Wednesday 8 January 2014

Illustration Relevance

A student remarked she could tell my book was drawn with Adobe Illustrator.  Apart from recognizing one of the programs I have used for almost 25 years, she seemed to be making a generalization about the quality of artwork. At first, I wasn't sure if I should feel offended or appreciated. Yes, it had been an extremely difficult decision to make when it came to the final look of the book. It may have been the most difficult one of all in the process. I started with pencils and technical pens. I have nibs and quills and brushes and bottles of ink and I've used them all over the years for many different jobs and assignments. When it came to The Perfect Round, however, I decided it absolutely must have an electronic, digital look.

The main protagonist is an extraordinarily capable and highly technical robotic "synth." So the style could not be a primitive or naïve one like Sir Quentin Blake or Henri Rousseau for that matter. It also would never do to look like it was drawn by Edward Sorel, Edward Gorey or Ralph Steadman (although that could have been interesting!). Any formal sort of oil or watercolour painting would be as inappropriate for my tall tale as using a CAD program like Studio Max for Les très riches heures du Duc de Barry (currently in the Chantilly museum).

I was not re-creating a 15th Century Flemish annunciation painting, although the effect of technology on modern living has certainly had a profound, if not almost divine enhancement, due to the fact that computers turn humans into superbeings. On the other hand, the exquisite little illustrated books by John S. Goodall do capture the simple kind of story I was trying to tell. My story would be completely wrong in the hands of Jack Kirby, Wally Wood or Steve Ditko. Instead, I would have loved to emulate the work of the incredinly talented Edwin HuangJoëlle Jones or Amy Reeder (her Rocket Girl is amazing). That would have been phenomenal! Oh rapture!

In the end, I accepted the decision and along with both left and right hemispheres connected via the corpus collosum, I began designing my own aircraft, electromagnetic reactor and a robot wearing a suit combining carbon fibre, diamond particles and titanium thread to form a seamless grid of sensors. Along with his cranium array of microdish antennae and his Ultra-Perception goggles, Kele is the ultimate synthetic being. I hope the result shows why it took years of sketching, drawing, designing, coloring, and a dozen computer application programs to create my little book (along with writing the story in the first place). Along with all the artists I've mentioned, however, their tools and techniques still remain irrelevant so long as they are, indeed, appropriate for the world they are attempting to create. To paraphrase the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, "Remember, it is not how much you judge, but how much you are judged by others."


  1. I must say it is good to get some sense of what is happening behind the book. The execution of the book. I love Adobe Illustrator and it can be used to create many different styles. I feel you have used it and other tools to create a book in its own character, style and mood. It is not comic book and not aiming for full photo realism. It is your style some sliding scale in-between. Love the book. When do we see part II?

  2. Thanks Bill! Yes, you are right about character, style and mood - that is exactly the point and the context determines the artwork. As for Part II, it could be a while, but I have seriously been thinking about other situations and how Kele would react to them. We'll just have to see.