Taking to the Streets

On a cold November Saturday afternoon I took my sketchbook, ink and brushes and decided to find myself an event to make some illustrative reportage on. This came about, following a very engaging tutorial with Thom Cuschieri  who suggested I consider reportage as an option.

So before I set out I did a little research on a few of the big names, beginning with one of my favourites Olivier Kugler. Who began his reportage career while studying illustration at the SVA, spending his time location sketching around New York city. In an interview with Andrew Humphries for Visual Arts Journal said:

‘as he drew he found himself eavesdropping on conversations around him. “I didn’t do it consciously,” he says, “but when I heard something interesting I would just scribble it on my drawing.” His instructors and fellow students thought the quotes, and his other written observations, a novel touch, and it was clear to Kugler that the words added a narrative element that set his work apart.’

His technique is to work around a scene creating several points of interest and making notes on, it seems, the most innocuous objects, but all together they add interest and dept to the report. It feels like you are moving through the scene with him as he takes his visual notes. Olivier Kugler makes no apologies for making reference photographs

‘Sketching, he says, is inefficient when he has such limited time on the ground. Instead, he takes hundreds of photographs. Each evening, he reviews the day’s work and plots scenes in a notebook, sketching rough compositions and page layouts. Only when he is back in his East London studio does he begin making line drawings based on his photographs.’ 

I have a tendency to disagree with the first part of the statement, I think at least a few rough sketches are important for line sensitivity and to get a feel for the moment but certainly reference photographs are a very necessary part of the process too.  Of course I have a lot to learn in this field and may find also that ‘sketching is inefficient’.

Fig.1 Syrian refugees I met while in Kos ‘Escaping Wars and Waves’ for Harpers Magazine (2016) – Olivier Kugler (image: olivierkugler.com)

Jenny Soep is a very interesting illustrator for me. She draws live music gigs and interviews at festivals – ‘Drawing the Experience’. She makes very rushed busy images or even just makes marks to visually record what sounds she experiences in the moment. She has no fear in making bold marks across her work if that is what the moment brings. Jenny Soep records ‘on paper or iPad, from the length of a poem to an entire concert’ 

Fig.2 Jenny Soep, Drawing the Experience (Facebook.com/JennySoep 2006)

Fig.2 Drawing the experience – Jenny Soep (Facebook.com/JennySoep 2012)

I checked out what events were on, I was drawn to a protest march which was planned to gather at 4pm on Hermannplatz, it also happened to be a very hot topic for the moment.

Fig.3 #MeToo March, Hermannplatz, Berlin – Ann Kiernan (2017)

It was bitterly cold, I found a doorway out of the wind and began sketching in my book in pencil first then pen. I took many photos of things I was sketching so I could work back into then when I got back to my studio. This was a great exercise in quick sketching in ink but also quite different to be an observer making a story.  I regret I wasn’t brave enough to approach people for questions but one step at a time. This now is my challenge to marry my experiments in sound with images I make on the spot.


Drawing from Reality: Olivier Kugler’s Journalistic Illustration – Andrew Humphries (Nov 4 2016) – Visual Arts Journal http://www.sva.edu/features/drawing-from-reality-olivier-kuglers-journalistic-illustration

Illustration Forum 2014 – Witness – Reportage and Documentary https://medium.com/@JulesPowis/illustration-forum-2014-witness-reportage-documentary-8936ea0fd0d9



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