love, love illustrated
by Gracie Pratt
Artist Danielle Duer puts love on display in an imaginative, vibrant new series. These illustrations, collectively titled love, love illustrated, showcase the bond between spouses, parents and children, siblings, and friends. With intricate designs and a spirit of lightheartedness, Duer strives to create a representation of a person’s true self through her illustrations, noting everything from little-known details to personality traits in her depictions.
Fascinated by the difference between who people truly are and who they portray themselves to be, Duer promotes transparency in her illustrations. The series has become an opportunity for people to peel back the veil and celebrate the quirky, dark, fun, remarkable characteristics that make them who they are.
It is vulnerability in the face of love. The love, love illustrated series tells the story of people and their most cherished relationships.
The series started naturally after Duer began to share her illustrations of imaginary couples and families on social media. When she announced that she had a few spots open for illustrations that could be completed in time for Valentine’s Day the response was overwhelming. She had planned room for 15–20 illustrations. She was commissioned for 80.
That was over two years ago. Since then she has illustrated at least 200 couples and families from the U.S., Germany, Turkey, Mexico, New Zealand, and France.
“I read all about how husbands met their wives, how couples adopted their beautiful children from different countries, about single women raising two or three kids with strikingly different personalities, and pets they couldn’t live without,” she says.
The illustrations are done primarily in marker, a decision which Duer initially questioned. “I wondered if I would be taken seriously as a marker artist.” Though Duer has experience with painting and design, markers felt like a natural choice for these illustrations.
“It is vulnerability in the face of love. The love, love illustrated series tells the story of people and their most cherished relationships.”
Unlike paint, which can be layered and painted over if needed, Duer gets one shot with a marker. The curse is that there’s no way to redo any aspect of the piece; the blessing is that her art is forced to be a gut reaction to someone’s story. There is very little censoring or overanalyzing that happens once the marker hits the paper.
Her illustrations are symbolic, meaningful representations of clients. A couple who had traveled across the globe was outfitted with suitcases in Duer’s illustration, complete with travel stamps representing all of the places they had been.
Another illustration features a couple with their two children, surrounded by elements of nature in a cool color palette. At the bottom of the illustration, an inscription reads: “When the kids are old enough, we are gonna teach them to fly.”
The reason the series has been appealing to so many seems clear. “The illustrations are a way for them to see their own narrative,” she says. It gives them a sense of belonging, a visual moment of gratitude for the people that are most important.
“A lot of people wanted to tell their story, but they didn’t know how,” Duer says. Through a series of interview questions, she gets a sense of a family’s history, what kind of things they care about, the people in their life, what they do in their spare time.
She finds that the interview process is sometimes as rewarding for her clients as the moment when they hold the finished illustration in their hands. At their core, people want to share their stories.
Love oozes off the page when she asks parents to describe their children. In an interview, a mother described her oldest daughter, Olivia, in this way: “She is wise beyond her years and values intangible things in the way that most adults don’t but should. She talks of traveling the world and studying animals and living in a trailer, never wanting material possessions that she doesn’t need.”
And of her younger daughter: “Everything about Norah has been a surprise since I found out I was pregnant with her. Norah is fierce. Norah is a force. When she is happy, no one else in the world has ever been that happy.”
For Duer, the opportunity to capture family members is a weighty responsibility. How do you put the force of Norah’s personality into an illustration? Duer finds a way.
“It really is like a love letter,” Duer says of the illustrations. Clients often commission illustrations for loved ones —a gift from children to parents, parents to children, one spouse to another.
Her illustrations capture a story, details like French books, a bouquet of roses, or even a favorite pair of shoes revealing a unique personhood and family history. And when the finished illustration arrives in the mail, families are delighted to see their story as art. “They love it because it’s them,” she says.
For more information about Danielle Duer and her love, love illustrated series, visit her website at www.danielleduer.com.