Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Is Illustration Still Relevant? Part One

It seems like only yesterday that illustration was going through a resurgence of interest. It had all of a sudden become cool to be an illustrator and the industry was one that was vibrant, exciting and ready to take on the world. Contemporary illustrators were taking the discipline in all kinds of interesting new directions, and were the subjects of big glossy coffee table books full of contemporary illustration, that couldn't hit the shelves fast enough. Lawrence Zeegan, Illustrator, Educator, Writer and all round authority on the subject; documented the disciplines sudden rise in popularity in his 2007 article for Computer Arts magazine, entitled 'Illustration Renaissance'. In this piece, Zeegan writes of how after years of struggling, illustration was all of a sudden in vogue:

"After a decade climbing the ranks following a period as underdog, illustration now sits as top dog."

 Zeegan discusses the role played by the 'digital revolution' in this renaissance, a revolution that had once bought about the downfall of the illustration industry, now looked to be the discipline's saviour. The 'digital revolution' had come as a gift to graphic designers and photographers, who embraced this new technology and whose industries prospered as a result. But as the photographers and graphic designers raced towards their exciting digital futures, Illustration was left on the starting line unsure of its place in this new revolution.

Come the time of the 'Illustration Renaissance', however, this new and sophisticated technology that had for so long been out of the price range of the average illustrator was suddenly affordable and a new tech-savvy generation of illustrators were emerging to breath new life into the industry. They did so by creating work that was fresh, unique, exciting and which now seemed to art directors like a viable and interesting proposition, one that could compete with photographers and designers.

These illustrators were not only revolutionary in their work, but also in their approach: they didn't wait for commissions to coming, they created their own. Zeegan commented at the time on how illustrators were increasingly creating their own: "self-publishing fanzines and mags; launching own-label products, such as T-shirts, badges and stickers; and promoting self-initiated, self-directed one-off and/or limited edition artworks, through the organization of exhibitions and events as well as through online portfolios and stores."

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