Recently a friend surprised me with a terrific gift: the Society of Illustrators Annuals from 1975 and '77. I've been pouring through them, discovering many treasures in both word and picture. The piece I've transcribed below called "Point of View," written by Bob Heindel for Illustrators 18 (the 1977 edition), was particularly thought provoking, so I'd like to share it with you today. Upon reflection, it begs the question: in the last (nearly) 40 years since Heindel wrote these words, has anything about the illustration business really changed at all? ~ Leif
It would seem this business of making pictures has remained fairly constant over the years. Styles manage only to repeat themselves. Because, no matter how hard we try to avoid it, and regardless of the word we attach to ism - whether it be surreal or impression - for the illustrator it always comes down to real.
Whatever changes have occurred are merely reflections of society in general. A little more sex and violence; a lot less mom and apple pie. As documented in this Annual, we are in the business of showing the world what it's about. We all like to believe we are marching to a different drum, when, in point of fact, we just stumble differently.
The real bright spot in our business appears to be in viewpoint. Whether we like it or not, we are more and more called upon to have one. This would seem to represent a kind of freedom that was much less visible before the photographic onslaught of a decade ago.
As exciting as this freedom might be, it is hotly pursued by a creature called responsibility - in part to one's client, but mostly to one's self.
This condition has had a rather interesting side effect. We appear much less to be the stepchild of "fine art," while, at the same time, the "fine artist" has become the consummate "commercial artist." The merits and shortcomings of this I'll leave to more learned souls than myself to debate.
If one had listened to, and believed, all the dialogue about this business 10 or 15 years ago, we would not exist today. I'm sure that the concerns were real then, and they continue to be. We certainly have an ample supply of problems, and not so many easy solutions.
However, I would guess that so long as the world needs a mirror, we'll have a market.
No matter, the business of making pictures is generally a pleasure - always frustrating to a degree, and sometimes wonderfully rewarding. When viewed against the background of problems that face mankind, what we do is so relatively meaningless that we might as well try to be extraordinary.
~ Bob Heindel