From Concept to Reality

Illustration by Javier Jaén Benavides

The blog that this was supposed to be has sprawled in my brain, and, I know I have to write, now, or I will never finish. Keeping at it would include a furious search through my large library of books with notable (for me) covers or notable (for me) inside illustrations. Pay close attention to one of my faves the Mexican illustrator Abel Quezada. It began on September 11, 2012 on the editorial page of the NY Times. There was this article that melded beautifully copy (typography) with an illustration (above) which featured black twin towers with reverse type and a fallen paper airplane at the bottom. The illustrator, Javier Jaén Benavides lives in Barcelona.

Note the disappearance of the towers of type in the on-line version.

Because of the differences between the layout of a venerable paper newspaper and its on-line version I was disappointed to note that the Benavides illustration lost most of its impact because only the paper airplane was used. Can this be an example of something being better because it can be seen and touched on paper? Read the addendum by Benavides at the end of this blog.

I can argue in the opposite direction as hard copy papers cannot show you videos or slide shows (some are enabling you to point your intelligent phone to get that). One fantastic look at this is a series of fashion photos that show up in the style section of the NY Times called Model-Morphosis where with the simple flick of your mouse you can see a model’s face with and without makeup and its transition from one side of the face to the other.

One of the memorable illustrations by Ian Bateson for Vancouver Magazine, 1980

Definitely the medium of paper and that of photons on a screen will have advantages that cannot be shared.

All the above made me reflect on Editor, Malcolm Parry’s open door policy at Vancouver Magazine in the 70s and 80s. In those years photographers and illustrators where contacted to show up in person. They were given manuscripts and told to come up with an idea. That process of creating mental images in photographs or illustrations from an author’s copy is a process that is slowly disappearing in modern 21st century journalism. The thoughtful illustrations to be found in good newspapers (including our local ones) now have become a crudely drawn cartoon or a file photograph. splendidly shows an illustrator working beautiful in tandem with a writer.

Illustration by Phiz in my father’s quarto edition

But judging by that devastatingly elegant and effective illustration by Benavides I think that there might be a shift back into that past of excellence in design.

I want to emphasize here again of that wonderful transition when the illustrator or photographer, is given a manuscript (subsequently technology faxed it and then emailed it) and told to come up with something. That moment when the idea germinates and explodes in the head and the image is then transferred into the palpable (even on a monitor) illustration or photograph. Copy and illustration, type and photograph, hand in hand tells us something. There has to be more of this telling.

Abel Quezada my fave Mexican illustrator
Abel Quezada, 1968
Quezada’s editorial cartoons in the Excelsior
Illustration by author from Len Deighton’s Cookbook
Illustration and cover design by author.
Design by Barbara Martin
Cover design by author.
Jacket photograph by Thomas Mc Avoy, tinted by John Cruz and hand lettering by David Gatti

Design, Manuel Estrada, Illustration Joan Mundet

Illustration by Gustave Coubert Design Cristina Belmote Paccini & Valdemar
Illustration by Alberto Beltrán
Illustrations by W.B. Hole, R.S.A.
Photographer unknown
No design credit found.
No design credit. I love the clean starkness.
Cover: Daniel Gil
Sisyphus by Titian
Lovely design and illustrations — No credits found
From Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling — Illustrations by author.
Illustration of author playing his protagonist
Jacket design Public Good
Photographs Alex Waterhouse-Hayward cover design by Thölon Kunst
Design by Solo — Illustrations Neil Wedman
Cover design — illustration by Bascove
Cover design by C.S. Richardson
Illustration by Bob Bakker — Jacket Design by Mellisa Ann Jacoby
Jacket design by Nancy Etheredge

Addendum: An email from Javier Jaén Benavides, illustrator of intial picture in this essay.

Hola Alex,

Muchas gracias por escribir. Me ha hecho mucha ilusión.Creo que es la primera vez que alguien lo hace después de ver el papel. Como comentas, cada sistema tiene sus ventajas y desventajas, pero…de momento, el periodico se disfruta mucho más en papel, abriendo la bolsa azul cada mañana en tu casa!

Me ha encantado tu trabajo, sigue enviado cosas.Un placer compartir raíces e intereses.

Un abrazo desde Barcelona.

javier jaén

Originally appeared

Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at:

Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at: