Andrew Nilsen, art director for SF Weekly called last week to see if I'd be available to do a quick turn around cover. Apparently San Francisco has a growing feral cat problem. As with many of man's attempts to "help" nature on it's course, the city's practice of aiding those who feed the wild cats had unforseen results. Predators by nature, cats will do their darndest to take their place at the top of the food chain, and in San Francisco that means the packs of feral cats have proceeded to snack on the local birds.
Maybe it's time to start feeding the wild dogs, shore up their numbers, and have them chase these kittens back to the kitty litter.
These are the kinds of thumbnails I don't show the art director. Andrew suggested a cat laying around in a tub of food, or outside in a catglamorous environment. At first I pictured the moon as a cat, snapping at birds as they flew by. I still like that but I thought it might be too surreal.
I thought it might be nice to just zero in on the offender himself. At first I thought it would be fun to show the cat posing in a mug shot with a feather hanging out of his mouth.
Andrew suggested the idea of a gluttonous cat lying (laying?) atop a pile of food and feral cat ephemera. I liked this too.
Andrew liked the full face approach but wanted to suggest that the cat was outdoors. Here are a few color ideas. I generally solve color problems while I work, but this image was so simple that I wanted to have an idea of where I was headed.
Again, since it was so compositionally simple, I redrew my pretty bad sketch, got a box of Crayolas and tried to stay in the lines.
I really like how Andrew pulled some of the noise in the sky into the type.
One last thing that I think is important. SF Weekly is not a huge publication. They don't have the budgets that national magazines have. But whether I'm doing a cover for a city weekly, a Sunday op-ed section cover or a magazine cover, I'm putting out the same effort, trying to make the picture the best it can be within the given parameters. Andrew told me what his budget was, and I told him it was lower than what I usually work for. He asked me what that was. I gave him a rough number and assured him that I'd work as hard on this piece as I did on the previous job that I had just finished for almost 5 times the amount he had. He was very sympathetic, and we had a conversation about where the print business was headed. "I want you to be able to call me in five years. I want to still be in business then" I said. Maybe that helped the cause, because he called back later with a fair price. I started work on this with maybe a little more enthusiasm than usual because I felt like Andrew went to bat for me and I didn't want to disappoint.