“I was knocked out by the high quality of the work and the wide range of styles and mediums,” juror Scott McKowen said. “I was pleased to see such strong draftsmanship and painting. As a working illustrator, it really was a humbling (and inspiring) couple of days.”
“Overall, I was impressed with the amount of great work there is out there,” juror Paul Gonzales said. “It made the judging process challenging, but more exciting. So, when someone is picked to be in the Annual, they should be aware of what an honor it truly is.
“I saw some very good work from illustrators I wasn’t familiar with,” juror SooJin Buzelli said. “I’m looking forward to the printed annual so I can get their names and check out more of their work.”
“A feeling of freshness popped up most often around the editorial pieces,” juror Jill Breitbarth said. “Many editorial concepts were drawn in successful ways. A quick look was all that was needed to convey complex ideas, including those around mental illness. There were some real coups. I also liked the amount and quality of silkscreen work, especially in the posters for music and theater. I only wish some of them had been submitted as physical pieces.”
While we allow entries to be submitted in print or digital form, the vast majority are submitted as the latter, a disappointment for several of the jurors.
“I understand that digital entries make sense from a lot of perspectives, but I wish I could have experienced the illustrations as printed objects instead of projected images on screen,” Buzelli said.
Other disappointments? “I wish I had seen more animation—I know the animators are out there,” juror James Zucco said.
“The work published in the book is always a very impressive collection. After seeing the judging process, I’m even more impressed with the selected work.” —SooJin Buzelli
“I was surprised and disappointed that some established illustrators didn’t enter their work. I guess that leaves the door open for new illustrators, which was nice to see,” Gonzales said.
“Many illustrations in the self-promotion and unpublished categories were of violent fantasy worlds,” Breitbarth said. “Straight-up portraits and realistic illustrations were in the minority. What are we to glean from that?”
I asked the jurors where they thought the field of illustration is headed?
“I think one of the directions the field of illustration could be headed is ‘motion illustration,’” Gonzales said. “This is not necessarily animation, but movement that will further engage readers in the world of interactive electronic publications.”
“I’m excited to see how illustrators will continue to mash up digital techniques with traditional, hand-drawn/hand-painted ones,” Zucco said.
“This sounds glib, but the field seems in very good hands, from the work we have seen here,” McKowen said. “We live in a more visually-aware culture than we did ten years ago (hard to tell where one renaissance of illustration leaves off and the next one begins). Acute, sophisticated concepts can be conveyed through simple, eloquent images—and readers and audiences are more receptive, more tuned-in to them than ever before. The bar just keeps getting raised.”
“I was surprised how many of my favorite pieces involved music: concert posters, album cover art, etc.” —James Zucco
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 setup 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 53rd Annual Exhibition. —Patrick Coyne ca