Bill Mayer
Return of the Great American Jaguar
The Return of the American Jaguar, for Smithsonian Magazine October Issue © Bill Mayer 2016
Something New I did recently for Smithsonian Magazine. It's a cover story about the possible return of the great American Jaguar. "El Jefe" is almost certainly born in Sierra Madre of northwest Mexico. He now lives in and roams the Santa Rita mountains south of Tuscon.

This cat's one seriously bad ass feline. There is evidence found that he actually crushed a black bears skull. El Jefe is the fourth documented male jaguar to make the border crossing in the last 20 years.

Such a blast working with art director Maria Keehan. Pretty much knew where she wanted the illustration to go. Sent me a comp she put together using one of my illustrations. A little back and forth on appropriate attire for a jaguar. Some searching to make the background feel close to the Santa Rita Mountains, south of Tucson, and this one seemed to flow out ahead of schedule.

Mucho thanks to El Jefe and hopes for a certain future in southern Arizona.
You can Read the whole article here at
A New Little Gouache Painting
It's a sad day America... © Bill Mayer 2016
 A couple weeks ago Lee picked up the grandkids from school. Both Zak (10)and Dash (7)were  quiet in the back seat and the youngest one Dash was really sad. She asked them what was bothering them and the youngest one said ," Is it true that if Trump is elected that Zak and I will have to go back to Africa?" Lee was so shocked and of course reassured them that it was not true.This was the sound bites they were taking away from the bits of news and conversations they had been hearing. I of course joked " Oh no honey only the Mexicans will need to leave...." 
Mihn, at the Times had called me about doing and illustration about  " Trump ,The first hundred days." But I was climbing with the siblings and missed his call. by the time I called him back two hours later, he'd already called someone else. I had woken up that morning with this image of Trump as a clown in my head. Sort of a metaphor for the whole election this year. I decided to do the illustration anyway, even though Mihn had gone in another direction.
 We just got back from opening up the cottage in Canada. I can't tell you how many of our friends in Canada are a little freaked out with what is going on in our election. They just can't believe that we may end up with Trump as president and it was a little hard to explain for us since none of us understand it either.  I have been watching all of the fun Brodner has been having with this insane cast of characters and just couldn't"t stay out of it any longer. It felt good to take a break from other work and do this one. He so deserves it.
The amazing Zak and Dash
Cloud Nine/Steppenwolf Theatre
 The first poster was so much fun we asked if we could do another one. The art diector said they would love that . Maybe we could do another style for the secound poster, I had not done a poster using the stamp illustrations and that see,ed like a perfect fit. As always though starting with thumbnail ideas.

Okay yes way too many ideas, but that is always such a great part of working on any illustration... So many directions you can go visually. Finding the perfect one tha tworks for me and the art director is always a puzzel.

 I had a few thing s i needed to get out of my head. Cloud Nine is a rather randy play which sounded like in the synopsis that everyone was sleeping with everyone. So something nice a sexy seemed appropriate. I really liked some of the other directions that I came up with but I will save them in the back of my head for some other projject. Thumbnailing for me is kind of a visual stream of contiousness, I sort of get lost a little during the process but it always generates a few worthy candidates to take to final.

The color scheme is still red black and values of those colors. in the final i pulled all of the colors toward that and I did miss some of the subblty of the missing colors. Overall though I felt they did impact the final poster. Much thanks to the folks at Stepanwolf Theater and Ogalvy for a chance to do a really fun project.
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. 
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)

Letters to Lee (91)

Portfolio 1 (33)


All Aboard (26)

Staying Sharp (87)

For the love of a good line (20)