Illustrators: put everything down, turn off the lights, play this short podcast, sit back and close your eyes. It’s 8 minutes long, go ahead, you have time for a break.
Thomas James from the Illustration Age blog has taken up podcasting again, and it’s not like anything you’d expect that might sound. The style is essentially that of an audio illustration. James turned the audio of his interview with Marshall Arisman two years ago into a deep trance-y remix which is quite hypnotic to listen to.
I’ve spent my entire career obsessively trying to “learn how to draw” when I should’ve just been drawing. Always thinking “I just need to get a little better… and then I’ll start working on (insert any of a hundred personal projects)”
The fact is that i’ve been good enough since my teens- and would’ve improved so much more rapidly had my study been in the service of any of those projects- and not in the dozens of sketchbooks pilled in my closet.
Lesson: Don’t use “learning” as an excuse to avoid “doing”.
So at SPX a few weeks ago, Jim Rugg walked by with a giant Sam Vanallemeersch book (Big Mother #2, from Nobrow Press), which of course sold out before I could get one. Vanallemeersch is no stranger to readers of Drawn—or even me; I’ve been following his Flickr for awhile, have seen his stuff here and there, and liked it. But something about looking through that book made my hair stand up a little; nothing beats a book for a tactile, visceral experience.
So anyway, I got home and started looking him up, and found a bunch of gorgeous, frenetic, manic drawings like the one above, very much in line with what I’d responded to so much in Big Mother. But somehow I had never made the connection between Vanallemeersch’s textured, inky, organic drawing and his second “Kolchoz" style, which is an incredibly polished, shape and color-based approach. Not quite the opposite of the organic style, but a kind of mirror version. Like what if a robot, programmed with everything Vanallemeersch knows about drawing, color, and movement, then struck with some sort of divine lightning, were to create? Look at this, the first image of a eyeball-withering long horizontal scroll, on Vanallemeersch’s Kolchoz site:
It’s a beautiful drawing, right? But when I tried to open it up on my computer, I found something crazy: it’s essentially pixel art!
Now, pixel art by itself is not such a new exciting thing. I mean, this is gorgeous and everything, sure. But as someone who draws all day, who knows a bunch of drawers, who sees drawings and makes drawings and blogs about drawings, sometimes it’s hard to get excited about drawings. But this duality, the mirroring of Sam Vanallemeersch into chaotic-but-sensible organic drawings, and these inorganic-but-insane ordered drawings—something about those two things going on in the same brain makes both more interesting. You end up looking closer at each to discern the other, does that make sense?
The funny thing is, I emailed Sam to ask him a bunch of breathless questions, and he was appreciative but maybe not as excited about his illustration “clean” style. Which is fair, of course. Heck, you can feel anyway you like about whatever you like. But it reminds me of something I read somewhere about illustrators keeping a single sketchbook, rather than having a “work” sketchbook and a “personal” sketchbook. So all your ideas and tryouts and mistakes inform and feed each other, rather than existing in two walled cities, stagnating. Is that what Sam’s doing? I’m not sure, but if he is, there’s definitely a tunnel between the two and some trade going on; a subterranean Athens-Sparta Railroad.
My favorite thing was this: while trying to figure out how to get screencaps of 72dpi pixel art up close, I ended up looking closely at that first image:
I love it! Art is great for looking at and learning from and talking about and all that, but there’s something really enervating and human about seeing someone’s brain at work. Definitely am looking for anything with Sam Vanallemeersch’s name on it, whether it’s the hard-to-spell regular version, or under Kolchoz.