|New Perspectives on Illustration is a weekly series of essays by graduate illustration students at MICA, the Maryland Institute College of Art. Curators Stephanie Plunkett and Joyce K. Schiller have the pleasure of teaching a MICA course exploring the artistic and cultural underpinnings of published imagery through history, and we are pleased to present the Reference and Sublimation by (Lisk) Feng Feng explores the challenges that illustrators of children’s literature face in a digital age, examining creative approaches to connecting with young readers.
Reference and Sublimation
By Feng Feng (Lisk)
Nowadays, the publishing market is narrowing down in a rapid pace because of the revolution of the new paper medium. Therefore, it is getting harder and harder for illustrators to sell their paper products and books. Newborn children even treat a real book as an IPAD. So illustrators have to find a new approach to let children accept their painstaking effort and continue creating new works. Style and identity are always key words for picture storybook illustrators and they want to build up their own symbol of character and special technique of expression immediately.
Look back, there are a lot of typical and classical examples from whom already become world well known illustrators. The way and reason why they become popular is economizing some old illustrators or oil painters, reference and sublimate.
Dick Bruna (b. August 23, 1927 in Utrecht) is a Dutch author, artist, illustrator and graphic designer.Dick Bruna is best known for his children’s books which he authored and illustrated, now numbering over 200. His best known creation is Miffy (Nijntje in the original Dutch), a small rabbit drawn with heavy graphic lines, simple shapes and primary colors (1). His symbol of style is thick black lines and contrast pure and flat colors, which makes his works easy for children to recognize and learning.
Miffy is effectively diffused by its bright color. Some art critics find the color chart from Miffy is extremely similar to Henri Matisse (2).
In one BBC program, Dick Bruna admitted he used approximate color of Matisse which lead this interesting point to a new level. He used the same colors just like Matisse which are dark green, orange, black and bright
dark blue. Those colors assemble together to build a strange flat world. People love it and he absorbed essence of Matisse and change it into his own style. Even Matisse was influenced by John Peter Russell (3) and Paul Gauguin (4) and influenced David Hockney (5) several years later. Dick himself also influenced Sanrio (6).
Same thing happened between Chris Van Allsburg and Seurat. Chris is a very famous picture story book who was born in America. His famous books The Garden of Abdul Gasazi and Just A Dream are filled up with beautiful soft colors and shapes. The purple in the shadow shows like his style comes from impressionism, and extremely close to Georges Seurat (7). Seurat is famous for his pointillism and he is also good at organizing positive and negative shapes. So Chris started to use soft pastel and watercolor to draw landscape, even the outline and volume of the trees is similar.
As we known, Maginel Wright Enright Barney was a children’s book illustrator and graphic artist, younger sister of Frank Lloyd Wright, and mother of Elizabeth Enright. She is good at
drawing girls and from the wave of the dress to show characters personality. Her color using is solid, steady but fresh. Her friend Cornelia Brierley recalls Maginel, “full of fun and very sophisticated,” artistic conception of her work influenced a lot of illustrators followed by ,including Lisbeth Zwerger. She is a contemporary book illustrator who was born in Vienna in 1954. Her style is similar to that of English illustrators of the 19th century, but a lot of factors such as texture , composition and space management reminds us to connect with Maginel`s style. Her watercolor skills also influenced a very famous Korean watercolor children`s book illustrator Kim MinJi. Especially the composition is so similar.
Maybe some artists will judge this convenient way of becoming successful but not any artists can avoid learning and reference. Take the essence and discard the dregs，try to learn from the past is not stealing, it is a kind of propriety to shape an artist in a better solution. Picture storybook is just one art form from thousands, the line between art forms is blur. As time goes on, art becomes a chain of style, rolling in a constantly changing world. Style is very important for illustrator, reference and sublimation is very important.
1. This background is adduced from Wikipedia
2. Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse ( 31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954) was a French artist, known for his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter. Matisse is commonly regarded, along with Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, as one of the three artists who helped to define the revolutionary developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the 20th century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture. Although he was initially labelled a Fauve (wild beast), by the 1920s he was increasingly hailed as an upholder of the classical tradition in French painting.
 His mastery of the expressive language of colour and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century, won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art.
3. John Peter Russell (16 June 1858 – 22 April 1930) was an Australian impressionist painter.
4. Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (7 June 1848 – 8 May 1903) was a leading French Post-Impressionist artist who was not well appreciated until after his death.
5. David Hockney, OM, CH, RA, (born 9 July 1937) is an English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer.
6. Sanrio Co., Ltd. (株式会社サンリオ Kabushikigaisha Sanrio)is a Japanese company that designs, licenses and produces products focusing on the kawaii (cute) segment of Japanese popular culture.
7. Georges Pierre Seurat ( 2 December 1859 – 29 March 1891) was a French Post-Impressionist painter and draftsman. He is noted for his innovative use of drawing media and for devising a technique of painting known as pointillism. His large-scale work A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886) altered the direction of modern art by initiating Neo-impressionism. It is one of the icons of late 19th-century painting