When, as a child, you first learn to draw, what do you draw? And why do you draw it? We all usually start by drawing first what we see, as a means of documentation. As we progress in thought and skill, drawing and illustration become a tool of both expression as well as decoration. It’s a good time to be both making and consuming art right now, and illustration practices have evolved into styles that are more than just aesthetically pleasing.
Take webcomics, for example. The open and easily consumable format lends itself to a great exchange of ideas and emotions. The wonderful thing about webcomics is that you don’t necessarily have to be able to draw well, or have a particularly refined style, as long as you have a good idea that people can relate to. In fact, sometimes artists use the rawness of their style to great advantage.
One of my favourites is Icelandic artist Hugleikur Dagsson. While the illustration style he uses is intentionally minimal and fairly basic, he conveys a lot with short punchlines and the sheer morbidity and hyperbole of his concepts. Like so:
Another artist I love is UK-based comic artist Rubyetc. It’s easy to mistake the sketchiness and rawness in her drawings for lack of skill, but once you navigate your way through her work you realise just how carefully she constructs her characters and her lines to convey emotion accurately. Ruby’s comics range from extremely random to relatable and poignant, as she portrays her own experience living with mental health issues.
Moving on to less comic, more illustration, and to the more colourful side of things: it’s very possible to satirise an entire country’s mindset in just one poster. Take, for example, the work of Priyesh T aka Adarsh Balak. Working in the style of those old-school instructional calendars and posters we all know so well, the artist puts a nihilistic, anarchist twist on a well-recognised style, making the viewer literally ask themselves what a “good boy” or a “moral boy” even is in this day and age.
Personally, though, some of my favourite functional illustration work to peruse is over on TheyDrawAndCook and their sister website TheyDrawAndTravel. Run by siblings Nate Padavick and Salli S. Swindell, the former is the the internet’s largest collection of illustrated recipes created by artists from around the world, and the latter is a repository of illustrated maps. I love TDAC so much because not only is it an excellent repository of recipes, it’s very interesting to me as an illustrator to observe all the different styles used, and how they complement the recipe in question so well.
Styles range from classic, water-colour inspired food illustration…
… to something a little more eclectic.
TheyDrawAndTravel, the sister website, currently houses 1883 illustrated maps, and is a fascinating look at how people view their travel experiences, their own familiar spaces and even themselves.
Visual art of any form is an excellent means of expression. With illustrations, you can convey a lot more with colour, style and form than with just words. You could use standalone illustrations, or combine them with text – the world is your blank page. And most importantly: everyone can draw. Yes, you too.
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