Illustrators Bring Fine-Art Vibe to Common Ground

At least once a year, artists of the Northern Ohio Illustrators Society create work for the clients who understand them best: themselves. Then they put on a gallery show and let viewers see what occupies their thoughts between paid gigs.

Common Ground: New Art by Members of the Northern Ohio Illustrators Society, is on view from 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 1 at Canopy Collective in Cleveland.

Ron Hill, Red Biting Blue

Ron Hill, Red Biting Blue

“I think it arose out of the whole aftershock of the November election,” said NOIS President Ron Hill.  “We liked the title, Common Ground, because it seems open-ended enough but also suggests something to a viewer.”

The work might or might not be social critique, Hill says.  “If the artist wants to be political, they’re more than welcome to be political. If they want to stretch further – societal things, cultural things – they’re encouraged to do whatever Common Ground suggests to them.”

Illustrator Nancy Lick said that the recent political climate around immigration led her to do research on Ellis Island.

“I wanted to learn about the common ground many of us share in having ancestors who arrived in America, whether fleeing from political or religious persecution, or in just the hope of a better life with more opportunity. The vintage photo images I came across inspired me to do a set of sketchbook drawings that evolved into watercolor paintings.”

In addition to the social and political themes suggested by the exhibition title, Common Ground suggests a place where illustration and fine art overlap. History is filled with artists who worked across these lines. For example, Norman Rockwell’s 1964 oil painting “The Problem We All Live With” was a response to the Civil Rights movement, and published as a centerfold in Look magazine.

But where the disciplines share territory, they are also distinct, Hill says.

“I think a fine artists can create things that are illustrative. Illustrators may not be able to work in some of the same areas that fine artists can, because they can’t go abstract beyond a certain point,” Hill says. “Someone is not usually going to look at Rothko to illustrate a book — unless it’s a book about Rothko.”

The hope for the show, he says, is that viewers will learn more about what local illustrators do — their art-making techniques and the varied ways they answer an open-ended question.

Common Ground: Northern Ohio Illustrators Society exhibit at Canopy Collective, 6 – 10pm September 1