::Is Illustration dead?::


Aaah! I do hate these kind of questions. Is Illustration dead? I certainly hope not! Damn I just found a style and a passion for something and suddenly it’s validity is being questioned.
This question was recently featured on the forum of Illustration Mundo.

My problems with this question are these two things ; Firstly, won’t it become a self-fulfillling prophecy if we choose to answer in the affirmative? Secondly, should we question it at all? In my research over the last few months I have found 100’s if not 1000’s of successful illustrators from all over the world and, I might add, doing some incredibly amazing work in all kinds of mediums. I do agree that there seems to be alot more photography in use in advertising, especially here in Australia. As an example of this it has taken me almost 3 months to find a printer that can produce archival quality prints (giclee) on a variety of papers and not just a colour strip, as is used when producing digital prints of photographs, thankfully not only that but he has a brilliant eye for colour and gave me a very thoughtful critique of my work.

So, there is very little regular, well paid, interesting work for freelance illustrators out there wanting to be challenged and they have to work days doing a ‘real’ job…. eh! News flash! I may be fairly new to this gig but I’m not that naive! Was there ever copious amounts of interesting, well paid, challenging work out there?
I don’t see any illustrators names on the worlds rich list that’s for sure.

So if illustration is indeed surely dead then what does an illustrator do, sharpen his/her pencils, stare at the wall and wait for something else to come along or go down fighting and pimp yourself like mad on MySpace?
It might be my fashion background talking but maybe it’s just out of fashion for now, all that crazy work in the 70’s that was imprinted on my childhood brain had to end somewhere, but it does appear to be spewing out of the brains of creative 30 somethings now. I don’t think Illustration is dead, she’s just resting her eyes, meditating, calm before the storm style.
Stop asking questions and start drawing I say!


8 Comments Add yours

  1. (('{~_~}')) says:

    Illustration will never be dead! Go forth and do your thang!

  2. (('{~_~}')) says:

    You may want to check this site out Noise
    Every month the artist that gets the most votes is given money to make more art.

  3. What a crock of horse sh#t. Illustration will never be dead my friend. Thats what they said about books. Books will never be dead either. Technology getting a bit to cocky if you ask me.

    Illustration might have its slow periods, like right now things are a little slow due to the tight economic times, but it will never die. People like to look at and own drawings and paintings. They always have and they always will.

    And your work is great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I’m sorry to say that illustration is dead, just as painting in the fine arts was declared dead in the 1950’s. To say it is dead is to mean there is nothing new, it has all been done. And, in the case of illustration, because it has a commercial application, is dead because you can’t make a living at it any more. I don’t know who these 1,000’s of illustrators are you are talking about who are successful and making a living. I would really like to know their names. In the 1990’s, I made a full time living at illustration, now the same jobs have shriveled to 1/10th in availability and the budgets have been cut to 1/4. I did an illustration for $400 recently, that back in the 90’s I would have gotten paid $1,200 for. Meanwhile, cost of living has gone up 200%. So, it may sound cool to say “hell no”, “never”, and “that is a crock”, but I have personal experience from my own 15 year career and friends who had to close their illustration business that illustration has mostly become a hobby, like knitting. Getty images, the computer, and the internet killed the illustrator.

  4. I think there is a lot of truth in what Stephen Schildbach is saying in the comment here. My own experiences are similar. There is just too much free stuff online. With so many free or very cheap stock images, fewer people are willing to pay much for illustration anymore.

    1. innocentgirl says:

      This blog post is from 2006 and it seems it’s still a hot topic. Illustration as it was in the past is dead, so are many other ways of making a living. Change is inevitable but we should probably be less afraid of it and more excited about it. Pay rates for the same jobs are less, I agree, so don’t do the same jobs.
      This is a great post by Charles Hively with his thoughts on the subject. http://blog.3x3mag.com/2012/04/for-what-its-worth-33.html

  5. wesley lowe says:

    I am just going to put down my own experiences and observations from the field of illustration and let you decide. Here goes, I have been a full time illustrator since 1981and I did have a rep in New York and one in Toronto where I lived. I worked in traditional mediums on illustration board, it was an exciting time for me and for the most part I came up with the concepts and sometimes I collaborated with the art directors on concepts who often were also artists themselves. I worked for Publishers, Advertising firms and many other companies. The fees offered ranged from 400.00 for a small coloured illustration or pencil drawings to 3000.00 for a wrap around book jacket. I hired models and got costumes for these when the project called for it. I worked on illustration board using any of a variety of mediums including Casien, Pelican inks, Acrylics, Guache, Watercolours and oil paint. I remember being inspired and excited most of the time to begin a new project. I knew several illustrators in Toronto who shared office space in Yorkville, some of these were Will Davies, Tom McNeeley and several others. Around the mid 1990s I noticed work started to drop off in the industry and the fees offered for projects started to go south, within a couple of years all these artists gave up there rented spaces and moved their studios to their homes, my studio was in my home. I learned how to use a computer and Photoshop, Corel Painter and a Wacom tablet and put away my traditional mediums for the new technology. As you know you have to keep spending money to keep upgrading your system and sofware, it never stops, I do advertise on several sites and have tried several more to see if they can offer more exposure and hopefully these would lead to some new projects. The money offered today is less than one third of what was paid in the past yet the cost of living has gone up. Many and I do mean many clients that I have worked for art direct a project to death, they want everything, but the kitchen sink shown. A lot of what I do now, I would not put in my portfolio, its just a way to earn some money. I do get the occasional project that I would use as a sample, but thats rare. I have again started to paint, but now it’s only for me using my traditional mediums. My wife and I plan to move somewhere much cheaper to live and I will turn a lot of my attention now to painting and I will still try to get some illustration work through these sites, but hopefully my cost of living will be a lot less. My wife and I have a 1989 vehicle a modest home and no investments other than our kids.

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