Why illustration is so unique and valuable

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As part of our ongoing series on the importance of illustration in a creative discipline, today I’d like to talk about how illustration is the most important part of writing.

There are two main reasons why illustration is so important to writing. Firstly, it’s because illustration makes reading more pleasurable and therefore available to more people. Secondly, it’s because illustration makes ideas easier to understand.

Before we can talk about either of these things, we need to understand what illustration actually is and why it was invented. Illustration did not start out as a way of explaining things but as a way of decorating them. It began when pictures were drawn directly onto walls and cave surfaces thousands of years ago, and continued when religious texts were illustrated with drawings or paintings, or even sculpted into the pages themselves. In the early history of books, illustrations often took up far more space than the text they went with and sometimes even diminished the value of the stories being told (such as when illustrations got so detailed that they covered up key parts of the story).

The best example we have of an illustrated book from this time period is The Book Of Kells in Ireland which has been dated to around 800 AD. It contains all four gospels written in Latin and has been decorated with elaborate

Why is illustration such a unique and valuable skill? This is a question I get asked by students and art directors alike, and it’s one that has been bothering me for some time. There are many reasons to value illustration as a discipline, but in this blog I want to take the opportunity to look at just one: the ability to make ideas visible.

I’m going to start with the obvious example of what I mean by illustration:

What we have here is an image: a woman’s face, floating in space. We know it’s a woman because of her hair and her features. But those features don’t convey any meaning—there’s no context for them. The image isn’t telling us anything about that face. It could be anyone, or anything.

I will argue that this apparently simple image actually represents something very complex. The image is saying something, even if it doesn’t use words. It’s communicating something true, even if its meaning is hard to articulate clearly. And this capacity for communication is what makes illustration unique among the arts and why it has such enormous potential value to our culture and our economy.

It may seem odd to talk about illustration as communicating something true, when so much of the work produced could easily be dismissed as commercial fl

What makes illustration unique in the creative industry is that it is the only thing that is both a craft and an art.

All other creative disciplines are either crafts or arts. But illustration has elements of both, which makes it a special kind of thing. It’s even more valuable than its parts would imply.

The skill of illustration is not only a rare and enviable talent, but it also represents the unique synthesis of two art forms that are so often at odds with each other: fine art and commercial art.

The creative energy and raw talent found in just about any artist working today is a result of a field that is, as much as we would like to believe otherwise, in fact still young. While we now consider the idea that “anything goes” to be the foundation of our creative freedoms, this is only due to the fact that we are still learning how to use these freedoms to create real value. The value lies always in the eye of the beholder; therefore, it can come in any form. For this reason, commercial illustration remains one of the most valuable forms of art today.

I do illustration, and I am often asked what’s so special about it. To answer that question, I’m going to tell you a story.

I was once at a friend’s birthday party. He is an illustrator. We were talking about work, and he told me a story of how he is always looking for new challenges and new ways to improve his skills. I was intrigued and asked him what exactly he meant. He explained that he is always thinking of ideas for different projects he could work on, but because he can only really focus on one project at a time, the ideas become more valuable the longer they remain in his head. He said that sometimes they begin to take on a life of their own, growing and changing inside his mind as time goes on.

I’m going to tell you a secret. The single most important thing for your career as an illustrator is to have kids.

That’s right; having children will give you the ultimate edge in being a good illustrator.

Why would I say that? Isn’t it weird? Well, it’s true. Having children has helped me understand what illustration is all about in a way that no other professional experience has, and I think it will help you too.

The ability to draw is not the most important thing you need to be an illustrator (and yes, if you don’t know how to draw, there are still options). It’s other qualities, like the ability to clearly communicate ideas and solutions, that are really key. And children are the best training ground for developing those qualities.

The artist’s role is to communicate ideas and emotions. Sometimes those ideas and emotions are communicated by showing the artist’s unique perspective on a subject. Sometimes they are communicated through the simple power of an image that sticks in our memory.

The challenge is to find a way to communicate these things in such a way that they, rather than the technical aspects of the artwork, become the most memorable part of the experience.

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