After spending a year chairing the Society of Illustrators’ annual illustration show, Jillian Tamaki pens a rah rah intro for the annual, but I think she’s right:
Young illustrators, seemingly unfazed by the fact illustration was declared dead 60 years ago, are getting on with the business of making stuff. Not only individual images, but also showcases for those images: anthologies, collaborations, galleries, self-published books, games, visual essays, products sold directly to fans. (Illustrators have fans now.) How thrilling to see illustration cross-pollinating with journalism, comics, design, art, animation, and other disciplines that barely have names yet. Conventional clients have taken note. Why wouldn’t they? It’s good work.
The best young artists are seeking to define their careers on their own terms. I see this in my students at the School of Visual Arts. For better or worse, they are not content to be someone’s hired hands. They desire to be professionals, yes, but not to create work that only ‘solves the problem’–it must be meaningful on a deeper level too. It must have soul. When I was a student, I was happy just to render fruit in markers, if that’s what was what my teachers requested.
In a world with no hope of money or success, experimentation, stylization and originality—the true life’s blood of creativity and progress—is all the rage. And that’s really good.
Above illustration of Tamaki and her cat by Kris Mukai.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.