Monday, July 6, 2009

Zwerger two

Illustration by Lisbeth Zwerger from ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

Illustration is manipulation, (evil bwa-ha-ha laugh here). The artist seeks to control what the viewer sees and what they sense, what is important and what is background. What and how they feel. The tools the artist has for this are numerous.

One of the greatest challenges an illustrator has is taking an inherently busy subject and controlling the chaos so that the piece powerfully communicates the essence of the story to the viewer.

A field of poppies could result in a nearly unreadable cacophony as an illustration. A riot of pointless color at the very least, overwhelming the eye.

Besides, red poppies are cheerful, this scene needs to be frightening. So what’s an illustrator to do?

Selections must be made! Choices! Manipulation! Power wielded!! (Another evil laugh here.) An illustrator must see themselves as Master of the content, not a slave of it.

Lizbeth Zwerger has done that here with extraordinary skill.

An eerie greyish green background suggests an endless field without the literal busyness that would overwhelm the viewers eyes, while simultaneously being complimentary to and enhancing the purer red of the poppies. She suggests the field without being controlled by it.

The vertical stalks and eliminating the plant’s leaves simplify things, resulting in an appealing graphic design while the starkness somehow infers a tension, a stillness, a moment of frozen time.

That the poppies are oversized emphasizes the lost, helpless feeling of the characters, they are small, alone, isolated.

Zwerger here is a storyteller, not just a decorator of a page in a book.

This is illustration at it’s best.


Kjersten said...

I've been checking out every Wizard of Oz edition I can find this summer. Hers is one of my favorites. I love what you've said about the poppy illustration. Thanks.

Paul Schmid said...

Hi Kjersten!
I wonder what your favorite illustrated version will be, there are so many!

Rod McKie said...

Nice piece, Paul.

Really like that Lisbeth Zwerger illo.