“I was quite impressed by the sheer volume of submissions in the first round, and while I did see some familiar faces, it was exciting and refreshing to see [the work of] illustrators I didn’t yet know,” said juror Cara Llewellyn. “It was inspiring to see so much work that spans so many different genres, styles and techniques in one sitting,” juror Brian Lambert added.
Commenting on the increasing international participation in the competition, juror Nicholas Blechman said, “There are burgeoning scenes in Berlin, Barcelona, Milan, Toronto and Stockholm, and it was great to see some of these illustrators in the competition.”
When asked about disappointments, Llewellyn echoed a complaint made by past juries. “Some artists clearly did not know how to put together a series of images,” she said. “Even more frustrating were the series entries that included four really strong cohesive pieces with one weak image in the mix. One bad image can take out an entire entry.”
“In the editorial category the ability to draw, paint and execute finished work was evident, but I was disappointed by the lack of smart, creative concepts,” juror Dennis McLeod said.
“The biggest disappointment was the absence of work in the animation category,” Lambert said. “I’m honestly baffled as to why people aren’t entering work in this category, but I hope that will change in the future.”
“There was quite a range of stylistic approaches in this year’s entries. It was exciting to see how many different illustrators are working and having their work published.” —Dennis McLeod
Discussing a successful career, Blechman said illustrators must become authors and generate their own content, as well as style. “It is not enough to have a portfolio; one needs a site, a blog, a Facebook page and Twitter and Tumblr accounts. The successful illustrator is increasingly about creating a strong identity.”
“Self-generated work, working as an artist on new ideas, is actually the life blood of a long career,” juror Ann Field said.
Asked about additional profit centers, Llewellyn said, “I have a number of friends who make quite a bit of cash by selling work on sites like Etsy, or submitting winning illustrations to Threadless. There is room for illustration everywhere, you just have to be very clever and a little lucky.”
“I am not sure why a number of illustrators don’t form an online cooperative where they can sell their original illustrations (not as stock) and other products showcasing their work such as T-shirts, toys, stationery, posters,” McLeod said.
“Illustration is an expanding field,” Field said. “Illustrators have many options now, but good drawing is always at the heart of every big new idea. So, although the profession is reinventing itself, illustrators still have to master their skill, their talent and their ideas.”
This year’s jurying began on Sunday morning, January 30. We worked in two large conference halls, each equipped with projectors for digital entries and six rows of tables for tear sheets and proofs.
“There were enough fresh pieces in this year’s competition to remain optimistic about the field.” —Nicholas Blechman
The jurors worked in two groups of three with Jean Coyne acting as the sixth judge during the screening. All categories had been divided so each team screened half of the entries submitted. The judges alternated between viewing a session of projected digital files and then a set-up of print entries. Any juror could place an illustration in the finals by handing a printed piece to a member of our staff. Digital files were screened by checking the “in” or “out” column on prepared scoring sheets.
The final voting took place on Monday with all five jurors working together. Print entries were again spread out on the tables. Two paper cups, one white for “in,” the other red for “out,” with slots cut in the bottom, were placed upside down to the right of the pieces. The jurors voted by putting a different colored tile into the bottom of the appropriate cup. The different colored tiles allowed us to make sure that every entry was voted on by every judge. Finalists submitted as digital files were again voted on by each juror checking “in” or “out” on scoring sheets. A simple majority was required for acceptance.
Judges were not permitted to vote on projects they were directly involved in creating. When a judge’s piece was in the finals, either Jean or I would cast the fifth vote.
I would like to thank each of the judges for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 52nd Annual Exhibition. —Patrick Coyne ca