Monday, 26 October 2015

Speculation and Discussion on the Arisman's short thesis Is There a Fine Art to Illustration?

Marshall Arisman states in his short thesis Is There a Fine Art to Illustration?  that there is an 'outdated formula created by the art faculty' (the art faculty referring to the broader classification of art education across a range of universities) and that in relation to this outmoded contextualisation that 'All painters know that the word "illustration" is the kiss of death."

In his extravagantly written extolment, that sits proud at the front of a series of essays dealing with the identity of Illustration, he punctuates his distaste of the institutionalisation of art and the perception of illustrator. He says, "The fine arts world does not want illustrators in their club".

But he writes about a process of integration between Fine Art and Illustration and briefly explains a process that he himself introduces to the classroom. He explains that "working in a series allows students to introduce the concept of time into their work and pushes them out of the habit of creating single symbolic images, which is the trend in illustration."

For me the interesting words here are 'series' and 'time' which I discuss here:



If the role of Illustrator is to translate a language or statement of meaning into image, as an example of a how some may perceive the word illustration, then what place does series have? How can an image take on a series of meanings. The context in which Arisman uses the word series seems to imply an exploration of the theme? Yet does this not imply that the illustrator is expanding beyond the meaning?

If a series is produced based upon a statement of any length then potentially many images are taken as a narrative or a proceed collection of elements of the story. If a single statement is made with limited input, for example five words or line from a poem, then the expansion of the content is purely in the hands of the illustrator? At what stage does this become more about the illustrator's mind and experiences and less about the content of the meaning of the script, a script being a fragment from another individual's creation, within which the originator has their own set of conceptions and understandings.

How can a series of images work beyond the pure definition of the text without the illustrator becoming a fine artist? Where does the artist appear beyond the first drawing in a series? At what boundary does the Illustrator disappear?



'Introducing the concept of time into their work'? To think of time draws us into an illustrative process. Whether this be a memory or a tool to pictorially display the passing of time it is a process we try to crystallise and understand but ultimately it is very difficult to understand what Arisman means when he says time.

Could time mean cycle and then be a reference to series? Is the use of time a nod to evolution, a process that allows us to see change. But ultimately the result of time is the diminishing of everything, the death of everything.

Is the subconscious meaning behind this use of Time a direct reference to the death of what we know as Illustration and that in the end we must consider the illustrator an artist and not bracket them into a single place in time with archaic labels because in the end  Arisman finishes with a roll call of sorts, "I believe that it is possible to expand the boundaries where fine art and illustration meet into an image-making process that redefines our tired old definitions." 

ARISMAN, M. (2000) Is there a fine art to illustration? In: Heller, S & Arisman, M. (eds). The Education of an Illustrator. New York, USA: Allworth Press

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