Bill Mayer
Savages/Steppenwolf Theatre

Interesting project for Ogilvy in Chicago.. A poster for Steppenwolf Theatre.
It is Steppenwolf's fortieth anniversary, and they're celebrating by getting artist to do posters for some of their more memorable plays from the past. They sent me a list of the plays. I picked the first one "1980-81: Savages" 
It seemed like something dark and tribal would work. Part of the criteria was the posters had to be in two colors, pms 485 (Red) and black. And of course variations of those colors, greys and deep reds. .

1. 1980-81: Savages:
Alan West, British government official in Brazil, is kidnapped by the M.R.B. (Movimento Revolucionario Brasileiro) in order to be exchanged for political prisoners. His guard, Carlos Esquerdo, is a would-be philosopher, reciting quotes by Fanon and Camus, and interested in poetry and chess. He tries to make his hostage understand the ideas behind the revolutionary movement, reads their manifesto to him, and explains that the corrupt government must be punished for "selling our country to the interests of US capitalism, which it has allowed to exploit our resources and steal our land, while our people starve and suffer all the miseries of poverty and unemployment".
While Esquerdo focuses on the plight of the 90 million Brazilian workers and landless farmers, West's mind is occupied with the extinction of the native Indians. In flashbacks, the audience learns that West has long been interested in Indian culture, rituals, and legends, and that he is aware of the genocide under way in the country. He knows that if no measures are taken, there will not be many Indians left to tell their tales and perform their rites of the Quarup as they are being murdered by gifts of sugar mixed with arsenic, by wilfully spread disease (such as distributing blankets from smallpox wards), or barbaric slaughter financed by greedy land owners and speculators, both foreign and domestic. One of the henchmen, Ataide Pereira, is questioned by an American investigator and tells a gruesome tale of murder and mercilessness.Missionaries are also criticised in the play: Reverend Elmer Penn treats "his flock" of converted Indians like domesticated animals not fit to think for themselves. Only an anthropologist sees the situation as clearly as West but has no power or means to change it for the better.
Finally, West is shot by Esquerdo. The play ends with the bombing of the Quarup celebrations which extinguished the Cintas Tribe.
Tighter thumbnails put into a poster layout to help with presenting the ideas

Had the normal thirty-something thumbnails at the end, and it seemed like we needed to look at color to start seeing the poster ideas come to life.
the play was a conversation between West and Equerdo. I decided to concentrate on the more graphic visual; native indians being pushed into extinction. I pulled from the thumbnails the directions I felt had the most potential and separated them out to try to see if there was a strong direction for the poster. When i shared the roughs with the producers, Lisa, the associate content producer wrote back
"Our Creative Director and Art Director are both blown away. CD wondered if you had a favorite you were working on? His opinion was to go with the darkest, most primal of them."
This was just what I wanted to hear. Although the lack of visual direction is always hard for me. I have several favorites and end up doing some little comps to help sort them all out.
black and white sketches from the thumbnails to build the comps out of.©Bill Mayer 2016

comps on poster working out design elements.©Bill Mayer 2016

comps on poster working out design elements.©Bill Mayer 2016

comps on poster working out design elements.©Bill Mayer 2016

our second runner up poster design.... ©Bill Mayer 2016

Actually I love all of these directions, and it was difficult to choose a final. in the end, we all decided that the red poster just felt right. Second place the more graphic bloody mess.
Each time i go back to look at them I have a diferent favorite. So glad to finally shoot this one off to the folks at Ogilvy for their feedback or approval.
the final poster for The Savages agency Ogalvy client Stepanwolf Theater Chicago. ©Bill Mayer 2016
 In the end we decided on the red poster as the final. I loved the sontiniaty sentimentality. simplicity? of the brush painting on glass blown up. Very graphic use of the skull to imply extinction. Much thanks to all of the folks at Ogilvy for including me. and a special thanks to Craig Fraizer for throwing my name in the pot. What great fun working on this. 
"The Neutron Enigma" for Scientific American

 A new piece for Jason Mischka at Scientific American... Great article about two precision experiments that were disagreeing on how long neutrons live. Always starts with rambling thumbnails that finally settle into more direct concept. They settled on #24 but wanted some element of the atom worked in. I added atom heads. and wanted to have some element of time add decay to reinforce that part of the article. Like the sands of time spilling out of the broken decaying hour glass. 

 I did try several slightly diferent layouts but we decided the clock added a bit more conceptually.
 I tried a different color palette to get the tape measures to stand out and the atoms in red and blue. Most of this one was painted in gouache then scanned in and edited and tweaked in Photoshop. 

  I thought the color palette made the illustration kind of haunting...And the beautiful layout with the fragmented type Jason did. Much thanks to Jason Mischka and the folks at Scientific American. Always fun working with them.
NewsWeek Cover - ZIKA BITES
Upcoming cover for Newsweek, for Priest and Grace....

Did some alternate ideas but this one was pretty much right from the art director, Grace Lee... Just the perfect creepiness. I wanted it to make you sort of start feeling itchy when you look at it, but still look fresh and clean. I decided to paint all of the little bugs and the shadow together on one tiny painting. With little digital touch ups...
Robert sent us the final type on Friday and we stripped the image together, bugs in place. We didn't think about the digital formats that would have to work for IPhone, IPads and such. SO, a little scrambling over the weekend trying to get that to work. Much thanks to the incredible Grace Lee... and Priest and Grace and the folks at NewsWeek. This one looks marvelous.

Read the article on  at
Opportunity in Small Things... PlanAdviser
It had been a while since I had a chance to work with SooJin on one of these projects. So happy to get another chance. This one was conceptually challenging and my thumbnails were sort of all over the place. She had requested the airbrush style but said she was open to anything... The breif she sent was: "Opportunity in small things. Or big universe within small world."
I sort of ran in all directions with a batch of random ideas.
This was really pretty funny... I didn't hear back from her... as is a bit unusual, so I am thinking none of the ideas were working. So I sit down and try a different direction. Another thirty or so thumbs and sent them off.
 Okay a couple days go by... I am feeling a little insecure at this point. She obviously doesn't like any of them...
Scratching my head i rocket through another batch of thumbs and send them off. I get an auto reply she's out of town ove r the Holidays... I am an idiot...of course...
Then a quick note that she's waiting to get all the other sketches in from other artists before deciding on directions. I should have remembered she does this. Does not want a magazine filled with fish drawings. Now I am a little embarressed. 
 SooJin got back to us with her picks, so I tightened up a couple of the sketches on the two directions she picked to make it easier to flush out which idea was working better. In the end she liked them both. They were really so simple I decided I could do both and decide later.
One of her concerns was that the hand did not just look like it was in front of the planets. I added some orbit rings to give it depth and help make it more integrated with the hand. On the marble bag I changed the draw string to make it a little more believable. 
 Honestly we liked them both.. couldn't decide if one worked better than the other so we sent them both off . I think SooJin picked the hand. I have to agree it just felt better... We had some discussion about whether or not peiple even remember what marbles were. Somethings some of us are so familiar with but others have no idea about. Makes this concept with the Marbles and bag mabe not really work as well now.Should I put a link for marbles so the students reading this post will have some reference about them. Marble (Dictionary .com) doesn'e even list marbles as a toy.....
Marbles (Urban Dictionary) Brain Cells, son=metimes used to illustrate a lack of....
Recent Articles

New Gouache Drawings (59)

Recent Work (25)

Flat Work (26)

Stamp Drawings (113)

portfolio 2 (34)

Typoglycemic (26)


Sketchbook (46)

General Orders No.9 (9)

Drawger Archives (21)

Letters to Lee (91)

Portfolio 1 (33)


All Aboard (26)

Staying Sharp (87)

For the love of a good line (20)