It’s been the year of Trump’s election, continuation of the Syrian refugee crisis, the popularisation of somewhat dark Netflix series such as Black Mirror and Stranger Things, not to mention Simon Stalenhag’s incredible new illustrations.
2016 has allowed a lot of opportunity for illustrator commentary. Whatever may be the cause of social or political worry, pop culture references, or a rather dystopian outlook on the future, we take a positive moment to reflect on these beautiful and clever illustrations that emerged in 2016. And don’t worry - some paint a happier picture.
Butcher Billy: Black Mirror
Pop artist Butcher Billy has created six faux comic book covers based on Black Mirror episodes from across the show's three series.
They're just-for-the-fun-of-it mashups – so don't go looking for subversive commentary, just in-jokes and references to memorable moments. The artist has picked the episodes that seem to have resonated with audiences most – though not always in a positive way.
Donald Trump Artworks
His election shocked the world, and many artists expressed deep concern through absurd or politically satirical artworks.
We take a look at the 17 most horrifying (in a special way), including pop art made from poo emojis, a colouring book, Sagmeister & Walsh’s illustrated pins and badges, and that naked portrait.
Stuart McReath: The Holocaust, gun control & the death penalty
Few illustrators' styles match the most serious of subjects as well as Stuart McReath's. His works have a simple composition around a well-thought out concept, which drives home its meaning without feeling obvious or clumsy.
His sombre colours are accompanied by intensely graduated shading, which give solidness to the objects and people in his works that imbues them with a feeling of weight and depth - both literally and metaphorically.
Kyle Lambert: Stranger Things
80s nostalgia-fest Stranger Things is the TV show of the moment – sorry, Robot Wars reboot – and we love this poster that Netflix commissioned British artist Kyle Lambert to paint for it almost as much as we love the show.
We look at the creation of the poster – along with a series of other paintings based on the show – plus we’ve pulled out a few classic 80s movie posters that the Stranger Things poster draws on.
Lola Beltran: Neon Demon
Spanish artist Lola Beltran’s illustrations gives the classic poster style a bold, Neon Demon-esque twist, surrounding the characters with neon lights and director Nicolas Winding-Refyn’s favourite, the enigmatic triangle. The result is just like the film itself: beautiful, heavily stylised, with a surreal edge.
The portraits include an expertly captured Natalie Portman (shown), as well as Christian Bale, Richard Linklater and Jeff Goldblum.
Simon Stalenhag: Procession
Something has gone terribly awry in the world depicted in these paintings by Simon Stalenhag. Aliens have invaded and 'won' – or lost, perhaps – but the world has returned to a state of mundanity. It's irreversably changed and full of powerful new technology, but the sense of daily grind remains the same.
Aykut Aydogdu: Dreamer
Aykut’s gorgeous illustrations may be bizarre, but they’re also beautiful. We love the inviting softness and wornness of the hand-painted look, lending it an almost old-fashioned feel.
We’ve put together Aykut’s whole series, Dreamer. We hope you enjoy the strange feeling of being simultaneously calmed and freaked out by an illustration.
Oliver Kugler: Syrian Refugee illustrations
A series of Olivier Kugler’s Syrian refugee illustrations is the result of two and a half years he spent uncovering multiple refugee journeys to the Greek island of Kos from Turkey.
The prints reveal the reality of two worlds – tourists and refugees – suddenly exposed to each other.
Jeremy Booth’s spin on Joel Bear photography
In these three illustrations by Jeremy, which each interpret one of Joel’s photos, the contrasts and harmonies of the different works are beautifully balanced - showing off the best of their differing mediums, but complementary styles.
Stare at the works long enough and it looks like reality next to dreams, this world next to a parallel one, or your perspective next to someone else’s. Each piece no longer seems complete on its own.
Pawel Nolbert: Constructed
Pawel’s Constructed series is a bunch of his travel photos that have been altered to create his perfect reality – and for him that means loads and loads of really cool, bright blocks beautifully placed in an every day landscape.
We love how normal stills of urban landscapes are photoshopped subtly. Somehow, all the graphical shapes and brilliant pinks, reds, purples, greens and blues seem to fit naturally into the landscape - and rather than undermining the every day, it's enhanced so you can appreciate it a little more.
Folio: 10 things every illustrator should know
Folio Illustration celebrated 40 years in the business this year. From lugging around hand-painted and airbrushed originals to globally sending out 3D CGI animation in a matter of minutes, we all know the industry has changed dramatically.
Founder Nicholas Dawe tells us 10 things every illustrator should know, with the key to a long career being the embracing of change.