Illustrophobic

I was asked the other day about what has changed for Illustrators over the past number of years. I found this drawing of a panel of Art Director's at an Illustration event in a sketchbook, I purposely drew them when they weren't answering a question. This got me thinking about how the questions and answers have changed over the past 2+ decades.

Many of the stories, the black humour and the frustrated outrage I shared with friends over the years are no longer relevant. Brad Holland gave an incredibly rousing speech at the 1999 ICON Conference about how everyone is an artist (including hair stylists) EXCEPT illustrators. We roared our approval and today the argument is also no longer relevant. The old lines are blurred by new realities.

Another illustrator at the 2003 ICON Conference thought I was crazy to suggest that Illustration needed an organization like the AIGA, because he said," illustrators are like hotdog cart owners. Coming together won't help us sell more hotdogs." That is an old picture of illustration.

NEW Illustration is without labels, categories or limits. Illustration is the mortar between the bricks one day, the bricks themselves another day and finally an urgent message spray painted across the wall.

Illustrators today live in a much more porous world. The barriers and hierarchies died with the single job title and the one job for life workplace. In a creative economy the changeable nature of illustration- it is a noun, verb and adjective, is no longer a failing of character but rather the strength of multiple approaches.

The things that have stayed the same, the fear of a blank page/screen, the challenge of conceptual ideas, the frustration with fees will always be the same. What has changed is the insatiable market for visual materials through the web and in entertainment has created great opportunities for artists willing to embrace new ways of communicating visually.

I always knew illustration was more than just a bag of visual tricks, tics and techniques. Today more than ever what we do as illustrators is not only relevant but essential.