Reportage illustration as a distinct discipline is a form of visual reporting that covers everything from exotic locations to war zones, enclosed courtroom proceedings to public events. It shares many of the concerns of written journalism and documentary photography, but reportage illustration offers something additional to both of these practices. It provides a different way to understand a
place or event; it is visual but it’s often more than just a snapshot.The nature and style of reportage illustration has evolved alongside journalism and the technical development of printing.
Truth in drawing is about trying to capture the essence of the situation, whether it’s an emotional truth, a descriptive truth, or trying to capture a particular dynamic or tension. Getting to the truth of a story might, for example, mean emphasising certain aspects that you want a viewer to focus on.
(Course Guide p45 my emphasis added – illustration is inevitably a subjective interpretation. The key issue is to be aware of that subjectivity and its implications.
Reportage illustration has a very long history – going back to stone friezes depicting rules and wars of ancient civilizations, tapestries like Bayeux Tapestries, medieval illuminated manuscripts to the present day. Particular sources of contemporary inspiration for my work include (but need to be fully written up):
Graham Dean watercolour
Franziska Neubert simple linocuts and woodcuts
Francisco Goya Disaters of War
Jake and Dinos Chapman: reinterpretation and reworking of Goya and other contentious issues.
L S Lowry urban landscapes for their perspective and stylisation
Sally Pring for the flat colours
Olivia Lomenech Gill for her very diverse style with gouache, pencil, printmaking, collage
- How to draw something that might only be in place for a few moments? It takes practice to analyse a scene and commit the essential elements of fleeting impressions to visual memory, then make those impressions into an image.
- Initially at least the aim is not to make a finished picture, but to capture information. Focus on the key elements – a person’s face and hands, how they’re standing, the dynamic of a group of people huddled together. You might also have to draw a lot quicker. You’ll need to do a number of drawings. Movements are often cyclical even for people. Decide when to do the background and when to do the people.
- Interactions with the subjects – how to stop people being embarrassed or self-conscious See some of the hints in Urban Sketching
- Many reportage illustrators include written notes with their illustrations, reflecting on their perceptions, describing dialogue, thoughts or events. This adds to the personal perspective and gives the drawings a sense of personal identity.
- Final image: Mood, Media, Cropping, Colour etc