Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Illustrator’s Genuwhine Dictionary: The Letter B

© 2014 Don Arday
To celebration its 83rd article, The Informed Illustrator presents the letter ‘B’ of The Illustrator’s Genuwhine Dictionary. The dictionary was conceived to answer a desperate need for the language of illustration to be defined. The intention is for additional installments to appear at irregular intervals over an interminably long period of time.


1. an area in an illustration that fills up the picture plane behind the main subject or anything else more important.
2. the truth about the origin and education of an illustrator.
3. the exhaustive screening an illustrator will have to go through to obtain a job.

Usage: “You can’t go wrong with a plain black background, it’s like that little black dress fashion designers are so fond of. Stay away from white, clients wont pay for white!”

Bad Art

1. an illustration that is heavy-handedly controlled by a client.
2. art without a point, i.e., art for art sake.
3. chat room art.

Illustrator A: “What do I say to the client if he shows me his nephew’s bad art? Illustrator B: “Don’t think of it as bad art, just think of it as a bad idea.” Illustrator A: “Say, that’s not a bad idea.”
Usage: “All art has a place whether it’s bad art or not. The place is the internet.”


1. an elusive state that is seldom found in compositions.
2. the ethereal position between an overworked illustration and an under developed idea.
3. the amount of time spent illustrating a commission in relationship to how much it pays.

Usage: “I have a sense of perspective, but somehow I can’t seem to get a sense of balance.”
Usage: “One of these days I’m going to balance my workload with my payload.”


1. the main food source of the giant panda.
2. grass used as a material for creating pens and brushes used by artists that are sold at thrift stores.
3. an electronic stylus found on the floor of public restrooms and subway stations.
4. a digital drawing tablet for those who cannot afford a good one.

Usage: “Essential materials have really gotten better over the past few years; not only are my brushes made of bamboo, so are my paint pallet, my pallet knives, and my sox.”


1. something no longer acceptable in art.
2. an ugly thing viewed next to an even uglier thing.
3. being paid in less than 60 days.

Usage: “This assignment is a thing of beauty even if it is for pharmaceutical suppositories.”


1. a food source many illustrators subsist on.
2. something a client never wants to pay for at a bar.
3. a way to sell a client the concept you want to illustrate.

Client: “I’m not sure I understood the pencil concept.” Illustrator: “Sure you did, you approved it.” Client: “Yea well I didn’t really look at it.” Illustrator: “Sure you did, you said it was brilliant, and that it was just what the product needed.” Client: “I did?.” Illustrator: “You sure did…and not only that, you said it was worth twice the fee. Now how about another beer?”
Usage: “In this business it pays to know your way around a beer keg.”


1. a test of computer performance, if you can believe that.
2. a small cut made by someone trying to trim a digital print on the wrong surface.
3. a goal set by a client for an illustrator that they will never be able to achieve, e.g., a day sooner, and a dollar less.
4. for an illustrator, a day later, and a dollar more.

Usage: “My benchmark is Thomas Kincaid, if he illustrated it than that’s good enough for me.”
Usage: “I've been sitting at my drawing table so long I've achieved a benchmark.”


1. an illustrators rep.
2. a substance that prevents two other substances from becoming enemies.
3. a mysterious compound that is missing in order for colored pencil to take to acrylic.
4. a harmonious sketchbook.

Usage: “I was told I could use an egg as a binder. Do you think I can use an egg substitute instead, I'm a vegan.”
Usage: “My binder is silvery gray and comes on a roll and is sticky on one side.”


1. an absurd name for pixel, which is in itself is an absurd name for a tiny square on a digital display.
2. the image that you get when you are trying to get directions on an iPhone.
3. a thing of no concern to traditional media illustrators.

Usage: “Nobody uses the term bitmap anymore.”
Usage: “I remember when everybody used the term bitmap, along with wicked and bitchin' .”


1. a way of describing an illustrator’s mental state after a three hour meeting with a client.
2. a quick and dirty background in an illustration.
3. a color not to be used straight out of the tube.

Client: “I’m glad you chose black, I think it was the right choice.” Illustrator: “I didn’t really have a choice since it is being printed in black and white.” Client: “Actually it isn’t, it is only being printed in black.”
Usage: “Black is always acceptable, it works for pen and ink, scratchboard, tattoos, and lady’s handbags.”


1. the illustrations you can’t remember ever producing.
2. I don’t know.
3. something that has something missing.

Illustrator A: “The client thought my concept of illustrating a mom holding a full size SUV in one hand and a child in a safety seat in her other hand was too bland. “ Illustrator B: “I think what he meant was that it was too photographic.”
Usage: “I wasn’t aware that bland was a color.”


1. what we all do to be illustrators.
2. a phenomena that occurs to illustrators who work with x-acto knives too fast.
3. a strange term used for an illustration that is too large for the page it is printed on.
4. the thing behind all watercolor painting.

Illustrator A: “The challenge is to do a portrait of a vampire with no bleed.” Illustrator B: “Did you say nose bleed? Here’s a tissue.”
Usage: “Go figure, scratchboard is the only media you can’t bleed.”


1. a successful bleed.
2. a state of material confusion.
3. forcing two things that don’t belong together to be together.
4. trying to fit in stylistically.

Usage: “I would say it looks like a blend of realism, cartoon, and expressionism, in other words…anime.”


1. a negative spot or stain.
2. an accident or an opportunity.
3. an unintended eyesore that inspires an idea.
4. a mark on an exemplary academic record created by an asshole professor.
5. using your sock to dry wet paint.
6. removing an embarrassing credential from your driving record.

Usage: “When you see something hanging on a wall that looks like that, you simply have to blot it out.”
Usage: “Did he just blot it out? I wish he would think before he blots.”


1. the only way a photo can happen.
2. a commission that has gone south.
3. a thing achieved by redrawing a thumbnail sketch half a dozen times.
4. an act certain clients excel at.

Illustrator A: “I finally had that blowup with my rep.” Illustrator B: “Oh yeah, what was it about?” Illustrator A: “She couldn’t remember my name.”
Usage: “When they noticed I had included a weasel running along side their company mascot it caused a big blowup.”


1. an inflexible material constructed to display art that is subject to a lot of abuse.
2. a surface that determines how little skill one can have with an x-acto knife.
3. yet another overly expensive art supply.
4. a work surface created by laminating a number of dollar bills together.

Usage: “Get out your crow quill and ink and whip that board into shape.”
Usage: “With your painting style, you better forget board and canvas and go straight to MDF.”


1. presenting sketches that have nothing whatsoever to do with an assignment.
2. using black straight out of the tube.
3. using the default black provided in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.
4. trying to talk money with an illustrator’s rep.

Usage: “She paints representationally, thinks realistically, drinks responsibly, and wears bold.”


1. a polite way of saying “in your face”.
2. a typographic term used to describe a fat letterform.
3. what happens to a portrait when all you have to render it with is a china marker.

Usage: “If you want it to shout, yell, scream, and holler at someone then use boldface.”


1. things responsible for a fair share of a medical illustrators gross anatomy income.
2. something quite a few figure studies do not represent.
3. innards that anime characters seem not to possess.

Student: “I can’t seem to get his head quite right.” Instructor: “Don’t forget there’s a set of bones inside it called the skull.”
Usage: “When a figure is well drawn it is said to have good bones.”


1. a portable gallery of an illustrator’s work.
2. an assignment that will take a sizable portion of an illustrator’s career.
3. an illustrator’s never-ending story.

Usage: “The Good Book of Illustration say’s ‘thou shalt not commit acts of fine art’.”
Usage: “The Good Book of Illustration also say’s ‘thou shalt not be overworked and stiffed on payment’.”


1. an illustrator’s contract with a publisher.
2. the crease at the center of two facing pages that is responsible for ruining many an illustration.
3. the difference between a book and a pamphlet.

Usage: “The bookbinding was so tight the pages wouldn’t open wide enough to see my credit line.”


1. the difference between a great illustration assignment and hell.
2. although common before World War II, something seldom used or understood by illustrators anymore.
3. a place where too many clients have crossed with too many illustrators.
4. a barrier between pandemonium and serenity.
5. a place for the eye to sit this one out.

Usage: “If you can’t fit the object in the illustration then make it into a pattern in a border.” 
Usage: “All illustrations should border on something.”


1. thinking about something in particular while trying to think of nothing at all.
2. a propagandistic art term to explain thinking to non-artists, like “right-brained”.
3. a massive migraine headache brought on by too much stress.
4. the fundamental principle behind The Illustrator’s Genuwhine Dictionary.

Usage: “My whole like has been nothing but one long brainstorming session, and there’s no relief in sight. I’ll have to give that some thought.”
Usage: “I eat sensibly, I go to the gym, and I practice brainstorming everyday while I’m brushing my teeth.”


1. an art tool that seems to have a mind of its own.
2. hair found on the floor of a barn, a stable, a sty, or a barber shop, that is strapped together and used to make art.
3. a tool when held in the opposite direction and combined with another makes a fair set of chopsticks.
4. what one does while they are brainstorming.

Illustrator A: “I recommend a No. 4 round sable for that section.” Illustrator B: “Well I though I’d use a No. 5 flat boars hair.”  Illustrator A: “If you’re going to go in that direction, maybe you should try a No. 6 horse hair filbert.”  Illustrator B: “No, I think I’ll  go with a No.5 bright camel hair.” Illustrator A: “I wouldn’t do that, how about thinking small with a No. 1 synthetic rigger.”  Illustrator B: “I don’t know what’s worse about that suggestion, the rigger, or it being synthetic. You know this isn’t art school any more.”
Usage: “I must own at least 100 brushes, and the sad part is I own 110 pairs of shoes.”
Usage: “I have bought my last brush, from now on I’m going to download them.”


1. marks left on a surface by a brush when it has been pushed around for a while.
2. something a viewer should not be aware of in an illustration.
3. the smart way to deposit paint on a surface.

Usage: “Artists use a brushstroke, swimmers use a breaststroke, survivalists avoid a heatstroke, writers use a keystroke, and rowers use a sidestroke.”
Usage: “You can have a stroke of luck, or a brush with luck, but you can’t have a brushstroke with any luck.”

I’d like to acknowledge the following individuals who provided inspiration for this project. G.K.C., L.T., B.A., B.D., B.H., J.P., G.H., B.F., and T.L.

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