Pictoplasma’s Quality Characters Are Narrative-Free

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The leaves are changing color and the air has a morning chill, so it must be time for the next Pictoplasma NY conference. A month from now (November 2–3), Parsons The New School for Design will be hosting the event at its Tishman Auditorium (66 West 12th Street).

The gathering will be visited by the artists discusssed below. Recently, I spoke with Lars Denicke and Peter Thaler, partners on the Pictoplasma project, and asked them to tell me about this year’s offerings.

Buff Monster

What will make this year’s Pictoplasma different from the last one?

This year’s Pictoplasma NYC conference line up has a strong focus on character design in narration and especially animation: Julia Pott, David OReilly, Saiman Chow and Ryan Quincy are all renown for the innovation they have brought to the medium. At the same time, they all have a strong root in the still image, working as fine artists or illustrators. This brings us to the fundamental idea of Pictoplama, that characters have a quality of presence that seems to work independently of narration and refuses clear contextualization. Illustration is the second strong focus of this year, with Andy Rementer, Gemma Correll and Mark Gmehling presenting three of the currently most progressive protagonists in this field.

Gemma Correll

How has Pictoplasma, and illustration in general changed in terms of form and content since you began?

On a broad scheme, illustration definitely has become more graphical and iconic. Since the beginning we’ve been collecting, examining and making comparable an endless, global stream of figurative character designs. By doing so, even the slightest shifts in recurring motifs become readable, leading to surprising conclusions to underlaying topics and current zeitgeist trends. After the techno-craze at the turn of the Millenium, which favored happy DJs and robots, twisted and torn characters followed with their eyes replaced by lifeless x’s; then the raise of urban arts was a reaction to the burst of the new economy bubble, again followed by a turn to spiritual topics, then tribal and ethnic motifs. Currently, we are seeing more and more artists turn their backs on digital media and getting their hands dirty again with ink, watercolor or pen on paper. This recent revival of analogue techniques has injected immeasurable visual wealth into the world of illustration, fine art and especially character design. We tend to see this ‘post-digital’ strategy as a questioning of the depicted and quest for a state of permanence beyond the fleeting moment when the characters inhabiting the digital appear on our computer screen.

Saiman Chow

Mark Gmehling

Anna Hrachovec

Who are the artists you suggest that attendees focus upon for the first time?

We truly hope that attendees go for the entire package and are willing to take in all of the lectures and screenings. Even though it is quite a challenging marathon, we believe that the inspiration it truly overwhelming when you get to witness first hand the speaker’s diverse and vastly differing multitude of influences, styles, media and references.

David OReilly

Ryan Quincy


For more Steven Heller, check out The Education of an Illustrator—one of the many Heller titles available at MyDesignShop.com.