Illustration Intervention

Visual Shamanism

The project has explored multiple factors and examples of constructs of popular culture such as brand identity, sexuality, mass media etc. that shape the consciousness of the individual and collective communities, using illustration to communicate the findings, interpretations, and alternative insights based on both.

Although the exploration of such topics that have been discussed through the medium of illustration is seemingly relatively uncommon, the unconventional nature of the project alone doesn’t necessarily contribute to the shift in consciousness that the project aspires to initiate without the actual utilisation of the illustrations into a suitable context.

Much of the research has examined the value systems of alternative cultures to the West who engage in spiritual practices, such as the indigenous Amazonian communities who practice shamanistic rituals aimed at personal and cultural healing by connecting to the ‘God essence’ of human consciousness. Much like the shaman of Southern America, the desire has been to contribute to healing of the sickness of the West, using the illustration to intervene on the existing paradigm.


Functional Fixation

 The most common utilization of the discipline of illustration is in the fulfillment of a brief that has been assigned with the purpose of promoting something of matter with the intention to generate economic profit. While the concept of currency is an essential notion to subscribe to in order to function effectively in contemporary society and so a useful benefit to gain from the fulfillment of an illustration brief – the association between the discipline of illustration and the use of the discipline to attain money limits the perception (and thus the use) of the function, contributing to the perspective of the tool as superficial and lacking in the sincerity present in Fine Art or the logistic functionality of design.

With much of Fine Art that is taken seriously being exhibited in Art galleries, the audience tends to be those who are already actively interested in Art, and so the messages of the works are perhaps not communicated on a public level. In addition, much contemporary art is not necessarily accessible or does not necessarily resonate with the general public in the same way that a more illustrative image seemingly does (hence the traditional use of illustration to attract the attention of consumers). Similarly, contemporary design is more traditionally utilised to communicate information that may be instructional or promotional of particular products/offers, thus potentially being filtered out from the hierarchy of stimulus to which we are exposed in urban environments.

An intervention in both the semantic restrictions of the discipline and the culture has been attempted – the insemination of the sorts of ideas and philosophies that have been discussed throughout the research into the general public, using the visual attraction of illustration to plant a seed into the consciousness of those with whom the illustration comes into contact with that can comes into fruition independently with no economic of personal goal.


Consumer Dissonance

 The modern day high street can be regarded as a temple of the worshipping of the culture that has been discussed, acting as an embodiment of capitalist values and the concept of the robotisation of identities. With this in mind, the high street serves as a perfect environment to benefit from the intent of the project.

The intervention was initiated by creating a series of a5 prints of the portraits discussed in the most recent blog posts, accompanied by a short explanation of the concept behind the illustration, and it’s applicability to contemporary culture and the modern lifestyle.

The image below shows an example, using the illustration titled ‘transparent camouflage’ as a vehicle to question the concepts of value systems, exploitation, and the notion of ‘cost’, with the desire to initiate personal reflection of such concepts to those who encounter the illustration.


The prints where then placed around shopping centers and high streets in Newcastle upon Tyne, as shown in the images below. Each print was created in batches of 8, all of which have been sequentially numbered in chronology of distribution.

The prints where hidden in locations with a lot of footfall, with the hopes that the illustration itself would attract interaction with the consumer for the novel obscurity in the context in which they where placed. Each print was placed in a small plastic wallet, with the accompanying text being on the reverse side. The text has been written in such a way that is informal but authentic to the philosophy of the project, to allow for accessible communication that isn’t patronising in its simplicity.

In tune with the frequency of the project, the illustrations where not distributed with the intent of attracting personal attraction for economic gain, and so no communication of authorship was added, in an effort to remain authentic to the philosophy.


Establishing Connections

 While no effort of self-promotion has been made for the reasons previously stated, alongside the legal grey areas of the nature of the project, a sense of project identity has been established to allow for promotion of the project via networking and digital media, thus spreading the message further.

‘Illustration Intervention’ is the title that has been attributed to the project, with the idea that prints are to act as initiators of a potential consciousness shift that intervenes on the contemporary western cultural paradigm. To graphically communicate this, the logo below was created using the metaphor of two psilocybin-containing mushrooms (magic mushrooms) to symbolise altered states of consciousness, crossing over into an ‘x’ shape, reminiscent of the ‘x’ that marks the location of treasure on a child-like projection of a pirates map (the treasure in this case being the art print itself).

With the logo established, a full online presence was then established in order to fully utilise the benefits of free communication that the use of the internet has made possible. Much like the city center being the physical embodiment of the equivalent of the concept of the ‘heart’ of contemporary culture, social networking applications such as Twitter and Facebook act as the digital official documents of identity and ego. By communicating the presence of the project using social media, the message can be expressed over a mass spectrum – enhancing the possible success of the project intent, while also potentially creating an intervention to the aspect of culture that is defined by mobile phone applications and the worshipping of technological materialism.

By using networking tools, the generation of interest in the project can increase in likelihood with the possibility for those who come into contact with prints during periods of intervention to help further the message by photographing/mentioning their experience on their own personal networking websites. The tag ‘#illustrationintervention’ has been established which would be used with every mention of the project by others to root back to the source. The logo and tag has then been included on each of the text accompaniments to the prints, in addition to the other formats which the project had taken advantage of existing within.


Nurturing the Seed

 A website was established that logged all the prints that had been distributed, alongside the locations that they had been distributed within, and photographs to demonstrate this. The hope for the potential future of the project involves the contribution of others who may have been exposed to the project via social networking from various cities.

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 15.41.26Within the website is a section titled ‘Contribute’, which explains a process in which those taking part are sent 8 a5 prints which they then disperse around the city of their choice, photograph the prints in location, and send the photographs to the illustration intervention e-mail account, which are then put up on the website. The contributors are then sent an a4 art print as thanks for their participation.

The desire is that if contributors from various cities (made known through accounts on social networking) apply to take part, then their involvement can be logged on the website under the heading ‘interventions’ which acts as a log of the past dates and future dates and locations which the prints would be dispersed, which would then be communicated via the contributors personal networking accounts, thus promoting the work and contributing to the potential impact of the project.


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To find out more, go to;

@illustrationintervention (instagram)


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