Thursday, 20 December 2012

What does 'Illustration' mean?

Personal project
I believe the answer to this question is as vast and wide as the question itself. The answer will be a personal viewpoint of the individual asked - and there is no right nor wrong answer.
The ironic thing is most people outside of the industry don't have much of an idea of what illustration is. I generally get asked what I'm studying at uni by customers at my job - and 99% of those who have asked have pulled a face of puzzlement upon hearing me say illustration. 

"Is that like ... them book pictures?"  - Said the other 1%
Illustration for me is many things. As suggested by Michael Salu in his article in Varoom Magazine [2012] "As our visual language evolves, the playing field is levelling. Graphic designs, sculptors, painters, creative developers and even musicians amorphously meander across different parts of our creative industries." Illustration is many things, consists of many parts and is practised by many individuals. You don't have to be an illustrator by trade or job title to do an illustration, in the same way that drawing is not the only form of illustration - it is a net that stretches outwards and covers many creative outlets. 

It can be used to send a message, make a point, communicate words, look pretty, be random, satisfy an urge, entertain, sadden and surprise people. It can be done through music, fonts, acting, film, photography, drawing, painting, hand movements, shadows, light.

I believe illustration to be an act of creative outlet - with many segments. There is the obvious act of 'illustrating' - portraying something to the audience, through storybook writing, events, diaries through imagery. There is also personal illustration - when an artist will be conveying a point of their own, making a statement - or just illustrating because it takes their fancy - taking inspiration from something around them and putting it to paper, wood, film etc. 

Interestingly the term 'illustration' originates from the 14 century and was used to convey 'a shining', 'a manifestation' and 'a spiritual illumination'. The word itself is taken from the Latin word 'illustrationem' which meant 'vivid representation'. Its meaning has slowly adapted and changed over time, and by the 1580's 'illustration' meant a mental sense of an 'act of making clear in the mind' - by 1816 it meant 'an illustrative picture'. Thus it is clear that now in this day and age once again the meaning behind the word 'illustration' has changed once more and adapted to cover a vast scope of creative outlets. 

My own work originally started out traditionally, pencil, crayons and paints, yet over time I've practised with 3D elements, collage, photography and digital and tablet work. I've briefly touched on animation, which is something I'd like to take further and am really pleased to find out we will be doing so after the critical journals are done and dusted. Like the term - my 'illustration' has adapted and now covers a vast scope of techniques and styles yet remains the definition of 'illustration'. 

I think a name change for illustration is unnecessary. Unlike many things 'illustration' has managed to adapt and modernise, this is a feat in itself and should remain as so. From it's original standing in the 14 century it has evolved and still stands strong in 2012. 

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