Reportage drawing

Louis Netter gave a guest lecture about the documentary illustration he does, bringing lots of drawings. This sometimes involves sketching quickly and sometimes discreetly, or drawing from memory, usually directly afterwards – he said that over time you build up a visual memory and schematic language that enables you to work quickly. You learn to find a good perch. He doesn’t edit afterwards. Drawings without people he finds to be soulless. Documentary illustration, he said, is like filmmaking, involving casting, locations, narrative content. Concertina sketchbooks can easily enable connected narratives.

He defined reportage drawing as “finding the beating heart” or “looking for joy amongst the banality of the everyday.” It’s necessarily an interpretation of a place, person or situation, often looking for something out of the ordinary. It can be a context-less person or have stuff in the background. Other modes and moods feed into the drawing. The layers are often undetectable except to the artist. It’s not about style, he said, but about a closer connection between eye and hand – as you must work quickly, the aesthetic is formed by the circumstances.

Other reportage artists mentioned: Olivier Kugler draws from photos and interviews his subjects. Veronica Lawler drew 9/11. Jill Gibbon sketches discreetly at arms fairs and uses a rigorous methodology. Gary Embury uses layers and words. Louis also mentioned Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty and I Swear I Saw This by Michael Taussig.

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