I've been a bit of a Ludite for as long as I can remember, as a result of all sorts of factors, but mostly as a result of my Dad's reaction to the changing book market. He works closely with independent bookshops, and it's always been a bit heartbreaking when he's come home and informed us that another shop's had to close. This has had a pretty strong effect on my general opinion of modern technology, and thus, the prospect of the future of Illustration. However, since starting the degree and realising just how much illustration has changed, how dynamic it has become, I can't help but be optimistic.
I don't work digitally, I prefer to think of Photoshop as an aid, a tool, rather than the starting point for work, as I dislike the idea of relying so much on something which isn't tangible. As the degree's progressed and I've come to better understand how it is that work is created digitally, I've reared away from it even more, particularly with uni briefs, as I sometimes find it can be difficult to immediately connect with a brief, so the idea of starting one off on a computer simply doesn't feel comfortable. I need to feel that bit more in control of what I'm making, able to physically manipulate it, carry it around and consider it in more than one dimension.
This isn't to say I refuse any digital input. In fact I've found, especially when short of time, that Photoshop can make life much easier. For example, the Wellspring brief: I had begun painting the frame for the image and had been experimenting with a few decorative borders; having scanned it in at uni to see how well it translated on screen, I came home only to realise I'd left the original painting in uni and only had a quarter of the frame scanned in on my usb. As the deadline was after that weekend, I decided to attempt to use what I had and create a full frame. Had I not done this it's more than likely that the frame would have been a mess: unsymmetrical and untidy due to rushing. However, I managed to duplicate that one piece to create te frame, and it turned out better than I'd hoped.
The idea of piecing together elements entirely digitally has always struck me as being incredibly dull. Where's the fun of the materials, the potential mistakes, happy accidents and experiments? Despite my own preference to work in an analogue way, there are others who utilise digital work amazingly well, and I still find those, who work well this way, to be very skilled, though admittedly I have that bit more respect for those who work well with analogue materials, as I see digital work limited to the computer it's being created on. A brutal and perhaps ignorant view, but honest; that's just what automatically simmers at the back of my mind when presented with a comparison of digital and analogue work!
Like so many other things, illustration seems to go through phases which see different trends appearing, and lately it would seem there's a preference for the handmade. Greater appreciation is being shown for crafts, artisans and analogue illustration because of the contrast between working on something solid, real, as opposed to something on a screen, and how much more it appeals to the senses, as does the idea of a person who's had to invest time to learning a skill and the patience to master it, rather than have the option of 'command-z' and Youtube tutorials. People are so constantly immersed in a digital world, that relief is being sought after in analogue work.
Nevertheless, all illustrators, whether they work digitally or analogue, face the prospect of illustration becoming obsolete. With a decline in the books being bought as people read less, publishers have to be more picky about what they publish, what will appeal to the masses and sell! Thus, the range of books being published is dictated by an already pretty uninterested public, and so it's cheaper and easier to use photography, as well as presenting book covers which are universally accepted, rather than having an illustration on the front which may not appeal to someone; everyone's a critic.
Then of course, we're constantly being bombarded by new ways, or at least, new screens, to view things on. The competition for survival, as it were, has meant that illustration has had to broaden to encompass a much greater range of products it can be applied to. And while they're still different, the line between craft and illustration is merging, and amongst other creative roles, the illustrator is having to become more malleable in order to match the decline in straightforward book / editorial work.
So many consider the development of digital illustration to be beneficial: more interactive etc, but really?! How? You're not interacting with anything except the machine/computer you're viewing it on. People are forgetting how to use their hands. Children may be able to text as fast as lightning, but give them a pen and they'd have no idea of its value, preferring instead a keyboard. Skills are being forgotten as people immerse themselves in a digital world; digital interaction leaves people forgetting how to make decent conversation. I'm now ranting and off topic. I suppose in some ways it's good that the digital work is creating competition, as it's making people realise how disillusioned they are in the digital world, making tangible skills much more valuable, and as the digital world continues to desensitise, analogue skills will become more and more precious, and hopefully more sought after, providing relief from the digital.