Illustration has increasingly moved from the page to embrace a wider range of practices, including three-dimensional forms, murals and graffiti under the term ‘street art’, as well as alternative forms of publishing. Alongside this exploration have been developments in digital technologies, and with it new ways for illustrators to work and new contexts for illustration to be seen.
The Internet is opening the door to personal content. Who is speaking and what they
are saying in words and images is going to be more important than ever.”
Marshall Arisman 2000 (in Heller and Arisman, 2000)
At the heart of contemporary illustration practices is the idea that illustrators create content
along with their images – that their work has inherent meaning and therefore value. It’s also a
different business model from illustrators just working for a client; it’s based on selling original
artwork or producing multiple copies for distribution and sale. This is much closer to how an artist
or printmaker operates, selling originals rather than selling an image that will be reproduced by a client. Similarly, graphic novelists, comic book artists, and other makers of illustrative content are producing something with cultural value that people want to engage with on its own terms. Of course the old way of doing things still exists; plenty of illustrators work for art directors and clients to visualise their ideas.
Working in this content-led way allows contemporary illustrators freedom to express themselves
and develop new ways of working. Selling items does mean that illustrators need to develop
an audience and be more involved in distributing and finding buyers for their work. Many
contemporary illustrators find some kind of balance between this way of making a living and
working for clients. OCA CourseBook pp 105-106