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Spring 2009

Volume 03

Editor : Anne Telford


Portrait of Kostja Gatnik.

Illustrations from 1998.

Jack Rabbit
Cartoon for use as book promotion.

Illustration from a forthcoming children's book.

Campaign Spotlight: Kostja Gatnik
Slovene Illustrator Produces Career Retrospective.

Award-winning freelance illustrator and painter Kostja Gatnik had a major retrospective of his work at the prestigious National Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in February. He and his wife Kamila Volčanšek, also an artist, reside in a splendid apartment in a centuries-old building in Ljubljana’s center, surrounded by their art. Kaj Sem Videl/What I Have Seen 1968—2008, covered 40 years of Kostja’s prolific career and was published as a monograph.

Gatnik is one of the central figures in Slovene graphic design and illustration. “Surprisingly,” wrote one critic, “the same artist produced the logo for Hermes Softlab, the poster for the Bank of Ljubljana, the Magna Purga comic book, and illustrated a fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen. Rare artists are able to muster that kind of breadth that requires a tremendous variability of expressive means.” Kostja’s art is full of humor and insight; he is interested in everything related to the visual arts, including photography, which he has also embraced.

Gatnik was born in Ljubljana in 1945. Between 1964 and 1969 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana and went on to postgraduate study in painting. He has illustrated and designed over 80 books, created a large number of posters and record covers, published a collection of comic strips, designed puppets and theatre costumes, among other creative endeavors. He is also the designer of the Order of Freedom of the Republic of Slovenia and has staged 20 independent exhibitions and a number of group exhibitions at home and abroad. He has been awarded for his work in painting, comic strip, illustration and graphic design.

Q: How did you become an illustrator?
A: In elementary school my textbooks were full of illustrations. Then I started to draw my own comics. I just wanted to give Indians a chance to win sometimes. Later cartoons and comics helped me financially to get through my study years. The children’s picture books followed. A new one will be published this fall.

Q: How is illustration perceived in Slovenia?
A: The situation was never really good for illustrations here in Slovenia, with the exception of children’s books of course. Now is getting even worse. Fewer and fewer original books are being published, the editorial illustration is almost nonexistent and for marketing purposes photography comes first. Hard times all over. For me the best years were the ‘90s. Also there is no concern about quality these days. The first question is always: “How much will it cost?”

Q: Are comics popular in Slovenia? Can you explain a bit about your comic Magna Purga?
A: For such a small market as Slovenia there are quite a lot of so-called alternative comics. I really don't follow the scene any more. Most of my comics were created in the early ‘70s. They were critical and sensitive to everything that was going on. I was signing them with a pseudonym Magna Purga, which was the name of a laxative from before the First World War.

Q: You are great at creating characters; where do you get your inspiration?
A: This is easy. I just keep my eyes open wherever I am.

Q: You are so versatile, is there one style or medium you prefer?
A: My favorite is still pencil on paper, but I work mostly with Mac, Wacom tablet and Photoshop. In my last few books I combined scanned pencil drawings and watercolor washes with some computer stuff.

To see more of Kostja’s work, visit

Illustration by Shepard Fairey.

Illustration by Antonio Lopez.

"Pessimistically Optimistic" from "Nice School" by Martha Rich.

What's Hanging
Exhibitions of note nationwide.

Officially Unofficial—Inspired Art For Obama Exhibition
Opening April 1, through May 15
Chicago Tourism Center, 72 E. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL
(across from the Chicago Cultural Center)
Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission.
An exhibition of prints, posters, photographs, and videos that emerged in 2008 as icons of the art movement in support of Barack Obama for President, curated by Chicago designer Scott Thomas, former Design Director of the Obama Campaign; Chicago artist Ray Noland; and Nathan Mason, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. The exhibition will include official campaign materials as well as independent work by artists and designers from Chicago and across the country, including Ray Noland’s “GoTellMama!” poster series and Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster. (A complete list of artists in the exhibition will be announced in late March.)

The Line of Fashion
April 1–May 2
The Museum of American Illustration at The Society of Illustrators
128 East 83rd Street, New York City, NY
With this exhibition, the Society of Illustrators, in association with The Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation, pays tribute to Kenneth Paul Block, René Bouché, Antonio, Eric, Joe Eula, JC Leyendecker, Mel Odom, George Stavrinos, Michael Vollbracht, and many other great fashion artists.

Martha Rich, “Nice School” and Robert Pasternak, “Doors of Perception”
April 3–26
La Luz de Jesus Gallery, 4633 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
Martha Rich explores niceness in her third show at La Luz de Jesus. Playing on personal insecurities and showing her usual flair for humor and cultural analysis, this show is sure to delight. Visionary Canadian artist Robert Pasternak examines different states of consciousness in his first U.S. exhibition.

Jeff Koons

365: AIGA Year in Design 29

Good Books
A brief review of notable titles and inspiring monographs.

Jeff Koons, edited by Hans Werner Holzwarth, with text by Ingrid Sischy, Eckhard Schneider and Katy Siegel, published by Taschen (April 2009), $70. A 592 page (hardcover) exploration of Koons's entire oeuvre to date. Love him or hate him, the art world bad boy has had his fifteen minutes and more.

365: AIGA Year in Design 29 by AIGA, published by Chronicle Books ( (soon to be released), $40. Each year the American Institute of Graphic Design celebrates the best design work of the previous year, through two highly regarded competitions. The “AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers” reviews the best-designed books and book covers.

Good Surfing
A few hot breaks to check out while surfing the net. — Even if you can’t attend the 14th Y Design Conference on March 26-28, check out the San Diego chapter’s website. You’ll find lots of information on about this year’s event, as well as the last six conferences. The Y is one of the best design conferences around; speakers are at the top of their game, and the size really makes it possible to network. – OK, you may be wondering why I’m touting design conferences. Well, some of the smartest and best illustrators I know attend them to find out what their potential clients are thinking about and working on. The HOW conference is a great event that focuses on design business, but the principles can be applied to any business. And besides, this year it’s in Austin, June 24–27. — ICOGRADA, the International Council of Graphic Design Associations, is the world body for professional communication design. Check out their calendar for calls for entries to international poster competitions and more. — Cool resource on the history of 20th century magazine design, with documentation drawn from materials in the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Industry Advice

Despite the gloom-and-doom financial headlines, there are signs that illustrators are thriving. My in-box is full of messages about book projects, exhibitions, gallery shows and interesting and engaging projects, from colleagues around the world. There are endless niche markets to pursue, including beauty, fashion, cosmetics and entertainment industries (music, TV, film, amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, etc.) and in-house corporate and business-to-business companies that do annual reports, catalogs, in-house advertising, internal publications, packaging, etc. Other areas are Pharmaceutical/Biotech, Insurance, Retail, Food/Beverage, Utilities, Industry, Railroads, Household and Personal Products, Tourism and Travel, Non-profit/Foundations, Unions, etc.

Most important is to know who is hiring and what they are looking for. Want to know what art buyers are saying about illustration? Read on for some sage advice. I contacted my old friend, creative services consultant Maria Piscopo (, and asked her opinion.

What present trends and themes are driving the use of illustration?

Maria Piscopo: The constant need of buyers for something new and fresh is always present in advertising, so an illustrator’s unique style or technique is more valuable than ever. There certainly is the “greening” of our society and culture and that is a theme that evokes lots of potential imagery. Size does matter. Clients need images smaller for websites and other new technology uses. Look at “album covers” and the space an artist had when they were actually vinyl albums, then they were downsized to a jewel case and now—tiny jpegs displayed on an iPhone screen. I think these kinds of changes are forces for better illustration solutions if the artists can think ahead and solve problems like this as (or before) they arise. One of the best things illustrators can do is look outside our own industry to technology magazines to spot these coming themes and trends.

Do you see illustration being used in different ways today than in the past?

Maria Piscopo: Yes, I see hybrid styles and techniques clients are calling for, such as illustration/design, illustration/fine art and illustration/animation. There seems to be more blurring of the line between the still and moving image. Clients that previously needed one or two illustrations for a one-page ad are now looking for dozens of images for website advertising use. Images that move help the client tell the story of their product or service. Also, illustration seems to be reaching beyond the borders of the usual clients of editorial, corporate, and advertising. If an artist is willing to take the time and do the research, illustration is used today in the multimillion dollar licensing industry for merchandising of office products, bath products, kitchen décor, apparel, textiles, and décor and novelty products. I am writing an article right now on the market for graphic novels and it is fascinating! Seems to me there are more diverse markets for illustration today than ever before.

Illustration by Mark Burkhardt
Directory of Illustration 26 brochure cover; Society of Illustrators' Gold Award


Kudos to Austin, Texas-based illustrator Mark Burckhardt, who received the Society of Illustrators' Gold Award for the piece he did for the cover of the DI26 brochure. I’ll buy you a margarita at Guero’s next time I’m in Austin, bro.

If you have received an award or other professional accolade that you’d like to share, please email me at and let me know (and please include an image).

Medical Illustration Source Book Directory of Illustration PLAY! Illustration and Design
for Toys & Interactive Games

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