Illustration styles: 1983–present

CIA has been representing commercial artists since 1983 and when Creative Review suggested that we create a chronology of imagery spanning the three decades, we had the perfect excuse to scour the groaning bookshelves and plan chests that surround us in Heddon Street.

The exercise has forced us to look beyond the limits of our own artists’ output and take a broad view of how the industry as a whole has visually evolved. How the prevailing focus on painterly prowess in the early 80s gave way to a more expressive delivery of concept; the dazzling explosion of digital imagery onto the scene in the late 90s; and how that, in itself, has fostered a nostalgic renaissance in the craft aesthetic in recent years. More recently, the mouse-clicking generation has rediscovered the wonder of seeing art created live in front of them.

Over the years we’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with leading creatives in the fields of advertising, design and publishing and, while much of the imagery in our archives has been born of those commercial commissions, we’ve not neglected the self-initiated work which many of our artists make time to create in the constant maturing process of questioning and challenging their own practice.

We’ve selected one image to represent a year between 1983 and 2011. We’ve tried to make each image as representative as possible of the spirit of the time, as well as of that particular artist’s folio at the time of making it. The artists whose work sits at the beginning of this issue are all still represented by CIA and seeing how those illustrators’ work has changed over the years
has been a fascinating aspect of this exercise.

Benjamin Cox
Central Illustration Agency

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