Thursday, November 5, 2009

Half-Baked Layout with Less than Half an Illustration

I've posted pretty frequently about some of my favorite illustrators, like the Pioneer Press's Kirk Lyttle (here, here, here and here and, oh yeah, here) and the Star Tribune's L.K. Hanson (here and here). Maybe I write about them too much?

But when I see an indifferent illustration like the one that took up most of Monday's Variety front in the Star Tribune, my love of good illustrators makes a lot more sense:

Newspaper section front with large illustration of a woman with a cookie for a skirt and hat
The story is from the New York Times, and the art is by Charles Bloom of the Kansas City Star, via MCT, a newspaper-based stock art service. And it is one lame, lifeless piece of art.

I usually like flat-color art, but this is flat in a boring way. Its composition is static, and the faceless woman with the pointy extremities is just odd without any endearing details. Even the hues are boring -- her skin tone is so similar to the color of her hat-cookie and tube top it might almost as well be the same (except then she wouldn't be wearing a shirt, which would be a different kind of problem).

Newspaper section front with illustration of three women on a fashion runway, one much larger than the other twoI started to wonder who Charles Bloom is, and whether his work is generally weak or if perhaps this piece wasn't representative of his body of work. (He wouldn't be the first bad illustrator employed by a daily newspaper, afterall.) On his personal website, I found out Bloom is no longer at the Star, and while I wouldn't add him to my list of great illustrators, he's much better than the cookie woman illo would lead me to believe.

Finally, digging around in the murkiness of his site's Flash interface, I found the original layout where the cookie woman was used, and it began to make sense. She was actually a background part of a larger illustration, so the lack of detail is more acceptable. The figure in the foreground, while still faceless and pointy, has a lot more visual interest, and the composition is much more dynamic.

The problem started when someone cut up the image to focus on this single background figure, and I can only assume that decision was made at the Star Tribune. So not only did they not bother to do an original piece for the story, they managed to make a decent illustrator look bad in the process.

Way to go, features department. The best I can say is, at least you made the deadline.


tone_monster said...

tone_monster said...
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Daughter Number Three said...

Thanks, Tone Monster. Those are indeed some good looking illustrations. Makes me all the madder about how the Strib hacked up Charles' work.