Off the Page, with Gracia Lam and the Spot Illustration

Gracia Lam, by Gracia Lam.
Gracia Lam, by Gracia Lam.

Off the Page is a regular interview series produced by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. Today we’re chatting with illustrator Gracia Lam, whose work has been published in Maisonneuve, The Walrus, More, Corporate Knights, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and others. At last year’s National Magazine Awards, Gracia won both the gold and silver awards for Spot Illustration for two pieces of work published in Maisonneuve, the first illustrator ever to achieve that distinction.

NMAF: The spot illustration holds a special place in the makeup of a magazine. Diminutive, often playful, sometimes underrated in comparison to larger elements of artwork. What do you think makes spot illustration such a fundamental component of a magazine story? 

Gracia Lam

Gracia Lam: I think that spot illustrations are a splash of colour within a sea of text, constructing direction or a break for the reader’s eye. Within a confined space, it is carefully conceived to enhance the content of an article. It assists in the creation of tone and mood, and is used purposefully to amplify a reader’s senses and experience.

NMAF: You achieved an unprecedented feat at last year’s National Magazine Awards, winning both the Gold and Silver medals in Spot Illustration for two different works published in Maisonneuve. The jury awarded gold to your spot illustration accompanying a story called “The Elite Yellow Peril,” which is a very evocative work. What was your creative vision for this piece, and was it created specifically for the text or did you have a broader idea in mind when you created it?

Gracia: I often describe my two-dimensional pieces of illustrations as a short film. In film, the story is narrated through multiple frames and over a time period; my illustrations reveal the climax of a story in one frame.

My vision for the “The Elite Yellow Peril” was to create a connection with the viewer that is immediate and impactful. To achieve this, I created an illustration with imageries and representations as closely related to the text as possible.

NMAF: The article that featured your Silver winning spot, “The Tar-Sands Trap” dealt with the highly controversial, nationally debated topic of the Keystone XL pipeline. As a spot illustrator, how does your level of awareness on the associated story influence your creative process? Before you begin working on an illustration, how does your familiarity with the topic guide your conceptualization process?

Gracia: When working on any assignment, I allow the story to directly inform my creative process from conceptualizing initial sketches to final colourization. During the first read through of the assignment, I take notes and highlight bits and pieces of writing that round up the theme.

For “The Tar-Sands Trap” article, I needed to familiarize myself with specific elements of the story such as its location, the visualization of its landscape and environment, and the pipeline.

When the Art Director gives me complete freedom, I approach the conceptualization process with how I think the mood should be represented—which is to portray the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline as a danger to the community.

NMAF: Your work has appeared in a large number of magazines, including many National Magazine Award-winning publications. Is there a “Gracia Lam” style that is boldly consistent throughout your work in various publications? And what is the process of adapting that style to align with the vision of the art director or of the textual part of the story?

Gracia: My visual language is created using mixed media, combining hand painted and drawn elements along with digital execution. I love to delight the audience with wit by reimagining everyday objects, mundane environments, and familiar situations with visual puns.

The process of adapting that style is mainly through practice. I am grateful that throughout my career I have been given many opportunities on various topics and stories from business and finance articles to science and health stories. These challenges allow me to identify my strengths and edit out my weaknesses, so each project contributes to the gradual tightening and refining of my work and portfolio.

NMAF: You swept the Spot Illustration category at last year’s gala, taking home both the Gold and Silver awards. Before that, you had been nominated three times since 2010. Winning both top spots within a single category is no small feat. Can you describe the difference in transitioning from nominee to two-time winner? What effect have the awards had on your career since last year’s ceremony?

Gracia: I was absolutely blown away by last year’s awards and want to thank the judges who recognized my work. I have always been excited to be nominated alongside many known names in the field—many of which are my peers and idols. The transition from nominee to winner is humbling because winning any award from the NMAs had been a goal. Since the awards last year, I have been working proficiently to improve on each piece to be on top of my own game.

Gracia Lam is a National Magazine Award-winning illustrator, born in Hong Kong and raised in Toronto. She likes to reinvent everyday objects and mundane environments.. To view more of her work visit GraciaLam.com

Special thanks to Leah Jensen for conducting this interview with Gracia Lam. To view more nominated and winning work, visit the National Magazine Awards online archive at magazine-awards.com/archive.

Check out more of our Off the Page interviews with National Magazine Award winners, including illustrators Byron Eggenschwiler, Roxanna Bikadoroff, Jillian Tamaki and Selena Wong.

The nominees for this year’s National Magazine Awards will be announced right here on the NMA blog on May 4. This year’s awards gala is June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. 

Illustrator Jillian Tamaki to launch SuperMutant Magic Academy, new book based on webcomic

Four-time National Magazine Award-winning illustrator Jillian Tamaki’s latest book, SuperMutant Magic Academy, hits stores on April 28, and the celebrated artist will appear at the book’s official launch event in Toronto at The Central on Markham Street.

An ongoing webcomic since 2010, whimsical and poignant and delightfully honest, SuperMutant Magic Academy the book is a compendium of the webcomic updated with new material including a forty-page closing story, and is published by Drawn & Quarterly.

Science experiments go awry, bake sales are upstaged, and the new kid at school is a cat who will determine the course of human destiny. In one strip, lizard-headed Trixie frets about her nonexistent modeling career; in another, the immortal Everlasting Boy tries to escape this mortal coil to no avail. Throughout it all, closeted Marsha obsesses about her unrequited crush, the cat-eared Wendy. Whether the magic is mundane or miraculous, Tamaki’s jokes are precise and devastating.

 

Perhaps best known today for the Governor General’s award-winning book, This One Summer, Jillian’s work has appeared in The Walrus, The New Yorker, More and other magazines. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

In our 2012 interview with Jillian, she talked about the process of building a portfolio as a magazine illustrator as part of a purposeful career path in illustration. “It’s incredibly advantageous to be able to do editorial work when you’re starting out, because it’s one facet of the industry that regularly takes chances on new talent.”

Check out Jillian’s new book and, if you’re in Toronto, join her at the launch of SuperMutant Magic Academy on April 28.

And check out Jillian’s award-winning magazine work at the National Magazine Awards archive.

Sheridan College Graduate Illustration Show: April 16

The soon-to-be graduates of Sheridan College‘s Bachelor’s of Illustration program will present their annual show in Toronto on Thursday April 16, at 99 Sudbury Street.

Entitled “Colour War,” the exhibit promises visual delight and all fans of illustration–especially magazine illustration–will want to check it out. The exhibit will also be available for public viewing on Friday April 17.

More information at Sheridan Illustration.

The National Magazine Award for Best New Illustrator or Photographer

"Top Shelf" (Report on Business Magazine) by The Coveteur, former winner of Best New Illustrator or Photographer
“Top Shelf” (Report on Business Magazine) by The Coveteur, former winner of Best New Illustrator or Photographer

Are you an emerging Canadian magazine illustrator, photographer, graphic artist or digital image creator? Have you published your first major piece of visual work in a Canadian consumer magazine, university magazine or arts journal within the last 3 years? Chances are you’re eligible to be named Canada’s Best New Illustrator or Photographer from the National Magazine Awards Foundation.

The National Magazine Award for Best New Illustrator or Photographer goes to the artist whose early work in Canadian magazines (print, online or tablet) shows the highest degree of craft and promise.

The inaugural winner of this award, illustrator Byron Eggenscwhiler, has been nominated for 9 National Magazine Awards in total, winning 5 times, and his work has been published in Cottage Life, Swerve, More, Up Here, Maisonneuve and elsewhere. Read our interview with Byron about his career.

Another winner, the fashion & beauty collective The Coveteur, have been published in Report on Business, Toronto Life and elsewhere. Read our interview with The Coveteur about their creative work.

ELIGIBILITY
Eligible work–illustration, photo illustration, photography, infographics, graphic narratives and digital images–must have been published in a Canadian magazine (print, online or tablet) between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2014, and must be at least one full page in size or digital equivalent, a single or series accompanying an article or editorial package. Candidates must not have published any magazine work larger than one page prior to 2012. The intent is to restrict this award to students and visual artists with a maximum of 3 years’ experience in professional journalism. One entry per person. See the NMAF’s general rules for further information about eligible publications.

HOW TO ENTER
Enter your submissions at magazine-awards.com. Submissions may be made by the artist or their art director or teacher. Entrants must complete the online application and submit required hard copies (see below). The deadline for applications including all required hard copies is January 19. The cost to enter is only $25 +HST.

REQUIREMENTS

  • Upload a PDF of your work during the online application.
  • Submit in hard copy four (4) sets of original tear sheets and four (4) copies of a letter of reference from a teacher, art director, mentor or colleague which attests to the candidate’s eligibility and provides context for the work submitted. Both the visual work and letter are reviewed by the judges.
  • Pay the submission fee ($25 + HST) by cheque or credit card.

FINALISTS AND WINNERS
A shortlist of 3 finalists will be announced on May 4, and all finalists receive a certificate and recognition in NMAF publications and at the gala. The winner will be revealed at the 38th annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 5.

PRIZE
$500 cash; plus the right to call yourself a National Magazine Award winner. We’ll interview you on our blog and promote you and your work nationwide.

More information and to submit:
magazine-awards.com/bnip 

Don’t forget the deadline: January 19, 2015.

Off the Page, with Byron Eggenschwiler

Byron Eggenschwiler (Photo by Kelly Johnson)
Byron Eggenschwiler (Photo by Kelly Johnson)

Off the Page is a regular interview series produced by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. Today we catch up with Byron Eggenschwiler, five-time National Magazine Award-winning illustrator whose work has been published in Swerve, Maisonneuve, Cottage Life, Canadian Business, Up Here and other Canadian magazines.

NMAF: You call Alberta home and graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design. Like so many other graduates of programs at ACAD and the Ontario College of Art and Design, you’ve found great success in the Canadian magazine industry. How has your education helped shape your art and your future as a magazine illustrator?

Byron: My education was pretty invaluable, it gave me an environment that encouraged exploration of media and ideas and forced me to sit down and start thinking about the kind of work I wanted to make. The program at ACAD was really great for teaching us about both design and illustration and how the two intersect. Having both those backgrounds has been helpful in my illustration work.

I actually didn’t even know illustration was a career or what it really meant until going through the program. I was lucky to have teachers who encouraged me and steered me in the right direction and some really talented friends in my classes that challenged me to push myself out of my comfort zone to make better work.

"Be Worried. Don't Be Happy" by Byron Eggenscwhiler (Swerve). Gold Medal, Spot Illustration, 2008.
“Be Worried–Don’t Be Happy” by Byron Eggenscwhiler (Swerve). Gold Medal, Spot Illustration, 2008.

NMAF: A year after winning your first NMA for Spot Illustration in Swerve for “Be Worried–Don’t be Happy” in 2008, you were the first-ever winner of the award for Best New Visual Creator [now known as Best New Illustrator or Photographer] for “Tales from Riverheights Terrace” (also in Swerve). How did this recognition help propel your career?

Byron: I am unsure how these things directly affect future work but it helps to get your name out into the world a bit more, which can’t hurt. It is a great event celebrating the Canadian magazine industry and an honour for me to be acknowledged for the work I am doing within that [industry]. It gives a guy a confidence boost to keep moving forward in an otherwise fairly solitary profession.

NMAF: You have a distinct and recognizable style. How much direction do you take from your clients in the magazine industry and how much of your own creative voice goes into designing your illustrations for each piece?

Byron: It can be a balance and depends on the magazine itself, but sometimes an art director has something specific in mind for an idea and I work with that. Sometimes that can be a jumping off point for an even better idea. There are times where there is a bit of back and forth along the way but most of the time it is left in my hands to see where I can take a piece and how I want to finish it. Compromising is part of the job and hopefully no matter what it still carries a bit of me with it at the end.

"Death of a Salesman" by Byron Eggenschwiler (Canadian Business). Silver Medal, Illustration, 2011.
“Death of the Salesman” by Byron Eggenschwiler (Canadian Business). Silver Medal, Illustration, 2011.

NMAF: Many of your pieces seem to be more of an article within an illustration as opposed to an illustration meant to accompany an article. How does conceptualization for some of these, more image-heavy, pieces work?

Byron: I start by distilling an article down to a core point or phrase and then start sketching whatever ideas come to mind with that theme in the back of my mind. I don’t tend to have too many thoughts until I can see the forms taking shape on the page and it is somewhere in that mental wandering and playing around that ideas will emerge for me. Depending on the feel of the story itself this can lead off in different directions, and as long as that initial idea is still there I am pretty open to anything.

I like the idea of creating a new story with my illustrations to tell the author’s story. I think it can add another layer to the article and enrich it.

NMAF: When drawing, do you aim to create an image that contextually matches the text of the article, or does the tone or theme of the piece dictate what imagery will accompany it?

Byron: I like to read an article a few times to get an overall feel for the content and then decide how I want to approach it. If the tone is more serious or if it is humorous it will have a big influence on my thinking of how to approach the piece. I find the end result is much better if I can keep myself open to surprises through the sketching phase and let thoughts show up no matter how out-there they are. I try to make work that captures the feeling you get when you read the story and will speak to you with or without the text.

"Post-Secondary Distress" by Byron Eggenscwhiler (More). Gold Medal, Spot Illustration, 2011
“Post-Secondary Distress” by Byron Eggenscwhiler (More). Gold Medal, Spot Illustration, 2011

Byron Eggenscwhiler is an award-winning illustrator based in Calgary. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Discover, More Magazine, BusinessWeek, National Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, LA Weekly, Canadian Business, Swerve, Runner’s World, Wired, The Walrus, Maisonneuve, Quill & Quire, Uppercase Gallery, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers & more. See more of his work at byronegg.com.

Special thanks to Melissa Myers for conducting this interview with Byron for the NMAF.

Read more about the National Magazine Award for Best New Illustrator or Photographer.

Byron Eggenschwiler created the image for the 33rd annual National Magazine Awards gala in 2010.
Byron Eggenschwiler created the image for the 33rd annual National Magazine Awards gala in 2010.

Byron Eggenschwiler in the National Magazine Awards archive:

How the Nest was Done” (Cottage Life); Honourable Mention, Illustration 2013
Post-Secondary Distress” (More); Gold Medal, Spot Illustration, 2011
Towns on the Brink” (Up Here); Honourable Mention, Illustration, 2011
A Family Falling Out” (More); Honourable Mention, Spot Illustration, 2011
Death of the Salesman” (Canadian Business); Silver Medal, Illustration, 2011
Can You Have a Midlife Crisis on a Bicycle?” (Swerve); Silver Medal, Spot Illustration, 2010
Outlaw Country” (Maisonneuve); Honourable Mention, Spot Illustration, 2009
Be Worried–Don’t Be Happy” (Swerve); Gold Medal, Spot Illustration, 2008

NMA winners headline shortlists for GGs, Writers’ Trust, Giller Prize

Yesterday’s revealing of the Giller Prize shortlist, today’s announcement of the Governor General’s Literary Awards finalists, both on the heels of last week’s release of the five finalists for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, means that the big three Canadian literary prizes are counting down the days until we find out who wrote the best in Canadian literature for 2014.

Each year, it seems a handful of the nominees for these prestigious CanLit prizes have come from the magazine world; this year, almost all of the shortlisted authors have National Magazine Awards on their resumes.

Continue reading

Announcing the Winners of the 37th annual National Magazine Awards!

The National Magazine Awards Foundation (NMAF) is pleased to announce the winners of the 37th annual National Magazine Awards.

At this year’s gala on June 6, presented by CDS Global and hosted by humourist (and award-winner) Scott Feschuk, the NMAF presented Gold and Silver awards in 47 categories representing the best in Canadian magazines from the year 2013.

Complete list (PDF) of all winners
Full-text of all nominated and winning articles
Twitter highlights
La version française

SPECIAL AWARD WINNERS

Magazine of the Year
Sponsored by RBC Royal Bank
Cottage Life

Magazine Website of the Year
Macleans.ca
14720

Tablet Magazine of the Year
Sportsnet

Best New Magazine Writer
Sponsored by Reader’s Digest Foundation
Catherine McIntyre

Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement
Kim Jernigan

Top Winning Magazines at the 37th National Magazine Awards:

Magazine Gold Silver HM
The Walrus 7 6 22
Maclean’s 4 1 13
Maisonneuve 4 1 9
L’actualité 3 2 18
Report on Business 3 2 16
Cottage Life 3 1 9
Eighteen Bridges 3 1 7
Legion Magazine 2 0 1
Western Living 1 3 4
Sportsnet 1 2 7
The Grid 1 1 12
Hazlitt 1 1 8
Flare 1 1 2
United Church Observer 1 1 2
enRoute 1 1 1
Malahat Review 1 1 1
Torontoist 1 1 1
Toronto Life 0 2 16
Jobboom 0 2 0

See the complete list of winners at magazine-awards.com.

INTEGRATED AWARDS – GOLD WINNERS  

Best Single Issue
Tenth Anniversary Issue
The Walrus


Magazine Covers
Larry Fink
Report on Business

Infographics
How Much Does a Street Cost?
The Grid

Editorial Package (Web)
Canada’s Best New Restaurants
enRoute
13628

Online Video
Boy Genius
Maclean’s

Single Service Article Package
Calendrier de l’avent
Ricardo

Words & Pictures
Sponsored by CDS Global
Water
The Walrus

WRITING AWARDS – GOLD WINNERS

Arts & Entertainment
Curtis Gillespie
Rebel Without Applause
Eighteen Bridges

Best Short Feature
Paul Wells
Boy Genius
Maclean’s 

Blogs
Jamie Bradburn, Kevin Plummer, David Wencer
Historicist
Torontoist

Business
Sponsored by Accenture
Charles Wilkins
This Little Piggy Went to Market…and the Farmer Lost Money
Report on Business

Columns
Sponsored by Impresa Communications Ltd.
Chantal Hébert
Politique
L’actualité

Editorial Package (Print)
Sponsored by Canadian Society of Magazine Editors
Marine Corniou, Dominique Forget, Joel Leblanc, Raymond Lemieux, Chantal Srivastava
Août 2013
Québec Science

Essays
Curtis Gillespie
In The Chair
Eighteen Bridges

Fiction
Jess Taylor
Paul
Little Brother Magazine

Health & Medicine
Ann Silversides
First Do No Harm
Maisonneuve

How-To
Jane Rodmell, David Zimmer
Best Flavour Ever
Cottage Life

Humour
Scott Feschuk
Assemble ingredients. Pause dramatically.
Maclean’s

Investigative Reporting
Adam Day
One Martyr Down
Legion Magazine

One of a Kind
Craig Davidson
The Marineland Dreamland
The Walrus

Personal Journalism
Liz Windhorst Harmer
Blip
Malahat Review

Poetry
Karen Solie
Conversion
Hazlitt

Politics & Public Interest
Lisa Fitterman
The Avenger
The Walrus

Profiles
Omar Mouallem
The Kingdom of Haymour
Eighteen Bridges

Science, Technology & Environment
Sponsored by GE Canada
Alanna Mitchell
Losing the Hooded Grebe
United Church Observer 

Service: Health & Family
Sharon Adams
Lest We Forget: The Shocking Crisis Facing Our Wounded Veterans
Legion Magazine

Service: Lifestyle
Valérie Borde
Vive le poisson éco!
L’actualité

Service: Personal Finance & Business
Sponsored by Manulife Financial
Denny Manchee
The Hand-Me-Down Blues
Cottage Life

Society
Dan Werb
The Fix
The Walrus

Sports & Recreation
Jonathan Trudel
La machine à broyer les rêves
L’actualité

Travel
Taras Grescoe
Big Mac
The Walrus

 

VISUAL AWARDS – GOLD WINNERS

Art Direction of an Entire Issue
Sponsored by The Lowe-Martin Group
Paul Sych
Issue 1
fshnunlimited (f.u.)

Art Direction of a Single Article
Underline Studio
Not in the Age of the Pharaohs
Prefix Photo

Beauty
John Van Der Schilden, Photographer
Brittany Eccles, Art Director
Juliana Schiavinatto, Stylist
Vanessa Craft, Beauty Director
Masterpiece Theatre
ELLE Canada

Creative Photography
Paul Weeks
Wall Candy
Azure

Fashion
Petra Collins, Photographer
Jed Tallo, Art Director
Corey Ng, Stylist
Pastels Take Shape
Flare

Homes & Gardens
Martin Tessler, Photographer
Paul Roelofs, Art Director
Nicole Sjöstedt, Stylist
Bright Idea
Western Living

Illustration
Selena Wong
Old Wounds
Maisonneuve

Magazine Website Design
TheWalrus.ca
The Walrus

Photojournalism & Photo Essay
Sponsored by CNW Group
Brett Gundlock
El Pueblo
Maisonneuve

Portrait Photography
Anya Chibis
Larry Fink
Report on Business

Spot Illustration
Gracia Lam
The Elite Yellow Peril
Maisonneuve

Still-Life Photography
Liam Mogan
Set Pieces
Sharp

ABOUT THE 37th ANNUAL NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS

More than 500 members of the Canadian magazine industry—publishers, editors, art directors, writers, photographers, illustrators, circulators and more—joined esteemed sponsors and other guests at the 37th annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 6, 2014, at The Carlu in Toronto, presented by CDS Global.

This year, from nearly 2000 individual entries received nationwide, the NMAF’s 238 volunteer judges nominated a total of 376 submissions from 92 different Canadian magazines for awards in 47 written, visual, integrated and special categories.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The National Magazine Awards Foundation acknowledges the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario, as well as the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

The NMAF thanks its corporate sponsors Accenture, GE Canada, Manulife Financial, RBC Royal Bank, The Lowe-Martin Group, Canadian Society of Magazine Editors, Penguin Random House and Reader’s Digest Foundation for their generous financial support of the National Magazine Awards.

The NMAF thanks its media partners Cottage Life Media, Impresa Communications Ltd., Masthead, Rogers Media, TC Media and Toronto Life for their generous support of the National Magazine Awards.

The NMAF thanks its event partners CNW Group and Media Vantage, The CarluDaniel et Daniel, Relay Experience, KlixPix and Michèle Champagne for their generous support of the National Magazine Awards.

The NMAF gratefully acknowledges all its suppliers and its contributors who donated gifts in kind to support the awards program. We thank them for their generosity, interest and expertise. Thanks also to our hard-working event volunteers.

And thanks again to our wonderful Master of Ceremonies, Scott Feschuk.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS FOUNDATION

The National Magazine Awards Foundation is a bilingual, not-for-profit institution whose mission is to recognize and promote excellence in the content and creation of Canadian print and digital publications through an annual program of awards and national publicity efforts.

For more information, visit magazine-awards.com and follow us on Twitter (@MagAwards).