What makes a good illustrator?
The qualities which make a good illustrator are easier to recognise than define
Posted on: 29th November 2012
I have been interested in illustration and visual art for a long time. As a child I enjoyed books where the illustrations really added something to the story – books like Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner and Kipling’s Jungle Book. I also loved books where it was the pictures, rather than the words, which led the storytelling. One of the best examples of this is the book that Edmund Dulac made for the French Red Cross during the First World War. But what is it, exactly, that makes a good illustrator?
That is a question that is very hard to answer. A good illustrator can use line, form and (sometimes) colour to convey action, atmosphere and emotion. But that is a very dry way of describing it. Perhaps the best way I can think of describing the qualities that appeal to me in my favourite illustrations is that you can really get quite 'lost' in a good illustration.
Even when we can’t quite define the qualities that make some illustrations so compelling, though, we can certainly recognise them. When I eventually returned to work on the material we are releasing next year as Brahma Dreaming, I was introduced by a friend to the agency which represents Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini. As soon as I saw Daniela’s work, I thought “That’s the one I want.”
I was told that she was extremely busy and much in demand, but nonetheless I asked them to show her the stories. A week later, I heard that Daniela would love to illustrate the book! I think that Daniela is the ideal choice to illustrate these stories, but on a day to day basis we have very little contact – we communicate through our work.
Daniela’s work reminded me of some of my favourite ‘golden age’ illustrators such as Dulac, Arthur Rackham and Aubrey Beardsley. Over the coming months, I will be writing a blog series looking at some of my favourite illustrators and illustrations in greater depth. For me, this will be a better way of conveying what I love about illustration than trying to answer the question ‘what makes a good illustrator’ directly.
It will be a pleasure for me to write about these illustrators, and I hope that other illustration enthusiasts will want to share their thoughts, too. Illustration is very important to me, and we would certainly welcome guest posts on the JJ Books blog from others on their favourite illustrations, illustrators or thoughts on anything to do with illustration.