I found an exciting illustrator last week called Vesa Sammalisto who I know won the ADC Young Guns Award this year. I thought I’d post some examples of his work as a quick post, as I was reminded yesterday when one of my course lecturers told me he always looks for inspiration by looking at maps. I’ve had a very busy week, and a lot of my learning has consisted of abstract, pragmatics and theories relating to getting a project started. I always find that before at the beginning of a lengthy project I have a heightened sense of reflection that is best described as or perhaps mystic.
This mostly comes from a sense that you are about to begin a journey; a pilgrimage plagued by late nights and inhuman amounts of coffee; and that you know that on a brief you learn the subject intensely determining how you present the ultimate product. So here is a reference to how I imagine Vesa studied a map so intensely to produce these inspired series of poster images.
What I love about the images is that the build-up of geometric shapes on the different levels of grey floats in a white space. This gives the cities an intensity that relays the topography of each by littering it with iconic idiosyncrasies. The density of the image; which is on some level reflecting the grey, concrete, solidness of a cities structure, I think minimised by the repeated patterns, circular shapes and contrasting lines making the posters enjoyable, as opposed to cold and rigid.
Really great design; especially as a series. To adapt a given formula I think takes hard work and a great idea that normally gets lost and un-credited behind final images. The research (i don’t know how it was done) is what makes these images successful, and what makes these so exemplary.
Holly Wales is an Illustrator who came to give a presentation on her work and her experimental methodologies to my illustration class on Friday.
Before then, my only knowledge of her work was her felt tip drawings for, as I later found out, the New York Times as well as several interviews and discussions in specialist illustration theory books. One quote in that does stand out from the others I remember (very loosely) is ‘drawing makes you look, and looking develops you as a person’ (I hope that is right, I’m confident enough to gamble and put it in here).
So already I was excited, thinking that I’d be learning about drawing with markers as a technique and a solution to editorial illustration. I was also aware that Holly Wales has also before done reportage drawing. Drawing on the field I think is an excellent exercise that I think most illustrators who enjoy non digital mediums regularly explore.I enjoy describing a scene to whatever pens or pencils are available, and I think there is something hazardous about the felt tip pen as a tool. So again, to summarise, I was looking forward to her talk.
What I didn’t realise was that Holly Wales is an advocate for playing with materials, and the process of exploration being the ultimate driving force of her work. Having an insight into her personal sketchbooks and her combination of materials to experiment with masking and creating negative space provides a necessary skill in composition in commercial work. By playing with contrast, colour, harmony and balance where ‘content is not important’, Holly is utilising tools readily available to any illustrator to explore the abstract and give the substance a removed meaning. A common expression of ‘you don’t know until you try it’ is said often, but in Holly’s work there is a resounding importance on play and ‘what if’ that I think is original in her practice.
This ideology was further constructed in the presentation by her portrayal of her collaboration (I didn’t write down his name; sloppy) in a photographic essay documenting the experience of these enigmatic black balloons in Berlin. This series was a further metaphor into ‘what work leads into’, and how ‘objects take on importance’ by experimentation.
The journey of these black balloons, and how the public reacted to this scene became the project.
The reason I am writing about this is that Holly had a profound pertinence on my own practice with the timing of the talk. At the moment, I am one week into my third and final year of study, and Holly Wales was the perfect visiting lecture to kick start the academic year with a philosophy of play. Illustration can be a sharing exercise, and I think collaboration is important as an exercise to see how ideas are formed with somebody else, and to experiment when two contrasting styles/thoughts react with each other.
Drawing helps me exhaust and understand a subject better as a way of personal learning. It was great to listen to Holly tell us how personal work can develop into commercial, industry standards. Experimentation and an adaptable way of thinking avoids being pigeonholed into having a limited shelf-life within the trends and fads of society.