Saturday, January 10, 2009

Illustration West 47



January 1, 2009.

I'm doing whatever I do on a New Year's day -- watching football, watching news, watching snow not fall, or perhaps other equally interesting activities -- when my left front Levis pocket begins to vibrate, sometime around noonish. No troubles...just my Palm Treo letting me know of an incoming email.

It's New Year's, for Pete's sake, let the email be, one could argue.

One may be right, but, as we all know, deadlines don't wait for the holidays.

But, this particular email was not job-related. It was a notification that two of my works had been accepted to the Illustration West 47 juried annual and exhibition.

Illustration West is a product of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, and one of the 4 shows to which I submit work every year in hopes of acceptance. American Illustration, Communication Arts, and the New York Society of Illustrators are the other 3 shows. Of course, there are many other annuals out there, but I try to limit the bleeding to these four.

There are varied arguments to the merits of entering such annuals.

Some don't do it because it's not a good investment of their time and energy, and their industry reputation is well-established.

Others do, because, if accepted, it can be a valuable means of advertisement -- being nestled amongst some of the highest quality work of the year, as judged by a panel of industry peers.

Being accepted to the (major) shows can also be viewed as a means of validation -- that one's art is relevant in 2009 and that a body of respected figures in our field deems one's work worthy to pass a certain standard of excellence.

Some of my earliest experiences in discovering illustrators came from perusing the annuals in the cozy little reading room in the Design building on the campus of Iowa State University. Gary Kelly, Brad Holland, Mark English, and Guy Billout lit up the pages and captivated my attention to their problem-solving skills and technical wizardry.

So, for me, the annuals hold particular value, and their entry fees remain part of my yearly budget.

Knock on wood, I've had some nice luck with the IW shows, and I'm very appreciative for having these two pieces selected for this year's annual.

All work will be displayed on-line at, and exhibited at Gallery Nucleus in March.

If you'd like to read about them, you may check out my addiction monkey here, and Voyeurism here.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Maestro said...

Much thanks on your tip on the paper you use. I went out and bought some sheets along with some Winsdor vine charcoal. It worked well on a portrait I just finished. I really appreciate your help.

Allan Burch said...

Maestro --

You're welcome.

I like the extra-soft WN vine charcoal, myself.

maestro said...

I just finished a Heath Ledger portrait that was good; however I was not satisfied with my rendition of his suit and tie. Can you give me some tips on how you did Gore's and the lady's above his picture. Did you use some charcoal dust or are those done by strokes and blending. I can't seem to get it.

Allan Burch said...

Maestro --

Both Gore and the woman above him were done without charcoal dust.

As you may or may not be able to see in that in-progress shot of the woman, I start with a "underdrawing" with vine charcoal, comprised of loose strokes (unblended, as shown in the first in-progress photo), then blended in the second in-progress photo.

On top of that, I'll reinforce the darks with a second layer of vine charcoal and/or a compressed charcoal pencil.

I start loose and tighten up as it progresses.

Be sure you draw what you see, and pay attention to value patterns and the abstract shapes created by light and shadow, rather than focussing on drawing a tie or a jacket or an object.

It's tough to give more than general advice without seeing your illustration. So hopefully, I was of some assistance.

maestro said...

Unfortunately, The suit coat in the picture of Ledger is one solid black.
What is the best thing to do in that case?

Allan Burch said...

Maestro --

Feel free to email that picture so I can see what you are seeing.

Basically, you need to consider what you want to do, compositionally, with your value patterns, as well as what your goals are for your illustration. ie -- a realistic depiction, a painterly snapshot, a stylized rendering...etc, then treat your reference accordingly.

If you are trying to do a detailed, realistic rendering, and your reference isn't giving you the information you need, then you may want to consider shooting supplemental reference or finding additional sources.

If you are trying to do an impressionistic illustration, then the suit can become an undetailed shape that serves your composition, like Gore's suit and tie did for me.

With Gore, I just scumbled strokes that gave the impression of a dark suit jacket. Then, I paid more attention to the marks that were made, and reinforced the cool patterns that were created by the unexpected things that happened between the charcoal and paper.

With the woman, the light on her shoulder and button is very simple...just enough to give the viewer an idea.

jacklyn laryea said...

ooo love this first one with the monkeys. your use of color { i saw over and over } is just brilliant!

jacker said...
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