EDITORIAL

After tossing about the idea for a while, I have decided to add an editorial section to the culturezone web site to clear a few matters up. Firstly, I would like to make it clear that the setting up of this web site was and is not meant to be a way to suck traffic into my own site. The reason they share a common address is simple. I can't afford (at the moment) another domain name and separate hosting. I get very little time to work on this site as it is. A number of artists have agreed to be interviewed but I simply can't get the time to do them justice. Ah, the perils of being an under-paid overworked editorial illustrator!

I began to set this site up because I was getting lots of emails from young illustrators asking for advice on how to break into the industry. Well, I haven't got all the answers but maybe some of you readers might want to suggest a few! And what better way to help than ask some of the best artists from around the globe to talk a bit about themselves?

The Raoul Deleo interview has already pricked up a few ears here in Australia. I posted an excerpt on the illustrators network MESSAGEBOARD and it provoked a few vivid responses. It seems okay for us to slag off our own industry but when an outsider enters the fray tempers will be lost. Amidst the name calling a few real gems can be extracted if you follow the string of that debate.
Illustration seems to be in a very poorly state here in Australia, and the stock issue is only just beginning to impact on us. I can name (and will, if anybody wants to know) a number of clients who have replaced editorial artists such as myself with photodisc and royalty free images. It's a way for them to save money. What are we offering as an alternative? What about artist controlled stock? What about raising the issue in the design media? Why the silence?

The Illustration industry, according to most of those you ask, is in a pretty bad way at the moment. This seems to be the general consensus and a variety of reasons are being put forward. The most common and perhaps most obvious is what people loosely term the "threat of new technologies". This broad and all encompassing statement needs closer scrutiny, for in it we may find both fact and fiction, villain and for some saviour.
"New Technologies" are affecting virtually everybody in the western world in some way or another. For better or worse the world has changed, and despite political leadership which would have us yearn for times long past, there is no going backwards (for the time being at least).
Our profession falls under the broad cultural umbrella of visual communication. It is communication in all it's forms that has changed so rapidly in recent times it has left some of us doing a double take in disbelief. But we can't afford to ignore the changes nor to misunderstand them. So a dialogue needs to begin between illustrators which will see us trading opinions (insults even) as to what the hell is going on. Are we really being marginalised? Are our rates of pay suffering? Is the pie we all share from shrinking? Should we sell our stuff to stock collections? Are computers to blame? We all have opinions but sharing them with our peers is rare. We need a platform for our voices to be heard.

I'm going to stick my neck out and start the ball rolling. If anybody feels the need to disagree please do so!
I work digitally and have done so since 1994. Before that I freelanced for 10 years with 2 and a half of those in the UK. So I have been living off illustration earnings since 1985. Currently my work comprises a mixture of humorous editorial illustration, digital montage as well as a bit of digital imaging work. The reasons I explain all of make it clear that in fact the arrival of 'new technologies" ( in my case my first Macintosh Computer) has up to this point benefited my career. I also know how hard it is to make good picture on computer, and how easy it is to make bad ones. When I hear people banging on about the negative impact of computers I can see they have a point but I'm not sure whether they even know correctly what it is. I am an illustrator. I use a computer...therefore I am the reason they have no work...I think not!

The problem as I have experienced it can be summed up by the following true story. A while ago was having a discussion with the Senior Designer from a newspaper. (I will not stick my neck out so far as to have my head cut off, so lets call this person Senior). During the conversation I mentioned that I had heard this company had offered an illustrator $400 (Aus) to do a supplement cover. Three years ago they were paying $800 for the same size illustration. The artist did manage to talk the price up to $600, a small victory, but consider for a moment the Australian Journalists Association's recommended rate for such a job is over $1200.
Senior told me that they couldn't justify paying those sorts of rates any more as it was cheaper to produce illustration in house. This could be done by their designers (their illustrators were already overworked) because of "the software" available. In fairness to the Senior Designer, the pressure to do this way coming from above and was virtually unquestionable. At least Senior was still trying to commission freelance artists, albeit at very poor rates. In other words the Graphic Designers could be commanded to use Adobe Photoshop to create space filling digital montages. So management could argue that software was making people like us unnecessary. When I said that the quality of images being published was often quite poor ( with no picture credits either) the response was that cost-cutting was the real issue. So my suggestion that the receptionist with her masterskills in word processing software should be allowed to write editorials could have saved that organisation millions per year!

To me this is exactly where the problem lies. Firstly, bad pictures are acceptable if money is being saved. (But bad writing and spelling mistakes are not tolerated). So it follows that our role has to this newspaper become a non-editorial one. Our conceptualizing skills and opinions are surplus to requirements.

Why is nobody lobbying on our behalf?

The publisher is happy, money is being saved. Sales of the newspaper have not suffered. The graphic designers are happy because they are often frustrated artists who can usually leap at a chance to do something a bit more "creative". So who do we blame...the computer, or ourselves, for standing by and letting it all get so far ahead of us?
Rant over...lets hear some responses!

Simon Bosch
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