Some thoughts written for the 40th anniversary of the Association of Illustrators in 2013.
The State of Illustration
For illustrators there are many challenges ahead, both in terms of economic & technology. Whilst Illustration is omnipresent within contemporary culture, and as a subject has never been so popular - digital platforms present many opportunities for the illustrator, & yet also challenge how one can sustain a lengthy career when fresh imagery is only a mouse click away online.
With the inexorable move of print to the online sees many changes for the industry, both in terms of the commissioning process and how illustration can occupy such territory with the web offering a timeline, a greater scope for narrative and sequence – one of the core strengths of Illustration. Illustration will move – go beyond the static single image, and it will be important for illustrators to understand how their work should exist in a timeline. The coming year will see further proliferations of digital platforms such as iPads and mobile devices to view content - consequently the need for illustration to exist across multiple screens.
The relationship between Illustrator and client, Illustrator and agent, Illustrator and audience are all changing – the Illustration market house become truly global, offering multiple work streams, but also speeding up the commissioning process, and an over saturated market for illustration?
Collaboration will increasingly become more important – also the ever-growing self-publishing/print culture of zine/book fairs and the popularity of graphic art fairs such as ‘Pick Me Up’ tap into the entrepreneurial spirit to define one’s audience. Whether these are sustainable in the long term is a question for the next year, as the market is flooded further with graduates. Though there is undoubtedly a move towards ‘live events’ – maybe a reflection of a need for the real, as modern communication becomes increasingly the virtual?
As for possible trends maybe there will be a reaction against the ‘folk’ low-fi aesthetic that is all pervasive at present? With the gradual move of authorial work taking on a point of view, documentary illustration driven more by content than superficial style driven work?
These challenges to the industry require a strong and confident AOI to offer leadership and vision for Illustrators - to be a meeting point for both practitioners needing business skills and knowledge of new technology, alongside taking a lead in the growing discourse around Illustration through academic research with VaroomLab partnerships.
The move to Somerset House for the AOI offers greater opportunities for partnership and collaborations, a platform to both discuss illustration and through the new Illustration Awards to promote the use of good illustration. As the AOI enters it's 40th anniversary the new Illustration Awards needed to reflect the diversity and richness of the profession, to explore the multitude of spaces where illustration exists today, whether as street art, the printed page, or digital tablet.
Education seems key in the future, not simply in a pure academic sense, though the ever popularity of illustration conferences suggest an appetite to expand on research in this field. But also the broader need to stimulate debate amongst practitioners on the impact of the digital and how they may position themselves in the future.
© Roderick Mills