Saturday 9 December 2006


I got a response to my Dec 6 post that began "we don't need any more names for the same thing." My opening paragraph was intended to inform that I have no interest whatsoever in arguing about what the medium is called and what's allowed in it. You keep the old thing and you call it what you like. I'm not in the business of naming. Here we are all about UN-naming. I'm not interested in comics as they are defined and I'm not interested in the graphic novel as it is defined (at least four different ways). Just for the record, I'm not interested in 'defined.' I'm interested in the movement of ideas and aesthetic impulses from here to there, and from there to somewhere else. I'm interested in making Life better. I'm interested in the Book and what the Book is in the process of becoming, which is to say, a book of a different stripe, and I'm interested in the ways it will find to tell the stories that need and/or ought to be told in order to make Life Better and us wiser.
That above was the slogan on a t-shirt I bought and used to wear at conventions till I accepted that Chris Staros didn't like it, though to be fair, it was proably the obnoxious cartoon cat speaking the words on the original that offended Top Shelf's sensibilities. I gave it to wee Callum Campbell, who wears it out skateboarding. He's not in the shit business either. First to ask for it in 'comments' can have it in the mail (the sketch, not the t-shirt.)
* * *
On the same theme, I left that post of Dec 6 with a confession that I was unfamiliar with the writings that Steve Braund of Falmouth U. credited with positing the idea that an 'authorial' presence may elevate the profession of illustration out of the crisis it has found itself in over the last twenty years. Illustration is a field that provides a service, fulfills a brief, satisfies a client, so that in a way the notion of an illustrator speaking in his own voice could be seen as coming from outside of the process. But If we stop to think about it we are remiinded of many great illustrators of the past who certainly spoke with their own voice, though it in turn may have spoken for entire generations; the work of Norman Rockwell for instance (and others mentioned below).
Steve has responded by supplying me with some references:
"Susan Aldworth interviews Robert Mason from Artists & Illustrators magazine in the UK from 1999, entitled.. 'Is Illustration Dead?' Here's a quote from it with comments set against the UK recession of the early nineties..
'Mason's research also showed that while there is currently less work in areas of illustration like book jackets and editorial, there is a reemergence of
authorial work and a renewed interest in handmade illustration. Authorial work is a term being used to describe long-term projects like children's books, graphic novels or picture essays, illustration which demands more from the illustrator than a clever one-off image. In the States, Mason explains, some important magazines like... Esquire are commissioning illustrators to go to events from serious news stories to fashion shows, to draw what they see. He goes on to mention Posy Simmonds as part of this authorial movement ('Gemma Bovery' in the UK's The Guardian.')
Rob wrote a book in 2000 surveying illustration in the UK through the 90's called 'A Digital Dolly' (after 'Dolly' the first cloned sheep). Publr: Norwich School of Art & Design. Isbn. 1 872482 39 2. It offers a really clear reflection on illustration through that period with a real sense of the importance of encouraging a return to the 'authorial' integrity of many illustrators of the past.. Lear, Heath-Robinson, Peake, Gorey (one of my personal heroes). I think that's the point about the term 'authorial illustration'.. Illustration has always produced truly unique and personal 'authorial' talent.. Those witth a strong personal voice. So the term 'authorial illustration' was first used by somebody, 'one of us', who wanted to point back down the road at that tradition. I remember having a converstion with Robert Mason in a pub in South Kensington around 2000 where we looked at each other and simultaneously uttered the same words.. 'I'm thinking of writing an MA in authorial illustration!' It turned out we were further on with our course plans, so Rob was kind of happy to let us proceed. But it was
very much his influence on my ideas, along with Vienne and others, that led me to want to do that in the first place.
These might be useful:
'Pictures & Words. New Comic Art and Narrative Illustration by Roanne Bell and Mark Sinclair. Publr: Laurence King, London.
Ric Poynor - 'Illustration's last stand' (Graphis No.321 May/June 1999)
Ric Poynor - (Eye No.22 1996) 'The client says he wants it in green.'
Veronique Vienne - (Graphis No.316 July/Aug 1998) - 'Illustration and the Politics of Polite Outrage'
She says.. 'To reclaim their rights, illustrators would do well to shed their artiste persona and reposition themselves as authors - as equal partners in the storytelling process. There are some hopeful signs - the increasing popularity of animation, the growth of children's literature - indications that some illustrators are no longer willing to simply embellish the page. They've realised that asserting their authorship is the only way to transcend the conundrum of ownership.' "

"On March 16th next year we are putting on a one-day Forum here at Falmouth on the theme of Publishers talking about publishing graphic literature. We are putting together (a real mixture) the following speakers: Yvan Alagbe from French publisher Fremok ( (Atlanic Press has just helped them publish the original drawings and text of 'Alice Underground' with a French translation); Gita Wolf from Tara Books in Chennai, India, Chris Oliveros from Drawn & Quarterly and The UK's Dan Franklin at Jonathan Cape/Random.The day will be chaired by Paul Gravett 'Comica' etc.

Thanks for filling in these details for me, Steve. More power to you! And whaddayouknow? there's my old pal Paul Gravett, 'the man at the crossroads', right in the middle of it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goodness, am I first to ask for that drawing?

Um, how do I get it?

Baden Smith

9 December 2006 at 07:02:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which reminds me, were you following Posy Simmonds's latest, "Tamara Drewe"? (it finished serialising just last week)

A most interesting style she's developed that I haven't seen anywhere else (not that I've been looking very hard)...wonder if anyone's ever tried tracking her down for an interview.

cheers again
B Smith

9 December 2006 at 07:06:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Alex said...

"I'm interested in the movement of ideas and aesthetic impulses from here to there, and from there to somewhere else. I'm interested in making Life better. I'm interested in the Book and what the Book is in the process of becoming"---->

It 's really difficult to sum things up so clearly and in a such powerful manner. I'm following your blog only a couple of days and I already find it one of the more thought provoking and inspiring one you can reado nowadays... thank you!

9 December 2006 at 07:41:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...


just give me an email contact then I'll fire you a message to get a postal address

I have the early pages of Tamara, haven't looked in for the conclusion yet

thanks, Alex


9 December 2006 at 07:44:00 GMT-5  
Blogger retromancy said...

That's a cool sketch - maybe you should make a T-shirt from it.

9 December 2006 at 09:55:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just wanted to let you know I got the sketch. I think I'm going to see if I can find a small frame for it so I can put it up on my wall.



9 December 2006 at 13:03:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Manic The Doodler said...

That's quite a profound message on that shirt. Thanks for posting it...

9 December 2006 at 16:44:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr C

Email me at

Baden Smith

9 December 2006 at 17:14:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Aaron F. Gonzalez said...

I guess I'm just going to have to deal with the fact that I will most likely never be up early enough to snag one of these drawings.


9 December 2006 at 20:54:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

I was thinking about that. there's a doozy going up tomorrow. I'll hold it back a little later to give some of you folks stateside a better chance.

Now i'm playing with your minds, huh?


9 December 2006 at 21:00:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Kelly Kilmer said...

I need that shirt!

10 December 2006 at 01:32:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

I completely support the shirt project (i.e. you should print tee-shirt with that drawing on).
I would SO wear it at work too...


10 December 2006 at 04:40:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Brad Brooks said...

Ric Poynor is actually RICK Poynor. And Eye is a kick-arse magazine that's ostensibly about Graphic Design, but is in fact about all areas of Visual Communication, including comics. Has people like Poynor, Steven Heller and Roger Sabin writing for it too. Well worth a look, Eddie. Right, pendant mode off...

11 December 2006 at 11:34:00 GMT-5  

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