Blue Rodeo is an iconic Canadian band that has established itself as part of the musical landscape. I was contacted by Polaris - the Slaight Family Heritage Prize and commissioned to create a poster for the album 'Five Days in July'. Since it's the fifth of July, I thought it would be a good time to talk a bit about the project and show the artwork.
The album was recorded at Greg Keelor's farm in rural Southeastern Ontario, not far from where I live way back in 2008. The countryside is rolling, with farms and trees and rivers. There is a strength and integrity in the music, as most of it was recorded in one take from the floor. I wanted to capture that feeling, and the title of the album in the image. I used to walk to a spot in the fields behind our old house and there was a beautiful tree standing alone. I was always drawn to that spot and it was the inspiration for this image.
Silkscreen poster - 18 x 24" (4 colour printed by Kid Icarus). I chose sunny summer colours to capture the feeling of a hot hazy July day.
The Heritage Prize selected eight classic Canadian albums and awarded prizes for this year's event. Each of the posters is limited to an edition of 49. You can order a print online here. I worked with designer Vanda Marasan, and was super excited to be included in this event. Here's a shot of Jim Cuddy accepting the award, the band loved the image.
You can read a more in-depth article on all of the posters and comments by the artists in this article on Passport 2017: Walls of Sound - Eight new posters by eight Canadian artists, made for the Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize, celebrate the best of Canadian music’s past
Trying to make sense of things day-to-day is disorienting enough. Trying to take in the bigger picture on a global scale is an entirely different story.
I was thrilled and challenged when this assignment came through from designer Louis Fishauf, for Global Briefings magazine. The cover image was based on the title feature: To Do or not To Do - Doing Something, Doing Nothing, and Avoiding Breaking. We live in an age of peril and uncertainty, and I wanted to reflect that in a strong, central image. On one side - financial markets (in turmoil) and on the other, contagion and environmental risks. Getting a sense of balance/imbalance and the headache-inducing choices we face was the focus of this piece, and Louis was great to work with. Here's the final:
Designing on a black background was a new challenge - I worked up some sketches directly on the background, and tried to strike the right balance with colours & objects.I also liked the idea of our institutions in crisis, so I drafted up concepts involving a legislative/financial building as a base. Here's a concept I worked up that wasn't used:
Next we tackled the inside feature: "Man and His Economic-Financial Crises." This was about the mechanisms and massive scale of the economic machinery behind the meltdowns. The lowly repairman about to ascend into this massive machine again punctuates the enormity of the issue outlined.
It's a pleasure get immersed in an assignment like this, with it's weight and complexity. I constructed a mechanical globe and populated it with gadgets, gauges, engines and monitors. I also created an alternate, darker version here:
I am happy to be working with i2i Art, and reps Angela Dunning & Shelly Brown. You can see my portfolio and read about this assignment on their website: i2i Art Website Global Brief Article
I illustrated this feature article for Phoenix Magazine. Brian Goddard, the art director told me I was a perfect fit for the job and my work came to mind as soon as he saw the article. Nice to get this piece, I enjoyed working on it, and the creative freedom an assignment like this brings.
Here's the opening spread:
The founder and operator of the station has an outlaw mentality, provoking authorities by naming the station KWFUCC, with an obviously cheeky reference to the FCC. He's known to be a chain smoker and a self-proclaimed champion of freedom. Here's a view of full page illustration. Lots of vintage radio elements mixed with pirate/clown elements, a fun place to explore.
'Power lacks moral or principles. It only has interests.'
- Horacio Castellanos Moya
Here's an assortment of oddities and orphans. I don't keep sketchbooks, but I do a lot of experimental collages. So I put together a handful of recent pieces. The power piece found a home in an upcoming issue of The Baffler. Thrilled to connect with Patrick JB Flynn.
Startup! A new piece for The Baffler.
More in the Mecanismos series...
Selfie - this was part of the portrait exhibition at the Pictoplasma conference.
I posted earlier about my regular feature with the New York Times science section, a monthly column written by George Johnson. It's called Raw Data, and it asks the big questions that are integral to the advancement of scientific knowledge and research. I enjoy reading these and, of course, illustrating the series. Brilliantly written and thought-provoking. Please click through and take the time to read these.
The first piece shown here was created while I was on the road, in Idaho at the time. I drove out to Portland this summer and decided to take this on just before I disappeared into Yellowstone Park for three days. Squeaked out the final somehow (the joys of being an illustrator), but I was thrilled with how it turned out. Sometimes the pressure cooker situation produces great results!
Beyond Energy, Matter, Time and Space.Humans might think we can figure out the ultimate mysteries, but there is no reason to believe that we have all the pieces necessary for a theory of everything.
The Intelligent-Life Lottery: With billions of stars in our galaxy, there must be other civilizations capable of transmitting electromagnetic waves. By scouring the sky with radio telescopes, we just might intercept a signal. But if we want to 'win' these sweepstakes, we will have to buy more tickets.
A Future as Cloudy as Their Past: When the Anasazi abandoned the cities they had worked so long to build on the Colorado Plateau, it had something to do with climate, but drawing lessons from their opaque past may be as difficult as predicting our clouded future.
Thanks to AD Peter Morance for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this!
The Upshot is a great running feature in the NYT. A lot of great thinking and surprising observation. I recently illustrated a piece on the influence of money and sponsorship upon scientific research. Some interesting and disturbing findings.
I am about to escape the studio - taking the month of July off - I have an epic road trip coming up, driving across North America to Portland (and back) with stops in Salt Lake City and Yellowstone Park. First and foremost is ICON 8. Looking forward to connecting with some old pals in the biz and making some new friends! Then it's off to Yellowstone Park, camping with my family.
It's easy to get weighed down by assignments and paperwork. I have been lucky to have an incredible workspace and studio, in an old barn that I renovated. But after sixteen years, I am sorting through piles of books and old illustrations, filing boxes and recycling bins and getting ready to relocate. I will be moving right after I get home. I scouted out my new space and it looks promising. I will provide some pics once I get settled in. So, I am escaping from my current digs in more ways than one. As an artist change is a force that drives us, spurs creativity and opens up new opportunity. Plenty on the horizon to look forward to.
Here's the latest illustration for the New York Times. Gravity is the least understood of the universal forces, yet it controls us and threatens our well-being in so many ways. I have been working on this series and the writing is top-notch. Challenging and rewarding work. You can read the full article here: Still Exerting a Force on Science, by George Johnson.
I might as well jump in and talk about an exciting project I recently completed. I was invited by art director Jim Burke to participate in this year's Frogfolio calendar project. Creative freedom and a fun subject. John Dykes posted his piece the other day & mentioned the eight medals have been awarded by the Society of Illustrators. It was a real honour to have been invited.
Earlier this spring I worked on a collage called Spring Peeper. Winter was so long this year and extreme, I love the sound of frogs in the swamp that come out after the thaw. You can hear them before things turn green, and it's always a chorus of hope for warmer weather, and an explosion of life and activity. I wanted to capture some of that energy in this image.
This year's calendar is available for purchase in September. Details to follow soon. A great lineup of artists including Bill Mayer, C.F. Payne, Victor Juhasz, Wesley Allsbrook, John Dykes, Melanie Reim and more!
I will be blogging photos from the road trip on the ICON instagram feed. See you in August! I am out of here.
New directions, new assignments. Here's a healthy portion of recent assignment work. Calorie-free!
This past month has been incredibly busy. I would have liked to post more work but I haven't had time, so here's a few recent pieces.
The first illustration is for a monthly column for the New York Times called Raw Data. It's written by George Johnson and raises questions about statistical analysis and scientific data. Interesting topics and a potent mix of science, data and our common preconceptions. The latest challenges all of the warnings we have been given to eating red meat. Long-term studies refute the findings of earlier conclusions. An Apple a Day, and Other Myths - the gap grows between food folklore and science on cancer. Art director Peter Morance is always great to work with.
Just finished this spot for Daniel Smith at the Wall Street Journal, about the FCC auctioning off low-frequency bandwidth to a pool of four wireless carriers.
A portrait of Enrico Fermi and the development of nuclear science. For a book review in the Christian Science Monitor.
Did I mention I just sold my house and studio and will be moving this summer? And I am planning a trip to Portland for ICON8. Emerging from the wilds of Prince Edward County. Hope to see my illustrator friends and catch up.
Every week, it seems, biopharmaceutical companies announce new breakthroughs in “personalized medicine” – customized health care where the goal is to tailor drug therapies to individuals. Competition between gene sequencing businesses to catapult us into the age of the $1000 genome drives much of the hoopla. Gene-based companion diagnostics, for cancer drugs especially, promise to help doctors discern which patients are likeliest to benefit from which treatments, curtailing the need for mix-and-match, trial-and-error, one-size-fits-all chemotherapies.
But what if every new drug – however much more effective than current treatments – works only for smaller and smaller numbers of patients? And what happens to those minimally beneficial but mega-profitable blockbusters that now dominate cancer treatment when it becomes clearer that only small percentages of the people taking them will truly benefit, people who now can be identified prospectively?
The Cure for Some Could Cost Us All - by Barry Werth
Interesting topic - I was given the chance to work with a half-page layout by art director Heather Hopp-Bruce for the Boston Globe Op-Ed page.. It's a complicated, modern issue, tied to human genomes, customization, medicine and economics. It was a challenge to dive in and cover the topic in a nuanced manner. Miracle cure or another burdensome expense for consumers to carry? Here is a detail:
Here is the full Illustration. This ran from top to bottom on the page.
I worked on a number of concepts, here some of my other sketches:
I could really use this technology. I lose my keys all the time. RFID tracking allows manufacturers and businesses to locate and track their assets during the manufacturing process, in transit and in storage or inventory.
I decided to keep things simple in this illustration, showing location in different context through the supply chain. I used an isometric perspective so that the message wouldn't get lost in the details. I have worked with art diretor Roy Comiskey at Security Management on a number of tech-related articles, and I always enjoy the challenge of bringing new elements to the work.
Here's the piece in the final layout.
We live in an age of uncertainty. I illustrated this article for the New York Times Science section this past week for a new column by George Johnson called Raw Data. New Truths That Only One Can See
From the article:
Since 1955, The Journal of Irreproducible Results has offered “spoofs, parodies, whimsies, burlesques, lampoons and satires” about life in the laboratory. Among its greatest hits: “Acoustic Oscillations in Jell-O, With and Without Fruit, Subjected to Varying Levels of Stress” and “Utilizing Infinite Loops to Compute an Approximate Value of Infinity.” The good-natured jibes are a backhanded celebration of science. What really goes on in the lab is, by implication, of a loftier, more serious nature.
It has been jarring to learn in recent years that a reproducible result may actually be the rarest of birds. Replication, the ability of another lab to reproduce a finding, is the gold standard of science, reassurance that you have discovered something true. But that is getting harder all the time. With the most accessible truths already discovered, what remains are often subtle effects, some so delicate that they can be conjured up only under ideal circumstances, using highly specialized techniques.
It's no laughing matter, and it has implications for research and development in the future. It's a great read, take the time to read the rest of the article.
Over the past few years it feels that the foundations of so many different things have been rattled. It's been a rough period, personally, and I know it has for a lot of folks everywhere. Now that the new year is here, and spring is coming soon, I feel a bit of optimism. I can say this with certainty: I am very happy to have worked on this. Thanks to Peter Morance at the Times for this one!
I like to dabble in collage, building my own imaginary machines. I collect a lot of old technical catalogues and manuals, and see anthropomorphic images in the diagrams and objects. I don't keep a sketchbook, but I have a lot of open illustrator files, where I create new combinations and characters.
There is something fascinating about the click and whirr of analog technology. Springs, flywheels, gears and levers. A ticking clockwork or adding machine. There is also a romance built into fiction along the lines of H. G. Wells. I don't have the attention span to assemble and repurpose old machines, but I do like the aesthetic, and have dabbled with it in my Mecanismos series. These images are always evolving and have taken on a life of their own.
It's fun to take a technical story and incorporate these robots into the illustration. Here's a recent assignment for the Christian Science Monitor, about human error and mistakes made by officials in sports. Should we replace humans with machines in order to get the call right? Is it foolproof? Will it improve the game? It's your call.
Recent assignment for Hemispheres magazine above, about designers repurposing our modern technology with a steampunk aesthetic. Juicy topic! Thanks to art director Claire Eckstrom, she was great to work with.
'Your worship is your furnaces Which, like old idols, lost obscenes, Have molten bowels, your visions is Machines for making more machines.' - Gordon Bottomley (1912)
'Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.'
- Mark Twain
Technology is becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives. We are connected in more ways (good and bad) than ever before. Pick up your phone, take a picture, text your friends and check your email. Soon you can wear your tech, too. Your necktie could remind you when you are late for a meeting.
Is your clothing in need of an upgrade?
Radcliffe Institue for Advanced Study at Harvard is hosting a symposium 'smart clothing' in November:
Radcliffe’s annual science symposium will focus on “smart clothes” and the science of designing materials that improve and protect lives. Experts in biology, design, engineering, materials science, medicine, and nanotechnology will address a variety of topics, including digital fabrication, soldier-centric technologies, smart materials and biology, wearable technology, and the future of innovative substances.
Sounds intriguing --I would love to sit in on some of these sessions.
I was asked to creat this identity image for the poster and promotional items for the conference. Designer Jessica Brilli gave me the call on this. Thanks, Jess!
I developed a number of sketches, the first more mechanical in nature, we decied to go with an androgynous figure. Here are a few iterations of the concept. I love to work on these, and it takes some finesse to get the right balance.
Left one is a little too manly, the right is a bit to sci-fi steampunk. Symposium website here
I have made a lot of changes in my work and life this fall. I began teaching at Sheridan, a huge leap for me in terms of lifetime goals and also a big commute. It's a major adjustment to make, but the experience has been very positive, so far. It is also a reason why I haven't posted much work lately. I have been super busy, assignment wise, so look for some upcoming posts about what's on my desk and what I have been doing this fall.
I was happy to have my work included in the latest Work/Life annual, published by Uppercase. They are based in Calgary and put out some fantastic and inspirational collections of designers, artists, and illustrators, and Uppercase magazine.
I was asked to create an illustration of my studio space, something that I designed and built myself. Since I spend most of my time in the studio, it is something that holds a central focus in my life. Having the right place to work, to be creative is critical to my success as an artist. Everything has to fit together.
I put a compass into the drawing, because I have one painted on my studio floor. I like to think it keeps me focused. Here's how it looks, if you haven't seen my previous post about the studio, check it out here.
David Rakoff was an author and actor who passed away recently. If you listen to This American Life, or Wiretap (CBC), as I do, you probably have an appreciation of his wit and humanity. Rakoff described himself as a "New York writer" who also happened to be a "Canadian writer", a "mega Jewish writer", a "gay writer" and an "East Asian Studies major who has forgotten most of his Japanese" writer. What an incredible mix! In the last few years of his life, he battled cancer. He bravely performed, and even danced on stage, after losing the ability to move his left arm. He was a gutsy, funny man who stared death in the face and kept on going as long as he could. His last novel Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish was published posthumously and is reviewed in the latest issue of The Walrus.
I don't get the chance to do a lot of portraits. Drawing someone, capturing their personality and charms with a few lines can be a real challenge. Paying homage to someone whose work you respect and has passed away adds another layer of complexity. Thanks to Paul Kim for the assignment!
He is enigmatic. He is misunderstood. He is benevolent. He is a primeval archetype. His origins are shrouded in the mists of time...
The Green Man is an ancient motif representing the cycle of the seasons, transformation and the rebirth of spring after a long winter. Most often found carved in wood and stone in European gothic cathedrals, he is represented by the face of a man made up of foliage or spewing leaves.
On July 4, the Nook Collective (hosted by Julia Breckenreid and Steve Wilson) in Toronto are featuring the work of over 40 artists. Should be a killer show. I am thrilled to be a part of this and will be hanging several pieces. I am working with Dimitri Levanov to produce the work in the show.
I let loose on these, using a skull as a template and working with collaged ornamental foliage, giving the work a gothic feel while retaining a sense of fun and playfulness.
This one's a bit sinister and sophisticated. I thought each had its own personality. They both look a bit like the tangles of weeds sprouting in my garden this year. All this rain and I am fighting a loosing battle. So while our American friends are celebrating red, white & blue, we will be lighting it up green. Really looking forward to the show. Thanks to Julia for putting this together!
I also have another show opening this weekend, at Oeno Gallery. Another plant-themed group show called 'When the Bough Breaks: Re-imagining the Tree'. Oeno is a lovely venue, where I had my Mecanismos and Birdhouse City shows.
On a different note, I have had a busy summer so far, with some great assignment work that I will be posting later. Some good news - the work I did for SubTerrain Magazine was a winner in the illustration category at the Western Magazine Awards. This piece is called Detachment, it accompanied an excellent short story by Lee Kvern about a young girl, a stray dog and life on a remote RCMP outpost. A cold, wintry image to keep you cool in the heat of summer.
Dylan Thomas wrote about the 'force that through the green fuse drives the flower'. In a few short weeks, the landscape has changed, everthing is now blanketed in green. It's nice to get caught up in the excitement and change of the season.
I have been working on a series of assignments about new growth, the idea of good things beginning to emerge. Positive energy and vibrations. It's good to find that energy and harness it in my work.
'Fresh Growth' for Hanley-Wood, Pete Morelewicz, Art Director
I also worked with Joan Ferrell at American Lawyer on a similar feature, The Am Law 100, and developed a series of drawings based on numbers, and new growth. Joy!
I love what I do and I'm lucky to have a really great studio. But if I don't get outside I go crazy. Time spent away from the studio, and escaping that feeling of always being 'on' is absolutely essential. It's like a reset button that allows creativity to untangle itself and flow again. It's been a long winter and now it's warm, things are green and it's time to gear up for summer, to get outside!
Summer is always too short and there are too many things to do, but I desperately try to get as much as I can out of it. I usually try to take the month of July off and spend time on the dock at the cottage, exploring trails on the mountain bike and swimming with the kids. This year I'm planning on loading up the car and driving to the Rockies, a la Clark Griswold, on a camping trip.
The perfect campsite, nestled in some trees, with a view of the sunset.
I do a lot of 'how-to' assignments, but this one was sweet because I have done enough wilderness camping to have a first hand experience as well as a real passion about the subject. I've done a number of canoe trips and know enough to pack the essentials and travel lightly. But I also know how important it is to bring along a hammock and espresso maker.
This series was commissioned by Gary Davidson at Explore Magazine, for a feature call 'Camping 101'. I carry a sketchbook along on my canoe trips. I've also worked on a number of personal journal sketches that were used as model for this series. I like the challenge of working with two colors, keeping things simple for the sake of clarity.
Be prepared for anything. Stay dry and make sure you know how to build a good fire. When's the last time you were deliberately out of mobile phone range? It can be done.
Sketch of old-growth pine forests in Temagami, northern Ontario.
Not a quote from Donald Trump, but the title of a brilliant and funny sci-fi story by John Scalzi, over at Tor.com.
Working with Irene Gallo is always a treat. I haven't posted this illustration yet, this was initially available only for registered members of the site.
Here are some of the sketches for the assignment.
This is one of those images I've been meaning to post for a while, but today I was given a reason - this piece was 'chosen' by the American Illustration 30 jury. Not sure how many would dig deep enough on the AI website to find it, so here it is!
Lately the word energy brings to mind many more questions and concerns than answers. While I was working on this assignment, the world witnessed the partial meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant in Japan.
This series was developed with Daniel Smith, at the Wall Street Journal, who is always great to work with. Working towards an image that captures the idea of renewable energy proved to be more of a challenge than I originally anticipated. Renewable sources range from biomass to wind power, but ultimately renewable sources originate with the sun.
I tried a number of different approaches before coming up with this design. The green approach wasn't working, I think that green fatigue has set in. I have included a number of different 'sketches' below. I'll put them up to accompany some of my thoughts on the subject.
Finding energy solutions is no simple task. Each method of generation carries with it certain risks and drawbacks. The future looks towards multiple sources, locally generated.
I've been really impressed on my cycling trips this spring by the number of solar panels installed on local farms. I live in a rural area in Canada, I mean, this isn't sunny Arizona!
That is really encouraging. While solar costs keeps dropping, the efficiency of solar generation keeps going up. Government subsidies are kicking in sweeten the pot.
Wind power, on the other hand is facing hurdles ranging from pricing and competition to organized opposition. Those towers are just so huge and daunting. Prince Edward County, where I live, was slated to be developed by a number of wind projects almost a decade ago. Most of those have been placed on hold, have lost funding or face serious protests from local landowners concerned about the long term impacts of these mechanical giants.
Biomass is another alternative with some serious issues. Whatever happened to switchgrass? Most of the the ethanol we use is derived from corn, which also is an excellent food source. What methods can be used that don't take up valuable farmland and food? Algae is now a leader in development and research as well as Bagasse, the residual waste fiber from sugar cane processing.
I don't know if I can take another oil spill or meltdown anytime soon. I also don't want to be naive enough to think that any of the changes we really need will be easy. However, change is going to come.
In ten years time I hope I can run my computer on sunshine and my car on algae. I will keep pedalling wherever I can and living a low impact lifestyle.
I own a house that was built over 100 years ago. I know renovations. I have resurfaced, remodelled and repainted almost every square inch of my home over the years. It's an ongoing obsession and if I ever get everything done I will probably have to sell it. Not that it's all bad - I enjoy the results - recently I was riding high after finally wiring proper lighting in my dingy basement (another in a long list of small victories).
I really enjoyed working on this assignment for Indianapolis Monthly, about the nightmarish ordeals faced by a pair of naive homebuyers who picked up a lot more than they bargained for after purchasing a house without an inspection, and doing the renovations on their own. They called the house 'Beelzebub', and were convinced for a while that the house wanted to do them in. Fortunately, both have prevailed.
I'll be getting back to my ongoing projects later this week. Building a workshop in the basement. I like this quote by Jerome K. Jerome:
'I want a house that has got over all its troubles; I don't want to spend the rest of my life bringing up a young and inexperienced house. '
It's a deep freeze. Great weather for making ice rinks (been a great year so far!) but my thoughts keep wandering somewhere far away, where the surf is rolling and the sun is hot. I won't be escaping winter this year, so I just have to wait it out. It's always a great time to get to work in the studio and dive into new directions.
Here is the lastest screenprint, part of a series of swimming robots I am working on. He is happy at home in the aqueous depths, I am busy working my way through the depths of winter.
Can tweets be a force for positive change, can 140 characters make a difference? Can we Facebook our way into a brighter future? I wrestle with friend requests and retweets and end up scratching my head most of the time.
It is easy to dismiss social media as glib and superficial, but it is also becoming a part of our day-to-day existence. If you dig a little deeper, it's complex. The image that came to my mind when I was given this assignment was very clear in my mind. I worked feverishly to establish the elements in the sketch for this cover.
I hadn't worked with David Herbick before this assignment and was really impressed with the design work he has done for this client. A really nice fit with the layout and look of the magazine. Science geek meets serious social media ideals.
You can read the article here
Speaking of social media - TIME's person of the year is Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. The right man or perhaps just a safer choice than Wikileak's Julian Assange?
Life is an offensive, directed against the repetitious mechanism of the Universe' - Alfred North Whitehead
I love that quote, that concept. If you substitute the word 'art' for 'life', I like it even more.
Digging around in new directions. I've been exploring the work that I enjoy doing the most. I am working towards integrating the illustration work I do with screen prints and gallery shows. I'm happy to say that I've been getting some great assignment work in this style.
This creature emerged from its cocoon late one night in the laboratory, I mean studio. Always nice to see a concept take flight.
Yes, the subject is men. According to a growing number of doctors, researchers and drug companies, women are not alone in going through the 'change of life'. Male-menopause stems from an age-related decline in testosterone.
Symptoms include irritablility, low energy, decreased muscle mass, weight gain and even hot flashes.
You may ask yourself - is this condition a threat? Have I experienced any or all of these symptoms? Or is it just an aspect of aging? Scientists are busy identifying the symptoms and big pharm is standing by with cures.
I got the call from Brad Walters at the Washington Post, Health & Science section. Ripe assignment, easy target and lots of ideas. Here are the sketches - I knew they would love them all and pick the safe one.
The Walrus features excellent writing and art, commentary from a Canadian perspective. I submitted my work to the magazine this summer and received a call for an assignment from art director Paul Kim.
I don't get commissions for portrait work very often. I couldn't turn down the chance to illustrate an article on the recent works of Margaret Atwood, Canadian literary luminary. This piece contains imagery from a selection of books discussed in the article.
Ms. Atwood is best known for her novel 'The Handmaid's Tale'. You may remember a regrettable movie featuring Robert Duvall and Natasha Richardson. The article, written by J. Robert Lennon, discusses the author's career in the years following the 'big book'.
I followed up this assignment by reading 'Oryx and Crake'. It was a good read and I would recommend it if you fancy a distopian journey into genetic engineering run amok. Pure science fiction based on a lot of pure science.
Margaret Atwood is also a patent holder. She invented the LongPen. Weary of grinding cross-continent book signings, the device allows an author to sign books from a separate location, thousands of miles away. A video screen image of the author appears to the viewer and a stylus used by the author remotely activates pen on paper at the receiving end. A video of the interaction between author and recipient is recorded and can be provided to the signee.
The whole idea seems to contradict the act of meeting and having a face-to-face encounter with an author. However, the technology is out there. It's always a question of how it gets used.
I received a call from art director Alex Knowlton, asking for available images for use on the cover of the summer edition of Poetry magazine. A very cool opportunity! Recently Adam McCauley was featured on the cover, a tough act to follow.
I gathered up a number of pieces from CMY-X, a series of personal work that has spun off into a gallery show and a number of assignments. The piece titled 'Evolution', an homage to Charles Darwin, was chosen. I agreed with Alex that it was the strongest of the bunch.
I received a call to sell a print of the art the day the magazine was distributed, a nice surprise. This piece and a number of others will be featured at Oeno Gallery in a show called 'Rock, Paper, Scissors'. If you are in our area, please drop by the gallery. Show opens July 3, 3-6 p.m.
I was interviewed by Chrissy Poitras for an article in Square2 magazine, showcasing my recent screenprint and illustration work.
The magazine is a document of our local arts scene in Prince Edward County. We have a burgeoning and vibrant arts community, this area is attracting winemakers, chefs, authors and artists from far and wide. Square2 magazine hosted an arts crawl on the night of their launch featuring live music, performance art and a gallery show. It was a really fun and inspirational evening.
Rene Dick from Scout Design was good enough provide me with the article published below. Take a moment to flip through.
My older brother Robert (who knows way more about art than I ever will) labelled me as a pop artist when I was about 10 years old. I drew like a maniac back then, but I had no idea what the term meant at the time.
I've been stretching out lately, doing the work that I like, playing to my strength and interests. Looking back, I'd like to think I've come full circle.
Here's another print I just completed for an upcoming show.
With this piece, I wanted to work larger, but my screen prints were limited in size by the screens I am using, about 16 x 20", so I laid the print out in 4 sections. You can see how it was printed in this animation. The final print size is about 9 x 24". I have something bigger and more complicated in the works.
A piece for Vancouver magazine, dealing with different perspectives. In this case east/west viewpoints.
I think this speaks to so many of the arguments on so many different levels in today's world. Got an opinion?
I've been listening to the birds singing again in the treetops, watching the snow melt. The backyard rink is officially toast, a slush heap. The kids finished it off today. You can't help but think about spring. it's in the air!
In honor of the return of our feathered friends, i thought I would post the Birdhouse City project, something I undertook a number of years ago. Birdhouse City is a real place, located on the outskirts of my hometown, Picton, Ontario. It was founded, built and maintained by volunteers. There are a lot of bird lovers out there and a huge amount of work went into creating the birdhouses found here, all hand-built originals. There are numerous models of local attractions and architecture as well as whimsical and complicated structures. Take a tour, it begins here.
Organizing, cataloging, drawing and coloring 108 birdhouses was a bit obsessive, but I also found it to be deeply rewarding.
Two of these were printed in American Illustration 25. I've also put up a handful of these up over at Illogator. Check it out!
In Character magazine gave me the opportunity to illustrate their 'Grit' issue. This was a project I was honored to receive. Recently Scott Bakal illustrated the Compassion issue as well as Randall Enos.
This was a big project, illustrating the articles from cover to cover. I had some time to reflect on my own understanding of grit. Cowboys and athletes spring to mind immediately. I play hockey, but not in a gritty way. You can knock me off the puck with a sideways glance.
I learned through this project that grit transcends the physical aspects we associate with the word. Albert Einstein epitomized mental determination and depth, scribbling notes and equations on his death bed, in search of a grand unified theory of the universe.
I worked with Joannah Ralston, who was a pleasure to work with. The articles cover a wide range of viewpoints, from entertainment to the economy. A wonderful and well-written range of material to work with.
Working towards educational reform from within the system, the efforts to establish a working space
These black and white pieces were a joy to create - sometimes I fuss too much over color choices. I was able to spend more time weighing the balance of elements and concepts. There was also a mountain of sketches and revisions involved, testing my abilities and 'grit' as well.
With father's day approaching I thought I would post this recent project for Perseus Books.
If you need to know how to fix a leaky faucet, repair a flat tire, replace a broken fan belt or paint a room without painting yourself into a corner, and your dad is not there, unavailable, or keeps putting you on hold, then this book is what you need. It's aimed at the kids moving away from home. So it's not really a father's day item, but something dad might give as a 'parting' gift. (Just before he breaks out the scotch to celebrate his new-found freedom).
This book has a unique feature. Open up the end flaps, pull out the perforated handles, and you have a faux toolbox!
You can check out the author's (Steve Elliot) blog, chock-a-block full of handy tips and regular-guy anecdotes.
Getting a read on the economy lately is difficult at best. For every sign of an uptick, there is a handful of disturbing headlines. You need to get somebody who can put all of these things together and provide a reasonable viewpoint. I've been lucky enough to work on assignments for Justin Fox at Time magazine recently.
The uncoupling of China/U.S. trade
Biz school grads take an oath to act in and ethical way.
I've been building automatons and robots for a while - strictly a personal pursuit - until this assignment came along.
I've built an inventory of robots over time (one of them was 'chosen' for AI-28, pictured here).
This assignment gave me a chance to create a whole new set. Because I had to work quickly, these took on a life of their own and developed in ways I couldn't anticipate.
I work in Illustrator, so I create new files as I go along. If I chose a direction that doesn't work, I refer back to an earlier version. This piece was complicated, so I had to chose the colors carefully to allow the individual robots to stand out or recede into the background.
Initial sketch, which I used as a rough guide
Blocking in with various elements & shapes on different layers. Looks like a junk yard at this point.
Background added, final starting to take shape
Final art. I added the bubble head robot on the upper right towards the end, probably about 3:30 in the morning. I think he's my favorite.
When you take a new direction with your work, sometimes it takes a while to percolate with art directors and result in an assignment. This was fun & challenging to work on.
The article talked about retailers developing new sections of low-priced items to attract shoppers. In this case Toys-R-Us created a section of items under three bucks.
I climbed into my time machine to visit the year 2020. It was so cool! Flying cars and monorails. My feet are a bit soggy, but all in all a great trip!
Luckily, I took my sketchbook along. I lost my camera and wallet along the way. I hate when that happens.
Good news, cyclists! In the future, the balance is tipping in your favor. This is NOT critical mass.
In the future, all the people are, shall we say, very experienced and 'mature'. None of that Logan's Run sandman nonsense.
If you find my wallet in 11 years, please give me a call. The camera I can replace. Damned time machine is on the fritz, it'll take eons to get a repairman in.
In the future, theaters are still around. Believe it or don't. Great service too.
In the future, all cities are domed.
You should see the sunsets. REALLY colorful.
I was able to publish these in Westchester Magazine. Aiko Masazumi was great to work with. The bottom piece went to Jeff Smith at Tornado design. I'm going to take a break now. Travelling through that extra dimension can really wring you out!
I dabble in robot doodles, but my sketches pitched for clients end up being just that- they never seem to make it to final art. This assignment for the New York Times proved to be the perfect fit.The illustrations are for the launch page of a new service called TimesWidgets.
When I took on this project, a widget factory was suggested by the client. So I jumped in and started drawing out a low-tech version of a high-tech app. Tiny robots cutting up large volumes of articles and reassembling information into tiny, perfect, colorful widgets.
If you want a great new widget, go over to New York Times and build your own. I worked with Heena Ko on this one closely. There was a lot of back and forth to get things right.
Here is the evolution of the main drawing, from sketches to finish.
This needed some simplification - too much going on overhead. We also needed to balance the composition.
This one had a background tone that was dropped. My initial color palette was a bit too rusty. We decided on more vibrant tones.
I recently received an assignment from Ronn Campisi. I've heard a lot of good things about him, especially from Adam McCauley. So I jumped at the chance. The subject matter was, to say the least, droll. I've always liked science-related subject matter. This article was about Dataspace. If you are working in research, the answer you seek may be out there -- but how do you go about finding it? There is a mountain of data to be sorted through. The challenge is making such valuable information accessible - and the Dataspace program promises to make that possible.
I set out with a batch of sketches. Here are a few. I needed to work with Ronn to get something that stated the message more clearly. After several attempts the answer wasn't quite there yet.
This was closing in - but needed a bit more wrestling. It's always interesting how a solution presents itself when you work with something long enough. It was literally drawn out.
Bears? Bottomless pits? What kind of image can capture the times we live in?
With all of the institutions teetering on the brink and the bounces in the stock market it's a bit hard to get a handle on things. How about a bi-polar bear? (Sorry - I just had to slip that in) Even better - a bi-polar bear at the helm of a locomotive hurtling into the abyss?
With all of the fear and panic it's a bit of a balancing act coming up with a metaphor that won't induce apoplexy or at least a minor case of the vapors and make it to print.
I don't want to appear insensitive to all the real pain and anguish out there - I know we are in for a very bumpy ride. It's not my job to despair, I guess I'm wrestling with the right way to respond.
It took numerous iterations to get the image up above. Sometimes it takes a fair amount of trial and error to strike the right balance. Here are a couple of the sketches along the way.
It's been a crazy ride so far. I am staying hopeful that the new team Obama is putting together will pull us through. I am also grateful that things haven't slowed down too much yet.
So where am I going with this? Here is one more image. The spot of the empty vault at the top of this post was not published. I received a call from the art director at the last minute to add cash. Lots of cash. There. Doesn't that feel better?
My cover for Sci-Fi Baby Names made it into the Print Regional Annual. A first for me. I've been freelancing full-time for 19 years, so I guess the old adage is true.
Tipping point - A piece for More magazine, on the right time and amount to tip
Whenever I get recognized for my work the work I do, I really do appreciate it. I got the message from Doogie Horner at Quirk Books last week. Living where I do I haven't had the chance to pick up a copy yet - I'm sure there are lots of Drawgers in there - post it if you're in!
It's been a good year, I've had some cool projects to work on and a few more in the works. After all this time, I still feel my work moving in new directions. Here's a few recent pieces.
Best places to do business - for Canadian Business magazine
This one was a bit more technical - microwave technologies for Forbes
Is the sky falling? Are we spiraling towards another Great Depression or is the market 'fundamentally sound'?
I got a call from Kim Bost to work on a piece for today's NYT OpEd page. It's an article by Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under the Clinton administration - a fairly impressive performer at the time.
Reich's piece 'Saved by the Deficit' is both damning and somewhat hopeful, some sober thinking in an atmosphere of panic where he parallels today's conditions with 1993, the year Clinton took office.
Kim was great to work with, although she threw out my first round of drawings (which was for the better). It's exciting to weigh in on such a critical discussion.
You can read the article here
One of the first round sketches. I was working with overlays so I had to put the piece together to see how it would work. Whenever I get this detailed the piece never makes it to print!
In the end I was happy with how the piece turned out. I hope that some serious thinking goes into the next administration. Whoever inherits this thing is going to have one hell of a mess on their hands!
It always a thrill and challenge to get an op-ed page assignment. This piece ran in the letters section of Sunday's New York Times. Got the call from Brian Rea on Friday afternoon, setting off the mad scramble...
I should leave the subtleties of this issue with the experts, but here's the gist of it: we live in a time when critical choices have to be made. Corn for biodiesel and ethanol presented itself as a smart and eco-friendly solution to increasing fuel needs and co2 levels. Under closer scrutiny and in light of worldwide food shortages it's time to reconsider options.
Rising food prices in the wake of global food shortages
Several weeks ago I worked on a similar theme for the Boston Globe. Rising food prices are a new reality. Food shortages make it necessary to reflect on how we best utilize what we have. Once again this editorial questions the use of biofuels made from food sources, but the implications reach far beyond topping up our tanks. Rising food prices threaten the survival of millions.
If you try something new, your brain grows (we tell our kids that if they eat something different, like a vegetable). Every once in a while I get an assignment that increases my cranial capacity in the same way. I have worked with Doogie Horner at Quirk Books before, so when he called with a new project I was happy to pick up on the challenge. Part of the of the project was something new for me - at least something I haven't done for a long while.
I don't draw a lot of celebrities, I prefer to leave that in the capable hands of brilliant and talented people - like so many of those here on Drawger - who do it so well. I thought I'd hold my breath and post these because they didn't turn out too bad, and I had a lot of fun doing them.
These are part of a series of trading cards for 'The First Timer's Guide to Losing your Virginity', due to hit the shelves in September. A hilarious and informative sure-fire solution to anyone in desperate need of a jump-start.
That's all I am saying right now. Doogie is the expert on the subject, I'm the artist. Provide your own punchline.
Has your favorite pair of briefs outlived its 'expiration' date? By a year perhaps, or by a decade or two?
How many sagging, hole-ridden, gauze-like undies lay tucked away in the dark recesses of your dresser drawers, waiting to be taken out for a good airing?
This summer I was lucky enough to work with Joshua McDonnell at Running Press on 'The Man's Guide to Repairing Underwear' - a twelve-step guide that should be required reading for every proud member of 'mankind'. Help is on the way!
Chock-full of enough handy tips and tricks to keep you connected for a lifetime of cotton-poly bliss. This book also includes the tools you will need to keep those prized briefs in brand-spanking new shape.
Your kit includes duct tape, white out, patches and a whole mess of other goodies- everything you need in one complete package!
I really appreciate having the opportunity to work on this and contribute to the overall well-being and betterment of man.
Here's a bit of a piggyback to Bob's color article. I tend to obsess and sometimes overwork colors and compostion. Thomas Miller from Time gave me a call for this spot. He suggested keeping the linework and colors very simple.
This piece went quickly and worked out nicely. How cool is that?
Sketches - I don't usually work in color at the sketch phase, but I found this to be quick and effective.
The illustration deals with following the herd, with money managers tending to play it safe and not necessarily exercise their own powers and decisions. Not your typical business illo.
This summer has been a real trip. Alternating between a handful of vacation days and mad scrambles to keep on top of the assignment work.
I got a call from Tracy Toscano at Plenty Magazine. Interesting topic: controlling problematic animal populations, such as racoons, deer, coyotes and foxes by administering birth control technology, as opposed to hunting.
Interesting follow up to my post about the mice. 'Hey, you little rodents, care for some hormones with that cheese?'
I thought I would post the sketches I submitted, I rather liked them all.
This toxic tank engine popsicle is part of a series for the current issue of Esquire. When I worked on the art about a month ago, I wondered if the whole lead-saturated toy thing would be buried too deep in the news cycle by the time the issue hit the stands. Sadly not the case. Funny how things just keep getting more absurd all the time.
Waterboarding? Definitely out of hand.
Here a few other pieces from the series, a parody on the the Dangerous Book for Boys, with some really hair-raising activites for young lads with time on their hands.
reading Atlas Shrugged
If you want to make sense of this and see the rest, check out This Way Out.
Back in 2000 I got a call for my 'dream' assignment. Local brewer John McKinney invited me to create a logo and the labels for Glenora Springs Brewery.
I was given a lot of creative leeway and the results were something we could be proud of.
Designing a good beer label can be a bit of a challenge. I wanted these to have a traditional look, but also wanted the illustrations to be featured prominently. Each label has a predominant color so that you can quickly identity which ale or lager you are about to enjoy. In the province of Ontario there is a government body, the LCBO, which distributes alcohol to the citizens. There is a list as long as your arm of what you cannot put on a beer label. The hockey player at the bottom was nixed eventually. Can't have people participating in sports associated with beer! I had a design of a tractor on one of the labels that was given the kibosh because someone decided it was a motor vehicle. We got away with the sailboat! Of course, I've never heard of a sailor having one too many, have you? There is logic in there somewhere.
Well, times change. The brewery sold. The new owners held on to the designs. For about a year. Now everything has been tanked including John's great names...
Oh well.. I didn't want to let this go without acknowledgement, so here are the labels we created. It was good while it lasted!
Anybody out there starting up a brewery? I will work for beer.
Looking for a perfect and nearly-unique moniker for your new arrival? Look no further....
When we decided to name our son Jacob (after my grandfather), I had no idea that everyone else was thinking the same thing. Jacob has shot to the top of the most popular boys names list. A bit of a surprise. Now a small sea of heads turn when we shout out his name at the hockey rink or on the soccer pitch.
If you want your kid to stand out, perhaps you should consider Anakin, Worf, or Morpheus. How about Zardoz? These are a few of the 500 Sci-Fi Baby Names, Published by Quirk Books (release date September, written by Robert Schnakenberg). A must for the ubernerd parents-to-be on your gift list.
I'd like to see a volume of wacky Rock star kid names like Zowie or Moon Unit (maybe it's already done...)
Here's a piece that ran in the 'Business of Green' section in the NYT. It's been an absolute zoo lately, working around the clock. I picked up a copy and I was really disappointed in how it ran. I thought this piece would print much larger and it lost something when it was reduced. Ah the joys of newsprint! I know it will look great here though.
The article talks about a truck driver who has eliminated idling his rig for long periods of time while on the road through a few simple modifications. I wanted to convey the gritty and desolate atmosphere of a truck stop.
Here's a couple of illustrations that ran in this week's New York Times. The article was titled 'Can Humanity Survive? Want to Bet on it?' by John Tierney. The minute hand on the doomsday clock was recently advanced to 5 minutes before midnight based on factors like climate change. Is the end of the world just around the corner?
Being optimistic used to be a choice, an attitude. Nowadays its a real challenge. I do my best to keep a positive outlook, I really want the world to be a better place for my kids. Wishful thinking.
What's your global outlook? Are you Malthusian, utopian, Orwellian? Apocolyptic or apoplectic?
I am currently working on a project for a company promoting 'zero energy' housing construction. I have posted a few of the illustrations that were produced to promote the technology involved. The idea is to combine leading edge technology and materials and a system of solar collection to take houses off the electrical grid. These images play around with zeros and very simple house shapes.
New solar panels can be built into the structure of the roof-- not those clunky box-like structures that come to mind.
This sort of thing offers a glimmer of hope for the future, a small step in the right direction. Eventually we will all have adapt and change our energy habits or they will be changed for us.