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Illustration

Jonathan Katz

I am an illustrator, printmaker and visual storyteller, based in London. I received my BA Design in Visual Communication (Illustration) from Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. Before moving to London I lived in Kyoto, Japan where I worked as a freelance illustrator.

For the past few years I have been experimenting with the relationship between my practice as a narrative illustrator and as a textile designer. In my work I am passionate about handmade techniques, particularly the essence and the concept of craftsmanship. I believe that by preserving the knowledge of traditional methods, real innovation begins. During my MA I have explored how such techniques may be adapted to digital spaces and ways of making.

During the past year, I have been a collaborator with ‘Fishskinlab’, a project funded by EU Horizon2020, which explores the traditional Arctic craft of leather made of fish skin. The project’s goal is to encourage the potential use of fish leather as a new alternative raw material for the fashion industry. It aims to help fashion production become more sustainable and the ocean less polluted by using unused fish skin waste currently polluting the sea water.

Degree Details

School of Communication

Illustration

My project creates a series of narratives from the Arctic, in particular looking at different aspects of how global warming and climate change affect those who inhabit the region: from the Inuit People in Nunavut to the polar bears in the North Pole and to emperor penguins in Antarctica, their landscapes and ways of living are constantly shifting due to climate changes in the Arctic eco-system.

The circumstances of multiple lockdowns, restrictions and other limitations have deeply influenced the project. It became clearer that although I am a very enthusiastic physical analogue maker, there are different (and perhaps better) ways to execute my visions and express my critical thoughts visually, while at the same time expand my image vocabulary.

Fish skin has been used by Arctic coastal cultures for the past 1000 years. It is a material I have become very familiar with during the past year. In these works fish skin and traditional making techniques have been adapted to virtual spaces. This use of 3D simulation bridges my practice as a visual creator, and as a researcher who is an outsider to the Arctic and the traditional craftsmanship of fish skin made there. It offers a view from my own position towards another way of living. It also emphasises the promise of this raw material for a more sustainable and less wasteful future.

Embroidery on dyed fish skin
Detail
Detail
Fish skin marquetry and embroidered details

During Middle Ages, Narwhal tusks were sold in Europe and East Asia as a unicorn horn. Physicians believed that the powdered unicorn horn could cure illness, even raise the dead. As an introvert animal, Narwhals live in quiet areas of the Polar sea. However the continuous decline in sea ice created new routes in the Arctic sea for explorers and tourism. Studies recording the Narwhals' heart rates are showing a concern for Narwhals’ resilience to rapid environmental change.

Medium:

3D
Embroidery on fish skin marquetry
Detail
Detail
Embroidered patch on fish skin marquetry

Cannibalism amongst Polar Bears has been a known phenomenon to scientists since the 1980’s. They believe that Polar Bears eat their cubs in the late summer and autumn when seals are in the sea and less available. In 2015, the level of sea ice was recorded at its lowest in 30 years. For Polar Bears, sea ice is a crucial platform to be used when hunting seals.

Scientists believe climate change might make cannibalistic behaviour more common.

Medium:

3D
Fish skin marquetry and embroidered details
Detail
Detail
Fish skin marquetry and embroidered details
Detail
Detail
Fish skin marquetry and embroidered details
Detail
Detail

In the past 30 years, multilayer ice, the thickest and oldest type, has declined by 95 percent. Hunting and safe travelling routes have become much more unpredictable due to the thinning ice and shift in animal migration patterns.

As a result of global warming, heavy rainfall and faster snowmelt in the Arctic, Inuit communities have reported increasing cases of illness related to pathogens in the surface water and groundwater.

Medium:

3D
Fish skin marquetry and embroidered details
Baleen basketry and ivory beading on dyed fish skin — Baskets made of baleen, the fibrous substance found in the mouths of plankton-eating whales is a native art around North Alaska.
Detail

Nalukataq festival in Northern Alaska, is characterized by a blanket toss to mark the end of the spring whaling season. The 3 day festival celebrates thanksgiving, and marks the occasion to distribute all parts of the whale meat to the community.

Medium:

3D
Caribou bone beading on fish skin marquetry
Detail

Caribou is a species of deer, native to the Arctic regions of Northern Europe, Siberia, and North America. A single animal, can be use for a variety of purposes. Such as tools, clothing, shelter and food. The use of Caribou is dependent on two annual migrations.

Medium:

3D
Fish skin marquetry
Fish skin marquetry and pearls beading

Ever since Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition crew were sent to snatch three freshly laid eggs during mid-winter in Antarctica, Emperor Penguins are known to be the only penguins to breed on sea ice rather than land ice. Warmer air and water temperature in Antarctica and shorter winters have increased the amount of ice free days, resulting in Emperor Penguins' breeding rates to decline.

Medium:

3D

As part of Situated Practice: Archive(r), I have used a sketchbook to document my research. The method of research was elaborate yet spontaneous. I tried to collect any piece of information that might be relevant or useful, in order to expand my understanding of the complexity of the Arctic both historically and ecologically.

Medium:

Sketchbook

Size:

13 x 21 cm
Samples

Some of the illustrations in this project were produced on real, physical pieces of fish leather.

Techniques:

  1. UV Printing on White Dyed Fish Skin.
  2. UV Printing on Natural Fish Skin.
  3. UV Printing on Foiled Fish Skin.
  4. Fish Skin Marquetry.
  5. UV Printing on White Dyed Fish Skin.
  6. Engraving on Natural Fish Skin.
  7. UV Printing on Natural Fish Skin.
  8. Engraving on White Dyed Fish Skin.
  9. Engraving on White Dyed Fish Skin.




Medium:

Fish skin leather