“From digital, to pen-and-ink, to collage, to oil-on-canvas—there was a pleasant variety of numerous styles and techniques,” said juror Craig Mikes.
“Surprisingly, there was less digital work than I was expecting. I thought the influx of digital drawing pads, pressure-sensitive pens and an array of applications would have a bigger impact on the work. The artists’ hands are still proving to be the best tools with which to create.”
“The hand-drawn, straightforward illustration style continues to be favored over heavily manipulated digital art,” juror Jill Shimabukuro said. “Many of the illustrations were conceptually strong, witty and subtle.”
“It was refreshing to see so much international illustration work submitted and most, if not all of it, was new to me,” juror Aviva Michaelov said. “Since I come from an editorial background, most advertising illustration was new to me as well.”
“The overall quality of submissions was quite good,” juror Janine Vangool said. “One thing that was a bit difficult was to just start judging without having the benefit of a visual scan of all the entries. Perhaps this is why we erred on the generous side when selecting work [in the screening round] to remain in contention.”
Shimabukuro voiced a complaint echoed by juries in the past. “Some of my fellow judges and I were puzzled by the illustrations submitted as part of a series; often I had no choice but to reject the series because of a single, poor-performing image,” she said.
“The winning work I witnessed not only used artful skill but great concepts as well to solve strategic challenges.” —Craig Mikes
Juror Jeffrey Smith expressed disappointment over the absence of reportage and narrative work in this year’s submissions. “I don’t think that the lack of this kind of work is any fault of CA’s. I do think that there is less and less of this kind of work being done in illustration today.”
I asked the jurors for their view on the current state of the industry.
“I find that illustration is going through a new golden age,” Michaelov said. “There are new venues for publishing art, mostly online or in small print runs. Artists, new and old, publish and share more work, and discuss their thought process. A stronger international community of illustrators has developed, which allows for collaborations across cultures.”
“Many of my students seem far more interested in bypassing the traditional road to New York in favor of a small shop in a small town where they hope to sell their original artwork and prints, along with other art-related items such as arts and crafts, and enjoy the personal expression of self-publishing,” Smith said.
“Emerging illustrators who are meeting with some success are being quite entrepreneurial about their careers,” Vangool said. “They sell posters and products, license their designs, have engaging blogs and are active on social media. This multi-channel broadcast of one’s work is the best way to be seen and to nurture new opportunities. As an art director, I appreciate working with illustrators who show this initiative and drive, who aren’t afraid of the business aspect of making art and illustration.”
Smith provided a list of other fields illustrators could explore: “Animated films, video-game art, television animation, motion graphics for advertising, self-publishing, prints of assignments for sale on the Internet, gallery sales, teaching at schools, teaching at animation companies, teaching private workshops, even tattoo art.”
“A competition like CA’s brings together several generations of artists and it’s wonderful to see them side by side—new artists working in retro styles and older artists refreshing their styles.” —Aviva Michaelov
In closing, Mikes expressed optimism for the future of illustration. “As ‘instant’ and ‘retro-technique’ photography continue to overwhelm us on a daily basis in social channels, the true skill of illustrators will only flourish as a way for creative work to stand out.”
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 projected digital files and a setup of print entries in multiple sessions. 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 55th Illustration Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca