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Thread: Illustration vs drawing

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    Illustration vs drawing

    I like drawing. For a while, I thought that I wanted to be an illustrator, because I thought that would be a job that would allow me to draw a lot.

    However, it seems that the more and more that I learn about (contemporary) illustrating, and the more illustrating classes that I take, the more I seem to find that "advanced" or highly "technically proficient" drawing isn't necessarily relevant to the illustration field.

    A lot of my teachers talk about how they're really bad at drawing. The artists that we look at in class create graphically and compositionally strong works, but I can think of very few that utilize styles that contain a high levels of technical proficiency in drawing. Using found imagery, simplified vectors, or very naiive styled drawings seems to to be the most popular styles.

    I like their work a lot, but it also makes me feel conflicted. I know that following their example and placing less emphasis on drawing would allow me to produce higher quality, more quickly generated, and more visually appealing illustrations-- however, the only reason I wanted to illustrate in the first place was so I could draw. I like the idea of being someone who can make cool, streamlined illustrations in a short period of time, and I like these works, but I don't admire them the way I admire more drawing/skill oriented pieces, and I don't find them as interesting or engaging while I'm creating them.

    But they're usually objectively better in spite of this.

    Can anyone relate to this or offer any opinions? I'm not trying to be dramatic when I say this, but I feel like the "smart" thing to do is to lose this attachment to drawing. But why bother illustrating at all if I throw out why I wanted to do it in the process? I'm not really sure how to think about all this and I'm wondering if you peeps had any opinions on the matter. Thanks
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    Hey Snacks, where do you go to school again?
    Illustration is a huge field, and it's always changing. It's not just one thing. "Technically proficient" drawing isn't a requirement in today's illustration market, but it's not not a requirement, either. And that's been true for at least the past sixty years or so. Do the kind of work you want to do, and find/make a market for it, rather than chasing a (possibly inaccurate) idea of what's trendy at the moment.

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    This is actually a common concern and a very smart question. The kind of work to which you are referring fits, for the most part, in editorial and advertising illustration. It is a highly prized area for a lot of illustrators because of tradition and intelligence. The deadlines are generally very short so the work often needs to be abbreviated in some way. The illustrators also have a specific audience in mind and a specific goal.

    The kind of illustration you are interested in has always had its place but took a back seat for awhile in the academic illustration world. A lot of programs still hold onto the editorial as king mentality, and it is still a vital and incredible world if you fit in, but neglect the more technical directions like fantasy/sci fi, concept, comics etc. because of lack of interest, training, and knowledge. The skill you mention can be found all over illustration now as these areas have grown and, if not now, will soon dominate the illustration world. The trick is to find a program that have faculty who teach in these areas. It's difficult because a lot of faculty, just like those in the fine art areas, grew up not learning the kind of drawing skills you are interested in.

    So don't give up the hunt. The key to getting good at this stuff is to develop passion and stick to it. And the key to sticking to something is enjoy it enough to work at it and eventually develop true passion. I love every direction of illustration. Maybe it's because I've taught it all and done most of it in some form. But don't be discouraged because your particular program emphasizes one over the other. Keep working hard at what you want to do, try to find mentors here and there, ask lots of questions, and get supplemental help from places like this. You can still learn a lot from the other illustration directions but don't let them kill your dream.
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    Balancing facile execution with good design is a challenge and most people focus on one aspect to the detriment of the other because of their own limitations. To have both qualities in equal measure will always trump people of lesser abilities.
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    The world is full of people who have both but have gotten nowhere near as far as others with lesser ability. I see a lot of illustrators who can't help showing off to the detriment of thinking and making a successful career. The bigger picture for me is knowing where one fits. Being aware of which direction your abilities can take you.
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    50% of successful illustration is networking and contacts..ignore these and you find yourself sidelined by new illustrators following you ..
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    The good news is that if you become proficient at more traditional drawing and picture-making, it's easy to learn how to stylize. The other good news is that illustration encompasses most commercial art - including animation, concept art, storyboarding, production art for film and games, comic books, childrens books, etc. etc. Many of those areas welcome a more traditional approach. Note that picture-making and communication are important no matter what, though.

    I'll third what Bill and Elwell said... Illustration faculty is often heavy on editorial illustrators, who tend to be following the latest trend in editorial illustration, which is currently that vector-mishmash-faux-naive look. (Note that this will probably be out of style by the time you graduate, so don't get too attached to it.) At first I didn't even know that I could be an illustrator and pursue work outside the editorial fields, until I unearthed a couple of teachers who encouraged us to do different things.

    There will be pressure to take the editorial path, but you have to forge your own direction and find the markets where your kind of work fits best. If you can find any teachers who can help you move in the direction you want, latch onto them and milk them for all they're worth! Also if there are any electives that will be useful for gaining the skills you want, take them wherever possible. Get creative with your class schedule if you have to.

    (I took every life drawing elective available, and even crashed a few classes I wasn't enrolled in. Also when I got assigned to an editorial-obsessed portfolio teacher, I talked to a different portfolio teacher who I thought would understand my goals, and he let me sit in on his classes. I'm glad I did that, because my assigned teacher was kinda useless...)
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    The world is full of people who have both but have gotten nowhere near as far as others with lesser ability. I see a lot of illustrators who can't help showing off to the detriment of thinking and making a successful career. The bigger picture for me is knowing where one fits. Being aware of which direction your abilities can take you.
    Nah,
    Guys like Iain McCaig and Craig Mullins will always trump some short lived popular trend towards lesser talent. That's why Guys like Cornwell and N.C. Wyeth are still remembered and the oh so hip artists who were from that era faded into obscurity except as historical curiosities. As the saying goes there are no undiscovered geniuses in art.

    Nicholai Fechin said it best
    Concept or rendition: which is more important? That is a basic question in art. In the first case it is frequently said: “Not badly conceived but poorly executed!” Such evaluation is no credit to an artist. On the contrary, fine workmanship makes one forgive even triviality. In such cases it is said: “Stupid, but devilishly well executed!” This is a common rule. A high degree of expertise in technique has always had, and always will have, a predominate place in art. The subject, in itself, has value only according to the mode of the day. Tomorrow it will be superseded by a new fashion or fad. With the passing of time, the subject loses much of its meaning. But the fine execution of that subject retains its value..
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    @dpaint: There is more to the illustration world than concept art.

    Just like there's more to the illustration world than editorial illustration.

    It's a BIG. FIELD. With a lot of possibilities for success. Get with the twenty-first century, yo...

    (Seriously, if Thurber can be enshrined alongside Pyle as one of the "Great American Illustrators"...)
    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; November 4th, 2012 at 12:11 PM.
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    "Do the kind of work you want to do, and find/make a market for it, rather than chasing a (possibly inaccurate) idea of what's trendy at the moment. "

    I think thats right. And also, theres lots of work thats a bit dull or without glory that you can earn dough from and learn on their dime. Just as an example architectural renderings for marketing isnt exactly glamourous but if you do what they want theyll pay you and you can take a day off a draw fun stuff. Im sure all products need similar illustrations so theres lots of potential clients. Lamps, wires, light bulbs, lamp technical manuals, lamp brochures, textbooks, whatever, needs illustrations. Same for fridges. And cars. Get some boring clients and some fun ones to make sure theres always money owed to you. And gradually you get more work doing stuff you like and are particularly interested in.
    its a slowish process but just take it job by job. hope that helps.
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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    @dpaint: There is more to the illustration world than concept art.

    Just like there's more to the illustration world than editorial illustration.

    It's a BIG. FIELD. With a lot of possibilities for success. Get with the twenty-first century, yo...

    (Seriously, if Thurber can be enshrined alongside Pyle as one of the "Great American Illustrators"...)
    He's not, he was a cartoonist and a good one. Don't confuse the two because no one else is.
    The reason I mention McCaig and Mullins is because they don't just do concept art but also book interiors and covers, comics (in McCaigs case) and movie and game work. Pretty much whatever they want, whenever they want. Anybody can make a living doing something poorly if they are tenacious enough, so what? The shelf life on that stuff is short in the grand scheme of things. Its a lot harder to sustain a lifelong career as an artist when you are trying to be trendy or lack skills in some important way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Nah,
    Guys like Iain McCaig and Craig Mullins will always trump some short lived popular trend towards lesser talent. That's why Guys like Cornwell and N.C. Wyeth are still remembered and the oh so hip artists who were from that era faded into obscurity except as historical curiosities. As the saying goes there are no undiscovered geniuses in art.

    Nicholai Fechin said it best
    Concept or rendition: which is more important? That is a basic question in art. In the first case it is frequently said: “Not badly conceived but poorly executed!” Such evaluation is no credit to an artist. On the contrary, fine workmanship makes one forgive even triviality. In such cases it is said: “Stupid, but devilishly well executed!” This is a common rule. A high degree of expertise in technique has always had, and always will have, a predominate place in art. The subject, in itself, has value only according to the mode of the day. Tomorrow it will be superseded by a new fashion or fad. With the passing of time, the subject loses much of its meaning. But the fine execution of that subject retains its value..
    You're looking at what interests you. A hundred years from now there will be illustrators, on that need to know list, who you would put in the trumped category. Iain Mcaig and Craig Mullins would not trump Brad Holland and Gerard Dubois in the editorial category, they wouldn't want to or need to. They have different drawing skills and apply them in different ways. I know you and I may never agree on the idea that there are different kinds of good drawing but I believe that there are and have the proof of a lot of different artists having successful careers in many different areas. And Fechin's quote while appropriate to your argument is certainly not the final word.

    Read your last post. I think our problem comes in your definition of skill. For me it's very limited.
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    Thurber did book illustrations and invariably ends up in books on the "History of Illustration" and "Great Illustrators"... Literally a few pages away from people like Pyle and Rackham. I know, I've got the books.

    Also I don't see McCaig or Mullins being big in the editorial, advertising, corporate, or fashion illustration fields, among others. Nor would their work be accepted by all art directors. Different strokes for different fields. There's room for successful careers for both illustrators who take a "traditional" approach and illustrators who take a more stylized or even crude approach. If N. C. Wyeth were to try to get a gig doing magazine covers now, he'd probably be rejected because his work simply doesn't fit the current field. Not to say he couldn't be successful elsewhere.

    (And by the way, cartooning is ALSO a subset of illustration.)

    (It's a really REALLY big field.)
    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; November 4th, 2012 at 01:16 PM.
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