Illustration is Moving

It’s the dawn of a new academic year and I’m witnessing first hand, a paradigm shift in the world of illustration art. Not a sudden change, but a definitive change nonetheless.

For me, 2011 has been a transitional year. Last spring, three students created moving pictures for an assignment given in an introductory illustration class. Just last week, one of my former students, the Google “Doodler” Jennifer Hom created a moving picture solution for Google’s splash page honoring Freddie Mercury, the deceased singer for the rock group, Queen. In all of these instances, the creators considered themselves to be illustrators who happened to be making a picture that not only communicates, but moves and has sound. These young illustrators are evidence of a new, widening definition of illustration, blurring the line with animation.

Sure, illustration and animation have overlapped before, especially on an individual level; R. O. Bleckman is an illustrator who has run an animation studio called Ink Tank, for a long time. Illustrated works have been “animated” before, too, such as Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Illustrators have worked in animation studios for years, but their titles were never “illustrator.” 

Illustrators have witnessed many changes to their profession in the past generation -all digital: the invention of digitally created art, the change to digital delivery of art and the publishing of art in digital formats. Now, due to digital capabilities, an illustration need no longer be still and may be desired or required to move more and more often. After all, the newest venues for visuals are interactive: computers, tablets, and handheld devices such as phones and games. 

This is not a crisis for most of my young students however; they’re of an age that sees no strong distinction between moving and non-moving images. They effortlessly define them as illustration… or at least something that an illustrator can create. Lately, the Society of Illustrators, host of one the more respected annual juried shows of illustration, has included an animated picture category called “Moving Images”. Their annual student scholarship competition includes animation now, too.

Animation grew out of illustration and perhaps they’re growing together again. 

Further Observation

Here are the moving picture illustrations created for my Illustration Concepts 2 class. The assignment is called 200 Steps. Students were given an open-ended assignment which had geographic rather than conceptual limitation. That is, the work had to relate to something or someplace within 200 steps of our school building. The goal was to transcend the limitations.

By Yudi Chen, who is clearly distracted by skateboarders below her drawing class’s window and dreams of a alternative scenario.

By Sierra Urich, who’s stop motion animation depicts a sweet, Spring stroll on the walkway below our classroom.

By Hannah Katz, whom we follow up the Illustration Department building’s stairway on a fantastic trip. Hannah passes by all of her classmates and makes references to the signature projects of each. 




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