What makes a good illustration?

  • SVS OG

    I've often thought that in writing, music, and art, the first rule is that the artist shouldn't get in the way of the work. Whatever style or technique the artist/performer uses, it shouldn't interfere with the audience's response to the piece but should enhance it. That's still kind of subjective but what I mean is that, if for example, a character in an illustration is not drawn well that will only matter if it's clear that the artist doesn't know how to draw versus being clear that it's a stylistic choice. The first causes the audience to think about the artist whereas the second keeps the focus on the overall illustration and its story. Therefore, my definition of what makes a successful illustration is one in which the artist and the artist's technique "disappears" for the audience because they become so immersed in the experience that the artist is trying to create that they stop thinking about how that work came to be (at least initially). It's actually hard for artists (and musicians and writers) to react to a piece in our field purely as an audience member would react to it because we are always experiencing a piece or work thinking, "What were they doing with the perspective there? What brush did they use?" which immediately removes us from the experience.

  • @peteolczyk Yep, the first one 🙂

  • @demotlj
    Thank you so much for your insights. Sorry I took some time to reply I had to really think about you said. I really like your answer it stopped me in my tracks.
    When you say the artist shouldn’t get in the way of the art, do you mean in an egotistical way? Where the message of the art is more important than all the tricks the artist is ABLE to throw at it. For example only using what’s necessary to create the message or story?
    Also are you talking about about pieces of art where you feel the emotional pull, or the story, is so immersive, the relevance of the techniques are almost forgotten by the viewer. The message has got across and created that feeling or experience which is bigger than the parts (perspective, figures, texture) of the drawing.
    Are there any examples that come to mind that would show what you mean?
    (Are you a musician too? Does this give you an insight into the more immediate audience response to art? )

  • SVS OG

    @peteolczyk When I said that the artist shouldn't get in the way of the art, I was thinking primarily of ensuring that your skills are good enough to pull off what you are trying to do so that the viewer isn't thinking, "That doesn't look like an arm," instead of thinking, "That character is so full of joy," or something like that. The skills needed for each piece then will depend on what you are trying to accomplish with that piece. Some pieces can have, for example, anatomically poorly designed characters but it won't matter because the nature of the piece doesn't depend on accurately drawn characters to convey what you want to convey to the viewer. (Quentin Blake's characters were often anatomically sketchy but his whole style was lively and playful so a poorly drawn arm didn't draw the viewer's attention away from the overall story.) Other pieces will require accurately drawn scenes. Whatever style an artist chooses, or techniques or skills he or she employs, they have to accentuate the feeling, story, or experience the artist is trying to convey and not yank the viewer out of that end goal into thinking instead about the process itself.

    I am a musician (and actually better at that than art where I still consider myself quite a beginner) and to give a simple example, I play mandolin in our church bluegrass band and only know the basic chords but it's enough to give the band the "mandolin chop" it needs while everyone else does their thing. On the other hand, I also play classical mandolin in our church "Early Music" ensemble and in that kind of music, I have to be very precise about my playing because a few clunky notes will stand out and bring everyone listening right out of the flow. I also write in my professional life, and the same thing applies there -- know your theme, interest your audience in your theme, and make sure the audience gets to where you want them to end up. If you ramble around in your writing, or heap up tons of huge words, or pile on poetic passages that don't contribute to the arc of the piece, you are drawing the audience away from the theme of your piece to focus on you as the writer.

    After the "experience" is over (the book is read, the music has been heard, the painting is viewed) the audience might say, "Wow, that artist is exceptional," but a really skilled artist will keep the audience's focus on the work during the experience itself.

    I'm actually avoiding during some writing right now, which is why this was a rather long answer! I hope it makes sense though.

  • @demotlj thanks for your answer Laurie, hope your writing went well 🙂

  • SVS OG

    @demotlj That was a great explanation, Laurie. I love it that you also play Early Music. I know exactly what you're talking about.

  • SVS OG

    @LauraA Do you play an instrument?

  • SVS OG

    @demotlj I don't play piano or sing well at this point, but I appreciate a lot of different kinds of music. My daughter, though, was a serious violin student as a child and teen in NYC and then played in Early Music groups here in Italy (that's how she met her husband). Now she wants to start a family so she's teaching English to children, and they also do choral concerts and make films on the side (she does the photography and color editing). Our family doesn't seem to do anything the straightforward way!

  • @demotlj thanks again for your answer. Based on what you said, and as I’m looking for more insight I thought I’d try and teach myself some simple tunes on the keyboard. Nothing serious, I thought it might help somehow and give me a wider understanding. Thanks again.

  • SVS OG

    @peteolczyk It's great that you are going to try a little keyboard. I think that all of the creative arts feed one another and I'll be interested to hear what you learn from doing this.

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