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‘The Illustrator as Public Intellectual’


5-7 November 2015


This event was organised by Dr. Susan Doyle,  Rob Brinkerhoff, (RISD) and Dr. Jaleen Grove (Illustration Research)

Selected papers are currently being edited for Volume 4 issue 1 of the Journal of Illustration by Dr Jaleen Grove and James Walker for publication in 2017


Rick Poynor, who gave a keynote address, writes about the event for the online journal Printmag

A blog wirite up of the event by RISD alumnus Jamie Hogan can be found here





Illustrators and all who study their work have long understood the importance of pictures to communicate ideas and shape opinion, and to possibly provoke the viewer in unpredictable ways. What should illustrators say in the public sphere? What forces limit the illustrator’s expression of thought? What are the key issues and debates around the communication of ideas through illustration?

Organized and hosted by the Illustration Research Network and RISD Illustration, the 6th annual International Illustration Research Symposium invites proposals for papers, panels, round tables, and visual presentations on the theme of the illustrator as not only conveyor of established intellectual thought in the public sphere, but also as a vital, potent voice in public discourse and the author of content through independent provocation, seduction and persuasion.

The Illustrator as Public Intellectual questions the common misconceptions that the illustrator’s mind and hand are wholly guided by editors, art directors, and clients; and that their work is subordinate to the texts they illustrate. This symposium proposes that illustrators are empowered as originators and purveyors of unique thought.

The visual languages of the illustrator not only translate content, they transform it, indelibly inscribing ideas with force and conviction at the intersection of visual and verbal thinking. And yet, public exposition is dogged by inevitable challenges, including balancing profundity and accessibility, intention and misinterpretation. Papers may embrace or reject the concept of the public intellectual, while addressing relationships between communicative intention and audience reception.

The definition of illustration is open to wide interpretation by participants, but as a general guideline illustration may be provisionally defined as fabricated images primarily created to elucidate and communicate an idea, narrative, mood, information, and/or opinion through publication. Studies on the illustration of any era or place are welcome.

300-word proposals for 20-minute academic papers and practice-based presentations are invited, and may address the following questions, or others that the presenter feels are warranted:

Studio Practices
• How do different forms, techniques, and materials affect attitudes, feelings, ideas and the legitimacy of messages?
• How is “thought” manifested in an illustration—how do creative and visual thinking processes comprise unique forms of cognition?
• What is the relationship between the canon of intellectual thought and illustrators’ methodologies?
• In what ways does an image embody a philosophy?
• What emerging technologies might further or hamper the intellectual reach of illustration?

Public Sphere
• How do ethics and social responsibility impinge upon illustrators?
• If an audience misinterprets an illustrator’s intentions, is the audience’s reading valid?
• What happens when the interests of the intended audience are at odds with the interests of a wider audience?
• What is the impact of technologies of dissemination, old and new, on audiences, creators, and messages?

Creative and Intellectual Communities
• When, where, and how do illustrators participate in important political, social, and intellectual debates?
• What is the intellectual community of illustrators and what challenges do they face, particularly in educating illustration students?
• Can intellectual partnerships between illustrator, designer, author, and/or publisher exist?
• What is the appropriate balance between an illustrator’s personal satisfaction and the client’s wishes, and what is at stake when a clash occurs?
• What are future directions for the field of practice as a forum for public intellectual discourse?

Visiting Professor in Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art London


D. B. Dowd     Washington University in St. Louis

Seymour Chwast   Alliance Graphique Internationale, Co-Founder Push Pin Studio

Nora Krug     Parsons School of Design

Anita Kunz     Anita Kunz Ltd


Thursday, November 5, 2015

6:00 - 7:30pm

Reception and Opening of Conference Exhibition

Little Pieces, Big Ideas              ISB Gallery


Friday, November 6, 2015                CHACE AUDITORIUM

9:30 - 10:30am

Welcome and Introduction


10:30am - 12:00pm

PANEL:Challenging Professional Identities and Roles


New Yorker Cartoons and Invention

Mary Catharine Johnsen     Carnegie Mellon University

Inside the Outsiders: Intellectual Creativity and Social Concerns

Gary Powell     University of Brighton

“Clinging to the Masthead:" Illustrator/Author John McDermott's Intellectual Look in the Professional Mirror

Roger Reed     Illustration House, Inc. NY

Illustration: Towards an Understanding of Expertise in Practice

David Blaiklock     University of South Australia



1:30 - 2:30pm

PANEL:Visual Satirist as Public Intellectual


Picturing the Perils of Finance Capitalism: German Illustrators and the 1873 Crash

Marsha Morton     Pratt Institute

Thomas Nast’s “Appropriations”: Agency and the Mechanically-Produced Image in Nineteenth-Century America

Stephanie Delamaire     Winterthur Museum

Illustrating The Vacuum

Duncan Ross     Ulster University



3:00 - 4:00pm

PRESENTATION & ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: Cartooning & Illustration as Modes of Authorship: Cousins, Siblings or Twins?


D. B. Dowd     Washington University in St. Louis

Seymour Chwast   Alliance Graphique Internationale, Co-Founder Push Pin Studio

Nora Krug     Parsons School of Design

Anita Kunz     Anita Kunz Ltd



4:10 - 5:10pm

Multi-Option Presentations (select one)


Chris Glynn and Richard Parry: ‘In And Out Of The Margins: Affirming The Illustrator As Philosopher and Boundary Catalyst in the Public Realm’

Library Special Collections

RISD Museum

Edna Lawrence Nature Lab

5:10 - 6:10pm

Reception in Chace Center Lobby

6:15 - 7:15pm

Keynote: Rick Poynor

Saturday, November 7, 2015                                      CHACE AUDITORIUM

Note: Panels run concurrently in Chace Auditorium and ISB Gallery, see below.


9:30 - 10:45am

PANEL:Image Reference and Authorship


Metapictures: Signposts to an Illustrated Public Space

Stuart Medley     Edith Cowan University

The Impact of Data Collection Technology on the Sophistication of Visual Thinking

Lisa French     New England School of Art & Design; Suffolk University

Evidence and Illumination

Catrin Morgan     Falmouth University

The Forgetful Act: Erasure and Forgetfulness in Illustrative Reportage

James Walker     University for the Creative Arts

11:00am - 12:45pm

PANEL: Illustrators Usurping Writers


Shifting Authorship - Defining the illustrator’s Role in Illustrated Adult Fiction

Franziska Walther  Illustrator, Weimar & Hamburg, Germany   

Subverting Authority in Illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy

Matthew Collins     Harvard University

Illustration as Theory: Finnegan’s Wake and the Illustration of Ideas

Stephen Crowe   Illustrator, Seattle



2:00 - 3:15pm

PANEL:Practitioners in Collaboration With Clients & Audiences


Urban Dissection

Nayana Gupta     Srishti Institute Of Art

Scientific Illustration as a Specific Kind of Research

Kathrin Amelung     Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

The Art of Conservation

Chloe Bulpin     Creature Conserve

You Look Like The Right Type

Mark Smith     The City College of New York


3:30 - 5:30pm



Confidence, Conviction & Depth: Emboldening Illustration Students

Luise Vormittag     Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London

The Power of Forms: Abstraction and Imagination, Representationalism and Power

Dushan Milic     The Ontario College of Art and Design

Stereotypes and Paradigms: Revolutionizing Archetypes in Illustration

Robert Brinkerhoff     Rhode Island School of Design

5:45 - 6:15pm

Closing remarks in Chace Auditorium

6:30 - 7:30pm

RISD LIBRARY Closing Reception

Saturday, November 7, 2015 (cont.)                                       ISB GALLERY

Note: Panels run concurrently in ISB Gallery and Chace Auditorium; see above

9:30 - 10:45am

PANEL:Public Intellectuals of the Past


Beyond Pure Illustration: An Analysis of Reza Abbasi’s Works

Mina Rouhanian     Illustrator, Designer; Tehran, Iran

Illustrating the Empire: The Making of a Modern Technocratic Intellectual in 19th Century China

Kaijun Chen     Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

The Illustrator as Biographer / The Illustrator as Archivist: The Dalziel Family, 1839-1893

Bethan Stevens     University of Sussex

A History of Everyday Things in England: Illustrators of Social History in mid 20th Century Britain

Desdemona McCannon     Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University

11:00am - 12:45pm

PANEL:Cultural representation and intervention in the USA


      Looking the Other Way: David Hunter Strother, Race, and The Rise of Mass Visual Culture

Christopher Lukasik   Purdue University  

Diversity, Perception, and Responsibility in Illustration

Robyn Pendleton     University of Delaware

Drawing The Other: Illustration and Representation

Sabrina Scott     Illustrator, Designer;  Toronto


2:00 - 3:15pm

PANEL:Cultural representation and intervention outside the USA


Rabbi Jesus: Social Harmony in Oscar Cahén’s Illustrations for Magazine Digest, 1944-1946

Jaleen Grove     Wilfred Laurier University

Hilmi al-Tuni, Evoking Popular Arab Culture

Yasmine Taan     Lebanese American University

The Illustrator As Political Author

Jana Traboulsi     American University of Beirut

My English Textbook

Harini Kannan  Illustrator, Chennai,India



3:30 - 5:30pm

PANEL:New Markets, New Media, and the Fine Art Arena


Illustrations: Second Class Citizens or Grassroot Workers?

Priyanka Jain   Visual Art, Stuttgart  

Move over Darling; the Reader as the Ideal Illustrator

Nanette Hoogslag     Anglia Ruskin University

The New Middle: Has the Internet Helped Shorten the Void Between Illustration and Fine Art?

Jay Taylor     Coventry University



5:45 - 6:15pm

Closing remarks in Chace Auditorium


6:30 - 7:30pm

RISD LIBRARY Closing Reception


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