This illustration series is the result of a challenge. I wanted to sit down every day for at least 30 minutes and complete one work. Lazy as I was, I came up with a rough concept and common theme on the first day and just "blindly" followed it over the next days, completing this series within a week. Although my endurance only lasted this long - there are just too many other things to do here in Cambridge - I was happily surprised by the outcome. Starting as a random idea, creating this mini-series of illustrations turned out to be a meditative experience, trying out (and sometimes messing around with) various materials: ink, watercolour, gouache and soft pencils. I hope whoever looks at this can feel the bizarreness that I tried to put into them. My impression is that, in general, giving too much explanation can take away the subtle but exciting mystery from an artwork. Yet, I want to share some of the many considerations that often go into creating an illustration and hope whoever reads this, is still able to enjoy looking at this series.
Realism is really not everything. When I was younger, most of my efforts in learning how to draw went into depicting the human body anatomically correct. But there was one thing I did not train myself in and I think most people attempting to become better at drawing often overlook it too: image composition. There is a true art to placing objects in a two-dimensional space so the image is appealing to the eye. Tension is the keyword. Sometimes. Other times one might want to intentionally not create tension in an image. This is always the thing in art. There are several rules that when - skillfully - broken can lead to a mutually interesting result and I struggle a lot with that. In this one, the logical thing would have been to place the head of the boar in the top right corner of the image and create a diagonal across the page with its body. I tried to place it more on the left of the image than I would have done from instinct and create a counterpart to the figure with the orange circle. There would have surely been a better solution to arranging my subjects, but half of the fun in illustration is exploration.
Goat The borders between illustration and fine art are blurry and I'd consider it nearly impossible to draw a line. But commonly in illustration, the problem-solving aspect is more prominent than in fine art. An illustration wants to enlighten an idea. While in traditional art, the main intention is often "just" for the image to look good, an illustration has a narrative. And the difficult task of the illustrator is to convey this narrative convincingly. In my Bioinformatics studies, I come across a lot of "classical" problem-solving work, but the difficulty of aligning a story with a visual representation, to tell the story without words, leaving some aspects in the shadow to grab the reader's attention is just as challenging. This illustration series is simple with just three elements per image - the animal, the orange circle and the frame - and a very vague narrative. Yet, after having finished this piece, I remember having the urge to somehow come up with an explanation of why a goat is looking at me with so much expectation.
Fish I really hope this looks like a powerful fish to you. Because in this series, I wanted to depict the animals as confident and self-assured subjects. Animals are sentient beings. Humans often don't treat them like this. Without intending to put too much of a political message into them, what I somehow wanted to achieve with these images was to make the viewer look at animals as fellow beings. I can't deny that I wanted those illustrations to also be a bit creepy and convey a feeling of unease. Suddenly, animals are among us, wearing clothes and - by that - being equal members of society. Some of them are strong in their poses, but still have a kind of vulnerability about them. I wanted them to almost express something like an accusation and to provoke their counterpart, the viewer. "Look at me. I am like you. Can you really deny this?" The medium of illustration here allowed me to create tension by metaphorically bringing animals onto the same level as humans.
Words and Illustrations by Helena Cozzarini