Sometimes a deadline just sneaks up on you. This one was for last Thursday but, by Tuesday I was still waiting for some direction from the client. The demographics and composition of the shopping center of the future just doesn't scream for an obvious solution, Then, in the gym locker room, between a session of Spinning and another of Aerobics, it hit me: The shape of a shopping center in 2020? A shopping center in the shape of 2020!
I dashed off a really quick sketch that evening, received a "the boys don't like that fon't" the next morning, made a slight adjustment and then started off to set a land speed record for doing an illustration from scratch in one day. By evening, I had amazed myself getting it done in grayscale. I surprised myself again Thursday morning by finishing the color in plenty of time for another brutal Spinning session. The "we love it!!!!" from the client gave me all the strength I needed to get through that one.
From quick sketch to font change to experimenting with tricky filters to a tight comp in one day.
The book "C" By Tom McCarthy, reviewed by Alexander Theroux, brought to mind an illustration I had done for a book reviewed by his brother Paul a scant 31 years ago, posing a curiosity as to whether I may ever get to illustrate an article by their brother Peter.
A while back, I was surprised and honored to be part of an exhibition called Letter as Image/Image as Letter, which was held both in Los Angeles and New York and included artists who have long been heroes to me. The premise was the blurring of the line between typography and illustration and how the two are combined to enrich and deepen the experience of content and communication. I have to admit, I never really make a conscious effort to integrate the two as much as they seem to evolve naturally from the assignements I get. As case in in point is this recent ilustration for a review in the Wall Street Journal of a book with a title consisting of the single letter "C."
That title, along with the themes of invention and technology in Victorian times, presented an ideal opportunity to incorporate my love of letterforms with my delight and obsession with strange electrical and mechanical devices.
Having been given the job on a Wednesday evening withg a due date of Thursday afternoon, I was relieved of the problem of too much time for procrastination. I managed to get the art finished within about 3 minutes of the drop-dead deadline and benefitted from too little time to overthink and overwork a simple concept.
Given a short deadline, I wavered over whether to work on one very tight sketch which, would be essentially completed upon approval but, decided to do more exploration in hopes of offering more choices to the editors.
I always feel a little naked when I go to Williamsburg (or almost anywhere else these days) since tattoos have become a symbol of fashion awareness rather than mystical cult status or memories of a drunken evening. So, I felt a warm sense of belonging as I set out to create a fearsome and indelible icon for an article about "La Familia," the dreaded Mexican mafia.
The big question was, however, could I turn my skill at creating fluffy little rounded shapes and bright colors into something that appeared sinister and evil? Surprisingly, I actually went a little too far and was asked to tone down my first round of sketches so as not to alarm or frighten the gentle Italian people.
I now feel authorized, if still a bit hesitant, to join the celebration. Does anyone know where I can find a clip-on Septum ring?
I've been asked about designing tattoos many times but, always declined as I felt unqualified due to the lack of personal body decoration.
Surprisingly, the finished line art bears a passing resemblance to my rough scribbles.
For a first round, exploring the imagery of "Santa Muerte" as suggested by the client, I proposed a variety of options with requisite skulls, weaponry and mystical stuff.
Asked to refrain from imagery that would disturb the superstitous, I skirted the boundaries of ethnic profiling to engender a kinder yet, cogent representation of our gentle friends from South of the border.
Once upon a time, I received the honor of being asked to do a poster for New York is Book Country. An "honor" is what they call it went they want it for free and, having been preceded on this project by the likes of Maurice Sendak and Keith Haring, it really was an honor. In addition to publicizing the festival, it was to hang in every branch of the New York and Brooklyn public libraries.
I envisioned New York as a pop-up book, worked the title into the marquees of the buildings and showed a variety of the many ethnic groups which make it such an incredible place (including my two Chinese/Jewish daughters riding the subway on the bottom right}.
The poster was approved and printed in the thousands before some valiant protector of the public trust, freshly returned from that years' American Library Association convention, managed to uncover its racist overtones and protected the children of New York from its evil messaged by banning it from display. This effectively killed my chances for literary recognition, however, resulted in the genesis of the letterforms for Book Country and provided me with a font that complements my editorial illustration nicely for those times when it requires typography.
The capital letters are based, with respect and great admiration, on the lettering of Ben Shahn for a poster protesting the 1927 execution of Italian radicals Nicolo Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. The lowercase letters were a product of my imagination and a wish to extend its utility.
Oh, and I almost forgot the best part: following the debacle, Print Magazine ran an article about the Libraries' censorship and the next thing you know, one of our more predatory colleagues, upon reading it, petitioned NYBC to do the next poster and had the stones to ask if I would provide the lettering for her image!
This past Saturday I had the honor of judging the Type Directors Club annual typeface competition and the privilege of being immersed in typography of many nations from Japanese Hiragana and Katakana to Indian Devangari, Russian Cyrillic, Armenian, Arabic and a healthy share of Latin typefaces including one with characters shaped from a street map of London.
Though I felt like a neophyte among a room full of grown-up type designers, I took this opportunity to keep my mouth shut (as much as possible) and absorb as much as I could from this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Originally designed to brand and package products celebrating the charm and mystery of the Ancient East, the characters in Setsuko are intended to express admiration and respect, not the stereotyping and parody sometimes evident in fonts with a particular "foreign" flavor. Rather than trying to twist pictograms into Roman letterforms or effecting a recognizable but trite idiom, I chose a more ambiguous stylization, hoping to leave room for a designer's creativity and interpretation.