Michael Sloan
December 2008
My 2008 Top 10 Highlights
Here’s my annual list of my favorite illustrations from 2008. Thanks to the great art directors who I had the pleasure to work with. At a time when I’m looking towards the coming year with some concern, I can look back on a great year when my work developed in exciting and unexpected ways:
#10 - A mother writes of her 8-year old son growing up in Manhattan as he begins to find his way around the city by himself. For Richard Weigand at The New York Times City section. Richard suggested a “Where’s Waldo?” treatment. I loved drawing the various NYC characters in this scene.
#9 - Article on Laughter, for art directors Matt Petty and Nanette Bisher at The San Francisco Chronicle. This printed large and looked great on the broadsheet cover of the section. I used my pencil sketches of the faces in the final art (the first time I've ever done this) because I realized they lost their "soul" when I tried to re-do them in ink.
#8 - Investment Strategies: Is Buy And Hold Dead? Full-page for art director Nai Lee Lum at Fortune magazine. On a quick deadline I only submitted one inked sketch which was approved as-is, and I used this sketch as final art with the addition of the blue background. A happy accident: I ran out of my usual ink and resorted to another less-opaque brand of India ink instead. I like how the transparency of the ink shows the brushwork, particularly in the vulture at upper left.
#7 - Watercolor sketches from my family trip to Hong Kong. With our three young children in tow and my wife at business meetings, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to sketch at all. I readjusted my way of working (much faster, taking interruptions in stride) and created a series of paintings and drawings that are among the best “en plein air” work I’ve ever done. These sketches are great souvenirs of a great trip, and you can see more of them here. They also inspired my latest graphic novel, “The Redemption of Professor Nimbus”, which takes place in Hong Kong.
#6 - NYC Outward Bound 2008 Benefit Invitation. In the 12 years that I’ve been creating the cover for these invitations, I’ve never integrated text and illustration as well as I was able to do here. This illustration was accepted into the institutional category of The Society of Illustrators 51st Annual.
#5 - The Travels of Professor Nimbus. A series of limited edition prints that I’m using as self-promotion. I wasn’t getting good full-color prints from my printer, so as an experiment I made a print using only black and blue. Since I began mailing these prints to clients, I’m receiving requests to work in black and blue (which I find very satisfying). Four images from this series have been accepted into the sequential category of The Society of Illustrators 51st Annual. The Eiffel Tower image above was chosen for the American Illustration 27 website.
#4 - Movie Houses of NYC in the 1970’s, for Jesus Diaz at The Village Voice. This was one of five black and white illustrations used for five articles about bygone eras in NYC. In each case my sketches were published as-is. I’ve been trying to work this way more often since my sketches usually have a freshness and soul that is lost when I re-do them as “final art”. I’ve added color and am using this image as a limited edition print.
#3. Clockwise from upper left: Are Obama and Clinton Tearing the Democratic Party Apart?; The End of the Clinton Campaign; NASA's Attempts To Stay On Budget; General Petraeus Testifies Before Congress.
#3 - The New York Times Op-Ed Letters, for art directors Brian Rea and Leanne Shapton. These assignments are always a thrill because of the high adrenaline deadline involved (same-day), the conceptual freedom they afford, and because they’re in black and white. Two years ago, former NYT Op-Ed assistant art director Sam Weber first suggested that I use my inked sketches as final art (as is the case in these four images). His suggestion revolutionized the way that I work. The image of Obama and Clinton on the donkey was chosen for the American Illustration 27 website.
#2 - Investing in Retirement Funds with Strong Roots, for SooJin Buzelli at Plansponsor.  This was the first time a client had specifically asked me to work in my Ewan MacLeish style. This watercolor looks and feels like it belongs to the narrative that characterizes the work in my Ewan MacLeish portfolio, which you can view here.
#1 - The Redemption of Professor Nimbus, my third graphic novel. This book is about catastrophic global warming, takes place in Hong Kong, and is inspired by the sketches that I painted there during a family trip in July 2008. I’ve inked over half of the panels, and if all goes well I will publish it this coming summer 2009. Working on this book is incredibly satisfying. I work on it whenever I can, in between assignments, and often late at night.
I wish all the best for the holidays to all of you!
Book Three in The Chronicles of Professor Nimbus
Cover art.
The Redemption of Professor Nimbus is the third book in the series. In the aftermath of The Heresy of Professor Nimbus, we discover a much-maligned Nimbus released from jail and languishing in exile in Hong Kong. A world that imprisoned him for believing in science over myth now urgently needs him to solve catastrophic global warming. Will Nimbus heed the call and help to avert an environmental crisis?
See the entire book online here.
I began the book in January 2008, when I sketched a sequence of eight panels of Professor Nimbus on vacation at the beach. This sequence would eventually become a central part of the new book. Although the sequence had promise, it wasn't strong enough to stand on its own as a story, and as I was busy working on my Zen of Professor Nimbus comic, I put the beach sequence aside.
The entire story revealed itself to me on a family trip to Hong Kong in July, 2008. I realized that Hong Kong would be a wonderful setting for a new Nimbus book. Suddenly I had a sense of place that the beach sequence was missing.
There was a single moment of revelation which happened on a trip to Lamma island, one of many outlying islands that are a short ferry ride from central Hong Kong, and home to a large expatriate community. On a walk through the village we passed by a man whose resemblance to an unkempt Professor Nimbus was extraordinary. He had shaggy long hair and a beard, wore a short-sleeve button-down shirt and flip-flops, and was padding down the street with back bent, laden with his bags of groceries. He passed us in seconds without knowing that he totally fascinated me.
Later my imagination took over and I created a persona for him: he was a typical English civil servant who had reached a dreary middle age. One day he said to himself: ”To hell with this grey life! I want something with color and sun and warmth, something different!” So he packed up and left absolutely everything behind (especially his suit, stiff shirts and ties), and moved to Lamma island where he had no responsibilities, his hair could grow long, and he could hang out by the beach and drink. It still amazes me how a fleeting, chance encounter like this could be the catalyst for an entire story, but that is what happened.  
Here are some sketches. I love drawing these Hong Kong city scenes which I documented with photos and sketches when I was there last summer.
I loved working on Redemption because of my affection for Hong Kong. This book is a souvenir of a wonderful travel experience. Although longer than the previous two books, the process of working on Redemption was comparatively faster and smoother, taking eight months altogether.  I think some of my best drawings in the series are in this book, partly a consequence of using looser brushwork, and because of my personal connection to the subject matter. Many of the drawings are dense and packed with detail, particularly those scenes where Nimbus walks through the city. Redemption reveals an emotional side and a humanity to Professor Nimbus that the previous two books don’t expose as deeply.
Another sketch.
You can buy all the books from The Chronicles of Professor Nimbus here.
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