Over the last few months I have made the decision to concentrate wholly upon illustration once more, and to this end I have conducted much research and worked to develop a new body of work. Every illustrator knows that a portfolio of 10- 12 pieces of a coherent ‘Style’ is necessary, before marketing your wares. I began by searching myself for the approach that would fit within my own doctrines, and creative bias. Figurative artwork has always been a major part of my practice, and although I have occasionally deviated into semi and total abstraction at times, I have generally maintained a figurative approach. My research offered a number of alternatives for the direction of my new work. In the end I have chosen to revisit a traditional approach reverting back to a naturalistic, semi realist style. I recently read that due to major trends and fashions within the illustration industry, such as the proliferation of computer aided manipulation techniques, that prospective clients within the industry are finding it difficult to find practitioners that can actually draw the human figure. As I have mentioned I have spent the majority of my career perfecting figurative drawing and painting. I have also noticed that the middle ground between full blown realism and a painterly naturalism that may make apparent an artists true style, is also rare. The majority of illustrators figurative work is clearly stylised to a point of unnatural representation.I have also produced work of this type while searching for a definitive style. I feel a lack of a definitive style has been a major problem for myself as if I have been looking too hard. A close look at any illustration agents artists portfolios indicates that all artists have a distinct style that they remain faithful to. During my last MA Illustration, I succumbed to completely producing digital work, although this has been a necessary step in my development of technical abilities, I now realise the wholly digital approach has no future for my work.
During the last few months I have produced 3 new works that serve to illustrate how I may pursue my practice. The work is born out of many years of practice and development, I feel that my true style is somewhere represented in this work. During my MA I developed ideas concerning the juxtaposition of form and differing elements. Cartoon iconography the manipulation of scale and exaggerated colouration has been a great influence, along with Simplified forms and parred down effects. My new work as representationalism has a traditional feel with a modern twist. I have combined abstracted elements, minimal line, and convoluted creative mannerisms to create a new approach, that I am happy with.Although there is still much room for development. The work is produced in oil with some acrylic, along with fast drying mediums to speed up the oils use. The work is quite large, over 4′ square. They take up to 3 weeks to produce, however in actual hourly time more akin to 10 days on average. If they were an actual illustration commision this time could be substantially reduced. (depending upon the complexity and size of the original work) I prefer to work this way but it also serves to loosen up outcomes, also producing the overall painterly aesthetic I am aiming for. Large work has the advantage of having a far better reproduction quality when in print. I recently rediscovered the illustrator Jim Kay, the main illustrator of the Harry Potter publications, who paints large works for the effect of clear detailed reproductions. Jims approach to illustration has been a marker for the type of imagery I wished for my own work, not for the subject matter, but the naturalistic type of approach, ie, figurative, semi realist, and painterly. Below are the three new works that illustrate a start to my new body of work. As self initiated work, I have not relied upon an author’s text as inspiration and guidance. The subject matter of each work is a reflection of my sensibilities/opinions, and expression. I enjoy metaphor as a vehicle for explanation, I also enjoy ambiguity, however just enough for the viewer to spend the time reading the work. Changing contexts is also of great interest and I enjoy utilising motifs and iconography of differing historical times including visions of the future. The work illustrates universal knowledge, for example the work entitled A Conscience, is a direct illustration of mans inhumanity to man. (history) the work entitled Cleansing, is a reflection/illustration of the Morals that may need to be reviewed. the vanquishing of perceived universal sins, and the work entitled Seven, is an illustration concerning luck, and life chances. The pictorial elements also serve to illustrate the subjects of a style that can be achieved, and that I am happy to cover, although a true reflection of this will only become apparent after a full portfolio of work is accomplished.
My new works style is intended for adult fiction publications. I mention this because when I have achieved 8-12 pieces of work for my portfolio, I will reappraise my website incorporating both adult and childrens books illustration. I believe at the present time that the current approach to my work offers potential for development for the upper age groups of children/young teenage age groups.Obviously the subject matter requires a review, and the overall style, necessitates continual research and progressive development. Below are a few drawings that combined with the type of work above may be the answer for my progression. I may even produce finished drawings and tint them with watercolour and/or acrylic rather than opaque painting over the top. Where as before when I was painting digitally with a pen and tablet and colouring the work by digital means, alternatively I may after coloring by hand in the traditional way, finish off with some digital touches. I am as yet undecided. I will definitely reduce the size of my work and produce a lot of drawings, instead (as in the new work above) of painting as a drawing directly on to the canvas. I love drawing there is nothing like approaching a new blank sheet of paper armed with a pencil and conjuring something up out of nothing. It would be great to be able to complete commissions/briefs for childrens story books. The children’s book illustration industry is a hard nut to crack as far as making it is concerned, I am not getting any younger, and I feel like this may be my last ditched attempt to make my living from art. Here’s hoping!
Farmer and wife