Saturday, September 5, 2015

Journal of Illustration

The first issue of the new academic publication called Journal of Illustration has been published online.

In the opening editorial, Desdemona of the McCannon Manchester School of Art notes that there hasn't been much academic scrutiny of illustration. 

She participated in a committee to create "an international forum for scholarly research and investigation of a range of cultural, political, philosophical, historical and contemporary issues in relation to illustration....We hope that the journal over time will extend critical discourse and methodologies for the interdisciplinary study of illustration, exploring issues surrounding illustration as a visual text, the poetics of illustration and the relationship between word and image." 

The articles in the first issue are free on Intellect, and they include:

Searching for a common identity: The folklore interpreted through illustration
by Quental, Joana
Spitzweg - The Bookworm
by Miller, Melanie; Zhou, Tongyu

by Ramanathan, Rathna

by Smy, Pam


Tom Hart said...

I know that this is a knee-jerk reaction. I've only quickly perused one of the articles. But I can't help think that this sort of approach represents everything that I don't like about the intellectualization of "art history". The farther away that analysis gets from consideration of materials and technique (in my opinion) and the more it is described by phrases like "scholarly research" and "intellectual scrutiny" the more self-referential and circular it seems to be. In other words, it becomes more and more distant from the very subject of the "scrutiny". Of course this is my own bias, and obviously I wouldn't be the target audience (as far as I can tell from my cursory look).

Then again, maybe I'm just being cranky this early Saturday morning :^)

Tobias Gembalski said...

I just noticed that Spitzwegs "Bookworm" is reading in the metaphysics section.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Gurney. Would you please post a list of your favorite blogs(if you have any)? It's really hard to find blogs with reliable and accurate content.

mdmattin said...

I agree with Tom's admirably nuanced critique. My knee jerk reaction is that it looks like a lot of pretentious, jargon-ridden drivel. I'm not necessarily opposed to the notion of applying socio-political analysis to the topic of illustration, but statements like "It is argued that this process of translation and transference results in a conflict between aesthetic readings of the vernacular line, associated with the kitsch and the agency of the illustrated image/object" strike me as not only circular and self referential, but essentially devoid of meaning.

James Gurney said...

I suppose there's no harm in such work. Academic language is what academics use to communicate with each other. There is plenty of room, as you suggest, Matthew for scholarly work in the field of illustration, but I would hope to see more scholarship that is written clearly and incisively. But what I think we need more is the basic, ground-level work of scholarship, such as interviews with living illustrators, and cataloguing and identification of tearsheets. This work is being done by aficionados, dealers, and collectors, not academics. There is much that will be lost to future scholarship if this work is not done now. The other thing that is needed is a basic, clearly written textbook of the history of illustration. Students of photography, film, advertising, and animation have good textbooks on the history of their fields. Illustration students, sadly, do not.

ARBI, Take a look at the listing of blogs on the lower left column of this blog. I'd recommend to subscribe to Lines and Colors, Illustration Art, Cartoon Brew, and Muddy Colors.

Tom Hart said...

Bingo, James. :^) You put your finger on exactly where the work needs to be done, and fortunately, thanks to institutions like the Norman Rockwell Museum and books like Masters of Illustration: 40 Illustrators & How They Worked (sadly out of print last I knew), that work is starting to be done. We can only hope it isn't too late. Perhaps there is some attention being paid to it in our colleges and universities, but I'm not aware of much of that. And because academia has been steeped in traditional "art history" that all but ignores the kind of ground level work you refer to, any inclusion of the sort of focus you, Matthew and I would like will probably be a long time coming. It will likely be up to those outside of academia to take that up - for now, anyway.

Tom Hart said...

And I should add that Gurney Journey is, and will remain, a huge boon to current and future students of illustration. Let's not forget that!

Chris Beaven said...

Wow, I had no idea that historical material on Illustration was so lacking. Thanks for the links to these articles. I also agree with ARBI, I would like to see a link of the blogs you follow.

J0DLi said...

As a rule I never get involved in blog-comment discussions, but this time I think I will.

Firstly, I'm thrilled. It's impossible to keep up with everything that goes on in the academia and finding out about this really made me happy. I'm glad that the world is finally getting an academic journal dedicated to illustration. We need it.
"Academic language is what academics use to communicate with each other." And yes, this is how we communicate. I understand that for some it may be frustrating that someone else would venture into their/the field that they feel strongly about and use their own words to describe it. To someone listening to two artists discussing glazing, they might sound like having a discussion "essentially devoid of meaning." Cause, you know, meaning is as much inscribed into the message by the speaker as it is by the listener.
I, personally, think that we need to develop top-down and bottom-up approaches to studying illustration, that means learning about it specifically and in a broader cultural context(s). Maybe this journal will sort of become a platform where scholars and artists discuss illustration together.

Jayson said...

I agree with J0DLi. Illustration suffers from the lack of a scholarly viewpoint that other media and genre enjoy. If people are angry that illustration isn't held in the same lofty esteem as "fine art" (or film, or literature, etc.) then there must be room to allow a view of illustration in terms of large-scale, social and intellectual movements as other art forms without knee-jerk belittling of that study. (In fact, i sometimes think that constantly being in the weeds of "materials and techniques" is part of that problem; research academics seem to tend to think that the surrounding context of art is what makes it so vital, not the process of creating it per se.) The fact that illustration doesn't have "an academic voice" that puts the artwork as part of a greater experience should lead us to welcome such attempts.

On the other hand, I worry about the credentials of the said authors and publishers. That being said, I plan on subscribing/following to see where they can take this.

Luca said...

I haven't read the journal yet so i can't judge it. On average i hate when art critics write in a complicated way very simple concepts. It seems they ignore that "simplify" is the golden rule for artists. :D And i do agree with James: before academic level we need basic ABC. Everthing i know about illustration history - very few,with scattered and not homogeneus notions - is from the web and i can't understand why art critics don't consider illustration. fine art was born when they took away the purpose from illustration: tell,remember,celebrate,educate,explain,teach. Is the Bayeux tapestry fine art or illustration?Giotto cicles on Jesus life?what's the Sistine Chapel purpose,decorate a wall ? James,it's time you write that book. :)