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Graphic Design

Sketchbooks ARE Arguments

Going to be a short post today, as I’m heading off shortly to the launch of what was once described (elsewhere on the internet) as a ‘crappy f*cking comic‘ (I think it goes without saying that I’m not about to dignify that particular comment with a link, or a remark (I also note that that author has got far more important things to complain about these days, which is good news for all of us not involved in council politics, saving mismanaged local theatres or local government planning)).

Anyway. It’s a comic. Actually it’s a graphic novel, percy. Or a graphic history. Or an illustrated history. And it’s free, and it’s got laudable aims, so go and read it.

I said I’d be brief, but as I’m writing this the night before (all us bloggers do this – you think Scaryduck sits there and types while eating his cornflakes? Or Neil? Actually, Neil does. Although it was tea and a chocolate dessert) I’m going to follow up on something from yesterday. Or today, from where I am.

I had occasion to write to my old illustration tutor a while ago, asking for his opinion on the veracity of a student of mine pursuing a PhD in illustration, specifically investigating the nature of authorship with regard to the illustrator, rather than the author of the text. Ian replied in what can only be described as a definitive McCullough manner (those of you who’ve not met the man, imagine the following being spoken in a gruff Irish accent punctuated by hmms and other pauses). His reply addressed the relationship between academia and illustration, exploring the ways in which such a body of work might be developed (I’m picking the bits I want to talk about rather than giving you the whole thing):

Being a cynical old bastard in the ways of academe may not make me the ideal person to consult, but…

Illustration is a highly intellectual process which completes the communication when words fail us…  …practice should, in my opinion, consider its visual complexity.

Sketchbooks ARE arguments.

It’s those latter two extracts that interest me here. Illustration completes the process of communication between writer, work and audience. I’m in agreement with that and if that’s the case, then the responsibility of the commissioning editor is to select/commission something that seeks to enhance that process, rather than pay (as I see it) mere lip-service to the concepts being discussed by the writer. Mainstream publishing is by no means a mecca of bookjackets designed with that ethos in mind, but they do seem to get a little closer to the mark than their solidly genre-based cousins.

The second remark, if applied to the majority of ’safe’ genre covers would, to my mind, suggest that the argument isn’t really being explored to any great depth. Whether or not a sketchbook is intended as an argument, it functions as a record of the process of creation. If you get a chance to see Dave McKean’s sketchbooks, or Barron Storey’s, or if you’re really lucky, Ben Shahn’s, you’ll see what I mean. These things are a sustained discussion of the creative process, examining it from every angle, and not expressing satisfaction or safety within the results.

Right. That’s enough for a short post. Off to a launch party. And I’m wearing a launch-party jacket.


One comment for “Sketchbooks ARE Arguments”

  1. “Oh yes they are!”

    “Oh no they’re not!”


    Posted by mongo | January 27, 2008, 12:08 pm

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