Identifying Tools & Materials

(Part 4/Style/Identifying tools and materials)

Exercise – Identifying Tools and Materials

Julia Breckenreid

Julia is a well-recognised and much used Canadian Illustrator. Who works in the USA.
Her work is varied but always simple in appearance.
She often works with paper, acrylic and digital which are my favoured media.
I picked up on her work when I saw her illustration for ‘My husband is an Alcoholic’, Washington Post. 2019

This is a very imaginative and powerful image. The passivity of the male compared to the anxiety of the female is brilliantly executed with the social and cultural contexts of the couple are easily identifiable.

The image itself is simple and with limited colour. It is listed as acrylic, paper and digital, drawn with just enough detail.

As a snap-shot metaphorical description of an ongoing situation it is clear and penetrating. Imprisoning the ‘victim’ in a beer glass demonstrates the symbolic helplessness of the situation. The visual language is strong and clear.

Christoph Nieman

Nieman is a brilliant life commentator who works with minimal lines . His work is often very simple but usually inspired

Christoph Niemann is an illustrator, author, and visual storyteller based in Berlin. His resume includes numerous cover designs for The New Yorker (including its first-ever augmented reality cover), Wired, and the New York Times Magazine.
https://thecreativeindependent.com/people/Illustrator-christoph-niemann-on-meeting-the-needs-of-your-client/

I find the quote below very interesting and something I have never really tried. This is from Nieman himself on his website.

“I take so many photographs and I store them on memory cards. I don’t know what to do because eventually they’re going to take away these cards, which will be terrible because I live by these things. I love taking huge photographs—giant ones—and then I can then take a small crop from them and draw on top of it.”
https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/christoph-niemann-on-selecting-his-toolkit-how-the-materials-inform-the-process/

Niemann’s work seems spontaneous, however, it appears that in fact he has to work hard to create his drawings. He says he edits and edits them over and over.

Tales from an uncertain future drawing (2017) , ( above right.)
He uses hand drawn and digital imaging techniques.

His Sunday Sketches are inspired – so simple yet so riveting. He creates new and critical perspectives with his ‘borrowed objects’ integrated into sketches.

A whole new meaning to mixed media. These are photos of simple pencil/pen sketches around physical object puns rather than metaphors.


Delta Sky

Bolstering Minds and Bodies

Healing therapies come in many forms – including
these innovative biohacks


EEE Spectrum

The Age Of the Heroic Inventor Is Over

Today, business disruptors get the attention that hardware inventors used to.


The Center for Public Integrity (1)

National Security Illustrations for the website distinguishing different topics.

Dan Page

Dan Page, born 1970 I Toronto is Another artist whose minimalist work appeals to me. He also works in paper, paint and digital.

“Dan Page is an award winning illustrator who’s work has appeared in publications across the globe, working from his home studio near Toronto, Ontario.
Dan loves the dynamic process of crafting visual solutions including the vast diversity of subject matter involved in illustration assignments. When Dan is not in his studio, he is usually enjoying time with his wife, 3 daughters and 2 dogs.” https://www.danpage.net/about

The image of the smoking chimneys is really emotive for me. I grew up in the west Riding of Yorkshire where there were many mills and many more chimneys pouring smoke like these. Today there are pollution and eco references in this piece, it has so many applications.
Page calls it ‘Environment’. His work has won a massive number of accolades in the USA where he works, mainly for papers, journals and magazines.

It is the simplicity of the work I admire. He ‘says his piece’ with little embellishment. His visual rhetoric is clear. Personal interpretation is possible (eg there may be smoke but blue skies are still possible) but that would be counterproductive in today’s situation.

Guy Billhout

Guy Billhout is a French Illustrator who has lived and worked I America for many years. I love his work but didn’t know about him, as a person/artist, until I began this exercise. I have been familiar with the work below for a long time and always found it amusing but didn’t know who had created it.

Billhout is well-known as the ironic illustrator He works with pen and ink/paint and digital which is what I also like to do.

Guy Billhout’s topsy-turvy illustrations subvert our perception of the world with clever twists and ironic flourishes. French-born Guy came to New York in 1969 and has worked as an illustrator ever since, but it’s taken us until now to celebrate his magnificent work on the site. Offering a subtle but thought-provoking approach to editorial illustration, Guy’s work has been featured in publications including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal numerous times over.

His clean, minimal aesthetic, mixed with funny visual nuances, is wonderfully mesmerising. Delicate, precise and sparse line work gives Guy’s illustrations great impact, making them all the more striking. Boats and bridges seemingly wrap themselves around each other, while water and walls are easily manipulated with the lift of a hand. Making the ordinary a little bit extraordinary, it’s hard to resist Guy’s timeless illustrations. Words by Rebecca Fulleylove, Thursday 05 November 2015 https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/guy-billout

This post-modernist illustrator has a surreal style which owes much to Magritte as I see it. It is both clever and amusing. His visual rhetoric cleverly says “what if” and leaves his audience to extend their own expectations and imagination. He suggests the beginning of a story and the connotations are merely implied.

He has produced hundreds, possibly thousands of these simple artistic visualisations of ridiculous imaginative situations which I find very appealing. As with any surrealism one could argue he is challenging the norm of existence but I suspect his intentionality in this psuedodecomposition of reality is nothing more than a visual joke.

Discussion of the four artists

All four of my chosen artists have very simple styles and rely on hand drawing in the first instance . They all draw on paper but in his Sunday Sketches,  Niemann also has an everyday object which he uses as both inspiration and incorporation to the work. Whilst Billhout produces ‘finished’ picture with background and ‘props’, Brekenreid relies on a specific single subject to convey her metaphor, There is an element of surrealism in all of these works which is probably why I connect with them.
In these particular images, Billhout makes a point from which his audience can create a story, Brekenried makes a statement about situation from which her audience can draw a conclusion and Page comments on life as he perceives it challenging his audience to agree or not.

Billhout’s seem to be careful line drawing, probably finished digitally considering the shading and colours on the picture. He uses life-like colours and indicates shadows and shading. He follows normal rules of perspective but doesn’t bother with and textural finishing.

Dan Page is said to use drawing and digital but these few examples seem to owe more to digital than to a pencil. Colours are from a limited palette and the lines are simple. He uses some (probably) digital shading.

Niemanns work is of quick, simple hand drawings again with very limited colour palette. There are no sophistications other than limited shading on one or two images.

Brekenreid’s work in this example shows a quick drawing which has been converted to a painted sketch. Her style is minimal with just enough lines to convey her very clear metaphorical message.

Although all create quick drawings none of them use the style of exaggeration common in cartoon drawing. It is the whole image which they use to convey their message excluding any unnecessary ‘frills’.

My favourite is Billhout whose work I have described previously..
He certainly distorts the content of his pictures in the sense that he defies the rules of nature and science to produce the message he is conveying. In these circumstances, the surface of the sea and the fabric of a great wall are lifted as a carpet might be raised to look underneath.
Interestingly he continues the adjacent surfaces – sand in both cases – as if it runs beneath the raised up surface. It could have been a void or something completely different had another effect been required.
He creates a quizzical mood with his cheerful images setting his audience on a journey of reflection.

Above is an image I created for an earlier part of the course.

This was a monochrome sketch using charcoal and chalk on Pastel paper.

I will redraw the image using pencil and fine point pen, then I will colour it either with paint or digitally.

(I am not sure whether I have the necessary skills at the moment to do all the shading etc digitally but will have a go).

I hand drew a copy of my picture, first in pencil then went over that in fine liner pen.

I then had to decide on colour medium. I was not confident enough to do the whole job on the computer so I painted the picture with my acrylic paints using a limited palette as planned.

Having painted it I enhanced the colour digitally to make the walls less ‘messy’. I didn’t really like the effort very much but decided as the drawn outline was now hardly visible, I would go over it again to see if that improved it. To do this I had to print it out again and go over it manually. I realise my printer probably needs calibrating as the colour came out slightly different even though I printed on Photo (matt) paper. However, although it wasn’t as vibrant the finish had a much improved appearance.

I have deliberately left out any textures as this was to be a simple picture. I was always taught in art that one should never, ever use a ruler but I realise that when drawings are produced digitally the straight lines are ‘straight’. Therefore I went over the straight edges with a ruler. I think in this instance, that was the correct thing to do.
So I have achieved an image which was created with paper, pen/pencil and digitally enhanced.
Which was the aim of the exercise.

The final section is to take a completely different artwork and reproduce it in the same style.

I have chosen a watercolour painting I did many years ago. It is a picture of Chapel Stile in the Lake District.
The palette is very limited, it has good depth and composition with a variety of textures.
To reproduce this simply, I will have to leave out the textures and achieve the depth with colour tone.

I intend to try this one on my wacom pad.

First I drew round all the relevant edges in black.

Then I coloured all the spaces in using colours picked up from the original. Then the original was removed.

Finally, I superimposed the line drawing again on top to define the various areas of colour.

Below is the finished picture, this interpretation has sufficient semblance to the original to be recognisable. The visual language is less complicated. The paint is not textured although the drawing of the trees does give the shape and feel of a forest.
I think this rendition has the same validity as the original and is in no way a parody of it.