My research focuses on the evolution of illustration, and how creators are connecting with audiences in this digital age. Fundamentally, illustration is visual communication. However, in a contemporary context, the parameters of this visual communication are always changing. This continual change is what informs my teaching.
“Illustration influences the way we are informed and schooled, what we buy and how we are persuaded to do things. It gives us opinion and interpretation. It provides us with amusement and tellS us tales, it is seen on all kindS of advertisement, newspapers and magazines”.
Nowadays, illustration is no longer limited (límited) to a fixed position on print and paper. It can be animated, used in motion picture, television, the internet or as state-of-the-art interactive digital imagery. The bond between illustration and these contemporary forms of moving image has been celebrated as they are seen to “share many of the same skills and tools – the same DNA if you will”.
My research enforces my teaching practice, centralised around capability, communication and collaboration.
Capability pertains to my research on the relationship between illustration and mass media. Historically, illustrators have been associated with mass visual media, and directly linked with revolutionary techniques of production and dissemination of ideas…. This has forced illustrators to improve and even break the traditional conventions of their practices, especially when faced by sudden changes in economic, political or technological circumstances.
In the last decades, the constant technological advances and social–economic shiftS have marked the “evolution” of illustration and moving image. On one hand we have the new and powerful capacity of computers, but on the other we have established the internet as the new mass media platform.
Allan Moore states that this changing interaction between art and society, has experienced… “a dramatic and exponential increase in its speed since the Renaissance,” this increase allows for the specialization of different illustrative expressions, within the wider spectrum.
This is precisely why an illustrator looking for work in the 1980’s, was not required to be proficient in Photoshop. 13 – This is why capability is informed by my research into the relationship between illustration and mass media. If we are going to prepare graduates for a continually changing climate, then we must be sensitive to that climate, and encourage them to rise with it, not to it.
Students require a great degree of capability in order to identify gaps, and innovate their own solutions to existing problems.
This cannot be achieved without encouraging them in daring to push the boundaries of their skills, as that is our function as facilitators of learning.
Communication pertains to my research on moving image and interactivity.
In the field of moving image, videogames for many years have been the most complete artistic expression in the digital (diyital) era. Videogame creators utilize many of the same processes that painters, movie producers, animators and illustrators do.
It is a huge industry often focused on entertainment. However, there are examples developed from another point of view, creating complex pieces of artwork or simply engaging the audience with an immersive narrative. Samples like Journey and Shadow of the colossus.
The interactivity of video games offer a new dimension to explore the almost endless possibilities for the narrative experiences (experience is), transforming the audience from passive witnesses into active protágonists. The late 20th century changed the way in which the stories were traditionally told, now with the introduction of mass media and the internet.
Storytelling is becoming part of a new “participative culture, where the average citizen has control over the media and technology to tell their own stories in powerful new ways.” Henry Jenkins.
Nowadays, trends show that just one media platform is no longer enough to respond to the audiences needs. Similarly, it isn’t enough to engage in a simple one way communication.
Instead, my research has shown a two-way dialogue that matches the needs of the ever (evar)
more demanding market. And so, it is crucial that all graduates have an understanding of the ways in which they can communicate their content to their audience, which can only be achieved through a critical reflection of their current approach.
Collaboration pertains to my research on transmedia.
The most widely accepted concept to describe the cohesion of narrative terms in a new entity is “Transmedia”, defined by Henry Jenkins, “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels, for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinaTed entertainment experience.”
The evolution of the contemporary narrative is outgrowing or breaking the boundaries of the traditional framework, shifting the paradigm of linear storytelling into a new approach to tell even more compelling stories.
In this way, the concept of author has evolved from linear storyteller to “Narrative Architect”. The result is an immersive and interactive narrative, in which the author sets the conditions
and general guide lines for the story, but leaves freedom to the audience to experience the narrative in their own way.
A great sample of transmedia storytelling, is the transmedia project Collapsus: The Energy Risk Conspiracy, which employed entertainment but was underpinned with ethical implications.
The project addressed the broadcasters diffículty in popularizing documentaries for a younger audience, this resulted in a hybrid film that generated global awareness about natural resources and global energy.
The production itself combined action film footage, video blogging, cartographic information, animation, interactive fiction and documentary.
The prospect of collaboration is informed by transmedia as it encourages students to think outside of the box. Working in isolation limits the scope with which an audience can be reached and
immersed in an illustrative practice.
More so, the ethos of collaboration encourages graduates to think about society as a whole, locally, nationally and globally; it infers social responsibility.
Illustrators have to evolve through capability, communication and collaboration, to respond to the ever changing climate, using technology and every available resource to create a bridge between meaningful content and entertainment.
The freedom of narrative exploration empowers the audience as an active participant, potentially imprinting an implicit learning and ethical analysis during their narrative experience.
This narrative experience can be creaTed by the relationship between illustrators and mass media,
Moving image and interactivity, and transmedia projects.
It allows illustrators to reach and engage a wider audience, responding to their needs by presenting a diversity of content, genres and media.
Incorporating capability, communication and collaboration, encourages not only the development of professionalism, but the active encouragement of contemporary illustration’s potential.
As visual communicators, we have the opportunity to encourage our graduates to develop a deep intellectual curiosity. But at the same time, to think of themselves as spiritual leaders, through promoting social responsibility in a deeply interconnected world.
Thank you to Arlen Ray for his collaboration.