Illustration

Twelve (2): The Observer, 1988: Liz Pyle and Carolyn Gowdy

Qs

Liz Pyle

Liz Pyle

1 By 1988 I had already spent about ten years working in the UK and New York mainly for newspapers, magazines and book publishers.

I arrived in the UK in 1978, having done an illustration degree at Philadelphia College of Art. My illustration teacher there, Al Gold, who also taught the Quay Brothers, thought I should follow in their footsteps and head for The Royal College of Art illustration course. So I took his advice and after a few months of backpacking settled in London and started the course. At the same time, I started doing the rounds with my portfolio to the newspapers and magazines first and then to a smattering of book publishers. I managed to get a couple of jobs a month, which kept me afloat through college. Afterwards, I headed to New York and spent a year freelancing there. Then back to the UK until 1988 when my husband and I headed to New York where I carried on doing editorial features and book covers on both sides of the Atlantic for about six years and then came back again to the UK.

2 I started art school as a sculpture major then switched to illustration because I wanted to do more drawing. I didn’t really fit into the commercial illustration mould and soon found myself at odds with the course. I finished though by winning the Illustration prize in my year somehow by doing something rather unconventional. This side of me was embraced by the Royal College of Art, which in 1978 was busy pushing the boundaries of what was considered illustration. I rode high on the crest of that wave of ‘radical’ illustration until it subsided.

3 This wave was also being supported by an enlightened group of art directors who also were enjoying free reign at their various publishing houses and were able to provide a platform for the illustrators. So naturally, it was a happy union of more ‘radical’ illustrators and art directors.

4 Everything changed with the internet and the availability of stock imagery. It seemed that the pendulum swung towards using photography instead of illustration.

5 I particularly loved doing the book covers for Penguin, Picador, Pandora, etc. Particularly ‘On the Black Hill’ by Bruce Chatwin, the Penguin covers for Camus and Kafka. Also, Longmans asked me to illustrate the ‘Blind Watchmaker’ by Richard Dawkins, I made 13 black and white monoprints for the chapter headings and the cover. New Scientist magazine covers were another particular favourite as they gave me a chance to do science-related themes. Then I moved into children’s’ books, which was the last oasis for illustrators.

[Optional!] I had a whale of a time making pictures for fascinating projects.

Find Liz’s stunning work, and more about her career, here.

 

Carolyn Gowdy

Carolyn Gowdy

1 In 1988, I was in the flow with editorial commissions, feeling inspired, positive about the direction my work was taking, and open to all possibilities to make a difference in the world as an artist. It was exciting to receive these opportunities to do work I enjoyed, to share it out there in the world, and to paid for this. I treated commissions with the same focused commitment and intensity that I did my own personal work. I was also teaching illustration part-time at the BFA level in various art colleges.

2 As an illustration student, I benefited from being given time and space to explore, experiment, and follow my intuition.

3 I completely enjoyed the opportunity that going around with my portfolio gave me to meet and interact with people.

4 Yes, the world of publishing has changed and moved increasingly from the printed page to the computer screen. I think they call it a digital revolution?

5 My favourite commission was an advertising campaign. It was thrilling to see my illustrations displayed as a series of enormous posters across the entire London Underground for at least an entire year. These same images were also featured as full-page advertisements in numerous magazines, Sunday supplements, and on postcards.

[Optional!] My art has been a vocation and a way of life. I don’t draw a line between art and illustration. Work is play and play is work.

For Carolyn, image-making is truly a vocation. If she was unsatisfied by a piece of work, she would re-do it, even if it meant coming back into the magazine office at night and “stealing’ it back! You can see some of her beguiling work here.

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