Thursday, 7 May 2009

Issues and Practises

Aesthetic Style or Content?

Within Illustration and design in general there seems to be two trains of thought. On one hand there are designers who only think about their aesthetic style thinking a designers role is to just make things look good. This is indeed a big part of what it is to be an illustrator but i find these things can lack sophistication in that much of the time the content or the way it is delivered is overlooked. What’s lacking I feel is their own insight or interpretation of the text or a lack of play between the relationships of a cast for an illustration.

On the other hand there our Designers/Illustrators who do not concern themselves with the aesthetic at all, almost seeing it as a bi product of conceptualizing an idea. Designers such as Patrick Thompson, Who’s subject matter is at the core of his images and sometimes the only thing it has got going for it.

After reading an article in EYE magazine I realized some of the themes for this essay were discussed here by Paul Bowman. He refers to the notion of style, not just in an aesthetic way, but referring to style as the content within an illustration and the way it is delivered, He says “good creative work challenges the viewer to question things. The subject matter is served by the style not the other way round, and the first question asked should be – is the subject matter any good?”Boman has a point but he emphasizes content over aesthetics which is something I do not agree with.

Thinking of style in these two separate entities, the content and the form, they are both at opposite ends of the scale, but when fused with balance in mind they can combine to create more divers, thought provoking and visually pleasing work.

The strongest element of David Shrigley’s style is content, I think his little illustrations are exceptional. allot of the time the way it has been produced has very little to do with that, just the outstanding humour and observations make it excel. He has once said that art is like a joke without the humour, from this you can imagine he spends alot of time thinking about the concepts within his own work but also the bigger picture of art itself.

David Downon is a fashion illustrator, he would sit on the aesthetics without content side, but still anyone would find it hard not to like his illustrations because they are objectively really well produced and beautiful, like Shrigley he generates images but the differences between the two are worlds apart and its all to do with the context of where the image will be used/seen. Shrigley probably thinks of concepts and jokes with the same amount of intensity as David Downton puts into practasing his drawing skills and brush strokes. In a way it is not what you like but why you like it, and if you obssess over it and work really hard this integrity shines through wheither its form or content, and art should be given credit based upon this, not just content alone.

Gillian blease is a contemporary illustrator I feel sits comfortably in the middle of this debate. She has a strong visual style, her illustrations are well composed and the colours are beautiful and well considered, her ability to strip down elements to their most minimal form yet fall short of abstraction and remain in the real world is mesmerizing. She also has the sophisticated thought processes that go into deciphering a text and picking out the most relevant things. Although sometimes Blease’s work seems simpler visually, the designs are forever more complex because of the careful considerations and reservations required to pull them off. I feel the key to Blease’s success lies in her acute judgment for striping elements back without loosing their universal meaning and understanding. I would love to have this degree of balance within my own work, it is something i will certainly strive for.

Unfortunately I have made a graph to try and explain what I mean. One must remember this is subjective and I’m not saying what is objectively good/bad or right/wrong, just subjectively saying what I like and dislike, just a personal view of how I have become to perceive art and design. You can see a correlation between aesthetics and content. Some people have strong attachments to each end its just that I prefer balance but these people could say that I’m just average.

Your style is your personality and to say that one should be valued over another is just nonsence, in the end it would seem that an illustrator needs a style, It is what you are hired for after all. But I feel stressing about content is just unnecessary when sometimes all we need is a pretty picture; yes at times they can be frivolous or sentimental. But stressing over content can be elitist, this can be evidenced in elements of the modernist movement. Last time i was stressing about content Ian Murray told me to 'fuck integrity' nobody could have put it more eloquently.

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