Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Considering the reader

Yesterday I was listening to an interview on npr with the comedians that perform in the 'Axis of Evil Comedy Tour' (comedians of middle eastern descent who do a lot of jokes about politics and current events). At one point they talked about how when they perform in some countries, they are asked to edit their act to get rid of things that might offend a particular group's sensibilities (religions or cultural). I thought their attitude was really interesting- they had no problem whatsoever with doing this, there were no claims to artistic integrity, or accusations of censorship. Their attitude is that as performers, there is a give and take with the audience, and sometimes they need to give a little more than at other times, to cater to the people they are entertaining.

I think this is a really interesting idea, in light of the work we do making books for an audience that doesn't actually buy the books we make (their parents do). To what degree do we cater to what the book buying audience wants, what the book reading audience will enjoy, and the book production team (ie the publishers) request of us, all in the context of holding a singular creative vision of the book we have formed. We make books FOR kids, but not only for kids- and clinging to some rigid idea of artistic integrity doesn't always fit the bill. As writers and illustrators, we have to consider the way other people will interpret what we've made.

At one point I might have thought of this as selling out, but these days I'm interested in this idea of give and take between the person who creates something, and the person who, for lack of a better word, consumes it. Sometimes it can be hard to put your finger on the difference between fine art and illustration, but if anything I think this give and take is part of what makes creating a book unique- there is an art to considering your audience and responding to their wishes and sensibilities. It seems like a more organic process, instead of forcing your particular creative vision on the rest of the world, the vision evolves as a means of collaboration between creator and reader, even if only in your mind's eye.


www.juliadenos.com said...

I really appreciate this idea. It was something that was hard to struggle with for me in art school, I remember this concept clashing with many fine artist/installation students at the time...but I whole heartedly agree! Illustrators are not only artists, they are communicators (which I agree is an art). To be sensitive to the needs of the people at the receiving end of the art is an art I think too, like you said.
It enhances the integrity of the story. liked this post!

Anna Alter said...

Thanks Julia! Yeah I feel like this issue causes an identity crisis in every illustration undergrad at one time or another. I know it did for me.

Meghan McCarthy said...

Hmm. Yeah, pleasing adults and kids is sometimes hard to balance but it's part of our job! It is an interesting thing to think about.