By Rachel Gannon and Mireille Fauchon
224 pages, softcover, $34.95
Published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts
Adventurous illustration educators and illustrators in career doldrums will find Illustration Research Methods energizing. Vitally, it provides a contemporary approach to the understanding and teaching of illustration that is, as the authors say, at a critical point of change. A companion to the emerging area of nontraditional “expanded practice,” Illustration Research Methods pictures performance, video and installation alongside comics and editorial illustration, and upholds social engagement as just as important as the look of the art.
The book is visually appealing and easy to navigate, with five chapters (Authorship, Reporting, Crafting, Activism, Education) bookended by mini essays (Illustration Research, Illustration Futures). An appendix of practical tools and skills, such as how to chair meetings, get informed consent and conduct interviews, follows.
The Crafting chapter is not a how-to guide, but is about the nature of material and immaterial engagements across two, three and four dimensions. The Reporting and Activism chapters include the ethics and protocols of working with marginalized communities. The Education chapter informs community-based practice, professional teaching and practice-based research. Commercial applicability is not the point of the book, but the authors suggest industry will benefit from new forms, and from illustrators employed as consultants and social collaborators.
Up till now, illustrators in higher education have had no research methods to call their own. Illustration Research Methods signals the field’s new maturity, visibility and agency in academia. It will surely become a textbook in many undergraduate and graduate illustration programs. Graphic designers and contemporary artists will also find it relevant. —Dr. Jaleen Grove