I have a theory about designers, illustrators, and other creatives: They are seen, generally speaking, as a bit eccentric because they see things in ways others don’t. For one, they are particularly attuned to imagery—and they often place importance on that imagery that others might not.
Illustrator (and would-be blacksmith) Jim Woodring demonstrates that eccentricity. For example, he describes his childhood as as kind of cacophony of dream experiences, and his illustrations as half-in and half-out of reality (my characterization). While he was happy with and defiant about what made him different, he also came to the conclusion that he could turn his “defects” into some type of professional asset. I like that way of looking at it.
But you decide for yourself—I recently stumbled upon The Illumination of Jim Woodring, produced by filmmaker Chris Brandt. The film treats us to an inside look at the illustrator and his evolution. If you’re like me, you’ll come away with, not just a better understanding of this particular artist, but a better appreciation of how some creatives operate on a different plane.
In the film, Jim Woodring points to The Golden Book of Science, authored by Bertha Morris Parker and illustrated by Harry McNaught, as a major influence…
I find it interesting that the author of The New Way Things Work, David Macaulay, cites the same book as having an extraordinary influence on his young life. Referring to his own book, he says, “You can get everything you need from this book. That’s how I felt about The Golden Book of Science for Boys and Girls, which I read as a boy. I look at it now and can remember the sensation of reading it as a kid. It was like giving me the keys to the kingdom.”)
Just out of curiosity, were you particularly influenced by that type of encyclopedic illustration when you were young? (Comment below.) Thinking back, I have always loved books profusely illustrated with informative images.
The image at the top of the page is titled, First Day on The Job, is used with permission: Jim Woodring, jimwoodring.com. This is the full frame.