Tuesday, 26 June 2018

New Illustration Direction

Over the last few months I have made the decision to concentrate wholly upon illustration once more, and to this end  I have conducted much research and worked to develop a new body of work. Every illustrator knows that a portfolio of 10- 12 pieces of a coherent  'Style' is necessary, before marketing your wares. I began by searching myself for the approach that would fit within my own doctrines, and creative bias. Figurative artwork has always been a major part of my practice, and although I have occasionally deviated into semi and total abstraction at times, I have generally maintained a figurative approach. My research offered a number of alternatives for the direction of my new work. In the end I have chosen to revisit a traditional approach reverting back to a naturalistic, semi realist style. I recently read that due to major trends and fashions within the illustration industry, such as the proliferation of computer aided manipulation techniques, that prospective clients within the industry are finding it difficult to find practitioners that can actually draw the human figure. As I have mentioned I  have spent the majority of my career perfecting figurative drawing and painting. I have also noticed that the middle ground between full blown realism and a painterly naturalism that may make apparent an artists true style, is also rare. The majority of illustrators figurative work is clearly stylised to a point of unnatural representation.I have also produced work of this type while searching for a definitive style. I feel a lack of a definitive style has been a major problem for myself as if I have been looking too hard. A close look at any illustration agents artists portfolios indicates that all artists have a distinct style that they remain faithful to. During my last MA Illustration, I succumbed to completely producing digital work, although this has been a necessary step in my development of technical abilities, I now realise the wholly digital approach has no future for my work.

During the last few months I have produced 3 new works that serve to illustrate how I may pursue my practice. The work is born out of many years of practice and development, I feel that my true style is somewhere represented in this work. During my MA I developed ideas concerning  the juxtaposition of form and differing elements. Cartoon iconography  the manipulation of scale and exaggerated colouration has been a great influence, along with Simplified forms and parred down effects. My new work as representationalism has a traditional feel with a modern twist. I have combined abstracted elements, minimal line, and convoluted creative mannerisms  to create a new approach, that I am happy with.Although there is still much room for development. The work is produced in oil with some acrylic, along with fast drying mediums to speed up the oils use. The work is quite large, over 4' square. They take up to 3 weeks to produce, however in actual hourly time more akin to 10 days on average. If they were an actual illustration commision this time could be substantially reduced. (depending upon the complexity and size of the original work) I prefer to work this way but it also serves to loosen up  outcomes, also producing the overall painterly aesthetic I am aiming for. Large work has the advantage of having a far better reproduction quality when in print. I recently rediscovered the illustrator Jim Kay, the main illustrator of the Harry Potter publications, who paints large works for the effect of clear detailed reproductions. Jims approach to illustration has been a marker for the type of imagery I wished for my own work, not for the subject matter, but the naturalistic type of approach, ie, figurative, semi realist, and painterly. Below are the three new works that illustrate a start to my new body of work. As  self initiated work,  I have not relied upon an author's text as inspiration and guidance.  The subject matter of each work is a reflection of my sensibilities/opinions, and expression. I enjoy metaphor as a vehicle for explanation, I also enjoy ambiguity, however just enough for the viewer to spend the time reading the work. Changing  contexts is also of great interest and I enjoy utilising motifs and iconography of differing historical times including visions of the future. The work illustrates universal knowledge, for example the work entitled A Conscience, is a direct illustration of mans inhumanity to man. (history) the work entitled Cleansing, is a reflection/illustration of the Morals that may need to be reviewed.  the vanquishing of perceived universal sins, and the work entitled Seven, is an illustration concerning luck, and life chances.  The pictorial elements also serve to illustrate the subjects  of a style that can be achieved, and that I am happy to cover, although a true reflection of this will only become apparent after a full portfolio of work is accomplished.

A Conscience

The Cleansing

Lucky seven

My new works style is intended for adult fiction publications. I mention this because when I have achieved 8-12 pieces of work for my portfolio, I will reappraise my website incorporating both adult and childrens books illustration.  I believe at the present time that  the current approach to my work offers potential for development for the upper age groups of children/young teenage age groups.Obviously the subject matter requires a review, and the overall style, necessitates continual research and progressive development. Below are a few drawings that combined with the type of work above may be the answer for my progression. I may even produce finished drawings and tint them with watercolour and/or acrylic rather than opaque painting over the top. Where as before when I was painting digitally with a pen and tablet and colouring the work by digital means, alternatively I may after coloring by hand in the traditional way, finish off with some digital touches. I am as yet undecided. I will definitely reduce the size of my work and produce a lot of drawings, instead (as in the new work above) of painting as a drawing directly on to the canvas.  I love drawing there is nothing like approaching a new blank sheet of paper armed with a pencil and conjuring something up out of nothing. It would be great to be able to complete commissions/briefs for childrens story books.  The children's book illustration industry is a hard nut to crack as far as making it is concerned, I am not getting any younger, and I feel like this may be my last ditched  attempt to make my living from art. Here's hoping!

Two Boys

                                                                      The Listener

Farmer and wife

Sunday, 14 January 2018


Here I am sitting and waiting for the gesso to dry, before starting a new painting. I thought I would share my ideas on the development of a painter. Most artists throughout history have shown a marked development in their work over their lifetime. I single out Picasso here as an example of the clear transitions he made in the development of his art. It is well documented that he started his painting career as a small boy, and by the time he was a teenager could draw like Raphael, in other words he was outstanding in his technical ability to be able to dry realistic representations like a great master twice his age. I read Picasso's biographies when I was a boy and realised then that I had to be able to draw realistically other wise people would not take me seriously. I believe this is a prerequisite for any  potential painter. It follows too that a certain technical accomplishment with  painted material  is also suggested to enable an awareness of the rudiments of paint and how best painting  skills can be utilised to fulfill future work. You have to learn to walk before you can run. As a young man I copied old master works, to gain valuable experience and accomplish technical skills, important to my development as a painter.  Below are two works I copied  by Caravaggio and Alan Ramsey with added elements of my own, some elements for advertising.:

Fruit basket (after Caravaggio) with added elements. Oil on panel 1998

Scotch Whiskey 1998 ( after Alan Ramsey ) with added elements

Picasso didn't  arrive at the painting below overnight, A number of periods of style change occurred throughout his development as an artist. These changes happened generally when influenced by other painters and movements of art to which he belonged or had known that where popular at particular periods of history. Picasso began painting in a realist manner later developing his own style. Within a 30 year time frame he went through certain  periods such as  his blue and rose periods: Here is a link to concise biography: https://www.widewalls.ch/artist/pablo-picasso/

                                                         Pablo Picasso – Algerian women (Delacroix) (detail), 1955

If there is a plan to a painters development, then it is realised through a determination to accomplish a goal, as Picasso puts it, "Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. there is no other route to success" Not all artists travel through to an end goal of course , some remain in the realist genre choosing to perfect to the highest degree technical wizardry. They stay in this position all their lives. Picasso has taught us that there is a whole lot more to painting than this. The present day where developments in technology and the world wide web has placed artists in a depth of knowledge that we cannot ignore,  like never before we have major influences of artistic development at our fingertips, everything from abstraction to conceptualism. There is an obvious history in the 20th century of conceptualism and abstraction that I haven't mentioned here. Suffice it to say that this blog is specifically about painting. Although I recognise that their are other methods that artists use to express themselves, I have at this moment in time no wish to pursue conceptual ideas as I believe there is so much more to say in painting, however, this may change in the future. my development has included a period of realist figurative work, and a slow but meaningful transition into a more deconstructed and abstracted means of expression, which I believe can be demonstrated through my website here: http://www.johnhoganartist.com

I am nearing my 49th birthday (this month) I have had major difficulties and obstructions in life in my goal to achieving a new and distinct style. My work has slowly developed and been deconstructed to such a degree that it is unrecognisable now to where I was initially at the start of my career. Within each period I realised there was so much more that I could and should of attained within each paradigm, and on occasion I side step back to a place where I once again test my hand. however, time waits for no man and there is so much to do. Of course I am only young, and hopefully lots of time under my belt still to accomplish my goals. At the present time my work is based upon my wish to realise a new way of representing the world, I remain a figurative painter, however the figures in my work are now deconstructed to such a degree that my work boarders on abstraction. I have experimented with pure abstraction, and in the future it may come to a more fruitful goal. below are 3 paintings from the last 3 months illustrating my steady progress and development, progress that is built upon a base of technical accomplishment and growth.

                                                   Tramp. 2017 Oil and acrylic on panel

W10. 2017 Oil and acrylic

9N7PZ1 2017/18 Oil and acrylic

 I aim to push my current aesthetic further. I want to embed my work in a new futurist ideology. One that places the work in a new context other than the world we inhabit. There is no need for titles any longer, as I wish to impart a new meaning to the work, the numbers and letters are both an indication of the time, place and sentiment, a short hand, a reflection of the ever more influential aspects of modern living, namely technological, and  scientific, development. I am aiming to produce work of this time, that fits into this time, along with a look to the future, I do not wish to merely illustrate  science fiction, rather I wish to envelop the iconography, ideology and aesthetic of living in the 20th century. An expression of our time.