A black & white illustration about education in Ireland, for The Sunday Independent newspaper—now colourised
‘A Lesson in Elitism.’ An article by Conor Cruise O’Brien asking what education is actually for: “(…) the thought that the qualities that are conducive to success in exams may lead to failure in ‘real life’ has an element of consolation in it.”
“There, amid clapping of hands and stamping of feet, They gave the prizes to the ruined boys.”—W H Auden.
I originally drew this news illustration in pen and black wax-colour-pencil on paper, and it was published that way in the newspaper.
I’ve always been pleased that it’s a graphically and compositionally strong piece, full of metaphor and action, with sweeping movement that draws the eyes around the various elements in the illustration (even if I do say so myself). It has a spiraling, swirling, churning sort of flow. It also has a great feeling of depth, and especially now in the colourised version.
So it was great to go back and update and refine it a little, and add strong colour. This somewhat sacrifices the strong contrast of positive-negative shapes which suggest–rather than explicity show–some of the forms, such as the male character’s lower back and legs, and the woman’s boot, but it gains the additional impact of the colour itself.
There’s a definite lino-cut, or wood-cut influence in the original B & W version, and contrasts were strong. Should I have coloured it? I think was worth it, but if I was do it all over again for colour, I’m sure I would have drawn it differently–or used very little ‘line.’
There are compatibility issues, that can happen in illustration, concerning rendering and toning/colouring methods. For example, if black line art which uses hatching for tonal values, is underlaid with graduated tones of greys or colours, the result can be a little muddy looking. And there’s a sense, a feeling that there’s a conflict between the two different methods of toning which have been crammed incompatibly together.
See more colourised illustrations »
Illustrator: John White
Media: Ink and pencil on paper
Client: The Sunday Independent Newspaper
Writer: (The Late) Conor Cruise O’Brien