A speculative early self-reflection.
I like to think. I often think about problems people have, and problems I have – or (in suspicious correlation with age) I have often thought about becoming the best version of myself. Looking into the future, it is hard not to imagine one’s position in the world, the usefulness and impact we may have around us. I feel like I have come to terms with my own fate. I have two years of study, and so two years of potential to become a good Robert.
With the utmost conviction, I denote myself an illustrator/visual communicator/ designer – I must do this. Why? It feels quite essential to embody a personality, there is no entry fee to do this exactly, but conscientiously no guaranteed results. I have not run outside in the thorny garden of real world commercial work. Not full steam anyway – luckily, I have managed to land some good work from posting on social media and recommendations, this is not a good long-term solution. I feel the smartest thing to do is be smart. I shouldn’t be out there for the long run with so many questions.
In order to do well, I must risk offending myself by not assuming my own knowledge is anything more than a haze of ideas and preconceptions in perpetual flux. I must risk offending myself with honesty – asking stupid questions internally, ‘what is illustration, why the pencil, what is halftone…’ I know the endless sea of answers don’t necessary exist for my questions, but the journey through reading and thinking feels appealing to me and this methodology of acquiring knowledge promotes an attitude of reflection.
I see successful illustrators carry their style through years of work, but increasingly I feel despondent at the idea of ‘having a style’. My rational approach to how I feel about illustrators is that there may be an inherent responsibility to the recipients of dissemination. I would like to think it is the business of communication, (again, what is illustration?) and that the ideas communicated filter through the practitioner and unto the page. Through the filtration process the initial idea is possibly romanticised, rationalised, clarified (no English? No problem) and let’s say, on the flip side – made offensive, confusing, abstract or inclusive. Further complicating matters – mark making/style by virtue must affect the audience, adding transcendent flavour to sentiment.
Be a good filter? Or a bad one maybe, I am assuming it’s a decision that can only be made once sufficient artistic autonomy is acquired.
Artistic autonomy? From concept to final artefact, the countless steps involved in practise are numerous and broadly context-spanning. In the post retina display world, the benchmark of reality has shifted. Consider the curious but common practise of adding paper texture or distressing digital artwork. It is a creative decision made by the practitioner and a simple procedure, but understanding why exactly is another matter. Is the decision made with the intention of communicating something to the audience? If so what exactly?
Through the complex multi-disciplinary nature of modern creative practise, each step in the work flow process poses a threat to the initial idea. In music production, I used the term ‘transmission loss’ to describe how a lack of autonomy over the countless patch bays, signal processers and complex digital audio workstations deteriorated the original aesthetic held by the creator. This lack of control over the work results in bad work – each misstep further blurs the original idea.
The same I believe can be said in the context of illustration, which could be considered a relatively new analysis, as the technology which unlocks more potential for us is rapidly evolving right now. Adobe creative applications both desktop and mobile, are now cloud based, and drip feed new tools to the user with each incremental update.
This kind of conversation with myself is not made possible because of the two years of time I paid for at university – they are the uncomfortable themes of my personal prose that follow me through the years of self-tuition and freelancing. But two years to take action? I am hopeful.
One last thing.
Why all the philosophy? I have a personal affinity with the great thinkers that shape our perception of the world and I look to philosophy for answers, general interest and tuition. I am fortunate (or unfortunate) to not be bound by religious beliefs - I have the freedom to follow modern religious systematic belief systems and to not follow them in equal measure with no resulting persecution in the secular modern society I exist in. I feel in a modern context the work of philosophers can be utilised to help us navigate the world today, and perhaps enlighten and guide me through the next two years.
 See question of research – PLR on materiality.