Young and Restless
In this issue we’re focussing on the next generation of illustrators and ponder what might be in store for them. It can be mildly depressing picking up an annual from no less than five years ago and wonder where these illustrators are today, even more disconcerting is looking back twenty years when those stars have long ago faded. Illustration is a tough business, what’s in today is out tomorrow. While wonderful art never really goes out of style, the fashions of illustration means a constant ebb and flow in the industry. In our ten years spent looking at illustration we’ve come to realize that the average life expectancy of an illustrator is no more than ten years. There’s the beginning trying to establish a career, the career itself where you see their work everywhere, they’re in every show and then the gradual decline of commissions that happens near that tenth year. Some careers are a lot shorter and a few are longer but it’s hard to name a working illustrator in their fifties let alone someone in their golden years. In fact I can only think of two off the top of my head. The converse is true in other creative fields i.e. painting, music, writing, graphic design even advertising—David Ogilvy was 88. In fact we seem to celebrate their age and can’t imagine how growing older changes how we feel about them and their work. There’s Jasper Johns still kicking in his eighties, Joan Didion, Philip Glass, Leonard Cohen, David McCullough—all pushing eighty and yet still popular. And successful. Let us define success as meaning that they’re still making a living doing what they truly love to do. But for the most part illustrators are peaking in their mid-40s and then disappearing. Naturally our wish is that all illustrators lead long productive careers, that they continue to be seen by the public at large and that they enjoy the prosperity their talents deserve. Making it after only one year out of school is incomprehensible, still in the business after ten years, rare. During this summer’s Nuts & Bolts Conference we visited one illustrator’s studio who told the audience when asked about the secret of his continued success, he answered, “I’m trying to stay relevant.” A simple truth. Finding a new way to express yourself, a new medium or exploring area in the creative environment, pushing your talents beyond where they are today are all keys to longevity in any field but are even more important for illustrators. The respect illustrators held during the Golden Age is difficult to replicate but that’s why we feel it is our mission to promote the very best in our field with the hope that these stars will shine forever.