It's not everyday that a newspaper calls to request an animated illustration, but I have to admit that I'm hoping to do more of these.
I've been doing the odd bit of animation for quite a while now but it always seems to fall victim to the amount of hours in the day. With the popularity of the iPad and smartphones I thought like many others that motion would become much more prevalent. I still believe that there is nothing like a poignant still image but it's nice to add the element of motion to my toolbox.
The hardest thing for me to tackle in animation is that it goes against the very sensibility I've tried to hone my entire career, which is, to distill a topic down to a single still moment. An entirely new set of concerns and possibilities are introduced when you start having to consider motion. All of them are still very alien to me.
The one common guide that helps me find my way through to a motion solution is to make sure that the motion is there to reveal or enhance the idea in the piece. In this case, it was a piece about being locked-up in a seemingly endless loop of days that equal a life sentence. Becuase the motion was not an afterthought, I was able to consider from the beginning what would make a striking still image that would be further enhanced conceptually when animated.
I owe a huge thanks to fellow drawger Richard Borge for helping me to figure out how best to technically pull it off. Richard has embraced animation, producing a number music videos, on-air identies, and movie titles. His new reel can be viewed here. I owe you one, Rich.
And of course thanks go to AD Alexadra Zsigmond for her thoughtfulness to ask about and suggest doing an animation for this piece in today's paper.
A while back I was contacted by Doug Tuck at the Vancouver Opera to illustrate four posters for their 2011-2012 season. Having seen a previous season's posters illustrated by friend and fellow Drawger Edel Rodriguez, I was honored to be selected for the opportunity.
The project proceeded pretty much like one would expect. I received the briefs for each of the four operas from AD Annie Mack and we decided to tackle one of the posters from start to finish before moving on to the others. We decided to start with Romeo et Juliet. Below are most of the sketches supplied. What I didn't know at the beginning was that there are major issues with showing weapons in advertisements and posters etc. This would prove particularly difficult given that the story is set in a violent environment with families feuding and lovers eventually stabbing themselves etc. Weapons weren't off the table, but they couldn't be the hero.
Among these sketches I was particularly fond of the top one here with the young lovers embracing with a rose stem in between them impaling Juliet with one of the thorns. I'm planning on taking this one to final just for kicks when I get a spare moment. I also liked the couple impaled on the feuding swords but those crossed the line with my Canadian colleagues.
I think we moved on from there to develop sketches for the rest of the posters. This next batch was for The Barber Of Seville. The story revolves around a goofball barber who distracts his rotund customer while his wife has an affair literally under his nose. Some of these sketches are pretty out there but somehow they felt appropriate to me at the time. I blame it on hallucinations brought on by a lack of sleep.
In the end I think we found the right idea. This poster has gotten some great nods from the Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, Graphis, and The Art Director's Club.
The Vancouver Opera was trying to mix things-up and tap into a broader audience by adding West Side Story to their line-up. As soon as I started thinking on this one I realized I was screwed. NO WEAPONS, and it was a story about opposing gangs who loved to dance almost as much as they loved to cut each other up with switchblades. I stumbled on the idea of these two lovers being separated by a chain link fence, but the fence would be made out of dancers.
Below are a handful of the mash-ups that ensued. The client chose the one with three figures jumping over the building but I pushed back a bit and got them to agree to use two versions. The large one below was my favorite, and of course it has a HUGE knife in it. The heart wants what the heart wants.
The client's pick for final.
My pick for final poster.
Then there was Don Carlo. This opera had it all. Too much, actually. There's the oppressive King who secretly desires the prince's lover etc, etc. There's a few key scenes where the lovers meet in a forest and also one that I was drawn to where they hide in the arched cloisters of an abby. Our final pick depicts that scene but within the larger context of the oppressive father/king.
A mere five minutes after getting the approval on the Don Carlo final I got a call from Doug Tuck at the Opera. "Don Carlo" is dead, he said. "The director is removing it from the line-up and we're replacing it with AIDA."
After the initial heartbreak (melodrama intended) I got to work on AIDA, the story of an Ethiopian princess who is stolen away to Egypt by soldiers where she falls in love with her captor. The client's major input on this one can be distilled down to 3 words, "Think big pyramid." We were pressed for time so I kept the sketches brief on this one. I liked all of these directions equally. Annie and Doug both agreed on the pyramid-as-cape direction and wisely suggested that the image was stronger without all the chariots.
The completed series.
A big thanks to Doug and Annie. They were a true pleasure to work with. I was unfortunately unable to go up to Vancouver to see them in person but the feedback has been very gracious. Many thanks for such a rich assignment.
ps- I thought it would add too much length to the post to describe how the elements were created and from what but I would be happy to answer any questions about that if anyone is curious.
A big thanks to the judges of the 2012 Folio Awards for selcting three of our Worth Magazine covers to receive the Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals for Best Cover.
And also, thanks goes to The Art Director's Club for selecting two additional Worth Covers for a Silver Cube.
Numbering 22 issues (and counting) this ongoing series has been the most challenging and satisfying of my career. I would like to especially thank the folks at Worth Magazine and Sandow Media who have made it their goal to approach the publishing of print magazines on their own terms and often against the grain. In a world of magazines that try too hard to be everything to everyone and fail becuase of it, the publisher, Adam Sandow, has revived and retooled many dying and out-moded brands, turning them into world-class and profitable publications by simultaneously knowing and defining his readership.
Of course non of this would be possible without an amazing team of visual communicators. I want to thank Creative Director Dean Sebring, Senior AD Michael Shavalier, Assistant AD's Pam Shavalier and Valerie Sebring (That's right, dual husband and wife teams). While keeping minds wide-open, these folks have pushed for and helped to take things to a level that forces me out of my comfort zone and into new territory. They've gained a level of trust, appreciation, and respect from their editors and publisher alike that is rare in the profession. I was lucky enough to be around to benefit from it.
Sincere thanks, all.
GOLD Medal: Folio Awards
Silver Medal: Folio Awards
This cover was produced as a split run cover with a male version facing (see ADC below). Both covers were printed with solid metallic gold ink backgrounds with the silhouetted figure being printed with a gloss varnish.
Bronze Medal: Folio Awards
This cover was also a mix of gold metallic ink printed in the crown vector lines with gloss varnish over birds on flat black background
Thanks to fellow illustrator Richard Borge for being there to receive this for me!
Siver Cube: The Art Director's Club
Siver Cube: The Art Director's Club
I'll be posting the complete set of the series soon. Thanks again, all. Very honored.
Savannah Music Festval Poster In Society Of Illustrators Show
Along with 5 other pieces accepted into the Editorial Exibit, this poster for the Savannah Music Festival was accepted into the Society of Illustrators Advertising Show.
A few months back I was contacted by art director and designer Ty Cumbie about doing a poster for the festival. And although I've done several theater and opera posters, was excited to have the opportunity work on the subject of a music festival.
It's an amazing venue with a staggering array of musical types and performers. I was so honored to be selected given the humbling list of artists who have been tapped for the assignment in the past, Dugald Stermer and Brian Cronin to name just a few.
The client and I spoke at length about the lush mood and feel of Savannah and how it's history is more lifestyle than artifacts. My past use of flowers and lush environments was a big part of choosing me for the project.
With that in mind I started sketching. I have to admit that this kind of project is quite scary for me. I mean, with this subject matter, no one was being abducted, abused, commiting suicide or genocide, getting mad cow's disease, or being beaten by the police. What's an artist to do when it's about the natural beauty of a venue and the leisure of lounging under an umbrella drinking wine? I was assured that there wouldn't even be any mosh pits or rioting. This was going to be tough.
Below are a select few of the sketches as well as some variations created as part of the process.
The idea of tapping into the southern bell with a victrola speaker doubling as an umbrella struck me interesting. I liked the idea of the figure interacting with and being comforted by the music. The client felt that it was too much about "recorded" music rather than live.
Flowing hair as harp and flower stems as harp.
Flowers as stand-up bass
I really wanted to get away from the standard stage performance imagery which led me to this sketch which was selected.