How illustrators interpret their brief, be it a commercial piece or a speculative piece, allows for a lot of deconstruction and analysis into the time and socio-economic atmosphere of their creation. The tensions and juxtapositions between two different artist’s interpretations of the same piece of work allows for an interesting insight into their, and by means of transience, your own, working process.
The example I chose to use to analyse is the ‘divine comedy’; Inferno by Dante Alighieri. One of my favourite pieces of classical literature, it catalogues Dante’s journey through the planes of hell, confrontations with past acquaintances, and finally the edifice of Satan himself. This has been a source of artistic inspiration for centuries, but one series of illustrations particularly worthy of note, and one I will analyse, are those of Gustave Dore.
I really feel his works capture an essence of hell, only really attainable through engraving. The medium used leads to all his works being meticulously detailed, and being greyscale, really adding to the image one summons up of hell; a dark, smoky, unwelcoming abyss. The Victorian era, the time in which Dore was working, was a time of great industrial advancement, and from this came what could only be called a social prejudice, in favour of refinement and accuracy, very visible in his work.
Compared with Dore’s masterful analogue rendition of The Divine Comedy, there is the recent 2010 action/adventure console game version. This version has drawn upon other verses of The Divine Comedy, not included in Inferno, and has also changed Dante’s character somewhat to create the story more compelling to play along with. This is why it’s interesting to see how and why interpretations differ. For Dore, it was crucial that people reading the novel could have enthralling images paralleling the story, whereas with the video game, an emphasis is more on the action and depth of character, more time devoted to strengthening the conceptual side of it to make it appropriate, and enticing, for gamers.
|I imagine this is very different to what Alighieri envisaged when writing The Divine Comedy.|
The medium in which illustrators, or any creative person, communicate their visions and ideas is crucial: Understanding how, and what, to present where could make the difference between success and failure. Conceiving ideas in a sketchbook is a great, and necessary, part of some peoples working methodology, but this then must be transposed into a presentable finished piece that is visually enticing and flows, as this is how we, as creative individuals, sell ourselves. Another important aspect to keep in mind is how one side informs the other; how commercial, client led projects can effect self initiated projects and vice versa.
The artist I chose to focus on for this is Alex Pardee; an illustrator of unfortunately small renown, best known for illustrating the cover to The Used’s albums. His personal work addresses the concepts of isolation, depression, anxiety and certain psychological states of mind.
|A Lot of his work is inspired by varying states of neuroses.|
As is visible here, his personal works contain an element of entropy; it’s chaotic, exciting and very visually expressive. Now, if compared with his commercial client led works; these are obviously informed by his own working methods, his particular medium of choice – inks, watercolours and dyes – and mostly, subject matter; the key, I find, to his illustrations.
|A Piece for InFlames' album: A Sense of Purpose|
As a result, his commercial pieces tap into an element of the human psyche that gives his pictures quite a surreal property to them; as though we as viewers relate, on some primitive subconscious level. The colours used are often incongruous and not informed by reality at all. However, due to his persistent testing, evaluating and experimenting, Pardee has managed to create a system by which his personal works are segregated nicely from his professional ones, and yet there is constant inference and cohesion between them.
|The colours and flowing line art refer directly back to Pardee's personal pieces|