Emma and her sisters, 1 of 5 of a Series for Squint Magazine, Germany / AD: Anita Mrusek
Mural for Colette Malouf Store in Tokyo / AD: Colette Malouf
Advertorial for Nippon Vogue
Charming Prints for The Wall Street Journal / AD: Ronald Plyman
Campaign Spotlight: Anja Kroencke
Anja Kroencke’s bold, graphic illustrations have appeared in advertisements and editorials for a diverse range of clients including Tiffany & Co, the New York City Opera, Target, the New York Times, Victoria’s Secret, Aeroports de Paris, Johnson & Johnson and Vogue, and they will move off the page to grace M.A.C. cosmetics bags and tote bags this summer. Kroencke has won numerous awards from the Society of Illustrators, The Art Directors Club New York, American Illustration, and Communication Arts, and her work will be featured in a book on fashion illustration planned for release by Taschen later this year.
Born in Vienna, Austria, Kroencke studied textile design and fashion illustration, pursuing a career in graphic design after graduation. She relocated to New York City in 1994 and switched her focus to illustration after garnering quick success. I interviewed Anja for a cover feature that appeared in the September/October 2001 issue of Communication Arts. The striking dark silhouettes that defined her style helped inspire a fresh new direction in fashion illustration. “I think the appeal of this style was that it was actually used more by corporate clients who wanted to adapt a younger and more trendy/modern/stylish look and less for fashion clients,” Kroencke explains.
Then she was drawn back to her design roots, and began to incorporate more pattern and texture into her work. “I don’t think it was as much a conscious decision as it was a personal evolving of my style,” she says. “At this point I had done it for quite a few years and it had become so popular and adapted by other people that I needed to move on. I always loved to draw women so by going back to drawing facial details and my love for pattern and texture I naturally moved over to the beauty and fashion side of illustration.”
Since our last interview, Anja comments, “The world has changed so much in every way.” I know she means not just catastrophic events that have unfolded in Manhattan but change in how she works and how social media has affected/changed every artist’s exposure and way of working and promoting themselves. After working for more than 10 years from her loft in Soho where she lives with her husband and their two daughters, she acquired a studio outside the home two years ago, which she calls her “sanctuary.”
“In my spare time (of which there is not much), I like to read great literature, hang out with friends and mostly spend time with my family,” Kroencke says.
Her willowy women have what my mother called “swan necks.” They are lithe and active and their hair is a design statement itself, some coiffures resembling a modern Marie Antoinette, and others sleek explosions of form and texture. Their movement and sass pop off the page.
Kroencke’s iconic style exudes a chic appeal; her figures look sophisticated and cool as they stride through backdrops that conjure the romantic sense of times passed and yet are always effortlessly modern. Dynamic line and bold shapes combined with splashes of color and texture distinguish Kroencke’s work. It’s no surprise that her background in textile design influences her compositions with their rich and intricate patterns.
She fell in love with New York City on her first visit in 1993. Today, her illustrations still convey the appeal of big city life with its myriad influences, love of fashion and its claim to be at the forefront of style.
To see more of Anja’s work visit www.anjakroencke.com or follow her twitter.com/AnjaKroencke
Q: What motivated you to begin drawing and making art? Were you one of those children who could always be found sketching?
A: Yes, I was definitely one of these kids. I was drawing all the time since I can remember. I grew up in a large, very creative do-it-yourself family so when I started school at the age of five, I thought everyone could draw which then I found out was actually not true. It was and still is my absolute greatest joy to draw and I’m so happy to be able to share this with my daughters.
Q: Who or what were your influences?
A: Growing up in a cultural city like Vienna certainly had a big influence as well as the Scandinavian sense of style that came from my mother who is from Denmark, mixed with the Bulgarian roots on my father’s side. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with the work of the Wiener Werkstäette, Gustav Klimt, and Egon Schiele, Picasso was my hero and I fell in love with the art of the South Pacific after I saw a show. I remember going to museums and exhibitions by myself all the time, which was a great resource and influence for my studies at school.
Q: How did you develop your graphic style?
A: I was always drawn to a more graphic, bold style. I love simplicity, which is actually very difficult to achieve, and developing tension in a drawing or painting through a strong composition and color palette.
Q: How did you evolve your color palette?
A: I always try to find interesting and rather unusual color combinations that can translate the mood of the illustration. My color palette is very much influenced by what is happening at that time in design, architecture and fashion. This is true for colors, shapes and patterns. I remember in the late nineties it was all about midcentury modern, lots of olive green, mustard and blue-grey; currently I’m totally into black line drawings with sometimes only a few colors.
Q: What is your sketchbook process?
A: I prefer to draw on a sketch pad (I’m using a very specific brand) as I like to take out the pages, put them on the floor or on the wall and look at them all at once before I decide which ones to use. When I first start sketching for an idea I actually like to sit in a coffee shop, something I took with me from Vienna where I used to study and read books in coffee houses all the time. I’m very efficient and creative in that environment.
Q: What is your favorite type of assignment?
A: Assignments that give me a certain direction and conceptual idea but then give me the freedom and especially the trust of creating something unique in my style.
Q: What is your process for an editorial illustration?
A: Understanding the story and developing different ideas that translate the contents of the article through imagery and color.
Q: Can you describe your studio environment?
A: I used to work from home for many years and about two years ago I decided it was time to separate work from my living space. I found a beautiful, bright studio in Soho, ten minutes from my house, in a historic building called the Cable Building and I absolutely love it!
Q: What is your own personal style, and how has New York City influenced you, having come from Europe as a young woman?
A: I always had a very strong sense about what I like but coming to New York City with its diversity was pretty amazing and inspiring and still is. I, for sure, love to wear nice yet comfortable clothing, have an obsession for shoes and bags and despite working alone in my studio never go to work in sweatpants.
Seymour Chwast, End Bad Breath, 1967, poster (purchased with funds contributed by Collab: The Group for Modern and Contemporary Design at the Philadelphia Museum of Art).
Barbara Nessim, Star Girl Banded with Blue Wave, 1966, pen and ink and watercolor.
Nayland Blake, Equipment for a Shameful Epic, 1993, 84 x 63 x 32 inches, mixed media, © Nayland Blake, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
Exhibitions of note nationwide.
Double Portrait: Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast, Graphic Designers
Through April 14, 2013
Philadelphia Museum of Art
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
The names Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast are woven into the history of graphic design and illustration in the U.S. Chwast, the venerable pipe-smoking designer illustrator—one of the founding members of the Push Pin Studios—and his wife, Paula Scher, partner in Pentagram New York, have produced enough award-winning design and illustration to fill several museums. This is the first time that their work has been shown together; the exhibition explores both the similarities and the differences in their approaches in a range of work from record albums, books, magazine covers and illustrations, to posters, typefaces, identities, and environmental graphics. More than 300 images, all selected and installed by the artists themselves, show the eclectic influences that both bring to their vibrant work.
Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life
Through May 19th
Victoria & Albert Museum
A career retrospective is a rare thing for London’s esteemed Victoria & Albert Museum to undertake. Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life (in conjunction with a book of the same title published by Taschen in association with the V&A, February 12, 2013) showcases five decades of work by the New York artist, designer and educator. I profiled Barbara’s work in IV 13, and mentioned her book in IV 18. Perhaps the first adopter of digital illustration, Nessim has transitioned through fashion design, illustration, and fine art, all the while creating a meticulous archive of her work, so reflective of the vibrant decades she has spent in New York City, creating art and helping students define their vision. I’m grateful to Barbara for her mentorship over the years, and for allowing me to be a small part of her book. The exhibition includes sketchbooks, prints, drawings, photographs, computer graphics, ceramics, artist’s books and other printed publications, allowing an in-depth look at one woman’s creative life.
NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star
Through May 26, 2013
The New Museum of Contemporary Art
New York City, NY
The first new art museum in NYC built from the ground up—since the Whitney in 1966—showcases art made and exhibited in New York over the course of 1993, a pivotal year in the art world in which many young artists first came to prominence. The exhibition gets its subtitle from an eponymous album recorded that year by New York rock band Sonic Youth. The exhibition is described thusly: “These works will sketch out the complex intersection between art and the world at large that defined the 1990s and continues to shape artistic expression today.” With work from artists as diverse as Kiki Smith, Coco Fusco, Ann Hamilton, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres (plus dozens more including a familiar name from my San Francisco art scene days, Nayland Blake) the show examines a range of expressions and media. The exhibition will span all five gallery floors and will also feature an installation of Nari Ward’s work Amazing Grace in the Museum’s Studio 231 space (through April 21st).
A brief review of notable titles and inspiring monographs.
Mirko Ilic: Fist to Face by Dejan Kršić
320 pages, softcover, $45.00, published by Print, an imprint of F&W Publications
When Milton Glaser writes the preface to a book, and the introduction is by Steven Heller, you may well imagine that the work inside will be exemplary. And it is. Fist to Face documents the career of Mirko Ilić, an iconoclastic designer from the former Yugoslavia, who has produced a wide range of often-controversial work from political illustrations to such disparate clients as Rage Against the Machine and the film You’ve Got Mail. Along the way he rocked the establishment as an art director at the New York Times and Time magazine. His illustrations are often visceral in nature, and always pointed in their humor and their take on the cultural zeitgeist. Back home he could well be called “King Mirko” says Steven Heller. The man is dynamic, acerbic and funny, and immensely talented. He is also a generous mentor who lives and breathes art and design. Whether he is creating a transgender Barbie to illustrate an article on sexual reassignment surgery or painfully illustrating the wages of war in his homeland of Croatia, by showing a fierce dog in a helmet with a piece of meat that is a map, Ilić’s confrontational designs demand your attention. Fans will love this collection that features 500 full-color images in one volume and will learn a great deal about his career, and about international design in Dejan Kršić’s informative and well-written text. If you don’t know Ilić’s work, you should. This book would be required reading if I taught design.
Bob Peak by Thomas Peak
390 pages, hardcover, $79.00, published by Peak Books
Weighing in at several pounds, this large, impressive tome offers a comprehensive look at noted California illustrator Bob Peak through the eyes of his son, Thomas, as well as through remembrances from his friends and colleagues. Bob Peak had a long and storied career; this definitive book on his artistic legacy offers insights and shows that Peak achieved a level of fame that eludes illustrators today. He was a chameleon, changing his illustration style to suit the tenor of the times. He defined the Marlboro Man, among other iconic advertising figures. He drove fast cars, and had a flashy lifestyle (think Mad Men, but for real!) and endless talent. Page after page shows just what an influence Peak had on the advertising world in all its manifestations. From Camelot (the first movie poster to win a Gold award from the Society of Illustrators) and My Fair Lady, to Apocalypse Now (the assignment of a lifetime), Peak defined the film poster. About his artwork for West Side Story Bob Peak said, “My job is to encapsulate a movie in one picture, perhaps provide a collage of elements that will entice people to come in.” A big assignment, but one that Peak succeeded at over and over again.
712 More Things to Draw, by anonymous
336 pages, softcover, $16.95, published by Chronicle Books
Following on the heels of the successful 642 Things to Draw, this guided sketchbook of 712 More Things to Draw can help unlock your creativity. Appealing to all talent levels this book presents drawing prompts from the downright quirky to deceptively simple—dust bunnies anyone? When and if a slump comes, dig this out and grab a pencil. You are sure to draw yourself out of the blahs. This could be useful on a long flight! Or it could make a fun gift with a set of drawing pencils…just saying.
www.theillustrationconference.org — Portland, Oregon has been announced as the host city of ICON8 The Illustration Conference. Mark the dates July 9-12, 2014 in your calendar. “The board of directors of ICON8 are already hard at work crafting a program to match the beauty and adventurous spirit of the Pacific Northwest,” claims the email I received. I can’t wait to see if the board tackles the theme song from “Portlandia”!
www.appo.org/my/isabelle-dervaux— Isabelle Dervaux is a veteran illustrator who has branched out to work with other creative people to help them fine tune group presentations, do self-promotion, and prepare creative slideshows, that she terms “visual biographies”—still image sequences that tell a unique story. Check her site to see examples and read about the services she offers.
www.commarts.com — After many years, CA has rebranded their website and added premium subscriber content. It has been redesigned to incorporate the new CA identity. The new logo and the Greta typeface will appear throughout the site.
www.onceuponasketch.com — Here you will find podcasts, tutorials and much more, all concentrated on offering insight and education about the many facets of the children’s illustration market. The brainchild of children’s market illustrators Normal Grock and Wilson Williams, Jr., the site offers articles, interviews and resources.
www.illozoo.com — This contemporary illustration agency started as an agency to represent some of the best alumni that illustration professor Mohamed Danawi had in his classes at Savannah College of Art. Then it grew to represent both emerging and established illustrators worldwide, and to include a variety of artists from designers, prop makers, filmmakers, etc., on a more global scale. They seem to have a different way of working and their roster is colorful and edgy, presenting fresh and dynamic work. Check them out.
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How illustrators can best work with designers and art directors
Keeping Clients Coming Back
By Maria Piscopo
www.mpiscopo.com and www.eyeist.com
Once you have a chance at a job with a new client or a big job for a current client, there is a tendency to rush through the standard business practices. Don’t do it, especially with new clients. Illustrators often feel if they are “easy” on the client on the first job, the client will decide to stay and give them more work. Not necessarily true; all it does is set you up for an unhealthy relationship. The way to build healthy and profitable relationships with clients and turn jobs into repeat business is to use good business practices dealing with client projects. Here are some client project issues that will come up with your illustration jobs, and some tips on how to deal with them to develop and maintain a strong relationship thus encouraging clients to keep coming back with more work.
This is a very delicate subject in any job with any client. Many illustrators feel if they meet a miraculous and unreasonable deadline, the client will “love them”. Unfortunately, all that will do is ensure the client will always give you jobs with not enough time to get them done properly in the future! Every client has a deadline horror story to tell that makes them wary of giving accurate information on this point. The best bet is to ask the kind of questions designed to help the client feel more comfortable with your ability to meet their deadlines. Instead of asking, "When do you want this job done?" as this is much too subjective a question, ask for more objective and measurable information such as, "When will the website with these illustrations launch?” Look behind the stated deadline. By breaking the delivery into a series of benchmarks on a timeline, both you and your client will feel more in control of the process (and they will feel safer coming back for more).
The Specific Need
Be sure to find out what specific problem this illustration project is supposed to solve. The more accurate a statement from the client of their goals and objective, the better opportunity you have to meet it. Meeting the client’s goal, whether it is for traffic-building website illustrations or a sales-building package illustration, will always give you a better chance that they will come back again.
This is another touchy subject between any client and illustrator. Sometimes, you both are caught in nightmarish scenarios where everyone responsible loves the ideas and then someone with a higher authority shoots it down. Do the most you can to protect yourself and your client: be a team. Find out how many people need to approve the project. Who are they? How do they relate to this project? Where are they? How many electronic file transfers vs. overnight deliveries are involved? Will there be personal consultations with you or will your client make the presentations for you?
Also, be sure to distinguish between subjective and objective approvals. Subjective is someone's opinion and should be given only to the highest level of authority, i.e., is this the color background they had in mind? You could say that subjective approvals represent the aesthetics and are a “matter of taste”. Note how different this is from an objective approval, which is a measurable determination of accuracy—such as the correct number of subjects or the correct size of the product in the illustration. You want to maximize the objective approvals and minimize the subjective approvals to get the job done and make the client happy.
Cathie Bleck of Cathie Bleck Illustration, www.cathiebleck.com, gives five “core values” as keys to repeat business, “Reliability, intelligent solutions, originality, quality assurance, and treating them with respect.” Also, Cathie likes to get to know her clients, “on a personal level, and strive to keep an open and honest dialog between us. Keeping it friendly so to speak allows them the ability to feel that I am approachable on the project or any future projects, even if I don't get the job. I usually try to ask them in the bidding process who I am bidding against and what factors might determine the decision? We may start a dialog from here or another question regarding what I might be able to offer them that might make my service unique to the project.”
Finally, your skill in handling conflicts with clients will determine whether your relationship will prosper or end. It is important to know that conflict is not bad. In fact, it is natural and inevitable and you cannot avoid it. What matters is how you choose to manage the conflicts that will arise, and maintain a relationship characterized by integrity, and open communication to achieve the “win-win” that keeps clients loyal.
Cathie Bleck suggests,“I have very few conflicts with clients, but when I do I try to be direct without being negative. Pointing a finger at the problem and not them will hopefully preserve the relationship for the future. Putting the agreement in writing from the beginning of the project serves to alleviate most communication problems.”
Today's competitive marketplace justifies a closer look at how illustrators look at their relationships with clients. On the client's side, the same market factors dictate a new importance and evaluation of their relationships with their illustrators. The more you learn and study the relationship between the creative and the client, the better chance you have of getting the job, and then turning that job into a client and a long-term relationship!
Maria Piscopo is a creative services consultant, an art/photo rep and marketing workshop instructor specializing in effective and creative marketing strategies delivered in her business and self-promotion classes, keynotes, seminars and workshops for associations, schools and photo industry conferences. She is currently an instructor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and a reviewer for www.eyeist.com
Yan Nascimbene, interior illustration from Italo Calvino’s novel, The Baron in the Trees (Il Barone Rampante).
Cathie Bleck was commissioned by the United States Postal Service to illustrate a Forever stamped postcard. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the postcard, using an illustration of a white-tailed deer by the Ohio-based artist. This deer is the most common of its species in the U.S., and due to its popularity as clothing on the early frontier, their skins, known as “buckskins” were used as a form of currency. I did not know that is where the term “buck” came into the language as slang for a dollar bill!
The Deer Stamped postcard is being issued as a Forever® stamped card. Its postage will always be equal to the value of the First-Class Mail postcard rate in effect at the time of use, even if the rate increases after purchase. The design was released March 8th.
R.I.P. Yan Nascimbene
After the untimely death of French-Italian illustrator Yan Nascimbene in early February, my Facebook account blew up with posts from illustrators remembering the beloved children’s book illustrator. He was only 63 years old. A graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts, Nascimbene illustrated more than 50 books, 300 book covers and too many editorial pieces to count for publications like The New Yorker, Time, Scientific American, Newsweek, and many more. His illustrations for Italian novelist Italo Calvino’s works were a dream job and resulted in dozens of luminous and evocative illustrations. In 2011 the Venice Biennale, as part of Italy’s national unity anniversary, selected Nascimbene’s work for the “Italy in the World” exhibition, at the Italia Pavilion. He will be missed.
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