Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hello, artists and illustrators, I have a bone to pick with you.

Suppose you're an artist. You've been commissioned by a greeting card company, or a fabric company, or a children's book company, to draw some illustrations that depict people (or animals or robots or whatever) in the act of knitting.

You're an artist, right? You know all about drawing from models, or even from good photographs.

So why, oh WHY, do you and your kind keep illustrating knitters in the same stereotypical way -- the very, very wrong way? Why are you going with the image of what everyone "knows" knitting looks like instead of -- hey, here's a wild and crazy idea -- actually looking at knitters?

Let me show you. Here's how you non-knitterly artists depict knitters (source of images: Microsoft Clipart site).

Like this:
 And this:
 And this:
 And this:
 And this:
 And this:
Do y'all see what I'm seeing here? I'm not just talking gray-haired old ladies in rocking chairs here. Here are young people and even sheep all doing the same damn thing. Do you see it?

Do you?

Here I'll point it out to you:
Yes, THAT. I see that all over the place, in cartoons, in children's books, in fabric used to make knitting bags, for freak's sake! Straight knitting needles held like pencils, with the knobs waggling in the air, making a V-shape, and the points poking down into the knitting doing -- what?

Now, there are lots of different ways people hold knitting needles, but believe me, artists and illustrators, when I say that the V-formation IS NOT ONE OF THEM! This does not work. You cannot knit this way.

How about this?

Not quite. The needles are better, but what's going on in the middle of the piece? She could have just bound off a neckline and has the live shoulder stitches on the two needles, but I suspect that the artist has no idea that the live stitches are supposed to be on the needles -- that somehow the points just poke at the fabric and something happens.

Why, artists and illustrators, WHY do you keep on drawing knitters this way?

For once, go down to the local independent yarn shop, or find a knitting group, and watch people actually knitting. They do this (yes, sometimes with kids and cats included):

 Or you can even show it like this:
Notice that the needle ends are down. The hands are on top of the needles, palm down. The live stitches are on the needles, and as they are worked, they are passed from one needle to the other.

Now, there are different ways of holding the needles. Sometimes English-style knitters hold the right-hand needle like a pencil, so it looks like this (source: Wikimedia commons):

But there's no knitting style where both needles are held like pencils. Most knitters look like this fellow, palms down, even though the yarn tensioned around one's neck isn't common (source: Wikimedia commons):

Okay, got it? Young people, old people, men, women, indoors, outdoors, it's all good, just don't give us the V-formation with needles flapping around uselessly. Art is all about observing, so observe, okay? Have a look at actual knitters. The whole knitting community will thank you.

Now... don't even get me started on stereotyped "scientists" in the clip art galleries!


Silvia M. said...

(and I do knit with the yarn around my neck or being held by a pin on my shoulder - Portuguese style)

Jessica said...

I'm an artist, and this sort of thing has driven me crazy. Look at people playing a flute, and then look at drawings of people playing a flute. The problem is that illustrators will have models, and say "here, pretend you're knitting," or whatever. If the model doesn't know, the drawing is done incorrectly. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't be doing the research to direct their model properly, but that's how it goes.

There's also this thing called artistic license. Maybe they want to show the needles? I'm not sure.

lunaticraft said...

Research? Noooooo. Never. This sort of thing drives me insane. I'm not even going to get started on the depiction of instrumentalists, my goodness. But I am very glad to see someone else notice too. =)

mamakass said...

I wholeheartedly agree. That's my biggest pet peeve about knitting in the popular imagination. When I was having the banner for my blog made, the first thing I insisted to the artist was that the knitting had to be done correctly and there would be no Vs anywhere nearby. They aren't completely CORRECT, as it is a cartoon, but they are at least very close.


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