A new year is coming up soon and that means a 2010 calendar/poster for the Boston architectural firm Black Cow. This is my fourth year of designing, writing and illustrating one for the firm. Each year I create a complex and humorous piece loaded with lots of visuals and ridiculous facts. The poster has to stand the test of time (12 months) so the goal is to have a piece that demands multiple viewing and discoveries of little overlooked tidbits.
This past year Black Cow merged with Nelson, a large architectural and engineering firm out of Philadelphia so there was an expanded dynamic to the piece. I imagined a skyscraper that would have lots of characters and rooms where various situations and jokes could occur. I came up with the corniest jokes I could about cows,architecture and the merging of two firms.
These posters always take me a few months to produce, size (12x36), sketching ideas, detail and the layout of elements all make for a long haul. For this years piece I worked out the basic building in Illustrator and from there worked up ideas for the various situations in my sketchbook, eventually translating them into separate layers in the AI document. From there I bring it into Photoshop and add some textures and further shading.
10 years ago I created a series of fantasy vehicles inspired by old car ads and my fascination with mid 20th Century Futurism. I used the project as a way to teach myself Photoshop and never used them beyond portfolio pieces. They've brought in a few tangent projects over the years but up to now never saw print themselves. My friend Don Levy over at the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown MA http://www.deluxetowndiner.com/ has always loved them and comissioned me to use them in a series of 6 small spot ads. you can visit http://drawger.com/fisher/?section=gallery&gallery_id=358 to see some of the other vehicles from the original series.
Last year I worked on a fun project with Martin Yeeles of Bob's Your Uncle, a gift and greeting card company in Boston. A-Z an Animal Alphabet Book. Each letter of the alphabet is
paired with a detail of the animal
along with the upper and lowercase
letters. The facing page shows
a silhouette of the full animal along
with an interesting fact about its
Martin and his wife Michele have a very clean graphic line of items and this collection of animals had to fit in with their distinctive style. Martin worked as Designer and I was Illustrator and co-designer.
In addition to the bound book they produced a boxed set of Flash Cards that received a BoNE (Best of New England) award at the Boston AIGA 2009 Show and recognition in this years Print Regional Design Annual 2009.
This summer they produced a large format coloring pad (11x15)based on the animals from the book and cards. Detail was added to the animals and backgrounds as well. Some of the pages were kept simple while others were crazy with shapes to add variety.
My favorite diner in the world is the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, The food's great,the atmosphere's cool, plus they use me for all their graphics. Don Levy the owner wanted to put some vinyl signs in the transom parts of the windows around the diner.
Another year rolls around and it's time for the 2009 calendar & poster for my fun loving clients at Black Cow Architects. This is the third year I have done the poster for them. One and two were in full blown color but this time to be a bit green we went with a 2 color image. This will help conserve the worlds dwindleing supply of colored inks.
As always they pride themselves on having a sense of humor in an industry that isn't known for being so offbeat.
I worked in a style I used to play around in mostly back in the 90's when I was producing my comic series 'Jupiter Jak Sales Czar to the Solar System'.
We came up with an almanac presentation that has various ads, self help tips, predictions and facts, all of which are udderly ridiculous. I wrote the copy and drew 99.9/10 of the art.
Another season of Antiques Roadshow is about to begin
and for the fourth year in a row I have done a poster for them.
Last spring when I was designing the t shirt image for the
production team they were drawn to one of my sketch ideas
as a possible concept for the 2 ft x 3 ft poster that gets
produced in the fall for their winter/spring promotion.
The sketch was of an old tintype photograph with a couple
holding their new proud possession. The idea being that this
object will in later years be the proud possession of someone
else who would appear on Antiques Roadshow. The decorative
cardboard frame often holding old photos would provide
space for the show name, cities and other information.
Over the summer while they were filming the shows, I developed
the sketch idea using a few old photos pulled from the web and
really got into designing the Antiques Roadshow type.
Poster sketch with a group
The branding people don’t want me to screw around with the
logo too much, and my type treatment went way too far.
Oh well, I really love the lettering. They now wanted to see a
grouping of people rather than just a couple.
The next sketch was of an assortment of off-beat characters
all proudly holding their future antiques. The people would all
look like they were from a hundred + years ago but the
possessions would run the gamut from then to the 1950’s.
I saw the people as a collection of slightly oddball characters,
an Adams Familyesque type group that were not to bizarre
as to offend people. The client liked the group and the direction.
Web image collage
I was excited about coming up with a cast of characters, which
I was planning to render in a duotone palette, playing off the
tintype look. I collaged some tintype images pulled from the
web to get an interesting grouping.
Pencil sketches of the people started to fill my sketchbook.
I was envisioning a blended cartoon/realistic look to the cast
Here comes the curve ball!
Some lucky object sketches
After a couple days the client felt this direction wasn’t right
and wanted to pursue a new direction. It will be the 13th season
of the US show and they wanted to play up the concept of ‘Lucky Season 13’.
Big disappointment, but that’s sometimes how it goes and
it’s their dime. I started to investigate the theme of Luck and
came up with a number of objects.
Lucky sketch 1
I worked up 4 quick ideas based on the lucky objects, added
color and sent them off for presentation.
Lucky sketch 2
Lucky sketch 3
Lucky sketch 4
The producers really liked the Lady Luck idea but wanted to
see it as a vertical poster. They included an image from my
web site that they liked as a possible feel. a central figure with
a lot of elements around it.
Laady Luck sketch
Originally saw her as one of the queens from a deck of playing
cards and now with the vertical shape I could play off the card
theme a bit more. I sometimes fall into the trap of developing
a sketch too far in Illustrator as I did in the original poster idea
with the hand drawn type, so this round I sent a quick reworked
Work on the lucky symbols
They loved it but wanted a sexier lady luck rather than the one
my sketch was looking like. I knew that would take some time
so I forged ahead with some of the lucky symbols, logo and type.
There were certain images of luck they said no to, which was
too bad because some of them are interesting animals or
somewhat sinister symbols all of which could add a little drama.
Developed Lady Luck
When I came back with this stage of the poster they liked her
but the skirt with the lucky animals was too much and they felt
the whole poster was looking cluttered and unfocused.
I had to agree with the lack of focus so proceeded to make
some changes based on feedback and suggestions. One big
suggested change was to drop a few of the elements that up
to now they had liked. The right hand icon band and the
Lucky Season 13 badge in the lower right hand corner
should go. I would try having the Lucky Season 13 on one of
her sashes. I was real attached to the badge and the hand
lettering, it will eventually find a use down the road.
If your still with me, by now your probably wondering
“What the heck is this guy some art slave, shackled to the
drawing board in some PBS dungeon?” Sort of. Projects like
this one can be frustrating at times because of the number of
individuals involved in the decision making process. When you
have numerous decision makers with crazy schedules, getting
consensus let alone feedback can be very hard. Endless
suggestions and nit picking can bog the process down.
Getting all the gears to mesh can be quite a challenge and
presents the opportunity to arrive at an image that all can feel
great about. In many of my projects over the years, be it
software packages, corporate logos or TV promotions there are
always at least a handful of people whose input is crucial
to getting the art right. Flexability and patience helps. It also
helps when the client is one you respect and the art director
and you are in sync. I am usually never there to present the work
at WGBH and Dennis O’Reilly the ad/ designer is great at focusing
the critical eyes and addressing my concerns. With certain clients
I often find suggested changes valuable in helping me
fine tune my own aesthetics and layout logic.
So I moved the elements and presented this new layout which
was still not working in all of our opinions.
Someone suggested the Lucky Season13 in the trail of a
shooting star, which was a great idea. At this point all the
elements were there and it was just a matter of cooking the mix
a bit longer, juggling items, fine tuning shapes, adding textures
and eye candy.
You won't find it on a map and a GPS will melt if you punch it in, but it does exist. The American Society of Civil Engineers had me create the town for their web site geared to kids. The town had to show various aspects of Civil Engineering such as water & transportation systems, buildings and environmental issues. I based the place loosely on Brookline Village, just on the outskirts of Boston Proper. It has a nice mix of quaint old buildings along with some large high rise structures, turned out to be the right feel for this imaginary place.
Close up of the cinema, only G rated stuff shown.
Close up. Don't worry there is a glass covering on the opening.
The MoneyShow Washington DC was held last weekend. It is a trade show for the investing community both professional and personal.
I did a banner and postcard/handout for John Lohavichan of impactoven.com/ Impact Oven is a web based tool that helps you collect and organize your various stock information and data in a central spot for fast and effective decision making.
Antiques Roadshow is running a special show the day before the election showcasing items related to past presidents that have appeared on the show.
The art is being used as a postcard and online promotion of the show. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/index.html
I had hoped to play off of some of the historical presidential characters associated with the items as well as some antique hand lettering, shown in my sketches but the producers wanted a more current flavor to the art.
This spring I worked on illustrating a fun little book for Bob's Your Uncle. http://bobsyouruncle.com/
The book is called Dinosaur Soup (and other dubious recipes written by children). Quite a lot of funny ingredients and quirky recipes. My illustrations by comparison are quite tame and are meant to highlight in a subtle way some part of the recipe without taking over the text since it is the recipes themselves that are the humor.
The art is quite different from my usual wacky work but I get a charge out of sometimes just rendering the simplest of things
Martin Yeeles was the designer who along with his wife Michele own and run Bob's Your Uncle a wholesale gift and greeting card company.
I have a new site up and running. marksfisher.com Thanks to my oldest son Wylie wyliefisher.com who is a web designer at The Biltmore Estate www.Biltmore.com down in Zimm's neck of the woods. For the last 4 years I have been attempting to redesign the damn thing but always shot off into tangent designs and looks ultimately ending up with numerous 3/4 done concepts. That's when I called in Wylie and he made it happen in a clean simple way. Thanks Kiddo!
Working in one style and sticking with it has never been something that I have been able to do. I figure part of it comes from my influence from Push Pin Studio which blew me away by back in the early 70's. So many styles and approaches! They were a group but I was only one guy. Consequently my bag of tricks grew to include a few styles some of which lay dormant a while until they are called for. I presently find myself working on a couple projects in a style I haven't played with for almost a decade and it is like seeing an old friend after a long absence.
For the Antiques Roadshow T shirt image this season I presented a few ideas, the one they chose was of an old tattered broadside with the cities they will visit. I completely got into the design of the letter forms and the stylization of the paper so much to the point of loosing the feel of the original sketch. The client pulled me back a bit and I refocused on the sketch which they really liked for it's simplicity and energy. I find that when jumping from a sketch to working in a vector program it's too easy to take things a bit too far and finished too fast.
I started doing a gigabyte of work for software and hardware companies back in '84 but it wasn't until 14 years later that I started working on the blasted devices. During those years people repeatedly said my style would translate well to being computer generated but I continued with airbrush, gouache, an inking pen and colored pencils. The paint was sputtered out at 16 lbs. pressure to get a grainy textured effect. Back then so many of the articles were very bland and technical but all pretty much pushed the same idea that 'Computers are our friends and will make the future so much better'. Ha Ha. Often I kept computers out of the image and instead tried to use some abstract imagery and shapes to illustrate the articles. I cant remember the particular articles messages but here are a few where I played around with some fun shapes.
With all the election hoopala getting underway I was reminded of a couple of pieces I did for Patrick Flynn back in his Progressive days. It was the election of '96 and Dole, Clinton, Perot and the Green party were running. I did this cover piece as well as an alternative one. Both were done as watercolored and airbrushed collages, of manipulated, and photocopied clip and drawn art. My pick lost but he sure was right about that "Hissing Sound".
I recently finished up the poster for Antiques Roadshow's 12th season. The poster plays off the rock posters of the late 60's, with highly stylized type and a flowery Art Nouveau feel. Many of the artifacts of that time have become highly collectible so it seemed a fitting set to work within. Originally the poster was going to be a takeoff on the summers T-shirt image, where the cities were molded into a funky form of the continental US. That didn't pan out in development and we went with a different look but keeping within the same genera. My instincts are to push the lettering to the limits or legibility and leave the uninitiated in the dust but the good art direction by Dennis O'Reilly helped make it readable yet still full of psychoidylicism. The poster is 24x36. The block at the bottom is where the list of sponsors will go.
This is the second year that I have created a poster/calendar for Black Cow Architects in Boston.The Black Cows are an exceptional group that take their work seriously yet weave their presence with an offbeat sense of humor. Fortunatly for me they have let me have a big role in defining that humor with my art and writing. The theme of this years poster is the unsung role that the black cow has played throughout history. In the art I played around with some different looks to get the feeling of a diverse collection of objects and ephemera, yet trying to keep it all within my visual domaine. The poster itself is an 11 X 34 accordion fold piece. I am showing some of the visuals with a brief description of each.
A circus banner from a freak show in the 1930's
An unearthed ancient petroglyph in concrete that proves we were visited by alien bovines long ago.
Unusual circumstances that led to the 'Black Cow Theory of the Universe'.
Most of the projects I get involved in these days are long range turnaround ones. Anywhere from a month to two. This summer I had one that gave me a month to produce 3 totally illustrated 4 page pamphlets geared to kids in elementary school. Funded by the American Society of Civil Engineers and orchestrated through WGBH Educational Outreach Division. Each brochure was geared to a different grade group; 3rd - 4th, 5th - 6th, 7th - 8th. The intent of them is to educate kids about Civil Engineering with the long range hope of interesting them in it as a field of study. Each had to have a different feel, relate to the specific age group and work as a series. I did the design, type, illustrating, the whole shabang! Worked with designers Gaye Korbet and Tyler Kemp-Benedict at the GBH Design Department.
In 1981 I was asked by Bob Roth the managing editor of the Chicago Reader to illustrate a book that they would be serializing in the weekly paper over the next years time. The name of the book escapes me but it dealt with the social, moral and political life of Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th Century. A time when Industry, the church and politics battled over the lives and souls of the people oftentimes with tragic consequences. Dover had a series of books out at the time with lots of old copyright free engravings which fit the time period so I proposed a series of collages using old engravings. The project took a little over a year and resulted in around 60 collages. Go over to my new gallery to see a few of the pieces.
WGBH wanted me to do another Tshirt for the Antiques Roadshow Summer Tour. Staff members who over the summer travel around and put the show together in the various cities get these shirts. The AD Dennis O'Reilly requested a few sketch ideas but only specifically said "Perhaps one sketch could have the names of the cities the show would be visiting making up the shape of the country". I said OK but saw little promise in that one. Foolish me!
Image on left front breast
The following are the sketches presented.
This one I thought had no promise. But after looking at it compared to all the others I had to agree that it was the one with the most potential. They liked the feel of reference to the Rock posters of the '60s. Which was around 40 years ago and makes them and us of those years antiques!
Midpoint in the final decade of the last century of the previous millennium I created a brand for a particular illustration style I had been working in for a number of years. I called it Particle 17. Visit the new gallery to see it.
I just completed a T- shirt image for a friend who is organizing a reunion of old college friends from 35 years ago this summer. They went by the name 'Space Cowboys'. Of course along with the deep intellectual pondering of the universal mysteries of life there was a fair amount of drugs and the presence of a strange animal skulled character in one of their apartments .
A simple 3 color silkscreen job that was quite fun to work on. He suggested the backward rider and let me go. We had a back and forth of fine tuning to get the art and lettering just right. He is a designer so it was an intelligent exploration. Long a fan of the 6o's rock posters I am quite happy with the way the lettering works.
I am including my initial sketchbook sketch. Seeing a finished piece next to the original doodle is always a fun comparison.
In the early 90’s I received a call from the AD at Gourmet magazine, Irwin Glusker. He had seen my portfolio through my NY rep and wanted to talk. Up front he informed me that he would unlikely have future need of my services but that he did have one article that perhaps was suited for my style. An odd opening but a job is a job and after all it was Gourmet and a renowned designer. His honesty wasn’t insulting since my portfolio was really suited to business and hi tech magazines.
I sent some sketches, got feedback and did the painting. Job completed to his and my satisfaction, end of story.
It wasn’t long before a second assignment came along and another and another. I worked with Irwin over the next few years until his retirement from the magazine. Most illustrations were for the wine column with occasional dining out and recipe spots.
The great experience of it all was working with a fine art director who brought me in a direction I never would have explored on my own.
I am posting one of the early pieces here and a collection of more in a gallery called Gourmet.
Here is a piece I just did for Pat Flynn the designer/ ad of the magazine Rethinking Schools. The article was about $, Schools & Justice. It is a 1/3 page image. What I tried to show was that a good education in many school districts is out of reach for many children.
I did this job for my good friend Elliott Negin, illustrator, designer, journalist and all around mensch who is now at the Natural Resources Defense Council doing investigations, reporting and PR. 9 years ago while freelancing he edited and designed a book for The Advocacy Institute in DC. The book was an investigative study of how the Tobacco Industry works. He asked me to illustrate the cover and chapter heads. At the time I was doing a lot of black and white collages with clip images, textures and hand drawn art to mimic the clip feel. Here is the cover and 11 chapter heads.
Just completed a job for Pitney Bowes magazine, art directed by Barbara Chilenskas at Touchpoint Media. The article was about business people that conduct work from their autos using gps navigation systems, cell phones, portable desks, laptop computers and other gadgets. The article also dealt with safety systems such as rear view monitors, tire pressure and road debris warning systems and crash protectors. She saw my photoshoped autos at Illoz and commissioned a full page from me.
WGBH in Boston has a new show as a companion to Antiques Roadshow called Jackpot!. It highlights people who find that the value of one of their antiques is big compared to what they paid for it, hence the term Jackpot! Since I did this years poster for AR (see earlier post) they asked me to do the postcard promo art for the new show. The card is 6 x 11 inches. They wanted to use a slot machine as a symbol for the show. Having never seen one up close I did a little Googeling and found some nifty antique ones. I have posted some sketches and comps as well as a few of my steps and the finished piece.
I tried making a connection to cash in this one.
Presentation sketch 1
Some of my favorite illustrations to do involve hand lettering and this one would prove to be a fun one.
I did 2 presentation sketches in color.
A second presentation sketch
With this idea I tried to get a currency feel.
They chose the currency sketch but liked the slot machine from the other sketch. So I began refining in pencil the lettering and forms.
Line art in Illustrator.
I then scanned the pencil sketch and construct a line drawing in Illustrator. The various colors are the different layers.
Wire frame art
I then have a wire frame drawing that I then import into Photoshop. From there I will add color and tone as well as background detail to mimic the complexity of currency.
The Finished art
At the last minute they inform me that the actual name is Jackpot! So I had to tweak a bit and add the !.
For over 25 years I have done illustration and design work for Don Levy, an
entrepreneur of clothing, toy and novelty stores as well as restaurants and diners
in the Boston area. Designing and Illustrating everything from posters to logos to store interiors and postcards as well as t shirts, clock faces, advertisements and just about anything he can come up with.
Along with his wife Daryl they own and operate the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, MA.
Most recently I created a new placemat for the diner that is chock full of riddles that is also suitable for coloring with crayons supplied at the diner.
Here is the logo I did years ago and the diner and the recent placemat.
Unfortunately the type is too small to read, so improvise.
This fall I worked with the architecture firm Black Cow in Boston creating a poster / calendar for 2007. As you can tell from their name they wanted something quirky and fun to reflect their attitude. It also had to endure the test of being viewed for a whole year so I did what I do with a lot of my work and applied the philosophy that 'More is really More". I had some fun playing around with the history of the Black Cow and made some equally inane predictions into the future. The size is 32" x 10.5" so it's a bit hard to see. I created a jpg download over in Illoz if you want to view it.
The poster I did for 11th season promotion of Antiques Roadshow is printed and out so I am posting it as well as some of the sketches preceding it.
It was done for WGBH in Boston who produces the PBS program. The design team there at GBH are a great bunch to work with. This project was done under the fine design direction of Dennis O'Reilly. A big part of a designers job on a project like this is to keep the ball rolling on their end - what with all the eyes and hands in the approval pot. This was important since there was a month to do the art which may sound like a lifetime but with my limited schedule it isn't. Since I would not be there to present the sketches and subsequent stages Dennis and I had to be on the same wavelength as far as answers to questions and concerns. All went quite smoothly.
Roadshow wanted to play up the 6 cities they visited this season. The poster would be 36"x24" and the art would be used on an 8 1/2"x 6" postcard as well. The only requirement was the band of sponsors that had to appear on both pieces.
There is a lot of grain and some texture that just gets lost in the translation down to 72dpi.
A close up.
A composition of luggage labels.
Some of the sketches
Al and Ann Tique, the ultimate collectors.
A traveling Collector.
I saw this as a trailer being pulled by the shows team.
The circles would be like planets of the cities.
The chosen sketch
Preliminary drawing to starting the finished piece.
A pencil sketch to work out the forms. As the art progressed the planet / city orbs became non 3d but more the luggage labels from the first sketch idea. The auto in the original sketch felt too '30's compared to the feel of the trailer in this drawing which I liked a lot but was more of a '40's-'50's era feel. So I zoomed ahead to a boxier and bulbous style.
The finished piece starts with a line drawing in vector art based on a pencil scan. All additional lettering is worked out on pencil and paper, scanned and imported then drawn in vector. Then when I have the ' wire frame' drawing where I want it I import it into a raster program. From there it's like a big coloring book only with multiple layers and fills.
My relationship with WGBH in Boston spans almost my whole career and last year I worked on the promotion of their tv show Antiques Roadshow. Being a member of AARP qualifies me for just such a job. I created a 24x36 poster commemorating the 10th anniversary as well as a tshirt. In addition there was a postcard announcing the seasons wrap party. Here is the art
Right now I am working on a poster and postcard for the 11th season. and will show it after publication.
Here is a portrait of Don Knotts as Barney Fife.
I did it as part of a larger piece on news events
of the year '06 for The Chicago Reader.
Mr. Knotts passed away this year
I am including the photo reference,
my pencil sketch and the finish.