Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Illustration as Commentary

I have been thinking for the last few days about the recent wave of tornadoes to hit the country in the past few days and weeks and the role of illustration in commenting on such events.

When I look at the photos and hear and read the stories of the devastation and loss, I am struck by the fact that the photos themselves tell so much of the story that to simply repeat what they have done with paint and line seems somewhat, not pointless, but nearly that. I cannot think of the word right now. My first thought was that one should go to the place where the tornado has struck and report on it firsthand, getting to know the people there and tell their stories. But, with people needing real help, and not onlookers, this seems like the wrong thing to do on many counts. But, is it better to sit at home or in our studios and do what we so often end up doing, armchair reporting? As illustrators, we often sit at our studios and comment on things from a distance. Though not ideal, it does seem to be the situation we are in, with tight deadlines and the expectation that because we can deliver the work quickly via the internet, that we are expected to and that we should do so. Often, this results in illustrations that are rife with symbolic interpretations of events and both iconic in imagery and technique. I am not faulting anyone for this type of approach, and like a lot of work that uses one such as this, but it does seem overly prevalent in today's publications and websites.

I think that possibly, a better approach might be to take a longer view and try to tell one person's story over a period of time and learn as much as one can about the person's experience, and report on it. This might include actually helping out the person you are learning about, either with monetary help or with rebuilding what they have lost. I think what I am talking about is really partnering with the subjects of our illustrations and involving them in the storytelling process. I don't know, just some thoughts this morning.

If this is somewhat disjointed and not well written, I apologize. It is more of a brain dump than an essay or well thought out post. I am curious and interested in knowing what others think. I hope to hear from you.




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