After working together for over a year, a customer suddenly said, “Oh dear … do you mind if I say picture?” I laughed out loud. No, of course not.
But that question doesn’t come out of the blue, of course. I talk about myself making illustrations – not drawings. Am I being pretentiously, or is there really a difference?
Although both drawings and illustrations are similar – they can both be made with pencil on paper (or with chalk on a rock wall, ballpoint pen on a napkin, stylus on an iPad) and you cannot always distinguish if a picture is an illustration or a drawing without the context – there is a clear difference.
In short: illustrations belong to a text, drawings stand alone.
When I have a free morning, I sometimes spend it drawing. I draw for my own pleasure. Drawing has no higher purpose than the drawing itself. Maybe just to practice drawing, maybe because I’m looking forward to the end result. But there is no one but me who is waiting for my drawing in advance. (Maybe afterwards, if I’m lucky.)
When I make something for a text about metamorphosis in frogs or for a childrensbook, it is called an illustration. Illustrations are explanatory notes, attention-grabbers or simply decorations for a text. But always: with text. Text can be a serious manual, a frivolous poem, a magazine article, or a rice package. An illustration helps the reader. Helps a reader better understand the text, visualize a character, make a text more attractive.
Illustrations need “their” text to be fully appreciated. I notice this with the images I post on my Instagram account every day. I earn my money with illustrations, so I also post them on Instagram. With a little text, but not the full context. I often find my illustrations to be delightful (a port-a-cath in a body!, a representation of gravity, normal force, pushing force and resistance in one picture!), but I get the most likes on my drawings: a girl with a cat, just a very quick simple bird, a true-to-nature cornflower.
A drawing can of course become an illustration. To finish up this article.
When I had been blissfully reading in my garden, I felt like drawing a picture of myself in the garden with my books and my cup of tea. If Flow magazine now approaches me for an article about reading in nature, this drawing might fit in perfectly – and suddenly becomes an illustration.
Difficult to remember? Just think of children: children make drawings. Just for the drawing in itself, not for a text (and often they can’t even read yet).
Or – you know what? Just say picture – and wrap up 😉