Monday, 10 October 2011

Holly Wales Tutorial

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. 

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