Harry Campbell
Summer to Fall
Summer is still here, or at least the warm days, I like it and want it to stay. Kids are back in school and after a summer of time off, long drives up north away from the crazy mid Atlantic, mountain hikes, beautiful vistas, time with sons, time alone to reflect, pond swims, lots of reflection, grasping at happiness and thinking of what's ahead. What's ahead is work-what I need to focus on-it's a difficult thing to do at all times-focus-so many distractions, big and small, the noise-but now I'm finding it the one thing that I can and should be doing-focusing on work. I have been trying to find a new vein of personal work--haven't found it yet-but it's coming-soon.
For now here are a few things from the past couple of weeks- a return to work and a living after the summer. I'm still not ready for fall and less light-kind of dreading the loss of light.
Last week I had a few jobs come in simultaneously, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. I also had a couple of jobs that were longer deadlines, Chicago Magazine and Golf Digest. This is the way I like it-busy-because busy helps shut out the noise.
Back to guns. For those of you who recall the Newtown stuff, there were lots of guns-and blood-and darkness. I kind of want to forget all that. But I suppose enough time had passed. Alexandra Zigmond called with a quick NYTimes piece for the Sunday Review section. I haven't really followed any news lately, the airliner being shotdown, the horror of the beheading, the unrest in Ferguson. I would only catch ancillary bits. It's not that I don't care-rather I think I care too much-and it all becomes too much. Empathy overload, painful. 
So I get this piece on police shootings and race. I fretted over a solution for a few minutes, race can be tricky. I knew the solution would have to actually be easy-and it was. But when I put the image down I felt I hadn't even done it, like I don't recall a thought process. My thought was "this image is smarter than me"-that's actually how I felt, because I didn't really know what the image was saying-but I knew it was right. The deadline for this was overnight as usual, but it happened in about 20 minutes.
The roughs I sent for the shooting piece. This was an instance where I didn't want to provide any more solutions because this one felt right. Not with the Times but with some clients I'll add too many ideas. some not good, and then 9 out of 10 times they pick the one I like the least. It's a lesson I never seem to lear, weed out the bad stuff, only send ideas you feel good about. Happens.
I've done one other Newsweek cover, few years ago. The magazine had stopped publishing a print edition and was only available in digital media, I was happy to hear they have been back in print since last September. Robert Priest art directed this and I was happy to finally work with him after knowing of his work for a couple decades now. The pressure is kind of on when the piece is high profile, people will see it and say they like it even if I don't think it's very good. Also the subject, taxes, I always hit a wall with this, and it's a cover and for this client I don't think the solution could be too oblique. It's a cover and needs to be a quick read. The deadline on this was quick, roughs on Thursday and final Friday, the gun piece above and a WSJ piece all had same deadline, Friday before noon.
One of the cover roughs. I was sticking with pretty straight forward stuff here. Difficulty getting at their corporate cake. Would be like some sort of iron cake box.
Thought it might make for a readable cover image. Of course I knew concepts like this won't "fly" after 9/11.
Pretty quick, but I was just going to have every manner of destructive sharp things being plunged into the back of the chair, exec puffing a cigar, i know i know-cliche.
What they went with-simple
Along with the Newsweek job and the Times job there was this Wall Street Journal job. Article/opinion piece written by Henry Kissinger. I once did an illustration to accompany a piece written by Jimmy Carter, I was a bit more honored then, but either way it's as close as I get to brushing elbows with living historiacal figures, both men being apart and witness to very much history and events in my lifetime. The idea was pretty much set by art director Keith Webb, he was thinking like a Rubix Cube (sp?) type of image.
Along with the high profile and intellectually taxing and stimulating political work are some other jobs that I enjoy just as much. This piece for Golf Digest on the various time issues with teh game of golf, ie: how long you have to look for a lost ball etc. Second piece is for Chicago Magazine, article on house shopping, what nightmare properties you see, that kind of thing, something I have experience with.
And a little detail ffrom a piece that I'll show after it's published. Tried something new, inspired by clear ponds on summer days when you can see everything on the bottom.
Absent in many ways
Hello all. I have been away, I think it's been a year, I'm not sure, I know I posted the NYTimes cover stuff, but I mean I've been away-from Drawger-from feeling high on something I'm working on, from that feeling of excitement in new assignments, looking at each assignment as a challenge and an opportunity to do something good and different, something to surprise myself. I need that reason to wake up tomorrow morning-and it's been missing. I won't go into any of the distractions of the past year-they continue-and at this point this is just life-not a side show-or something that distracts from everyday life, it is everyday life. Yeah philosophical jibberish perhaps, but I think what I mean is that I need to find a way to create and think while going through the ups and downs. I imagine and I'm not comparing, but I'm imagining that some of the great artists put down marks up until their last breaths. I'm not even close to that point but I need to find my way back. I have refused a few jobs recently to clear space for this back thing and recovery, I took two jobs and man is it hard to even get myself to sit and focus on those, may be the lingering anesthesia, depression,or just mental exhaustion. It's a terribly frustrating feeling that I haven't had too often. This is why writers and artists go mad right? Their demons and muses battling for control.
Okay so if you've made it  through that nonsense there's this. As I was struggling to work yesterday I got an e-mail from Kate at the Society of Illustrators, I just love Kate, Always smiling when I pick up my name tag at the annual openings- and Anelle, and everybody else there, always smiling when I see them. I've said it's my favorite place in NY, like walking in my front door, I am a member, but I live not close enough. My last visits were no fun because of that back thing of which we will no longer discuss, but their smiles and the faces of friends not seen often enough made me feel welcome. Kate asked if it would be okay if they used this image, that I did for SooJin Buzelli, as the cover of the Illustrators 56 book. Uh yeah Kate that would be just fine, what are you kidding me? an honor.The piece was in the show, obviously, didn't win a medal, and that is fine with me, I haven't created my medal piece yet, but the print also hangs in Anelle's office, the director of the Society, which in itself is a great honor.
So my boy Evan today comes into my studio, he is the picture of the sullen introverted young artist, and god damn I swear he's going to blow my mind for years with his work. I tell him about this news, and he says "you mean The Society of Illustrators? (He's picking up way more than I know) I say yeah that's the place, and that's the book. "cool" is his response but I see him smile-which is rare, it's a half hidden smile that he reveals when he's proud of something he's done and get's a compliment. This time maybe he's proud of me.
I told him how I used to sit in the MICA library a very long time ago and leaf through copies of the Society annuals, never really imagining being in one of them let alone on the cover. He has his sights set on RISD. It made my day and was also sort of a kick in the head and a sign for me to get my head out of my ass, damn the distractions of health and children and tuition and money and focus on what I'm making-because all those other distractions will persist and perhaps even multiply until I'm old and time slows and there are no distractions and it's still time to do something new.
NYT Cover art
It occured to me this morning that my absence from Drawger although due to schedule, life, other distractions, is kind of irresponsible in a way, I mean I signed on to be a part of this group, was invited to this group, and there is really no other place like it out there where illustrators can freely talk about what they do aside from being featured in a design mag or website.
So for the past few weeks I've been fairly busy, a variety of jobs, but I can fall into a rut of uninspired just get it done sort of complacency, it's no fun, and not sure why it happens, because I love what I do. Sometimes I blame age, getting older, maybe I'm tired, can't hustle like I used to, can't mentally handle having more than a few jobs going at once. But honestly I do still love the work and have to ocassionally try to do something to break the day to day monotony. The idea of taking every job abd doing your best possible work, it's just not possible-for me at least-takes a lot of mental energy and focus.
I got this call from Aviva Michaelov to do the cover of the Sunday Review-"Yes! of course I'd be happy to do it" no matter the subject. The story was on how it's getting harder to get into the ivy league schools-for a variety of reasons-most of us can't relate.
I came up with a few ideas, out of reach, something hard to obtain. The ivy thing just seemed obvious, and I really enjoy drawing interwoven wires, vines, rope, so I was glad when Aviva said it was just what she was hoping for.
The NYTimes jobs are always a tight turnaround, I'd realized that my idea would be very very time consuming and the final was due next day, mid day. I quickly realized I was going to be up all night because there simply weren't enough hours to finish this. I was never good at all nighters, at some point I just become dead and nothing meaningful is happening, so I stayed up until 1:30 where I felt I was at a place where I could finish it up next morning, climbed into my sleeping loft-set my alarm for 5:30 and resumed working then. I was okay with this because one of the recurring thoughts I have these days is that I just don't spend enough time per piece and to reach a place in my work that I want to be will simply require long hours-and focus.
I had another NYT cover job come in a few days later which will run this Sunday, and I had one a few weeks back. It's funny because I had sort of a long dry spell with the Times, used to do lots with Brian Rea for the Op Ed page and prior to that with Steven Guarnaccia. I like having my work there, especially covers, but you are exposed, and lots of people are seeing the work. I like that pressure.
As I said, I had another cover a few weeks back, assigned by Paul Jean. Paul is another art idrector at the Times who lets me pretty much do what I want. The article was on the new HBO series Silicon Valley, a show about programmers. My approach is kind of like this big complicated TV set to focus on a guy programming-obviously. This piece is more narrative, people doing things, it's kind of rare for me and something I wrestle with, doing people in my vector way of working is a challenge, but I'm working on it since there's a whole direction I want to go in with that. Paul called me this week as well for another cover, Summer Movies cover for tomorrow. Small snippet from that below.
Adding myself to the composition
Floating Forward
After seeing Kron's great collage of Anelle I thought I'd post this. For those from outside the illustrator's world, Anelle is the director of the Society of Illustrators in NYC and has done some pretty amazing things since arriving. I was enjoying a few beers before the recent SI editorial opening when I was told Anelle liked one of my pieces and wanted to buy it for her office. I saw her when I got there and said I would be honored and made it her birthday present. The piece was commisioned by SooJin, one of my personal favorites that I've done for her.
I haven't posted much in a while, 2013 was a very strange year. I did some work in the early months that I was okay with- then I got sidetracked around mid year and maybe was a bit distracted from work. So now after the dust has settled I find myself in a familiar place, not caring much for anything I've done in the past and wondering where I'm going from here. I think I've posted these lines before-about having to turn everything upside down every so often, thinking now is one of those times.
The Newtown work marked the beginning of 2013, the tragedy happened in December 2012 and the work I did was in the months after. I can't really look at that work objectively anymore, I've seen it so many times. I know it meant something to me when I did it but now it's just past work. I am however very grateful that the series, or at least four of the series, will be a part of the S.I. traveling show. Some people will see them who have not,and hopefully see what I can't see anymore.
Continuing on the track of not being able to see ones own work clearly-I was pretty thrilled that S.I. chose to put the frog on the program and poster for the institutional and uncommisioned show. That image kind of represents a direction I'd like to explore, more natural organic images but done in my vector way of working. Done for Jim Burke-thanks Jim, an honor to be in the FROG calendar.
Like I said, weird year, confusing and trying but collectively it was pretty great.  I was happy to be featured in two industry magazines, 3x3 and CMYK, thanks to Charles Hively and Ronald Cala respectively. Possibly the biggest honor and most moving was that friend and fellow illustrator Tim OBrien agreed to write a bio essay on me for the 3x3 feature. Tim penned a very moving and eloquent piece on me and my work. I've included that at the bottom of this post. Tim's writing is always worth reading, please do.
Another fine thing that happened this year was being featured in two magazines, 3x3 and CMYK, thanks to Charles Hively and Ronald Cala respectively. Time Obrien, my friend and brilliant illustrator penned a very thoughtful essay about me and my work. I've attached it at the bottom of this post. Thanks again Tim!
Another fine thing that happened this year was being featured in two magazines, 3x3 and CMYK, thanks to Charles Hively and Ronald Cala respectively. Time Obrien, my friend and brilliant illustrator penned a very thoughtful essay about me and my work. I've attached it at the bottom of this post. Thanks again Tim!
Harry Campbell; The Road to Finding a Voice
By Tim O'Brien
The roads rise and fall. Wheels whirring, wind whistling by his helmet. Harry Campbell is out on his bike
for yet another 100 mile day. A dedicated cyclist puts in some serious miles each year, and Harry is serious.
Of course riding is his hobby, but the fortitude and endurance needed are a perfect fit for his chosen profession. Harry Campbell has been a working illustrator for over 25 years. Like his long bike trips, the road has been winding and circuitous. There were no short cuts to where Harry Campbell’s career is today.

Harry Campbell graduated from MICA in ’86 and came to New York City with his admittedly, inconsistent portfolio. Work was hard to come by, and Harry took whatever jobs he could find, such as a t-shirt printing company where he learned to do precise line work and cutting with an x-acto blade for screen-printing. These skills would come in handy years later. Harry worked a design studio at The Warner Bros. Studio Store and had a stint at Nickelodeon doing all kinds of projects. “I designed everything from Rugrats refrigerator magnets to subway signage, style guides etc. While working at Nick I developed an illustration style that was very "Nick" influenced, cartoony but a bit edgy, Ren and Stimpy influenced. During these days I was just trying to make a living, it had nothing to do with who I am or was.” Harry Campbell was not close to being the illustrator he wanted yet, but he was learning and earning, something many younger illustrators can relate to today.
In 2003 Harry felt the urge to surge. Who knows why we do it, but there comes a time when our ambition and energy and inspiration combine to move us forward into something new. Harry began drawing again, only this time with vector lines. “I had been doing it for a while and felt quite comfortable. I would pick up objects on my desk, like a tin toy or a phone, and I would just draw from observation. Something began clicking, it felt intuitive and right, but what do I do with it? So I put together a few illustrations and started sending them around, posting on the web.”
What Harry Campbell did was to create a clean, organized style of drawing that suited the information age. Subtle stylistic inventions of shifted color lines and unique croppings made this style unique and soon many art directors and designers sought out his work. Assignments where many specific items are listed or covered do not scare Campbell. He can bring together all these elements and the simplicity of clean, organized line without a value structure means more information can be conveyed more clearly. It is also true that in a digital age, these intricate, fine lined illustrations translate perfectly to the smartphone and tablet screen.
It is not only his style that sets his work apart; it began to be his problem solving that has become a calling card. As Campbell puts it, “I think the real start of developing a way of problem solving and honesty in the work came early on when I got a call from the New York Times op-ed page. For the first time I found myself face to face with some really great writing, strong emotional or political content. I really loved the challenge, it felt right.”
Ideas are the currency these days for illustrators, and it appears that both style and substance are mixed perfectly in Harry’s work. One sees hints of the clean problem solving of David Suter and Guy Billout in his work, but when filtered through Harry’s technique it becomes all his own.
Harry Campbell’s work has been seen in most major illustration competitions and exhibitions for the past decade. His career seems to be one in full bloom, so it was most impressive to see his work reach further this past year. Can a style of objects and precision cut to the heart? I wouldn’t think so, but following the shootings in Newtown Connecticut, Campbell said, “the Monday after the Newtown shootings I was to take my son to the bus, but I couldn't. That was the first image I thought of, the black bus, a hearse. I just imagined a bus in Newtown with no children to pick up. I posted that piece on Facebook and it was quickly picked up by the New York Times Letters page. I felt so strongly about this tragedy and the underlying gun issue that I decided I would continue the series, and every day I did a new piece.” This burst of inspiration continued and branched off into new areas and issues.
“I learned from these images that I could be very connected to my art, more than I knew, I found a place to express true emotion and conviction.” It’s not easy to communicate heartfelt emotion in a vector drawing. Just the mere sentence seems to highlight how difficult such a proposal can be. With Campbell, it’s not so much how it’s done now, it’s why.
Some artists hone in on their styles in college and enter the illustration market fully evolved, but most don’t. I would think that many young illustrators could take solace in the fact that success is not something that happens right away, that working hard and paying the bills is honorable and is its own form of success. Once earning a living is somewhat settled, an artist can then reach, search and try for the next challenge. The road to success is often a long one, full of detours and pitfalls, false starts and lessons learned. In the end this journey is our story, one we recount with pride. An artist arrives at where they are supposed to be eventually, and finding the sweet spot in one’s career is a fortunate thing. For Harry, it came after miles and miles on the road. We are glad he arrived. 

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