Just an illustration

Peppers 1207 WP

Peppers (2012 ink and watercolour 30cms x 40cms)

In the latest issue of Artists and Illustrators magazine, a contestant on the recent BBC TV Big Painting Challenge – a reality show featuring amateur artists – claims that she found the criticism of the two professional judges, Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd, unnecessarily harsh and even rude at times, and was called ‘an illustrator’ by one of them.

I know that some fine artists think illustrators are mere hacks but it seems to me a rather spurious distinction, especially when some artists of unquestionable reputation, David Hockney perhaps, are able to slip between the two without any sense of having to dumb down for their illustrative work. Furthermore, if some evil demon could wipe out an entire artist’s work overnight would we miss Tracey Emin more than Maurice Sendak, or Jeff Koons more than George Herriman (below)? Personally I’d prefer one frame of a Krazy Kat comic over Koons’ entire oeuvre but I know there are others who would see Herriman as a ‘mere’ cartoonist while a Koons vacuum cleaner in a Perspex case is a profound artistic statement.*

It seems a little like the argument about whether all classical music is somehow more accomplished than all popular music. In the end it’s just sound, just as art and illustration are both marks on a surface.

So is the picture above an illustration for a cookery book or a meditation on the graphic quality of red and green chilli peppers? Ultimately, does it matter?

* They’d be wrong, by the way…

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