An Impression of the Art of Illustration

When reviewing various Illustrators, I noticed a common theme: impression.

Because individuals vary in their perceptions of the world around them, we see the expression of those perceptions come through art — and in all media, whether it be modern sculptures, painting, digital media, and even through what I’d consider the craft of social media.  I interpret Twitter’s maximum character usage to be a form of literary art wherein the individual attempts to capture  a moment or idea in its most condensed packaging.  It’s the Campbell’s soup of thought management.  But then, Campbell’s soup might lead you to think on Warhol’s famous piece and what it might suggest about his impression of repetition.  I don’t believe we are meant to look at the series of cans and think, “Mmm, wish I had some soup.”  In fact, the impression I get is of blandness, too much repetition, mechanized reproduction with only a detailed variation in the naming of the soup itself.

Repetition is, I’ve been taught, a strong component of good design.  When managed appropriately, it has the ability to elicit visual interest.  This can be done with color, shape, typography, anything that is an element on the media surface.  Which leads me to wonder what this suggests about our impression of the world.

I believe that we admire uniqueness.  I believe that if you were to see a colony of bats taking flight and in that colony spotted one albino, that you would have more interest in it than in the entire colony of “normal” bats.  But then again, the albino has a sufficiently similar shape and behavior to be considered a repetitive element amongst the group.  I very much doubt you would notice or care about a bird that had happened into the colony of bats.  I don’t believe so.  Instead, I believe your eye tells your brain — there is a group of animals all very similar and then there is one that is similar, but starkly different in its one characteristic.  And so that makes it visually appealing.  The impression that you get is strikingly paradoxical — repetition married to variation.

I assert that it is this same general likeness but unique variation that makes the human an interesting piece of art, as well.  For whatever reason, I like seeing illustrators put a ton of people on any media and just looking at all the differences, yet understanding our alikeness as humans.  Can you imagine if we all looked exactly alike?  This makes me think of the Twilight Zone, Agent Smith in the Matrix sequels, and any other number of Hollywood imaginings of cloning, mass copying, etc.  I think when you see exactitude of likeness portrayed in those stories, it is not done so positively and often evokes a fearful response.  Inherently, I think one of our greatest fears is having our individuality destroyed.  And yet another paradox — we struggle to be “like” so many others.  Think about it — it’s in the way we dress, fix our hair, grow our beards, get our tans, eat our food, drink our coffee, watch our shows.  As much as we want our individuality, we also seek commonality.  This is, I think, the apart of the great canvas of humanity — having the common shape, having a basically similar format, and yet still being characteristically unique.  We are humankind, but we are also countless variations of that one format.  Much like snowflakes, rocks, trees, etc.

And as artists, we not only are individuals, but also see the world through those individual eyes.  So when I see a tree (a white oak for instance), I see it in a certain way, a certain form and shape and color.  And if a hundred artists surrounded me, looking at the selfsame tree, they would interpret it according to their own impressions of it.  I believe you would not find alike any two artistic renderings of that tree.

I love that when I have applied for jobs on Elance, creating a bid proposal and attaching some works to demonstrate my capabilities to the Client, that often I have been rejected with the following reason:  “Prefer another style.”  In truth, it is impossible for the Client to know exactly what my impression of his project would be unless he gave me the chance to show him.  It is not of chagrin that I speak to this, but of interest in that one phrase: “prefer another style”.

I’d much prefer instead, when someone considers my art, my illustration, my design, to decline it on this basis: “prefer another impression.”  Therein I believe is the greater truth.

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