Illustration Forum 2014 — Witness: Reportage & Documentary

Article for Falmouth University website Tuesday 11 March 2014 [original article]

Six internationally renowned illustrators visited Falmouth University last week to present at the 12th annual Illustration Forum, ‘Witness.’ The event was chaired by senior lecturer at the University of the West of England, Gary Embury.

Each year a theme is chosen for the Forum which explores a different aspect of authorial illustration practice. Each theme has shed light on a different aspect of the work of an authorial illustrator, the development of an illustrator’s individual voice and the assertion of their personal characteristics of authorship. Over the twelve years the Forum has played host to about sixty internationally renowned illustrators. The 2014 sell-out Forum focused on reportage & documentary illustration.
The Illustration Forum was conceived by Steve Braund, Award Leader for MA Illustration, Authorial Practice. A common thread connecting all of the Forums is that the speakers author as well as illustrate their own work. Steve explained, “We try to make the message from each annual Forum forward-looking, nurturing enterprising students who can think intelligently in a much tougher world; economically and environmentally. New developments offer exciting opportunities in digital technology, through e-books, multi-platform communications, accessibility to print, the internet and global communication, and this has meant that the discipline of illustration is opening up dramatically. “
Arguably one of the most demanding of all forms of illustration — often requiring the capturing of a live event, insightful drawing and accurate visual communication — reportage and documentary illustration has a long and illustrious history, including such artists and illustrators as Otto Dix, George Grosz, Paul Hogarth, Robert Weaver and Ronald Searle.

Reportage and documentary illustration provides a direct connection to the world we live in and its illustrators are often noted for their personal visual language and for their in-depth knowledge and cultural understanding of their chosen subject matter.

This year’s event was chaired chaired by Gary Embury, with guest speakers Anne Howeson, Lucinda Rogers, Fumio Obata and alumni Anna Cattermole and Jenny Soep. Sue Coe was interview by Gary Embury via Skype from her home in upstate New York.

Guest speakers included:

Anna Cattermole

As a reportage illustrator Anna uses observational drawing combined with written notes, diary entries and records of conversations to create a multi-layered documentary. She only records whilst she is on location, preferring this to working from photographs or photographic reference. Anna believes that to draw a subject well you must be able to observe it first-hand.

“I sit in a corner and hopefully blend in and record, not like a photographer, not copying the scene in front of me exactly. I am trying to record my experience. There are times when it would be easier to take a photograph or make a quick sketch and work on the drawing later in the studio. Particularly when it is so cold that I can no longer feel my hands and feet, or when the subject I want to draw moves before I can capture it. But I would find this a less honest way of working.”

Anna’s recent self-initiated project From The Loft Floor documents the building of a wooden sailing boat. This series of drawings formed the narrative element in an installation at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall and was awarded an Association of Illustrators Award in 2013.

Anne Howeson

An award-winning artist and tutor at the Royal College of Art. Anne’s work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of London. Currently she works on self-initiated drawing projects, including a solo exhibition of drawings, ‘Remember Me’, on the regeneration of King’s Cross. Anne was a selected artist of Time Out critic Ossian Ward in the Discerning Eye Mall Gallery exhibition, 2011.

Network Rail commissioned a digital print series of her work in 2012; these prints are now part of a permanent exhibition to mark the reopening of the multi-million pound redevelopment of King’s Cross Station. Anne’s current project, ‘The Present in the Past’ is a collaboration with the Museum of London’s prints and drawings archives. The work for the current drawing project responds to prints from several London archives by appropriating digital fragments from source material, reworking and transforming them in scale and content to evoke a sense of passing time. Her work as a lecturer is concerned with drawing and visual research. She initiated, developed and now leads DRAW and the VR Course at the RCA.

Fumio Obata

Born in Tokyo, Fumio grew up reading all sorts of Manga comic books. It helped him to develop a strong interest towards visual art from a very early age. Fumio came to Britain in 1991 and studied illustration at Glasgow School of Art. He later obtained an MA in Communication Design at the Royal College of Art in London. Between 2003 and 2008 Fumio worked extensively in animation field and settled in Edinburgh. He built his experience by working with clients such as Duran Duran, Channel 4, and DC Thompson.

In 2008 he took an artist residency for comic book artists in Angoulême, France, a programme supported by Cité Internationale de la Bande Desinée et de l’image. Subsequently Fumio published his first Graphic novel L’incoyable Histoire de la Sauce Soja, (the incredible tale of the Soy sauce) with a Quebecoise publisher La Pastèque. His second Graphic novel ‘Just So Happens’ by Jonathan Cape will be available in early 2014. His next project is a comic book style reportage over the Tsunami and nuclear disaster which hit Japan in March 2011. In 2013 Fumio became a senior lecturer for the BA Illustration at the University of Gloucestershire.

Gary Embury

A senior lecturer at the University of the West of England, and an illustrator with over 20 years experience. Gary’s clients include The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Radio Times, Aardman Animations, BBC, New Scientist, The Sunday Times Review, and many other advertising, editorial and publishing clients. He was Awarded Gold, in Images 30, The Best of British Contemporary Illustration 2006 and took part in a discussion on Radio 4’s Front Row programme hosted by Kirsty Lang on the future of illustration in the digital age.

Gary’s work has been published in many illustration books and annuals and he has exhibited his work nationally and internationally in group and one man shows. He was selected as one of the jurors Judging the international 3X3 Illustration awards in 2009

Currently involved in documentary illustration, and reportage projects, he co-delivers the reportage drawing programme at The Topolski Studio in London. He is editor in chief of Reportager.org an online journal showcasing and initiating projects in the area of drawn reportage. The website is an editorial space for reportage projects and a virtual space and forum for the dissemination of projects and good practice in the area of reportage drawing.

Jenny Soep

Jenny is an alternative illustrator who specialises in drawing live original and experimental music and art events, where the live sketch is the final artwork.

Bridging the gap between audience and performer, illustrator and fine artist, Jenny has ’recorded’ live debates, music, dance, theatre, animation and poetry events throughout Europe, with drawings becoming an integral part of the performance itself. For the past four years she has worked with the prestigious Polar Music Prize, documenting the likes of Björk, Patti Smith, Yo Yo Ma and Paul Simon and looks forward to being involved with the this year’s celebrations too.

Drawing on paper or iPad, from the length of a poem to an entire concert, Jenny responds creatively while simultaneously experiencing each individual event. Utilising the music, words/lyrics heard, personas, patterns, atmosphere and limited time frame, she creates her dynamic style of artwork which can be published online or in print immediately following the event.

Jenny Soep has used her unique approach to drawing in other ways such as evolving textable pictures, interactive scenography, timelapse/animations and drawing workshops. She is also currently collaborating on a Creative Scotland funded project, creating a graphic novel with award winning playwright Lynda Radley.

Lucinda Rogers

Lucinda studied illustration at St Martins and Edinburgh College of Art and started working as an illustrator soon after. She has worked for the press consistently, including the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph, the New Yorker and the Independent, drawing The Weasel column for 13 years. Other clients include British Airways, Waterstones, The Post Office, the Globe Theatre as well as books such as The Dictionary of Urbanism and a wide variety of one-off commissions: a mural for a restaurant in New York and painted hoardings in Kings Cross.

Lucinda’s work relies on drawing from life and she is often sent out to draw at a particular location. She does her own work for exhibition and sale and for many years has drawn New York and parts of London, in particular their out-of-sight aspects, particularly in urban East London where the built environment and ways of life are in a state of change. Lucinda recently started some new New York work, which will appear in a limited edition book of her New York drawings over fifteen years.