Here is my annual Top 10 list of illustration highlights for the year 2009. Many thanks to all the great art directors, designers and editors who I had the pleasure to work with:
#10 – A good year in the annuals. Here’s my spread in the Communication Arts 2009 Illustration Annual featuring work from my “Travels of Professor Nimbus” print series. Three of these images were accepted into the Society of Illustrators 51st annual. The Venice image at bottom right was also accepted into the American Illustration book. I’m very pleased that clients are increasingly asking me to use this "blue" work for assignments and hope that this trend continues.
#9 – Publishing my latest graphic novel. “The Redemption of Professor Nimbus” is about catastrophic global warming, and takes place in Hong Kong. It was a pleasure to work on these brush and ink drawings, especially the detailed and complex images of Nimbus walking through the bustling streets of Hong Kong. You can read all about the book here on Drawger.
#8 – My 100th New York Times Op-Ed Letters assignment. This work represents one of my longest-running collaborations with a client: my first Letters assignment was published in 1993, and my 100th this past September. These assignments have always thrilled me and continue to be among my favorites. Created under same-day deadlines, modest in size and succinct in nature, they are my haiku of illustration. Thanks to Leanne Shapton as well as all the other Op-Ed art directors whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the years. You can see my complete gallery of 100 Letters illustrations here on Drawger.
#7 – Unpublished assignment for The New York Times / This Week in Review. The article asked: Why is it that during this current recession there is an absence of large-scale, WPA - type utopian projects and big thinking of the sort that occurred during the recession of the 1930’s? Kelly Doe, the art director, suggested showing a retro-utopian fantasy landscape floating in the sky, buzzing and alive with fantastic structures and transportation, exactly the kind of scene that I love to draw. Sadly the art wasn’t used, though this disappointment doesn’t take away from the fact that I like this illustration a lot and had a great experience working on it with Kelly.
#6 – Greeting card for a law firm in San Francisco. The art features a Kirin, which, according to the firm’s website, is “a mythical chimerical creature known throughout various East Asian cultures, and is said to appear in the presence of a wise person. It is a good omen that brings serenity or prosperity to those it visits”. Working on this project was such a pleasure that I’ve started my own series devoted to such mythical beats and monsters.
#5 – Weekly Assignment for The Washington Post. I started working on the Green Lantern column in September. The column deals with environmental topics, something that interests me greatly. The art prints at a nice 7” x 8” size. Working with Brad Walters at the Post is always a pleasure, and having a weekly assignment these days feels very reassuring.
#4 – The Zen of Professor Nimbus on tor.com. Tor.com, the website for news and discussion of science fiction and fantasy, commissioned a new series of ten strips that appeared on their site through the summer. This represents my first substantial paying project featuring Professor Nimbus. Thanks to Irene Gallo, and to Pablo Defendini for giving me complete freedom and for being so enthusiastic and great to work with. Thanks also to Zimm and Drawger for helping to make “Zen” possible in the first place by supplying the vehicle and encouragement to publish the original series here on my blog in 2007-08.
#3 - Silver medal from The Society of Illustrators 52nd annual. What a great surprise when Anelle Miller and Kate Feirtag from the Society called me on a gloomy day last month to tell me about winning this award. I continued my “Travels of Professor Nimbus” series of limited edition prints with five new drawings in 2009. They all show Nimbus in unusual locations - often places where I have visited or lived – and give me a chance to stretch my imagination and brush & ink technique. This image, “The Happy Valley Trolley”, was awarded a silver medal in the uncomissioned category. Two other prints were also accepted into the annual. You can see more work from this series here on Drawger.
#2 – Prolific outdoor sketching. A family trip to Scandinavia in August and my daughter’s skating classes provided me with a lot of opportunities to get out of my studio and sketch. You can read an article about my Finland sketchbook here on Drawger. My daughter’s skating lessons take place in the local rink, a recently restored architectural landmark designed by architect Eero Saarinen, and you can see more sketches like the one below here. My resolution to sketch as much as possible was inspired by a terrific post on painting outdoors and staying productive in between illustration assignments by fellow Drawger artist Robert Hunt. You can see his post here.
#1 – Assignment on hedge funds for Barron’s. Here’s an example of a seemingly dry topic (starting hedge funds in difficult economic times) producing an illustration that works for the client and expresses something very meaningful about me. I knew I had a chance to create an illustration that could be immensely satisfying when the art director Pam Budz suggested during the initial phone conversation that I show something growing out of a desolate landscape. This is right up my alley, since I like working with images that show a combination of desolation, longing and hope. By the end of the phone conversation the composition was fully formed in my mind. After I finished this watercolor painting I began to wonder what it would look like as an oil painting. I started work in oils in October and am almost finished.