Puppetry and illustration might not have the most obvious connections but for Jereme Crow (who is currently undertaking OCA’s Illustration module) and for many other artists the links seem natural ones. They both explore visual narratives, storytelling and characterisation and often with a good deal of humour thrown in. Before Fluck and Law brought the wonderful world of Spitting Image to television they used the same puppets to construct static satirical illustrations while engineer and cartoonist Tim Hunkin blurs the line between construction and narrative with his simulator rides that blend animation with audience participation and drawings that allude to Heath Robinsonesque inventions. Jereme’s relationship with puppetry developed from his practice as a painter but is finding new forms in his illustrations:
Before I embarked on my OCA journey I liked to use props in my paintings. My favourite props are puppets made using wire, wood, papier maché and fabric. I use these puppets as models for my paintings and recently in experimentations with stop take animation.
Whilst on the OCA illustration course I have been very interested in ways of introducing 3 dimensions to my illustrations, hoping to build on my previous puppet making experiences and experiment with new concepts and ideas.
The brief for the Natural History Museum Poster project was to create an illustration that would appeal to younger visitors. I decided to use plasticine because it’s a medium children are familiar with. As with my puppets I used wood to first make a skeletal frame and this allowed my dinosaur to stand unaided.
The brief for the next illustration project was to illustrate the front cover of a children’s book titled Animals from around the world. Again using techniques from my puppet making, I made a papier maché globe which I then painted with acrylic. I found some plastic animals at a car boot sale and stuck them on. I then suspended the globe in front of a black sheet of card using a length of fishing line.
For me, when puppet making, or creating illustrations, using 3D brings life to an image and although it could be done using computer software I think there is a charm in using simple materials, manipulated by hand that we are all familiar with.
It is also strange that it’s a photograph and not the 3D objects that become the final piece, and so I am left with my puppets and models for company when the paintings and photographs are long gone.
As Jereme points out, it’s the photographic process that allows the illustrator to work in 3-dimensions. The photo flattens everything to make it a workable format for magazines and the Internet. This means illustrators can use virtually anything in their practice to visual their ideas and certainly many contemporary illustrators and graphic designer are embracing paper craft, constructions and sculptural forms more readily, for example have a look at the recent book Tactile: High Touch Visuals that documents some of this shift.
The links between illustration and puppetry however are much more connected by a desire to construct narratives than simply to redefine the parameters of the discipline, as Jereme says using 3-D brings images to life and in a way that is far more engaging than allowing a computer to do it for us.