Top five: Reportage illustrators

From travel illustrations to graphic journalism, our scribe, Sara Gelfgren shares her top five reportage illustrators that have inspired her approach to visual thinking.

Visual storytelling is a thing we talk about a lot round here. But when it comes to the serious job of reporting the world around us, photographs and the printed word have done the lion's share of the work since the invention of the camera.

But reportage illustration has an advantage. Not only can it combine image and the written word, it can also capture the less tangible aspects of a moment - the mood, for instance - and can connect ideas and experiences on the page of a sketchbook, that would not necessarily share space within the viewfinder of a camera. Two things, in fact, that it has in common with scribing.

So, perhaps it was our scribe, Sara Gelfgren's, appreciation for the art of reportage that led her to our studio door. Here, she shares with us her top five reportage illustrators. 

George Butler

Scriberia Reportage Illustrators George Butler

George Butler’s drawings from war-torn corners of the world were the first examples of reportage illustration I'd ever come across. Though I always loved to draw, I had never appreciated how powerful a tool for communication it was until then. From Syria to Afghanistan, Butler sets himself down in the the heart of conflict and gives his own deeply personal account of what unfolds before him. He claims to enjoy reportage illustration because, drawing in the moment, it leaves no time for hesitation or doubt. 

Olivier Kugler

Scriberia Reportage Illustrators Oliver Kugler

Before joining Scriberia, I was fortunate enough to work in the same studio as Olivier Kugler, which gave me an invaluable insight into his reportage process. When it comes to capturing rich and complex scenes, Kugler is a master. His densely annotated sketches weave layer upon layer of detail that capture personal perspectives as well as 'the bigger picture'. I'm stretched to think of any other form of reportage that can documents a moment in time in such forensic detail.

Wendy MacNaughton

Scriberia Reportage Illustrators Wendy MacNaughton

Wendy MacNaughton's illustrations of San Francisco's public library are perfect examples of how reportage illustration can transform the mundane and the everyday into moments of interest and curiosity. She details the minutiae with of discarded cigarette butts, and stray strands of hair, using her extraordinary talent for finding meaning in objects and moments that others might overlook. Her 2014 book, Meanwhile in San Francisco, is a deeply affectionate ode to the place she calls home; a city brimming with the kind of every day eccentricity on which MacNaughton's work thrives. She describes herself as a graphic journalist, a title that now often applied to the more clinical discipline of data visualisation. But there is nothing clinical about MacNaughton's work, which is shot through with tangible humanity. More recently, she has illustrated some of the wittiest signs from the Women's March in Washington. 

Peter Arkle

Scriberia Reportage Illustrators Peter Arkle

Peter Arkle documents his day-to-day life through personal and often hilarious drawings that capture the running and uncensored commentary in his head. Though I wouldn't recommend them to the easily offended, they are full of charm and warmth. It's easy to get lost in his illustrated diary, especially now that some of the entries are animated, too.

Lizzy Stewart

Scriberia Reportage Illustrators Lizzy Stewart

Lizzy Stewart's travel illustrations powerfully convey the places she visits and cultures she experiences around the world. She takes her trusty sketchbook with her wherever she goes, and her simple drawings never disappoint. I also really appreciate her strict use of colour - she creates an evocative, restricted palette for every stop on her journey, giving each location a strong and memorable identity.