in the light of illustration

By Carolina Arán

Light and color, one of the most powerful binomials in the field of illustration. Our brain recognizes shape, volume and texture through light; thanks to it the perspective, contours or location in the plane of the drawn object become credible. In the metaphysical aspect, the representation of lights and shadows opens us up to infinite emotions and concepts, to different moments in time, to vibrate in the plane of the possible world or of the fantastic reality. Light invites us to interpret the two dimensional image as a living space. Its use is key for us to abandon the idea of looking at a work to start experiencing it.

Master in this art is Rebecca Dautremer, French illustrator of recognized work in the publishing world. In their production, light and color are marked by a photographic approach and the influences of classical painting, features that she reflects unmistakably in her textures, depths and blackness. She works mainly with layers of gouache, through which she obtains magical and poetic images, detailed and evocative, of a dream beauty, not free of a certain melancholy, that reaches children and adults.

Continuing with authors whose handling of light entails that of poetic evocation is inevitable to name Dave McKean, British illustrator and designer. The exquisite light in his work reflects dramatization, surrealism, spirituality. With a combination of traditional and digital techniques transforms comic into a sensory and extrasensory experience, almost mystical. His illustration immerses us in dream states or nightmares through soft and expressive textures and an intense light, diffuse and difficult to forget.

Sharing evocative lights we find the French Benjamin Lacombe, illustrator and painter of works based on a refined caricature, with a style inspired by Romanticism, which he develops through different techniques. Light and darkness in Lacombe are enchantment and delicacy, beauty and poetry, with an aesthetic in which past and present merge with nostalgia and symbolism.

Some illustrators make the use of light the engine of a time machine; the illumination in their images brings us back to other moments and times. This is the case of Pascal Campion, a leading French-American illustrator and animator. In his work we taste delicious retro thanks to his mastery of light and color. Its synthetic digital drawings nevertheless contain a warmth and an emotion that convince us to be the protagonists of their everyday scenes. Perspective, harmonies of flat colors and blurred strokes are illuminated by the magic of the moment, masterfully captured by this illustrator.

Evoking also past times through flat colors develops his work the Italian Emiliano Ponzi, illustrator whose work proposes a conceptual language, simple and direct, almost geometric, in which the use of light achieves calm and sunny atmospheres that transport us to other decades. Light, color, composition and texture define Ponzi as an illustration that uses essential elements to accelerate our journey through time.

Similar in this point is the work of Brian Edward Miller, American illustrator and graphic designer. His atmospheres refer us to the 70’s through light and texture. Combining digital and traditional techniques, Miller works in black and white to implant the brightness of the image, before introducing the back color into his fantastic and historical scenes.

In current illustration we find artists whose work jumps from the two dimensional to the sensory thanks also to an extraordinary use of light. Works that suggest that, if we put our fingers close, we can caress the represented object. In this group it is worth mentioning the work of C.J. Hendry, an Australian autodidact artist who has developed a particular hyperrealistic technique. For his large format drawings of objects, Hendry previously takes hundreds of photographs to capture each angle, dimension, shadow and shine with admirable precision.

Just as shocking and apparently tangible is the work of Jorge Dos Diablos, Mexican illustrator, painter and designer. Starting from a much darker perspective, his work contains a light that crosses the textures of horror; we feel that we can almost touch the grotesque skin of his deformed creatures. His play of bright and unusual colors illuminates the faces that live in the inner darkness.

The passion for the tool of light is also shared by creators who explore with it the cosmic and the abyssal. Among them the Argentine illustrator and painter Peca, creator of oniric and cosmic images, who uses a magical and almost spiritual light in her disturbing scenes, fantastic and introspective. In her work the stars shine in the darkness of the subconscious and the mythological creatures twinkle with neon colors.

Under the same Milky Way we find the work of Tara McPherson, American painter and illustrator who makes light the eternal coprotagonist of her feminine scenes. Inspired by the abysmal bioluminescence, she draws and paints from her inner and cosmic world with a pale palette of green, blue and pale iridescent roses.

Enlightenment plays with us, manipulates our perception of time and space at will. It dyes of mysterious fluoride the emotions where it passes and evidences the darkness of the corners that does not move. It reinvents itself and flows through days and nights, causing personal and universal sensations. Its vehicle can take us through time through heavenly places, bathed in golden and comforting beams of light, and through dark grounds, in the light of the deepest darkness. The tool of light is a master key, magical and infallible, that the illustration has to open the doors of the visual experience. The illustrators who dominate the light are magicians and masters in the art of embodying the imprint of a moment that perhaps never existed, but that we wish to inhabit again and again.