Monday, March 23, 2015

The Illustrator’s Reprehensible Dictionary: The Letter C

© 2015 Don Arday.
To celebration more than 100,000 pageviews, The Informed Illustrator presents the letter ‘C’ of The Illustrator’s Reprehensible Dictionary. The dictionary was conceived to answer a desperate need for the language of illustration to be defined. Additional installments will appear at irregular intervals over an interminably long period of time. This installment was procrastinated on for over a year.


1. letterforms that have to be drawn rather than selected;
2. something only one in every 22,583 graphic designers knows how to do;
3. a fancy word for the lost art of handwriting.

Usage: “The reason your calligraphy looks so stiff is you are using too much wrist and not enough elbow.”


1. a closely woven cloth used as a support for painted illustrations so they can be worn by the illustrator;
2. a useful material for unsuccessful fine artists in need of shelter;
3. a prime subject that’s a bit of a stretch for most illustrators;
4. a term describing the actions of an illustrator making cold calls in search of a commission.

Client: “Do you mind if I ask why you chose to illustrate this assignment on a 6 foot x 9 foot canvas?” Illustrator: “So I didn’t have to use small brushes to paint the scene.” Client: “That makes sense.” Illustrator: “And, when the image is reduced it won’t show any canvas texture.” Client: “Oh, I get it. How do you intend on reducing it?” Illustrator: “I’ll have it digitally photographed, then I’ll convert it into a Photoshop file. After that I can fix the color, touch up sections that need it, edit the composition, and add all the characters and objects.”
Professor: “Class, in Senior Advanced Painting we will be working exclusively on canvas.” Student A: “What’s that?” Student B: “Where can we get some?” Student C: “Try JoAnn Fabrics or Hobby Lobby.”
Usage: “Paint the illustration on canvas, digitally photograph it, then find a service bureau that can print it out for you on canvas.”


1. what most realistic portraits turn out to be;
2. a figurative interpretation by an illustrator that displays a juvenile sense of humor, a sadistic tendency, an irrational state of mind, or a lack of drawing ability;
3. a visual “the jokes on you”;
4. art that exaggerates the defects and peculiarities of a person while simultaneously displaying the defects and peculiarities of the artist creating it.
Usage: “Well if you want that face to be a caricature you’ll have to either stretch it vertically or expand it horizontally; make the eyes bigger or make them smaller; render the nose pointier or make it bulbous, thin out the lips or puff them up, add more forehead or take some away, expand the chin or shrink it up, but the ears off limits, unless you are doing Ross Perot, Lyndon Johnson, Yoda, or Mike Tyson.”
Usage: “That caricature of Elen Degeneres looks exactly like Judy Dench.”


1. a drawing that is meant to be funny, as opposed to a caricature, which is usually quite sad (see above);
2. a nonsensical illustrated story with some sort of furry animal in it;
3. a representation more real than reality… really;
4. something an illustrator never wants their illustration to be called.

Usage: “When it comes to the cartoon, Thomas Nast was good, but the greatest cartoonist of all time was Picasso.”
Usage: “The age of the cartoon has past. We are now in the age of the animated film.”

Cast Shadow

1. a three-dimensional phenomenon that makes no sense on a two dimensional surface;
2. a moody client;
3. a comic book hero no one has ever seen.

Usage: “In order for you to have a cast shadow in that illustration there needs to be something there to cast it.”
Usage: “Although you've illustrated a tall slender man, that cast shadow belongs to a dwarf.”


1. a word that breaks the “i before e except after c” rule;
2. an art medium no artist knows anything about;
3. 18th century gesso.

Usage: “Just because casein is made of from cow’s milk doesn’t mean you can drink it, I’d stick to swilling watercolor.”


1. a drawing medium that leaves more pigment on the artist than on his or her art;
2. a substance that can be used either for creating art or for burning it;
3. something that leaves a filthy mess on a scanner.

Client: “I wasn’t expecting the illustration to be completed with charcoal.” Illustrator: “I often use charcoal when I’m depressed.” Client: “That’s the problem, those doves look like ravens. I’m afraid I can't approve the illustration.” Illustrator: “Poe would have.”
Usage: “Even though it’s called vine charcoal that doesn’t mean you can only draw plants with it.”
Usage: “If any student is using charcoal to draw the figure, everyone must wear a respirator, even the model.”


1. a cool art term that one learns in art school;
2. a drawing technique used mostly to create shadows;
3. a brand of clothing worn by reps and hipsters.

Usage: “I admire you, your lifestyle is so chiaroscuro.”
Usage: “I think those eggs you are cooking need a bit more chiaroscuro on them.”


1. the shinny trim on an art rep’s Jaguar;
2. a term used to describe color that draws a blank stare from an artist;
3. a measure of intensity used to describe the degree of anger in a clients face.

Illustrator A: “You know, I was talking to that dolt, Illustrator C, about the chroma in the color palette he uses, and he thought I was referring to the intensity of the colors.” Illustrator B: “Well weren’t you?” Illustrator A: “Hell no, I was talking about his stainless steel palette, what a dunce.”
Usage: “The best way of standing up for yourself with your clients is to show more chroma.”


1. what happens to watery paint when it is applied to a vertical surface;
2. a popular form of photo bombing in the 1980’s known as streaking;
3. another form of booing or casting insults.

Usage: “Oh yes, it’s a well known fact that. You couldn’t be called an illustrator in the 1960’s if your work didn’t have any cissing.”


1. any illustration with a heart or a star in it;
2. a spot illustration in USA Today;
3. the first suggestion a client has on an assignment.

Usage: “He has used the same composition so many times that he has rights to his own cliché.”


1. a blessing and a curse;
2. a person or persons who hire an illustrator to do an illustration, but don’t trust that they can do it;
3. a class of people who believe themselves above other classes of people.

Usage: “My latest client is my kind of client, she won’t meet with me, speak with me by phone, communicate with me through email, or even acknowledge my existence. She has an assistant.”

Cold Pressed

1. an attitude displayed by certain illustration professors;
2. a method of distilling truly excellent, illustration inspiring, grain spirits;
3. the type of illustration board used mainly by illustrators located in northern climates;
4. for a client to have forced an illustrator to make changes to a finished illustration.

Usage: “Wow, that board is so cold pressed it’s got a toothache.”
Usage: “The grain on a good cold pressed surface can separate the bristles from a brush.”


1. when a client hires a marketing firm that hires an advertising agency that hires a design studio that hires an illustrator;
2. the result of a heavy handed client interfering with an illustration concept;
3. a work of art resulting from an inability on the part of the artist to make up his or her mind;
4. art composed of elements not created by the artist creating the art.

Usage: “There are a lot of illiterate would be illustrators out there who think there is no reason to attend a collage.”


1. a scheme that can get one into a world of trouble;
2. an element in an illustration that has the potential to make it interesting;
3. something when applied digitally that never quite turns out right;
4. a facial characteristic of an enraged client.

Client: “I want you to use Pantone’s color of the year in the illustration.” Illustrator: “You mean this years color?” Client: “No, I want the one they’ll choose for next year, otherwise the illustration will be so last year.”
Usage: “I see you have the ability to imagine a world without color.”


1. a roundabout way of making money;
2. a carrot at the end of a stick to a donkey;
3. a group of non-artists who pass judgment on artists;
4. a procedure a client uses to torture an illustrator.

Art Director: “I have a commission for you.” Illustrator: “A nice budget?” Art Director: “Well actually it’s more of a proposition.” Illustrator: “A comfortable timeframe?” Art Director: “As I think about it, I would say it’s really a proposal.” Illustrator: “It’s high profile right?” Art Director: “Let’s say it’s an opportunity.” Illustrator: “Lots of creative freedom?” Art Director: “It would be a favor.” Illustrator: “It’s a freebie, right?” Art Director: “Well why would you think it would be anything else?”
Usage: “Congratulations, you were awarded the commission. As I see it, you have the commission, but you’ll never get the award.”


1. the state of two artists in discussion about each others work;
2. the rare instance when a client and an illustrator happen to have the same points of view;
3. a type of verbiage used by students in class critiques;

Illustrator A: “I really like the use of color in your illustration.” Illustrator B: “Nice of you to say so.” Illustrator A: “But I feel your composition is quite disturbing.” Illustrator B: “Oh yeah, how so?” Illustrator A: “Well I don’t know.” Illustrator B: “Oh, you don’t know?” Illustrator A: “Well maybe I feel that way because it needs something complementary. As it stands now, I can’t tell the difference between the sky and the water, so I can’t tell if the ants are swimming or flying.”
Usage: “Your complementary colors are pigmentary.”


1. something a designer calls a design;
2. when two or more things are depicted on one surface;
3. a skill not very many artists are good at.

Usage: “A good composition is the result of a single-minded determination and dedication to an anarchistic distrust in rules.”


1. an abstract idea that can be realistic;
2. a scheme usually used to get one out of actually doing any work;
3. someting not at all achievable through ideation;
3. a thing a client has no concept of;
1. an improper use of the word.

Usage: (Proper) “Concept is a sacred deity that only the most devout artists can summon.”
Usage: (Proper) “Imagine, a client paying for a job the moment it’s delivered…now that’s a concept.”
Usage: (Improper) “Son, you need to go and concept you up a piture.”

Concept Art

1. art that never is completed;
2. an idea that is trying to resemble art;
3. non-objective art;
4. something previously thought to be part of all illustrations.

Director: “Do you think you could concept art with a scene where our heroine can be seen but at the same time not seen?” Artist: “Do you want me to render her into it?” Director: “Sure, just as long as she can’t be seen.” Artist: “Where do you think I should not put her?” Director: “Anywhere no one will be able to find her.”
Usage: “Don’t you dare call that an illustration, it’s concept art.”


1. see composition.

Usage: “That configuration isn't quite a composition.”


1. someone who believes themselves to be an expert on art without ever having done any;
2. an extremely judgmental person;
3. a person who shows great appreciation for something by disliking it.

Illustrator A: “The judges of the Society of Illustrators Competition are real connoisseurs.” Illustrator B: “Of Art and Illustration.” Illustrator A: “No…of beer, and I’m not so sure about that.”


1. a red-brown sanguine crayon used to render blood;
2. French charcoal;
3. the only medium a first-year art student is allowed to use.

Usage: “If you keep drawing with that much pressure you’re going to snap that conté like a toothpick.”


1. a descriptive term that never goes out of date even if what it is describing does;
2. art and illustration produced back in 1950;
3. someone who is as old as you are, no matter what age that is;
4. all fashion illustration, no matter when it was done.

Usage: “Today’s contemporary hipsters are chill, the one’s in the 1950’s were only cool.”


1. a thing every illustration shouldn’t be without;
2. a circumstance that causes monetary fluctuations in the cost of an illustration;
3. a determining factor that may have to do with a client and have nothing whatsoever to do with the illustrator or illustration.

Director: “I would like our heroine to be at the bottom of that well you’ve drawn in the background there.” Artist: “Since the inside of the well can’t be seen, how will anyone know she’s actually in the well?” Director: “Because it is in context with her not being seen.” A while later… Artist: “I think I know what you mean. She shouldn’t be seen because she’s not in the scene yet.” Director: “Oh no, she’s definitely in the scene, but she’s not to be seen. You see?” A while later… Director: “I was looking at that well you drew and I thought I saw her.” Artist: “But I didn’t render her.” Director: “That has nothing to do with whether she was there or not.”
Usage: “You should have your wits about you when you are working in context.”


1. a line that behaves in an undisciplined manner;
2. the drawing equivalent of playing a guitar without looking at the fret board, and no one but Blind Lemmon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell or Jeff Healey can do that;
3. acknowledging the edge of ones drawing capabilities.

Usage: “If you follow the contour of the big toe you’ll find it leads to the edge of the foot, which follows the ankle contour leading to the calf, then the thigh continues around the buttocks to the lower torso, which joins the upper torso with the shoulder, that extends to the neck and transitions to the jaw line which leads to the facial profile, that extends to the hair form which is all supported by the hair tie.”


1. see composition.

Usage: “That composition isn't quite a contraposition.”


1. a way to make something visible when it shouldn’t be;
2. a phenomena that occurs when a black drawing implement is placed in contact with a white drawing surface;
3. a state of détente between illustrator and client.

Director: “It seems it's that lack of contrast that is keeping our heroine from being visible.” Artist: “I thought that would be the best way to keep her from being seen.” Director: “Fundamentally your thinking is good, but now Finblat the grey dwarf can’t be seen either.” Artist: “I thought Finblat had died by the time this scene occurs.” Director: “Finblat is only ‘supposed‘ to have died, but he is actually still alive and a part of this scene, even if he’s not supposed to be seen.” Artist: “So he didn’t die, but he is not to be seen in this scene.” Director: “I don’t know why you are having such a hard time understanding this, Finblat is invisible.” Artist: “I insist that I still get paid for not rendering him.”
Usage: “Contrast provides visibility, a lack of contrast hides mistakes.”


1. a word designers often mistake for a noun;
2. what most artist’s believe themselves to be;
3. describing a person who is forced to only use the right side of his or her brain because they don’t have a left side.

Usage: “Now I’m a creative. Yeah, I’m a creative. Not a trace, of doubt in my mind. I’m in love, I’m a creative. Said I’m a creative, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m a creative, yeah, yeah, yeah…”
Usage: “Let me put on my thinking cap, it prevents the left side of my brain from interfering with a creative challenge.”

Creative Cloud

1. Adobe a.k.a. God and heaven;
2. a scheme for monitoring the creation of all art, first conceived in Stalinist Russia;
3. a non-religious form of tithing.

Usage: “Hey hey! you you! Get off of my creative cloud. Don’t hang around ‘cause two’s a crowd. Oh my creative cloud, baby…”
Usage: “#$@&%*$#&*@! creative cloud!”


1. the way an illustrator renders a tablecloth with napkins;
2. a drawing method that uses twice as much lead as necessary.

Usage: “If you insist on scribbling, at least try to make it look like crosshatching.”


1. a circulating joke;
2. any line, shape, form, article of clothing, object, or architectural structure that doesn’t consist of a straight line;
3. a term that makes artists feel as thought they have some sort of scientific knowledge.”

Usage: “That curvilinear form is contaminated with straight lines.”
Usage: “You do the hokey pokey, and you curvilinear yourself around, and that’s what it’s all about!”

For the letter A see The Illustrator’s Confidential Dictionary:

For the letter B see The Illustrator’s Genuwhine Dictionary:

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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