When illustrators speak instead of draw


Above: one of several quotes from illustrators I’ve collected together in a single browsable interface.

You can learn a lot about drawing by looking at the work of your favourite illustrators. Certainly you can make conscious deductions about their use of colour, composition, or media.

But there are some things that no amount of staring at pictures is going to tell you. While you can guess at things like inspirations or working methods, only the illustrator’s words are going to tell you the answers for certain. Perhaps it’s ironic that we need the written language to understand a visual artist properly?

In any case, I’ve found myself reading a lot of interviews with illustrators lately. I suppose it’s the same instinct that makes me pay for a ticket to go and see them speak: I want to lap up their thoughts, note down their insights, and learn more about their processes.

Every artist has different inspirations, methods and routines, and so it’s not – it can’t be – a hunt for the magic formula. A great deal of it may just be reassurance: these people have doubts, too. They have pictures that go horribly wrong, and days that they hate everything they draw. Sometimes there are nuggets of advice, ways of dealing with setbacks or generating ideas.

With all this in mind, I have started a collection of spoken snippets from my favourite illustrators, and you can see it here. I hope you’ll have a sniff around, and find a quote or two that interests you.

In short, it’s a collection of statements with an emphasis on working methods, inspiration, and truths about the art of illustration. These are statements I’ll want to visit again and again, and read for reassurance, enlightenment, or even my own inspiration. And I’ll be adding more snippets regularly.

 A note about the software I used

As with my Chile sketch diary, this post represents a fortuitous link between my day job and my interest in illustration. The software that I’ve used is called SayIt and in its current iteration, it’s a bit like a Pinterest for the spoken word: it was developed by my workplace as a piece of civic/democratic software that would enable people to publish transcripts of the spoken word.

It is envisaged that it’ll be used for publishing what was said at council meetings, or major trials, et cetera. The great thing about it is that, once transcripts have been imported, they can be searched, browsed in different ways, and linked to easily.

It certainly wasn’t developed for collections of quotes from illustrators, but it’s beautifully flexible and it certainly works for my needs in this respect.

Published by Myfanwy Tristram

I am an illustrator, situated in Brighton on the south coast of England, and with a special interest in comics and graphic memoir. I also work for a non-profit which encourages people to be active in democracy and to exercise rights such as the right to information through FOIA.

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