“Bar’s work has been described as “deceptively simple”, featuring flat colours, minimal detail and negative space to create images that often carry double meanings that are not immediately apparent.”
Noma Bar is an Israel born graphic designer and illustrator who’s work has gained numerous recognitions and awards in recent years. His provocative, stark works are extremely conceptual while utilizing the most simplistic forms. He has truly refined the conceptual image, and is known for his flawless rendering of the “visual innuendo.”
Bar boasts a heavy publication list, including, but not limited to the likes of:
“Time Out London, BBC, Random House, The Observer, The Economist and Wallpaper*. Bar has illustrated over one hundred magazine covers, published over 550 illustrations and released three books of his work: Guess Who – The Many Faces of Noma Bar in 2008, Negative Space in 2009 and Bittersweet 2017, a 680 page 5 volume monograph produced in a Limited Edition of 1000 published by Thames & Hudson.”
Noma’s career is currently based in London, but began in his childhood. He would make caricatures of his teachers at school, and although crude, showed his potential from an early age. He also credits his creative influence to his neighbour, who would create life-sized sculptures out of extra farm machinery parts. He says that this laid the groundwork of his artistic visions, saying that it showed him that ‘you could take something and make it into something radically different, just by composition. That is the basis of all my work now.’
During the 1990 Gulf War, while seeking refuge in a bomb shelter in Israel, he noticed the striking resemblance that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s face had to a radioactivity symbol, and he created the first portrait that would later exemplify his symbolic style. He would go on to create similar images of Hitler, as well as icons of the times.
He would study calligraphy, graphic design, and Hebrew typography at the Jerusalem Academy of Art where he would refine his graphic style. He would meet his wife and fellow graphic designer Dana Bar. Upon graduating in 2000, Bar would move to London to pursue his career, with his first major publication afterwards being a full page of William Shakespeare for the popular publication Time Out London. The couple is currently settled in Highgate, where they work doing freelance and contract labels, and live with their two daughters Mia and Lili. Bar has produced multiple books collecting his works in recent years, the most popular being “Guess Who? The Many Faces of Noma Bar,” and “Negative Space,” both acting as a purchase-able portfolio of his extensive works.
In summary, Noma Bar is a unique illustrator of the day. There are not many who can compare to the sheer intellect and wit that is able to be conveyed by such minimal shape and line. As a budding designer and illustrator, I can easily say how admirable his work is. It’s always easier to include more, to overcomplicate your pieces and to justify them via the image. Bar’s work sits on a level of sophistication that makes this a non-issue. He’s able to convey recognizable and high-level concepts while providing the smallest amount of information possible, something that I think all illustrators should strive for sometimes. He really redefines what the word “graphic” (giving a vivid picture with explicit detail) means. Unlike others, Bar trusts the audience to fill in the missing pieces on their own. The work stands on it’s own, and that’s hard to come across.
“In his artist statement, Drescher writes: “Since an early age I’ve been an image scavenger, my mind has always been alert to image debris, keeping ideas and images in books, which then spill into my painting and illustration. In my image making I try to register the idea of ‘everything at once,’ a sort of Sears & Roebuck mail-order catalog filled with an inventory of all that has ever existed in the course of organic history and human memory…scars, tattoos, cracks, memories, impressions, flashbacks, and forgotten instructions.”
Self describing his works as “everything at once,” Dreschers work is loud loud and visually abrasive in the best way possible. He incorporates so much texture into his work that viewing it is almost a tangible experience. If it was possible to use a physical sensation to describe an artwork, Drescher’s peices would be itchy.Although an illustrator, he manages to blur the line between fine art and classic illustration, bringing personal metaphor into every work he creates.
His children’s books are for the most part, more comfortable, although his titles are anything but. (See below, McFig and McFly, a Tale of Jealousy, Revenge, and Death). Through using a calm colour palette and a decisively more friendly line, he changes his jarring style into one that is more viscerally settling.
Otherwise, his work is similar to that of a mushroom trip. Don’t worry, I’m not basing this off of a personal experience but rather the work of Bryan Lewis Saunders, a fine artist who has become famous for creating a body of work that can certainly relate to Drescher’s aesthetic. Lewis has created upwards of 8500 self portraits under the influence of different drugs (I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even know there was more than 8000 drugs). The piece I’m specifically referring to, seen below, has that same itchy and tangible quality. Both Saunders and Drescher’s work has the same effect on me. I’m not sure if it’s the searing stares of Bryan’s self portraits, or the way I can practically feel the beard hair of Saunders 2-cap taking portrait that reminds me of Drescher’s unsettling, almost auditory line work.
The rest of Saunders work can be found here: http://bryanlewissaunders.org/drugs/
Although his pieces vary greatly, they bare a striking resemblance to Dresher’s illustrations, mostly in the way that they both induce that tangible physical response. Some of them are plain terrifying, and they’re certainly an anti-drug PSA if I’ve ever seen one, but they’re worth checking out.
Back to Drescher: his signature noisy style began in notebooks, taking form in rough sketches he created while travelling. Originally born in Copenhagen, Drescher immigrated to the United States when he was 12, and would attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on a full ride scholarship. In the years after his education, he took his career on the road and travelled throughout North and Central America and Europe. His sketchbooks are the root of all of his portfolio work, he claims, filled with ideas, images, and icons from his travels. He still creates extensive sketchbooks today, and claims that the majority of his ideas come from them. Drescher takes inspiration from these for client work and for his personal fine art career.
Publishing his first book in 1982, he would go on to create more than 50 books in his career. The titles range from children’s books, fine art collections, notebooks, kamasutra’s, and others. Drescher is currently working as a freelance illustrator for major publications in North America. Nowadays, he credits the work of Chinese landscape painters as the main inspiration for is work, a result of 10 years living there. He has been recognized by the United States Library of Congress, showing his work in an entirely solo exhibition.
Overall, Drescher brings a completely fresh perspective to what it means to be an illustrator. His work stands out from his contemporaries in a way that in my mind is rivalled only by 8000+ drugs. His work defies category, but still resonates with the viewer. Although they do admittedly make me physically uncomfortable–if I haven’t mentioned that enough in this post–they bring comfort in other arenas. His pieces harbour and indescribable sense of nostalgia and familiarity. Maybe it’s the fact that his illustrations have so much going on that doesn’t make sense that make everything else in the world of similar diagnosis feel better. Or maybe I’m reading into it way too much, but the more work of his I discover the more I appreciate its business and jumble of textures.
The word “extraordinary” didn’t mean much to me until I discovered the world of illustration. Unlike photos, or even abstract fine art, illustration was able to take the mundane and make it just that, more. More than ordinary, but in a way that was believable and somehow more than real.
I’ve often found that while searching through the lists of illustrators for these blogs that there is one who stands out among the rest. While perusing this particular collection of names, however, there was nobody that jumped out to me. There was Braldt Bralds who has one of the most interesting names of all time and happens to paint only cats, which was interesting enough, but then I stumbled upon Francis Livingston.
Livingston’s work didn’t immediately catch my eye. The first images that come up after searching his name are city landscapes and beautifully lit buildings. Sure, they’re well done, and somebody else could easily write five hundred words talking about his quality of light and faithful devotion to intricate colour studies. But I wasn’t about to spend my time on just buildings when there were so many more attention grabbing artists out there.
But then I found this picture.
I was in awe, and immediately enthralled with the work of this man that I knew quite literally nothing about. He could be a murderer, for all I knew, but I didn’t care. This was one of my most favourite pieces I’ve ever seen, and it will be for a long time. Something about the quiet grandeur of the scene, the humbleness of the paint strokes and the nonchalant nature of the whale that peacefully swims above the unassuming crowd. This illustration makes me want to be there, to live in the world that Livingston has so deftly crafted.
And yes, obviously his quality of light and immaculate handling of colour and brushstroke quality is incredible. We can’t really talk about his work without recognizing his ability as the rest of the artistic world has. His biography on medicinemangallery.com touches the edges of his reputation, stating:
“Born in Cortez, Colorado, Francis Livingston is in the top ranks of American illustrators, and his work has been widely published. Francis Livingston’s paintings have been exhibited in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Livingston was awarded both Gold and Silver Medals from the New York Society of Illustrators, San Francisco Society of Illustrators, and Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.”
Livingston credits his inspiration to the likes of Sargent and Whistler, and studied Diebenkorn alongside the more modern Wayne Thiebaud. Looking at his more traditional illustrative works, this makes perfect sense. We can see that his landscapes strike a jarring resemblance to Whistler (as shown below), but add a twist of the “Bay Area flare” that Livingston was surrounded by during his formative years as an artist.
After a 10 year teaching career in San Francisco at the Academy of Art College, Livingston and his family relocated to Idaho. Much like James Elliot Bama Livingston completely switched genres and client bases. His earlier career had consisted of painting the San Francisco Board Walk for years, but now focuses on the stretching plains of the mid-west (see “Winter Landscape,” above).
However, his newest work consists of ones similar to the original “Light Stream” that caught my eye. Livingston continues to combine natural elements with 20th century architecture and mundane scenes to create striking, jealousy-inducing images. He creates a whole other universe within his paintings, which now tend to fall under the category of fine art instead of illustrations. Livingston brings to life the classic “Night at the Museum” concept in a lively, mature, more believable way. Additionally, he does so with the intent of making it seem situationally realistic. It’s this factor that makes these works of Livingston’s resonate so intensely with me. It appears as if you’ve just hung around Penn Station too long and you’ve just caught a glimpse of some of the largest creatures on earth commuting home from work.
That being said, I think this quality will give Livingston’s work lasting importance. Perhaps not in the eye of critics, or even in the world of professional illustration. These are the type of images that children see that make them want to become illustrators–much like the drawings that I credit my ambition to–that leave lasting impressions and stay in their mind forever. Dreamlike images (in my experience) tend to be far more impressionable than landscapes or portraits, no matter how great the lighting or colour palette is. I guess what I’m trying to say, in my oh-so-round-about way, is that Livingston’s works deserve value and permanence because of how inspirational and extraordinary they are. They made me feel like I did when I first discovered art and illustration, sitting on the carpeted floor of my childhood bedroom, putting together puzzles of a golden fairy queen, realizing that I wanted to create things like that. Personally, it’s works like these that deserve recognition and lasting praise over landscapes and immaculately done portraits.
Originally born in Switzerland, and now residing in Connecticut, Delessert creates work that could be summed up in one word: unnerving. Upon visiting his website, one of the first sentences written in to his biography states the following.
“For more than thirty years this self-taught artist has been translating his-and the world’s-ideas, passions, fantasies and nightmares into the visual language of books, magazine illustrations, posters, animated films, paintings and sculptures. He reaches both children and adults with his imaginary creatures and landscapes, juxtaposing the familiar with the fantastic to clarify this world and create new and lasting universes”
Ok. Reading this the fist time, I thought to myself, “Yeah. Yeah! That seems like a normal artists statement.” And then I reread it, and reread it again, because something didn’t sit right with me. Later I realized that it was the use of the word “nightmares” in such close proximity to the phrase “reaches both children and adults.” I let this sit for a moment while I clicked my way over to the gallery portion of his self-titled website. And then I understood.
Although Delessert’s most identifying pieces are geared towards children, there is an undeniable uncomfortable quality to every single one of them. Sometimes it’s as simple as the unnatural colours of his characters eyes, or their strange, elongated features. It’s hard to put it into developed, educated words, but let me try and explain to you how these pieces make me feel.
It’s almost like these scenes all occur in the opening scenes of CSI Miami, or even worse, Law and Order. There’s always the sense that you’re watching something that you’re not supposed to; or that you’re doing something immoral by observing the scenes Delessert creates. That aside, though, these creepy illustrations have appeared in over 80 books, translated in over 14 languages, and have sold millions of copies world wide. So I’m seemingly alone in the whole crime show sentiment, and the public and professional world is enamoured with his work.
So much so, that his website states: “Twice he was honored by the Premio Grafico of the Bologna World Children’s Book Fair. His illustrations have appeared in leading magazines and newspapers such as The Atlantic Monthly, Le Monde and The New York Times. His animated films include the adventures of the endearing Yok-Yok and creations for Sesame Street.”
His illustrative work’s reputation surpass the threshold of expectation. Delessert boasts a one man retrospective housed by the Louvre, as well as a separate travelling collection that now lives in the Library of Congress in Washington DC. His autobiography, titled “The Blue Bear”, was published by Slatkine Editions in 2015. Perhaps the most remarkable fact of his career is that Etienne is self taught. Still working as an illustrator, his process changed from an entirely traditional approach to a combination of tactile mediums and digital methods. His primary goal of his career, he states, is “to create stories that make children ask questions.” And whether the viewer is a child or adult, there is no denial that Delessert’s work does exactly that, and will for the rest of his promising career. That being said, his work is creepy as hell. Just saying.
Ben Shahn is most well known for his fine art, illustrative and literary works. He was born in Lithuania to parents Joshua and Gittel, but his family was exiled when he was four for revolutionary activities of his father. Continuing his families ideals of speaking out against political injustices, Shahn’s work took on this very characteristic and would for the rest of his career.
He would study at the National Academy of Design, where his main interests would lie in lithography, graphic design, and egg tempera painting. During his travels Shan studied European masters but afterwards shifted his efforts toward a realist style that served as a vessel for his social/political commentary. This came to light in the form of a 23 piece series detailing the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian-American anarchists. Two Italian men had been convicted for murder and were sentenced to execution by electric chair after only a couple hours of deliberation. Afterwards, the case was deemed unconstitutional due to instances of racial-prejudices, refusal of retrial and disregard for political civic liberties.
Shan’s work was heavily influenced by current events as often as it was by the people he surrounded himself with. Walter Evans, Shan’s temporary roommate, worked alongside Dorothea Lange to document the Great depression in rural america under the Farm Services Administration. Evan’s influence can be seen in Shahn’s unflinching confrontation of the human figure, and his acknowledgment of flawed facial features. The same could be said for Mexican painter Diego Rivera. with the depiction of the human form and facial expressions, as well as the politically charged images that appeared in both Shahn and Riveras works. Shahn would assist Rivera with his Rockefeller mural, and would go on to apply Riveras methods to numerous federal mural commissions.
Following the Great Depression, Shahn worked for the Office of War Information. The OWI hired him to create anti-war pieces, but the companies idea of the sentiment differed greatly from Shahns. His pieces lacked the essential nationalistic views that the company advertised, and as a result the OWI would only publish two of his posters. . Afterwards Shahn changed directions and worked with large scale “general” publication companies, including CBS, Time, Fortune, Harpers, and others. Going forward, Shan set high bars for himself. Post OWI, he only accepted commissions that aligned with his moral values.
After the 1940’s, Shahn changed styles from what he called “Social Realism” to “Personal Realism,” which has been described as “a universal expression through the devices of symbolism and allegory, the stylized line, and the colorful palette…he could evoke worlds with a single pen stroke or color overlay.”
In summary, Shahn’s reputation lives on in that he was a powerful political activist who prioritized citizen voice. This is unquestionably displayed in his works surrounding Jewish identity, citizen voice, war protests, and civil political liberties. He inspires countless generations of artists who came after him, his unique style and combination of colour and line gaining a timeless reputation.
“His depiction of sultry, sensual femininity, with a bewildering palette of pearlescent hues, created a powerful image in fifties America – and one of impeccable morality. His quality of light was unique – the highlights burning with adjacent areas of pink and lilac. The reflected light he loved so much seemed to come from beneath, and scattered around the face giving an almost unearthly glow.”
What do you get when you combine pin ups, Monet, and science fiction lighting? Edwin Giorgi. If that equation doesn’t quite seem to add up, the proof is in the pudding; Giorgi was one of the few artists who were able to seemingly combine genres and pull it off effortlessly. At the same time, he appealed to the mass audience by creating works with exciting colour palettes and pop-culture centric images.
For the most part he was self taught, and started his career in advertising and fine art. He possessed a degree from Princeton and left with the full fledged intention to become a writer, but his love of fiction and story telling led him down an alternate path of illustration. Starting out as a copywriter in an agency, he was told the cruel but essential phrase “You would be better as an artist.” Rough, yes, but this pushed him in the right direction.
What made Giorgi stand out so much from his contemporaries was his dramatic depiction of light, colour, and feminine sensuality. Much like Russel Patterson, Giorgi created women who were powerful and sensual, strong in their emotions and structured as a crucial character within the scene. Paired with his expert illustration of light and colour, the figures worked with it to communicate a precise feeling and mood within the illustration. He does so marvellously, as the figures could easily be overtaken by the aggressive brushstrokes and unapologetic use of colour.
His career consisted of illustrations, personal commissions, advertising, and works that accompanied entertainment mediums as well. His work was extremely well received among the public, and his career was long and prosperous.