An Entire World In A Single Illustration

Sometimes illustrators want to convey an entire storyworld within a single scene. These are useful as establishing shots in stories.

Some call these illustrations ‘panoptic‘.

Panoptic refers to ‘showing or seeing the whole at one view’. Panoptic narrative art is often a bird’s eye view. The ‘camera’ is above. This is the art world’s equivalent of an all-seeing (omniscient) narrator.

The first to do is bring the ‘camera’ right up into the sky. The viewer now has a bird’s eye view of the setting.

But there’s more to it than that. It is an advanced compositional skill to incorporate mountains, deserts, forests and cities into a single scene.

Below is a collection of examples, with various ideas for composition.

Southwind, Johann Sadeler (I), after Maerten de Vos, 1560 – 1600.
Anton Pieck design for the train Diorama at the Efteling theme park
Tove Jansson (1914 – 2001) rarely seen late 1950s poster illustration for The Moomins
Brian çonon (in Pra-Loup, a ski region) 1901 illustration by Louis Trinquier-Trianon
Subsurface Lunar Colony, illustrated by Roy Scarfo for Beyond Tomorrow The Next 50 Years in Space, 1965 crosscut
German Childs Book 1953 Vom lieben Gott und der schönen Welt
National Parks – detail from cover of 1958 AAA Travel brochure
Promotional poster for Vence, Alpes Maritimes, by French illustrator Roger Broders (1883-1953)
Harry Riley (1895 ~1966) 1955 British Railways travel poster illustration for Penzance, Cornwall
lanka Karasz (1896-1981) Hungarian-American
Lucien Boucher (1889-1971) Far East by Air France poster art 1950
Music Round the Town edited by Max T. Krone, Irving Wolfe, Beatrice Perham Krone & Margaret Fullerton, illustrated by Val Samuelson (1963) train
Cover by Saul Steinberg, 1976
1951 The Summer Noisy Book, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard
Felix Vallotton
Russell Brockbank (1913–1979) The International Geophysical Year, 1957 (Punch, 1956)
1926 Illustration by Maud and Miska Petersham from inside the back cover of Olive Beaupre Miller’s Tales Told in Holland
‘Hot Springs at Shuzenji, Izu Province’ – Utagawa Hiroshige, 1853
Robert Falcucci (1900-1989) 1931 Poster Art Rallye de Monte-Carlo
‘Summer Nights’ by Vladimir Polunin, 1930
J.R.R. Tolkein, illustration of Hobbiton for his book The Hobbit 1937
from the Tenngren Tell It Again Book, Gustaf Tenngren
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
Harry Clarke Cinderella illustration for The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, first published in this format in 1922
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
Buzzati, Dino, The Bears’ famous Invasion of Sicily, 1947
Jaro Hess Poster of The Land of Make Believe 1933
Wheat harvesting, 1984- by Ashour Meselhi
Trouble for Trumpets by Peter Cross
1940s illustrations by Helen Sewell for Books of Knowledge Thanksgiving Day
‘Steinberg’s Panoramas’ 2.11.1938
Gustaf Tenggren (1896 – 1970) Snow White and the Seven Dwarves poster 1937
Things of Summer, Kathryn Jackson; illustration by Richard Scarry from The New Golden Almanac, 1952
Ilonka Karasz (Hungarian-American, 1896-1981) New Yorker 1953
F. Hugo D’Alesi, French (1849-1906), Zermatt railway opened in 1890. This is one of the first poster representations of the Matterhorn
Mike Lemanski Illustration for Fortune Magazine
Ronald Lampitt (1906-1988) Village in Spring (1949)

Header illustration: Luis Helguera, Routes of the Flying Clipper Ships Pan Am, 1941