration is losing its edge. I actually feel frustrated that the screen size is so small I try and put a lot of detail in to the art and then no one can see this

  • SVS OG

    I think that social media can be frustrating because it makes you realize just how MUCH art there is out there. It's easier to publish, so more people do, even people without a high skill level. It's also dizzying when you realize that there's so much to see that it's difficult to even choose what you like at times. We "consume" (to use what I think is a Will Terry word) art so quickly! And the Instagram algorithm can be frustrating, not only for artists, but also for viewers.

    But, as a person who is just dipping my big toe into the water of illustration on social media, there are things I like about it. Mostly it comes down to the fact that I can put my work out there, but also that I can look at it next to the work of someone who is more advanced. That in itself is a sort of mini-critique, because it almost allows you to look at your work as though it were someone else's. And I know that a lot of my likes (not that I have so many) are coming from friends and family, not other artists.

    But, for the last image I posted, I realized once I saw it online that I had spent a lot of time on the face at the expense of the whole figure. The details I had put in didn't even read that much from a distance. Well, that was something I needed to know! And yes, it was just a figure without much context, but I am aware of that and for now I am using characters as a building block to something else. It was useful to see my work within the context of other artists whom I admire.

    I also think the SVS guys said in some video or another that even a beginner can find a legitimate niche by blogging or posting on social media as a journal of how they are learning and improving. I took that to heart. It takes humility to post work that isn't at a genius level or even a professional level yet, but I hope it helps someone in some way when offer whatever I have to offer, and hopefully I will also leave a trail of improvement.

    So, to sum up, there's a whole lot of work out there, and it's a lot of work to wade through it and find the really genius stuff. And yes, there may be some people who care more about their image than their work. But social media also exposes us to a lot more work, which helps us to sharpen our own skills and gives us a more realistic idea of the possibilities than if we were just in our own rooms, listening to our relatives!

    I also love all the artwork the participants have used in this thread, especially the Peter de Sève real estate piece. It's well drawn and I love the spark of color that is the view of the Hudson. And I have so been in that particular piranha tank, so the whole scene makes me laugh. It's perfect!

  • This post is deleted!

  • @lauraa Well said Laura pretty much sums it up ,social media helps us compare and improve.

  • @zombie-rhythm

    Sorry, I guess I misunderstood your first post. You said that art may be losing it's edge, a lot of people with talent are not evolving, storytelling isn't as important, and there will perhaps be a loss of quality because it's not needed for internet viewing. When I read these things, I thought there was an implication that up and coming artists will not be developing skills that traditionally makes a "good" illustrator. This is where my skill-less comment came from, which I realize was a bit hyperbolic. My mind jumped forward to things that perhaps you were not implying.

    As for Banksy- I wouldn't say I was sick of his messages, but just ready to focus on other things. I was about a year out of art school, where they heavily referred to Banksy, a lot of students were emulating him, and they generally bashed illustration. I guess I associated Banksy with my angsty art school days and I needed a break from that to immerse myself in good old commercial art. Haha.

  • SVS OG

    @zombie-rhythm "She asked him why did he not write out his thoughts. For what, he asked her, with careful scorn. To compete with phrasemongers, incapable of thinking consecutively for sixty seconds? To submit himself to the criticisms of an obtuse middle class which entrusted its morality to policemen and its fine arts to impresarios?"
    "Dubliners" 1914 - James Joyce
    I was reminded of this passage from "A Painful Case" while reading your post - a certain scorn for the average and casual consumer(the obtuse middle class) of art or great ideas as in the case above. I wonder how we each read that quote? I am sure i read it very differently 20 years ago - but now it feels very cynical and defensive on the part of the speaker - one seemingly unwilling to to chance the possibility of public failure of his art or ideas - to subject himself to the opinions of the masses - deriding them instead when really (i believe) they are the audience he secretly wishes to please.
    I also think folks could read this quote from Dubliners and share the antipathy of the character and think the sentiment was very well put.
    I think in reading your post i get stuck on your idea that some people are not good judges of art ( commercial art?) ..who Is a good judge of art? I feel that even the most casual consumer of art, when pressed, can articulate what it is that they are responding to in a piece of art that they enjoy and that their enjoyment is no greater or less than my own. I personally feel that the opinions connoisseurs may be nice to read but in the end matter very little ...whether we are talking about coffee, wine or art.
    Anyways ... interesting topic and i apologize for focusing on a possibly minor point of your post but i did want to share my thought on it 🙂
    I see you are from Madrid - i hope to someday make a pilgrimage to Spain - to Tetuan De Las Victorias .... i worked for years for a sculptor who escaped there during the Spanish Civil War as a young boy (a group of orphans traveling alone over the Pyrenees Mountains..amazing and tragic story) - he spoke often of it when the wine was flowing after a long day of welding and grinding ..said we would go there some day and i would see what poverty really is - i am sure it is very different now and Manuel has passed away but i would still like to go - perhaps we will get a beer someday and talk about art!

Log in to reply