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  Varoom - serious about illustration
Nanette Hoogslag
posted on March 28, 2013 at 9:00

For those of us that are not familiar with Varoom, this is the magazine from the Association of Illustrators in the United Kingdom. It is a quarterly publication - more newspaper than glossy - where in-depth articles, features and portfolio’s are published dedicated to illustration. This is one of the few magazines where you can actually find information and points of view that are beyond the usual promotional blurb or image-porn. With this I mean more than just pretty pictures that forever hope to inspire clients to commission or other illustrators to copy. This is a magazine that takes the practice and culture of illustration serious.

The spring release of Varoom coming out Thursday the 11th of April will be about “Making Rules or breaking Rules?”
As illustration becomes ever more varied and diverse in its output and working methods, does it follow any given ‘rules’? Will illustrators become the future guides of our blended, augmented-reality environments?

From a close look into subjects like 'challenging reading conventions', to the use of the iPad and iPhone as new tools and platforms and illustration as a politically engaged group practice, this issue promises to have some interesting ‘meat’ in it. Forever hopeful about the ‘illustration-spring’ (a.e. the world waking up to its amazing qualities), I’m looking forward to the new issue. Varoom 21 can be ordered online, but if you can’t wait to the release date check out the archive for back issues!

Beyond it’s magazine there is also a website of the AOI, where you can find a lot of information about upcoming events, portfolios of members and the activities of the association, such as a fight for copyright etc. Of course this is aimed at British illustrators, but much of what is presented is useful for illustrators worldwide.

Most special is the extension of the Varoom magazine: VaroomLab, which has come out with its first issue in November 2012. Online only this true peer reviewed academic publication, again focuses on illustration. As far as I know there is no other peer-reviewed platform that has the same specificity (please let me know if there is!). Of course there are academic articles around illustration spread across academic journals ranging from anthropology, media, sociology, book and design culture. But these the focus tends to be from those particular fields and not from the comprehension of the illustration practice and illustration culture itself.

But why is this important? Understanding of what this thing called illustration does and can do empowers those who make, use and interpret it. Long being a plaything of artists, designers and amateurs and gap filler of art directors and editors, how we see the illustration has been eroded by a common held belief in its irrelevance and triviality. Unlike the photograph or typography, where there is a much more established reflective culture and many books and articles written that have influenced the way we appreciate these media today, illustration struggles to be taken seriously.

Varoom-lab Issue 1 can be downloaded for free.