Kristjana S Williams is an Icelandic artist who creates incredibly detailed and fantastical worlds. In Columbian Jungle 2016 (2015) Williams juxtaposes black and white with bright colours to make the piece visually engaging and intriguing. Your eyes are drawn to the colourful birds in the centre, but as you look closer, the tree in the middle guides your eyes up and around the image to meet many interesting creatures. The result is a playful and busy composition that can leave you desperate to enter her exotic worlds of flora and fauna.
Bruce McLean is a notable artist in the contemporary British illustrative scene. His prints are bold yet simple, with figures and forms constructed of confident lines and a limited colour palette. His style and choice of subject is both unique and intriguing, as can be seen in works such as Qweesh not Quiche (2016).
An illustration can be defined as a decoration, interpretation or visual explanation. It is a hugely versatile art form which blurs the distinction between drawing and fine art, with contemporary artists drawing influence from multiple sources, such as graffiti, fashion, computer games and animation.
The first examples of the recording of events through imagery can be dated back to cave paintings. Throughout ancient civilisations we can also witness a desire to record through illustrative decoration. In Ancient Greece, for example, ceremonies, sporting events and mythological tales were often drawn or incised onto vessels or used to decorate walls and mosaics.
In the 14th century, the invention of the mechanical printing process by Johannes Gutenberg meant that publications could be mass-produced and distributed. With the start of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s, technological advances meant that printing became more rapid and illustrations became more commonplace.
It was in the 1800s that the profession of illustration really took off. The first wave of artists, such as Jessie Willcox or Frank E. Schoonover, demonstrated that it was a viable profession and attracted many more to illustration. It became popular to use illustrations commercially, in advertising but also for entertainment purposes, with Walt Disney establishing himself in the field with the first animated sound cartoon Steamboat Willie released in 1928.