In the midst of a lazy summer, nothing creates dread in the heart of a student so quickly as the beginning of the back-to-school TV commercial season. The cruel display of three-ring binders and backpacks blossoming in an array of colors is a sure sign that summer is nearing its end. I saw a few of these dreaded commercials last night, but for the first time, I had a different response. Now several years removed from my school days, I felt a little tinge of nostalgia and even excitement about the prospect of new year full of new things to learn. To capture a piece of that excitement, I’ve decided to post a book report. So, class, today I’ll be presenting my book report on The New Illustration.
The New Illustration is a 159-page companion to the 1982 exhibit of the Society of Illustrators, based in New York. This collection of illustration captures much of the aesthetic that would become popular in the late 80s and early 90s.
It’s fun to flip page by page and see recurring design motifs: shiny chrome, splatter paint, experiments in depth and collage, sharp triangular human figures. Equally fun is identifying the influence of art deco, alternative comic books, Bauhaus, Matisse, Picasso, and Warhol, among others. The New Illustration has given me much inspiration in my own 80s-inspired designs. Jim Heimann’s work (right) is one great source of inspiration for me and is happily featured repeatedly in this book.
The introductory text by editor Jill Bossert is short but insightful. Having been born in and thus lacking memory of the 80s, I found it interesting to read about the cultural factors that led up to this style.
“As these illustrators have gone through the grab bag of artistic influences they have rejected the accompanying philosophies. […] In fact, if there is a coherent philosophic overview, it is the unidealistic and very American world of the mass consumer. The iconization of “the product” by artists like Warhol, Lichtenstein, Hamilton and Rosenquist set the trend in illustration today. After the post-World War II ideals got dragged through the mud in Cambodia and our skies filled with acid rain, the notion of the American Dream could only be viewed as ironic. The advertising images that sold the Dream are incorporated in the New Illustration as elemental parts of an ironic whole.”
(Sorry, hipsters: ironic art is so 1983.)
The New Illustration is a bit hard to find, but I do recommend it if you’re looking to be inspired by the unique art of this era. I picked up my copy at a local used book shop, but The New Illustration can also be found on Amazon at reasonable prices (less than a dollar!) as well.
And that concludes today’s book report, children. On a related note, I’m trying to gather a list of retro art tutorials from around the web. If you have any favorites, please let me know! I’ll try to post some gems soon.