“The field this year exhibited a high level of craftsmanship,” said juror Chris von Ende. “Some work rose to the top based on its originality, while other pieces were skillfully executed in a more traditional manner.” “There was a good mix of classic and contemporary styles, but very few edgy, alternative works,” added juror Rikki Poulos.
“Even at the brisk pace we were keeping in the judging process, it was evident that quite a lot of the work was structured around very apt expressions of concepts, arguments or observations; and not always in expected ways,” said juror Tim J Luddy. “As more of our visual input comes from smartphones, I wonder whether there is a growing appreciation for work commissioned for print that is perhaps a more subtle, but richer conceptual experience.”
As in past years, the jurors began to notice visual themes appearing in the entries after several hours of judging.
“I was surprised by the amount of zombie illustrations I saw,” said juror Penelope Dullaghan. “Tons! They were done in all different styles and I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. Now I’m dreaming of see-through cheeks at night. Thanks.”
When asked about disappointments, several jurors cited the small number of animation submissions.
“I know of a number of illustrators who are working very successfully in that medium, more or less self-producing, whose work would have been a welcome addition to the category—which was strong, although small,” Luddy said. “It feels like there’s an opportunity to expand this category in the future,” von Ende said. “Showing off more animation would also inspire companies to start using illustration more in their work, which in my opinion, would put more beauty into the world and help brands stand apart,” Dullaghan added.
“I was inspired by the huge quantity of great work. A lot of illustrators are stepping up their game by making smart art that is well executed." —Penelope Dullaghan
I asked the jurors what other profit centers illustrators could explore besides commissioned work.
“The Internet is a place to start,” Poulos said. “It would be great to explore the use of illustration for a homepage or a portrait or to convey a company’s services.”
“GIF animation is spreading rapidly as a means of simple, iconic communication online,” von Ende said. “The file size restraint forces the animator to boil the piece down to its essence, and its sharable nature makes it a great candidate for self-promotion and a new skill/offering for clients.”
“Illustrators could look to Etsy or other online stores to start small businesses of their own,” juror Chad Beckerman said. “Relying solely on commissioned work these days isn’t enough. Illustrators need to be more savvy with their brands.”
Lastly, I asked the jurors where they thought the field of illustration is going.
“Clearly, there are many more illustrators vying for fewer assignments as publication budgets for buying art are being cut,” Poulos said. “However, there are so many more styles out there that are now welcome at the table.”
“I was pleased with the quality of the entries and pleasantly surprised with the high level at which people were working with ideas.” —Tim J Luddy
“Illustration and design are merging,” Beckerman said. “Illustrators are becoming designers and designers illustrators. It’s a natural progression and one that will help keep both fields vital.”
“Illustration touches people in a way that photography often can’t,” Dullaghan concluded. “It reaches that playful, and sometimes powerful, side of people that is a gut reaction.”
This year’s jurors worked in two groups of three with executive editor Jean Coyne acting as the sixth judge during the screening round. 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.
All five jurors worked together in the final round. 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. Four “in” votes were 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 54th Annual Exhibition. —Patrick Coyne ca