Graphic Artifacts from Down Under
Editorial illustrations by Michael Fitzjames
Michael Fitzjames was born in Melbourne in 1948 and studied at the Tasmania School of Art. Since 1980, he has exhibited his graphic work and paintings in Melbourne, Sydney, and Berlin. He has also worked for newspapers part time: The Guardian in London 1979–80, and with the Fairfax Media Group in Sydney since then (including The Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review). He's illustrated and designed numerous books and posters. His next exhibit, featuring his paintings, opens at the Australian Galleries, Paddington, in Sydney on June 12, 2012.
I asked Michael to describe his methods and influences:
From rough pencil drafts I refine an image that will "take a silhouette" or be capable of working in a positive-negative way and be bold on the page.
I then tend to make a fairly finished outline drawing over the roughs...I erase anything extraneous and ultimately have my finished shapes that can be realised in black and white. I make a light pencil
tracing onto smooth watercolour paper on a lightbox and then draw an ink line around the areas to be black. I erase any traces of pencil and fill in with Indian ink and brush.
I like to have an artifact, a final image which has evolved a little at each stage of the process. Now it becomes virtual, scanned, increasingly coloured...thanks to a recent tentative step into Photoshop.
The images and the styles and forms that so obviously inform them speak pretty clearly of my many and various influences...but it was a little book of icons that set the ball rolling. That such a small image could pack such a punch! And tell a complex tale as well as a simple one. Japanese prints. The chapbooks of Franz Massereel were a revelation. Beardsley, Valloton, Ravillious, all of these could with relatively simple means take on a power of freight. In the print media black and white graphic art had a good century from the mid 1890s to the mid 20th century, then languished with the spread of mass color printing. In the late 60s and early 70s I was part of a revival of interest in the relatively recent history of the graphic arts of the last century...and print media again became a fertile field for the pen and ink artist.