Artists, Illustrators, & Category Collapse

The general revaluing of drawing as an art form in and of itself, and changes to art tools and training (including advances in software) may be at the heart of a shift that, while recent in art historical terms, has been ongoing for decades now.  Distinctions between graphic designers, illustrators, and artists have been eroding for a long time, and the barriers between commercial and fine art training are less significant than they once were.  Illustrators have gallery shows; illustrators and artists publish artist books, illustrated journals, and sketchbooks.   

This is well worth investigating.  Generally I’m more of a fan of the hand-drawn than the computer-assisted, and my list of notables reflects this.  Artists to check out if you haven’t already: Mark Ryden, Scott Musgrove, Todd Schorr, Marc Bell, Joe Coleman, and Henrik Drescher.  Many of the women artists pursuing similar endeavours are, as is the case with some of the male artists, involved with the so-called “Pop Surrealist” or “Edgy-Cute” movement.  They include Camille Rose Garcia, Isabel Samaras, Marion Peck, Lisa Petrucci, and Kalynn Campbell, but there are hundreds of other men and women who would no doubt identify with this type of collapse between categories and genres.

Graphic novels and non-fiction works have also exploded as a category of production.  The classic is still MAUS by Art Spiegelman.  Other great examples are Joe Sacco’s Palestine and Charles Burns’ Black Hole.  I highly recommend them, along with Miriam Katin’s We Are on Our Own, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.  Lynda Barry’s What it is (an illustrated how-to book), is in a category all its own.

Publishers and publications that support this kind of work include Drawn & Quarterly, Chronicle Books, Pantheon Books, Blab!, and Last Gasp. 

If I didn’t have to work for a living, I well might devote my life to exploring stimulating drawings and mixed-media works and the people who create them (whether they self-identify as illustrators, artists, or something else entirely).  I find so many inspiring visuals when I randomly search on-line.  A provocative place to begin is the link to Henrik Drescher’s website (on the right).


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