20 3 / 2014
Comic art in newspapers and magazines
Our third research seminar required us to work in groups and find comic strip art used within newspapers and magazines, rather than the usual mainstream/independant comic books or graphic novels. Tamsin and I began by thinking about the types of print media that we read ourselves, and almost immediately thought of the Pandora strip that features in the Kerrang! magazine, which we both read in our teens. Kerrang! focuses on rock and metal music, featuring interviews with bands, reviews on newly released albums, current news on festivals and gigs, and so on, and is sold in most commercial distributors like WHSmith, supermarkets and newsagents.
After a Google, we found the creator of the Pandora character, Ray Zell, with his website giving quite an informative back story on the development of her character, his methods of drawing with pantone markers and his weekly inspirations for creating the strip - it will normally feature a band that has been interviewed that week for the magazine, or a musical figure that has recently caused controversy in the media.
The second example was the ongoing cynical, political strip that I knew from reading the Guardian newspaper - Steve Bell’s If… I’ve always admired Bell’s humour behind the strip and the use of wordplay and pun, as well as the unique and oddly accurate way that he presents his caricatures, like David Cameron with a condom on his head, and George Bush as a chimpanzee. Influenced by Leo Baxendale (a freelance cartoonist for The Beano) and Ronald Searle as a child, Bell created short animated films like ‘Margaret Thatcher - Where am I now?’ (Channel 4) and illustrated books with several other authors, often touching upon controversial subjects and receiving his fair share of hate mail!
Finally we looked at ‘Mad’, which was familiar to Tamsin. It is an American humour magazine which was originally launched as a comic book in 1952, yet evolved into a magazine and follows a satirical style on a range of subjects such as popular culture, politics, public figures and the entertainment industry, which we can see has influenced dozens of others - including the animated series The Simpsons.
We found that comic strips within newspapers and magazines are different from your average comic books in that they tend to be satirical in nature, created to either reflect the current events occurring at the time, or simply for humour or educational purposes. Illustrative styles can range from naive and childlike, to simplistic black and white line sketches, to bold and crude stylised characters. More often than not, there will be an element of fantasy, whether it’s an animal that’s able to speak, or a person with supernatural abilities such as flight.
The audiences of our researched examples appear to address teens to younger adults (Pandora andMad) up to older adults and the “left wing middle class” (If…). The styles of illustration that we found were well suited for the context they were used in and fitted the ‘image’ of the media that they were printed in, using effective and memorable illustrative styles. It was interesting to look into the illustrators who created these strips, as their names are normally something you’ll notice when reading the media they were produced for, yet I’d never thought to research into them and the other work they had done throughout their career. Though comic strips aren’t something that I’d particularly want to go into, I can appreciate them for what they are and their humour.
19 3 / 2014
Editorial illustration in magazines
What interested me most about illustrating for editorials was how the specialized subjects that you may show in your portfolio can be totally unrelated to the genre of magazine that you can get a commission for. For the first research seminar for our Professional Practice module, I was required to select a genre of magazine, find atleast 10 titles, and distinguish the styles of illustration within them. After initially choosing medical and nursing magazines and finding very little illustration, I decided to switch my focus onto young women’s lifestyle magazines, where I found a decent amount within each example.
I began with a magazine that I was already familiar with, Oh, Comely, which I had originally found in WHSmith during my foundation year. More or less every page included illustration in one form or another - whether this was a decorative border, an accompanying full page example of a featured creatives work, doodled letters or games. It was interesting to see how the magazine’s website encourages writers, illustrators, photographers, etc. to submit pieces of work to be potential features in future issues.
This was also the case with a magazine that I serendipitously discovered via the realm of Twitter, Ballad Of…, that was started by two Photography graduates and exclusively publishes “Brand New Art We Heart”. They also keep an online directory of every creative that has contributed to their past issues, as well as giving creatives an incentive to have their work featured in their next issue by giving themes, such as ‘sugar and spice’, for them to submit visual or conceptual responses. Whilst I could only view this magazine online via screenshots on their website (stockists weren’t particularly local to me), it looks as though a lot of illustrators contribute to their issues, and whilst I see a handful of decorational motifs being used, it seems that the majority of the pages are filled with photographic responses.
Lionheart was another chance Twitter find, following the same crafty-quirky-feminine vibe as my two previous examples. Again, I unfortunately couldn’t get my hands on a tangible copy to flick through, but online PDFs revealed that every front cover is illustrated and an article in issue 3 featured illustrator Ella Masters who focuses on ‘authorial’ illustration, her website demonstrating many examples of commercial editorial work in portraiture and figurative fashion styles.
Within her client list was Cellardoor, which I was luckily able to look through a little more in-depth thanks to their magazine being featured on issuu. Within issue 9 were lovely narrative based illustrations from featured illustrator Rosie Lovelock, as well as more or less every page featuring some kind of cute illustrated thumbnail tab, decorational border, collage, or fashion drawing.
Issuu.com also carried titles Dalliance and Vintage Lifestyle which were of relevance, again using fashion doodles, borders and portraiture, but less so than previous examples. Baku and Fashion, Cosmopolitan were more widely known examples found in WHSmith and feature contemporary art, culture, fashion and travel and use full page illustration and double spreads for creatives and designers, such as Niki Groom.
The only exception I made to sticking to this genre was by looking at Anorak, which is a children’s magazine, yet I couldn’t resist adding to the presentation. Aimed towards kids aged between 6 and 12, it was created to encourage children to tap into their imagination and use creativity to learn, and theres an astounding use of colour, shapes and contemporary image making, using edge to edge full/double page illustrations, charts, questions, stories and games.
Looking over the titles that I found for the seminar, it was generally fairly easy to locate them, and they included the types of illustration that I would expect from young women’s lifestyle - pretty, decorational doodles, figurative fashion and portraiture in a contemporary style. Although I didn’t think I initially knew any of the illustrators that I came across, I was surprised after digging around a bit to realise I had already seen work by Marisa Seguin and Alyssa Nassner (who were contributing illustrators for issue 7 of Oh, Comely) before from reblogs on Tumblr. All in all, I was quite impressed to see the amount of illustration used by editors, as opposed to the simpler option of using photographic solutions.