The Artist as Reporter

In the age of mobile phones with camera and video facilities drawing is being used to express something more universal yet highly personal (Wendy Coates-Smith)

On Friday/March 7, 2014 I attended a Reportage and Documentary forum held by falmouth University. Reportage is consider to be the most difficult form of illustration, because it involves observing, being able to focus and capture moments, recording the everyday, being able to draw people, working with moving figures, having a strong graphic sense, and being able to tell a story. It’s a great challenge for artists to have creative response. The drawn reportage does not rely on just observational drawing but it’s a visual journalism where the artist become the author; a storyteller. The forum invited  six artists who have different approaches and techniques in reporting their subject matter of cities, events, information, past events, landscapes and combining it with fiction or memories.

Jenny Soep – drawing the experience, music and other things

Fumio Obata – graphic novels and documenting the Japan 2011 tsunami disaster

Anne Howeson – ‘fictional documentary’

Lucinda Rogers – cities reportage and documentary drawing

Anna Cattermole – reportage drawing

Sue Coe – reportage drawing and animal rights campaign

Goodies from the forum - Ayu Baker - 07/03/2014

Goodies from the forum – Ayu Baker – 07/03/2014

Sue Coe was the most inspirational and insightful artist in the forum. Her research, techniques and approaches are in-depth which enriched her reportage drawing. She also said that the work process is one of reminding herself, that content creates the form, not the other way around. She use her art to educate, influence and hopefully inspire change. She wants her art to speak for those that cannot hence the animal right campaign. She was born in Liverpool and grew up next to a slaughterhouse. She studied at Royal College of Art and featured in many magazines such as Raw, New York Times, The New Yorker and Rolling Stones amongst many other publications. Her art was exhibited at the MOMA New York and around the world. I like that she is honest when she is ‘reporting’ in her slaughterhouse sketches. She is not making it derogatory about them and respect the person. She will show her work to the person before it’s published. She said because it’s their life; their story, and if there’s any object to her work then it will never be published.

Through the Skype chat, because she is currently resides in upstate New York US, she reveals that images can instigate change on their own even without text. When reporting, the artist who is reporting experienced change and so the viewer will be involved in the change. Her tips for emerging illustrators are to keep document everything, do in-depth research, talk to people and keep asking question to ourself: ‘the content of your work — what can you show in art that is now shown? What is important to say at this time? What is your mission? What is your passionate about? Focus on being really good at drawing, the basis of everything, whether it be computer animation or painting, if you can’t draw, you can’t think. No intelligent artist, no intelligent art’.

Sue Coe - - 07/03/2014

Sue Coe - – 08/03/2014

Few things that I would like to take on board in practicing my visual journalism from all the artists at the forum are:

  • Self initiate project. To be pro-active in making artwork/projects, be the author, self-publish and actively find a commercial context for my work. I need to take advantage of the opportunities digital media can offer by considering new directions in the way work is produced, recorded and distributed. Tell the stories and reach new audiences.
  • In-depth research, logistics, techniques to be considered based on subject matter, and materials that will helps me draw as fluidly as the subject that I am depicting.
  • Draw every day to keep up my skills, because I only have a short period of time to maximise my own experience. Respect my talents.
  • Ordinary. A good subject is not always documenting dramatic events, it can be a place, or a person of no special attraction or obvious interest, whose hidden beauty or mystery that I want to evoke. Observe carefully and hard enough, the unexpected will emerge.
  • I will gain deeper understanding though documentary drawing and passes it onto the viewer.
  • Do not use photograph, because it do not simply render reality – realistically. It is reality which is scrutinised, and evaluated, for its fidelity to photographs…Instead of just recording reality, photographs have become the norm for the way things appear to us, thereby changing the very idea of reality, and of realism (Sontag, p.87).


The forum was the first that introduced me to live-scriber art. The artists were Jack Brougham and Peter Morey, graduates of the MA Illustration: Authorial Practice course. I spoke and asked Peter Morey few questions of my interest in understanding his approach and technique in ‘live-scribling’. He said his method is to use grid/panels and try to capture the right punch. He use creative responses to depict the events although his techniques is not in timely sequence. I really like this ‘live-scribling’ art, I’d like to practice it on my sketchbook of talks or seminar I am attending in the future.


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