Birds have always intrigued me, and I'm happy to use them as a metaphor now and then. These images were commissioned in black & white, which of course is quite rare anymore in this Turnerized world. My approach has changed due to time constraints and is very evident when comparing these two illos. There just isn't the time on two hour turnovers to draw as finely as I used to.
Birds on a wire, The New York Times (sometime back in the early 1990's)
I've had occasions to illustrate commentaries, naratives, lessons and poetry, but never a prayer until now. The image for the WSJ accompanies a prayer said before each flight the author takes, believing it insures a safe passage.
The sepia bleed has been something I've been enjoying lately.
The final art running in today's Wall Street Journal.
Pirates no longer resemble the iconic characters of Treasure Island, but the danger still exists for any ships navigating the waters off the coast of East Africa. There's no romance in the chaos born pirates of today, and drawing them, sans eye patch and peg legs, is no longer fun.
The sketch had the motley crew dregged up from the waters holding an assortment of weapons. I reasoned that they wouldn't be captive for long if they still had a means for violence, and so I struck them from the final version.
This alternative sketch draws upon the "walk the plank" idea. I was uncomfortable with the image and was glad they chose the other.
Arrrr...is there anything more interesting to draw than pirates? Ok...dragons and devils and deep sea fish, perhaps.
Inspired by a trip to the New York Botanical Gardens Orchid show, and Julie's amazing photos, I began drawing orchids on pieces of Birch bark that I'd peeled off trees a few weeks ago. An unlikely medium, though bark after all is a cousin to processed paper and provides a natural texture that makes every drawing look good.
This variety of Orchid is called a Slipper Orchid for it's distinctive pouch that resembles a slipper.
I'd like to post some long term projects I'm working on, but will have to wait. In the meantime...some ditties. The first illustrates the demise of bad horror films. As you can see, I had some fun with this. Apparently, sequels to slasher type flics are doing poorly at the box office. Hooray! The second image illustrates a book review and is about America's land grab to the Pacific Ocean during the administration of James Polk. The third image is about professors working in Iraq to bridge the gap between the military and the culture.
For the great Tom Trapnell, on summer camps for rich kids...where they learn how to not squander their inheritance.
I find that whatever activities I'm engaged in at the moment tend to work their way into the images I create. Naturally, the summer months are when I spend a great deal of time outdoors gardening, swimming , biking, etc. The following images are a spate of summer themes turned out in this past week.
Today's WSJ front page (Pursuits) on the surge in trading stocks.
And for the Leisure & Arts section on literature and poetry and their dependance upon financial support.
These mini illos appear in the current issue of Newsweek. They illustrate a lengthy article on coping with Alzheimers disease and were commissioned in B&W as the original idea was to create the feel of an old medical dictionary. Each postage stamp sized spot serves as a chapter marker.
I try to remain disciplined about using my "down time" constructively. Here is one in a series of non-illustration pieces I'm developing. Would love everyone's honest feedback, but am reluctant to reveal the process....just yet.
Appearingin in today's WSJ, I decided to render this piece (about extremists aquiring more media coverage than ever) in watercolor, sans ink. I knew that i wanted the successive layers of wash to dictate how and where the heads would emerge. As the swirls of color were applied, I looked for an eye here, a mouth there, until the strands of smoke disappeared, leaving only anguished heads behind. This is the beauty of the medium, the transparency allowing for so many levels of color and depth.
Thoroughly Modern Millie began it's run last night, with my daughter in the role of Millie. It played to a sold out audience and Anna was in her best form. We delivered the backdrops the night before the full dress rehearsal and everyone seems pleased with the result. If you think facing the "white Bull" of a blank piece of paper can be intimidating...try 48 feet of blank canvas.
A view of the down stage curtain with the excellent pit band.
Just a few of the photos I shot with a telephoto lens.
Just don't get stopped for a traffic violation in L.A. as this image illustrates. This cover art was for the LATimes on the kangaroo courts, where never a ticket is overturned, police lie and judges rubber stamp.
I'm adding puppets to my list of favorite things to draw. Feel free to list YOUR faves.
There's been little time to blog lately because the backdrop time of year has rolled around again. My daughter is the lead in this year's high school production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie". So i get to do the scenery. This year, I followed the ideas & drawings of my friend (and muralist) James Gloria. Together with a third friend, we finished and hung the first of a series of curtains and props. Sorry...gotta go. There's another 48 foot curtain to paint tonight.
Painting on the floor presents a number of challenges. We held our breath when the curtain was hung for fear that the perspective was skewed.
I always strive for a fresh image and generally avoid the obvious, which I guess is why I never used the Rube Goldberg concept before. But in thinking about the problems of medicare for this assignment from the Wall St. Journal, the Goldberg metaphor felt so appropriate.
This job about intellectual property and the performing arts, landed in a timely way, since lately I've had occasion to do some theater imagery. The article was about where the line is drawn on interpretations of plays and infringements of copyright. In case it hasn't been obvious, I seem to always pare down the image to a central symbolic figure. I think my work is best in this iconic approach. Although, I'm terribly envious (admiring, really) of artists who think in reverse ...of using a visually complicated image to convey the mesage.
Today, I juggled gratis work with my deadlines. This is the poster art for my daugher's high school play. She is the lead (millie) in "Thoroughly Modern Millie". They requested something simple and eye catching, so I used the single figure and a bright palette. There will be a great deal of text added to the top and bottom, so it will undoubtedly get busy. i forgot how difficult it is to control watercolor on such large (15 X 22), saturated paper.
Mostly, I think of good art direction as deference...to me, of course. But a really good art director can locate the best deep within you and coax it to the top, sometimes with a mere suggestion. In this case, the art director was Edel Rodriguez/TIME magazine. The article is about the question of tieing the solution to the Iraq war with resolving Middle East issues. i presented a few sketches, and we agreed on the strongest of them. Edel asked me to treat the color like the "Death Visits New Orleans" art; a limited and more graphic treatment of color. Sometime in the course of rendering the illo, a switch was thrown in my head. I've never been completely satisfied with my approach to color, feeling there is nothing distinctive about it. in fact, I have a sign above the drawing board that reads "It's the color, stupid". Suddenly I felt a direction. Ever since this job, I see color differently. Not sure if I'm prepared to articulate it fully yet, but change is a comin.
Disney; either you love his legacy, or you hate it. Tom Trapnell (LATimes) let me rip with this one. I was afraid the tongue, which was not in the sketch, would be way over the top. But we are lucky when such trust is bestowed upon us. My palette is changing, no doubt the result of adding Dr. Martin dyes to my watercolor arsenal. Next it'll be neon colors. M-u-s-t p-r-a-c-t-i-c-e r-e-s-t-r-a-i-n-t.
I've been shackled to the drawing board this last week, finishing this piece for the upcoming "Sequential Art" show at St. John's University, in Queens, NY. It's the first time my Ink & a Brush with Death series will be shown as a body of work. This drawing is titled "Reluctant Man-O-War" and measures 28"X36", and is a more personal statement on the situation in Iraq.
The inspiration for the pose came from a life drawing I did a while back. There was something about the face and posture that captured the feeling I was attempting to convey in this piece.
"Let no good idea go unused". Some time ago, I was asked by Edel at TIME to create an image for the back page, on the current African adoption issue. The article went South, through no fault of ours, but I filed the idea away, since I thought it successful. Today it was recycled to another publication. I still have the concern that the figures are so dramatic that the shape of Africa might be lost.
The campaigns are heating up and so we must watch the dance of empty promises, manipulation, greed, and malice. So if I feel this way, why am I so compelled to draw political images? Answer: what's more fun than drawing an elephant and a donkey doing the cha-cha?... well, maybe dragons. Or pirates. Or actually DANCING the cha-cha.
Confession: I love quick turnovers....for me it's the ultimate challenge. To solve an assignment conceptually, sketches and final art, all in a mere three hours. For better, or worse, it has become my niche. I think I was a two bit gunslinger in my former life.
When it gets hairy is when the image is packed with visual elements, sometimes integral to the image, sometimes at the behest of a non visual editor who fears the message will not be clear unless we hit them over the head with the kitchen sink. I always fight for the integrity of the image...the freshest concept. Where I will compromise is on the minutiae. An extra sign here, a condo there.
When the clock is like a ticking time bomb, I set up the execution of the final art like a Zen experience. On goes John Coltraine (this time) and I get into a comfortable groove.... find the meter to carry me through when there are no allowances for a clumsy brushstroke, or a badly rendered alligator foot. Then it's just me and "the white bull". The world at large slips away and the paper is mine to stain with something beautiful, or odious.
Assignment: A good economy powered by companies using symbols and slogans. Well, I just had to have some fun with this. Here's my solution. For all of you tired of lookin at my dark, brooding, topical pictures.....the lighter side of Gothard.
Time warp....this is an early job that brought a good deal of attention (1982 - checkitout!). I was repped by a legend in his day - Ted Riley, who passed away shortly after this date. Ted was furious with me - post job - because the editor called and asked for the original art (as a gift!), and I agreed. Hey, I was still pretty green! Ted was big on selling the original art - no gifts. The biz was then run by his nephew Whit Stillman (now of independent film fame - Metropolitan, Barcelona, etc.). He used it on all the promos. That was the last of my positive agent experience.
This piece illustrates the recently released 911 phone calls. There was no story at the point of assignment, just an author's blurb that said the sounds we will remember are not that of the planes crashing into the buildings, but the last calls made from the burning towers. This is a strange image, I think, but was my initial response . The art director relayed the editor's less than enthusiatic rejection; "looks like a hallmark card". So I sent a few other images along that were of a much graver (such a word?) tone. The editor finally decided he actually likes the first image...a lot.
Moral: Take heart....editors are not umpires.
Work used to be a little more predictable. Now I'm doing quick turnarounds on weekends and at night. and I've become paranoid about leaving the studio, fearing the client will become discouraged with the answering machine and not pursue me to the next cell phone link. Time to get a blackberry and catch those emails on the fly, I guess.
These two, for the WSJ & LATimes, are on scary topics. Didn't expect the one on the Brits catching terrorists to turn out like a Martha Graham Dance Co. program cover, but, i like the drama. The second piece is written by Judith Miller on those insidious secret Russian biotechnology labs in Siberia with their stockpiles of deadly virus. One courageous scientist converted it into medicine and ultimately peace between the East & West.
A couple of years ago I did a cover piece for the WSJ that must have made a lasting impression cause they seem to think of me for similar assignments, always citing this bull/bear piece. Tomorrow's cover illo is on the Chinese stock market. The request was to make it link to the earlier "costume" art.
For me, sometimes the challenge of the final art is to capture the kind of vigorous energy of the 3 minute initial sketch. Since sketches are designed to sell the concept, they are stripped of all the finessing that takes place in the finished product. I pitched this for an article on flood insurance...dunno if it will fly, but I am already attached to the flow and ebb of lines in this drawing....and it's never a good idea to become too attached.
Just finished this, my third deadline for today. Am truly spent, but thought I'd throw this up before I go rehab in the gardens. Was for an interesting article about the exodus of artists from NYC to greener pastures out West. Gets into how few artists can really make a go of it and the squalid conditions some must live in to survive in NYC.
OK folks, we are operating on new ground rules, so feel free to rip into this while I go hide.
My three anti war sculptures are displayed together in the lobby of the Skillman at Lafayette College. The close up is of the "Ruby Throated Warrior". When working on them they felt entirely separate from one another, but now they feel in concert together (see more in my "non illustration stuff" category).
Reminder for NYC Drawgers....tonight is the Draw-a-thon at Pratt (see my earlier article). Jos A. Smith & I plan to be there and fill up a few sketch pads. 16 models! I died and am going to life drawing heaven!
Am assembling all the many finished parts to my most recent sculpture, "Six Horsemen of the Apocalypse", all in glass (& paint) and made from laboratory test tubes, light bulbs etc. Another cheery piece from yours truly. As of now there are some bonding issues that are delaying completion. It will be on display with other (non illo) stuff when I give a slideshow talk at the Skillman Library/lafayette College, on April 12th.
Today's job - an illo for an interestin article on the pros and cons of abandoning film for digital photography. Photo historians worry about losing images to deteriorating discs and discarded hard drives. The claim is that photos are not as physical as they once were and therefore not safegaurded as well. Is a good case to backup those images again, and again.......