I like a challenge, creative or otherwise. Ideally I’d prefer to explore new mediums and directions within personal work, rather than experiment with an assignment, just because there is more latitude for errors. However, when Rob Story approached me with this assignment, I thought it was a good opportunity to explore the silkscreen process that I’d been fascinated by, so I jumped onboard.
These three 18” x 24” silkscreen posters were available for sale at the recent Moontower Comedy Festival, to raise funds for the preservation of the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas.
As a painter, it was an interesting challenge to be limited to 3 colours, plus black, and work with mostly flat areas, and I enjoyed revisiting my former pen and ink style.
For the line work I use both brush and pen on top of my pencil sketch.
My biggest challenge with this assignment was to work within the boundaries of a predetermined design and copy. I typically work on ideas first and present those to an art director.
Rob (and his colleague George Ellis) had already conceived the sideshow poster concept, so I had to create portraits of these comedians that would work with the titles “Fire Breathing Comedian”, “Palest Performer on Earth, and “The Man with 1001 Personalities”, as well as some bylines.
The rest of the process became a wonderfully collaborative experience. Rob suggested that perhaps these portraits could be part beast, like dragons and hydras, and I countered with the visual hyperbole that is synonymous with sideshows: perception vs. reality. He was open to letting me choose the colour palette.
Carvey as co-joined triplets (plus 1/2) with his church lady and Garth characters, plus his turtle character from his movie Master of Disguise.
For the Carvey Poster, Rob had already included the small vignettes at the top of the Carvey poster, with the words “Amazing” and “Absurd” assigned under these blank spaces. At the 11th hour I came up with the idea to depict Carvey as both Bush Sr. and Jr. I had viewed some of Carvey’s stand up routines on youtube and he does a great skit of the two of them in conversation.
Doing a portrait of someone doing a portrait felt like a mind game.
Last week, I was amazed by the coincidence of the date of the poster (and Carvey’s performance at the Paramount) and the unveiling of the George W Bush Library in Dallas.
Rob sent me this photo of the fresh prints. I'm still waiting to receive mine.
I want to thank Rob Story for the fun assignment, Marcos Chin for helping me out with some advice on how to create gradients, and my husband (motion graphics artist and lapsed illustrator), Balvis Rubess, for helping me with the vectors and layers.
This portrait was commissioned to grace the cover of the first redesigned issue of The Saturday Evening Post ( Jan/ Feb 2013) and to accompany an interview with Shirley MacLaine. I am honoured and thrilled to be a part of this debut issue, and it's encouraging to hear that the magazine plans to continue with illustrated covers.
To get started on sketches I focused on key elements in the interview that resonated with me: Shirley’s positive attitude, her infinite curiosity of the many facets of life, and her sense of humour, especially her ability to laugh at herself.
I was aiming to depict a timeless representation of Ms. MacLaine, and to reference her recent appearance on Downton Abbey. While drawing the teacup, I had the idea of adding a twist to the teacup; a subtle reference to her remarks in her book “Out on a Limb” on past lives, alien communication, etc. My intent was to depict her laughing at this in jest.
additional note : I feel it's the eyes that most often reveal a likeness, therefore my idea of depicting Shirley with eyes closed goes against my own "portrait" conventions, but my instincts kept telling me this laughing expression best conveyed Ms. MacLaine's personality.
I told SEP that this sketch was my fav, and so I was delighted that they gave me approval to proceed.
As many of you may know Shirley lives in New Mexico. I have spent a fair amount of time in NM, and it seemed to me that many of the residents have some degree of fascination with alien theories. I spent more than one night listening to such personal accounts, that were erie, strange and definitely compelling.
One of the color comps. I liked the idea of a white background.
It was suggested that "the saucer" should be played back a little.
A fun part of my research for this assignment was watching her performance in the recent film “Bernie” with Jack Black, by director Richard Linklater. I loved the “Greek chorus” of real Texan town folk, I thought that was a brilliant addition to the film.
Working with Amanda Bixler and Brian Sanchez at Saturday Evening Post was a pleasure.
To read about creative director Andrzej Janerka's process on redesigning the cover, please click this society of pubication designers website link. http://www.spd.org/2013/01/the-new-look-of-the-saturday-e.php
Designer Brian Sanchez had sent a preview of the design, so I knew it would have several headlines on the cover and it was best to keep the image simple.
The colors shifted a little in the printed version.
My first illustration for the New York Times book review: “Dear Life” by Alice Munro.
Like most people, I first came to know Alice Munro from her compellation of short stories “Dance of the Happy Shades”, since then I have read 3 of her other books.
I found this assignment to be a challenging task. I felt it required a simple approach because the illustration would run small, a quarter page, but I also wanted it to reflect the tone of her writing and not just be executed as a classic portrait.
I decided to try to echo the bare, unsentimental, 1940’s hardscrabble era often reflected in Munro’s writing.
Munro confesses that the last suite of four stories in the book are more autobiographical in feel than anything she has written before. With that in mind, I decided to focus on one of her stories, “Amundsen”, where the story begins with a train station.
I referenced the train station from her hometown of Wingham, Ontario, which oddly also resembles the train station from my hometown of Montréal West.
this detail was painted with 0/3 paint brush.
Another possible direction, depicting Alice as she examines stories from her childhood in Wingham.
Thanks to Rex Bonomelli for the assignment and to being receptive to the idea of approaching this portrait in a non-classical manner.
One of the things I love about working for the New York Times is the broad visibility. On the day it was published I received requests for prints and the original painting was sold. As an illustrator my role is to illuminate the accompanying written material and so when the client lets me know they are pleased with the final results, it’s a very rewarding feeling. I find it especially gratifying to hear that my work has resonated with someone on a level that they want to hang it in their home.
Such requests help to quell my anxieties (for a time) about my work still being painted traditionally at a time when so many others are working digitally.
I love doing portraits, but creatively I need to satiate my need for variety of subject matter. I was delighted when SooJin Buzelli called me to illustrate an article for PLANADVISER and it didn’t involve a portrait.
The article is titled “Looking Deep into a Plan”. Benchmarking can go beyond the basics of funds, and plumb deeper into a more complicated world.
When I read the article, the idea of deep sea diving instantly sprang to mind, inspired by my love of snorkeling ( yes I know that’s just surface diving).
The full painting, acrylic on wood panel.
My initial sketch.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to execute the helmet. While working on the painting, an image came to mind. As a child, I was intrigued by a brass rubbing my aunt Joan had hanging in her home, she had made the rubbing herself on one of her travels through the U.K.
I amazed how images that fascinate us as children seem to resonate with us for life.
My aunt's brass rubbing was very similar to this one.
This piece was chosen for the Society Of Illustrators 55th Exhibition.
Portrait of Philip Pullman for Mother Jones “ his Grimm Material”
Art Director Tim J. Luddy encouraged me to create a non-traditional portrait, with perhaps a fantastic tone for this article on Philip Pullman. We decided that focusing on Philip’s deamon would be a good approach.
For those of you who haven’t seen the film the Golden Compass based on his Dark Materials triology : a daemon is an animal who follows and advises his characters, and from whom they cannot usually be separated. Mother Jones: “What form would you prefer your own daemon to take, and what form do you suppose it might actually take? PP: That’s the sad truth about daemons. You can’t choose, can you? I would like my dæmon to be more photogenic than I am. Then she could take my place in the photographs I have to submit to. But I think my dæmon is probably one of those birds that steal things: a magpie, a jackdaw, a raven. She’s a scruffy, greedy, idle, old thing, but she has a very sharp eye for a story.”
Three recent portrait assignments, each approached in a different way but all with the same slightly nerve-wracking, yet exciting, feeling of having no idea how I was going to execute the ideas.
Rolling Stone Magazine
Most recently, Matt Cooley at Rolling Stone commissioned me to create a portrait of the amazing Austin, Texas guitarist Gary Clark Jr. for the release of his new album “Blak and Blu”.
After listening to a few of the tracks an idea came to mind: a visual synthesis of a traditional bluesman and some funky psychedelics.
I painted the blue toned portrait on a mahogany wood panel. Then came the exciting and frightening part of painting over top with brushwork of brightly colored lines and spheres. If I had more time I might have attempted to explore this digitally, but I didn’t have that luxury so I just had to dive in.
I am very grateful to ad Matt Cooley and creative director and Joe Hutchinson for trusting me to run with this one based on a very loose sketch.
Portrait of Gary Clark jr. for the October 23rd issue of Rolling Stone Magazine.
Orange Coast Magazine
We were on our way to the cottage for a week when Lisa Lewis called for a double portrait of Tim and Jeff Buckley. This was absolutely impossible for me to turn down. Lisa is one of my favorite art directors and I am a huge Jeff Buckley fan.
I had the pleasure and amazing fortune of seeing him play live here in Toronto at a nearby church back in 1993/94. I was completely spellbound by his haunting voice and the transcendence of the performance. I felt I was in the presence of something and someone very special.
Portrait of Tim and Jeff Buckley
for the September issue of Orange Coast magazine
The magazine feature article is an examination of the tragic and parallel lives of father and son. Lisa and I agreed that I should focus on one of the most evocative parts of the article where the author Pat H. Broeske describes a performance that Jeff Buckley gave at his father’s tribute concert. “That night at St. Ann’s, Jeff gave an encore “Once I Was”, the first Tim Buckley song that his mother ever played him. He fought back tears and during the final notes broke a guitar string – so he ended with an a cappella cry.”
I spent a long time looking at photos of both of them and chose a certain angle to echo their similar features.
I knew I wanted that a cappella cry to represent Tim’s portrait in Jeff’s breath, but I had no idea if it would read. It was also a bit tricky incorporating enough space to accommodate the gutter.
Final sketch, incorporating the gutter.
I love collaborating with an art director in trying to make the most dynamite design possible. This truly was created in that spirit. I had seen an interesting typeface on an album cover of Tim’s, and suggested to Lisa that perhpas using something similar would possibly work here. Daniel Pelavin created the the head.
Thanks to Lisa Lewis, and creative director Mindy Benham of Orange Coast magazine.
A double portrait for the August issue of Playboy magazine: a portrait of James Franco interviewing Marina Abramovic.
portrait of James Franco and Marina Abramovic
I wanted to echo her performance at the MOMA (The Artist is Present) where she sits in silence at a table across from a member of the gallery audience. Creative director Rob Wilson thought she should be the main focus of the illustration. I discussed with him how I would like to paint her traditionally with bold colors and perhaps juxtapose that with a more unfinished portrait of Franco. Again, I wasn’t sure how I was going to depict this.
However for this one I did have the time to explore some options and chose to complete the Franco portrait with a digital hybrid of painting and graphite drawing.
Oddly enough, now that I am looking at these three illustrations, all have some threads/lines element in them, but that’s completely coincidental and not done consciously.