Sunday, November 8, 2009

Two-Color Figurative Illustration Suite

In Word and Image 1 we have just launched the final project. The image-oriented problem is described below:

You are to create three two-color illustrations, each of which tells a simple narrative. Each of you will receive a prompt, such as Commuter Story, or Fast Food Frenzy, to which you will be asked to respond with a set of images. In every case you will have easy access to the material called for by the prompt. Observation will play an important role in your project. You may also cast your story, and stage your narrative by using photography to create targeted reference. These two activities–onsite observation and creative staging–provide complimentary perspectives to the project.

Your images will operate as a set, but they should
not seek to provide a sustained narrative across the three. Consider the trio as an ensemble of perspectives on your particular human pageant. Please note that narrative means any action or story, no matter how small, so long as it is visible. Each of your illustrations will include at least two figures. You may include props, costumes, and setting elements, but you will not produce environments. The storytelling will be accomplished through the figures and their attributes.

This project provides an opportunity to exploit our access to the Modern Graphic History Library at Washington University. The problem you are being asked to solve corresponds to one routinely faced by magazine illustrators during the heyday of periodicals in the twentieth century.

Women’s magazines in particular were an important source of work. Publications like Women’s Home Companion and Ladies Home Journal published a great deal of short fiction. These stories relied on the use of illustrated figures to create interest on the opening spread, cued to a resumption of the story in the back of the magazine. Typically three or four such stories would appear on succeeding spreads, in effect creating a sequential competition between the illustrators to lure the reader.

In the 1930s and early 40s printing budgets typically called for a two-color illustration on the inside of the magazine. You are being asked to work in two colors to keep things simple. Two colors means black and a single hue, like red or green. You may use the full value range of both colors if you choose to do so. Pay close attention to the value structure of your work.

We went to the MGHL on Friday and looked through the wonderful Charles Craver Tearsheet Collection as well as original Al Parkers with the photo reference he shot for the same project. Thanks to Skye Lacerte, curator of the MGHL, for her expertise and efforts on our behalf!

Images: Harry Beckhoff, Colliers, April 13, 1940; Frederic Gruger, Saturday Evening Post, December 13, 1930; Earl Cordrey, Collier’s, November 24, 1946; Robert O’Reid, Collier’s, May 20, 1939; Wilmot Heitland, Women’s Home Companion, October 10, 1931; Carl Mueller, Collier’s, March 7, 1931; Harry Beckhoff, Collier's, January 20, 1940

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