As time goes on I like to try different things. Differentish, anyway. It’s a sort of a style drift that keeps things interesting for me. Lately I’ve rediscovered the pen, and put down the heavy brush line. I’ve always been grounded in line, my major influences being Steinberg & R. Crumb (More to come Yuko…) so that remains somewhat constant, at least for now.
My primary focus has always been visual problem solving; looking for an idea or image that best expresses the story that my drawing is paired with. As JC Suares always said, the best images parrallel the text with their distinct point of view rather than simply following it. For me, technique has been about finding a simple, useful visual language to express an idea.
In the nineties, I mostly used a crowquill 102 and Windser Newton half pans. A little pastel was good for backgrounds. Using three D and real objects added a fresh dimension.
In the 'oughts, I worked primarily with thick black line drawn with a brush. I used a Winsor & Newton 994 #5 which they stopped making in 1996 or so. I bought up every one I could find in the U.S. They do wear out, and I never did find a perfect replacement. Color is done in photoshop, flat, with a mouse. When I was teaching, I called it "Photoshop Dick & Jane." My students were horrified. This was a cover for The Los Angeles Times Magazine about overcrowding and alienation in Southern California. The producers of "Sideways" saw it and called me to do the poster.
These were done for Slate.com. The thick black line downloaded fast in the days of dial-up.
This is my favorite illustration from the fat line era, perhaps of all time. It was done in 2003 as a cover for The Los Angeles Times Book Review for a piece called "The Meaning of America" about the hardening of American attitudes after 911. It was originally just going to be head and shoulders, but I added more body so I just taped another piece of paper to the bottom and left the seam.
This was for the Hartford Courant for their 2013 arts roundup. I had started using textures and a thinner line in my new books for children and began incorporating it into my editorial work. It's a softer look. I discovered the dissolve setting on my pencil tool and ...instant pastel. Also, an intern threw away my mouse and forced me to work on a Wacom tablet.
This was for Slate.com rteferring to a woman's "garden of memories." It was pretty small originally, with a flat background (so they can shape it and drop type) and color on the face. I reworked it for the portfolio, extending the hair off the page to suggest a long stream of memory.
This was a WSJ piece where I got to have fun with the pastelish nature of my new "toolbox". I should probably take a course in all the photoshop capabilities, but I'm so content driven that a little bit of new technique goes a long way.
This was for The Chicago Tribune Book Review about books I should have read but didn't... I included the sketch below (mine is bigger than yours) because I love seeing them with other's posts...and also it was one I wanted to do. I did this same theme for Slate a decade ago and I used naked, embarrassed intellectuals covering up their privates with "Ulysses."
Chicago Trib Book Review again. About reading for Lent- that's where you don't eat for a month and wear a hair shirt. Anybody familiar with the painter Robert Natkin? Natkin background.
Hartford Courant, about your secret credit score. There is one that tracks your shopping and spending habits that you don't know about.
Chicago again. A book about "The Myth of Fairness". The theory is that everything is influenced by perception and choice and there is no level playing field, anywhere.
Book Review. Apparently feminists were boo koo pissed off that the new cover of Slyvia's "Bell Jar" had the '50s "my face is my fortune" pre-liberation (such as it is) message. But as I recall the book, that oppression was a big reason why Sylvia stuck her head in the oven.
Just finished this. Hartford Courant, spring cleaning.
This was for UU World magazine, from the Unitarian Church. I adore these people. The piece was about expressing your faith by sharing your love of creation and humanity.
Fifty Shades, of course, and the popularity thereof. Didn't print this sketch, not sure why.
I was at my kid's school PTO meeting last week and they were looking for items for the spring silent auction. Signed copies of kid's books are always popular- I get many requests throughout the year. But what's really great is adding a framed, signed print on museum paper with the signed copy. My prints have fetched $500 or more and originals over $1000 in these fundraisers. The thing is, I do this every year and I'm getting tired of me even if the parents aren't. What if we exchange prints for each other’s charities. For instance, I will donate a signed book and print to your school if you'll send me one to donate to mine. We could even trade across several of each other's charities so that each of our charities could have a half dozon books & prints to auction. We then frame them nicely and presto! a section of beloved (of course!) signed books with beautiful art to auction for your school, library, youth group, whatever.
I can make a 13”x19” print from my Epson on Somersett or museum quality Epson paper on virtually any image from any of my books. If you want to shop, go look at Neubeckerbooks.com. Below are a few images that people have liked.
This could be a lot of fun. The charities really appreciate this kind of stuff from us. Too bad we can’t deduct the entire value of the print, but I expect accounting will let us go with the cost of ink cartriges and a box of nice paper.
Thanks. E-mail me if you're interested or have some ideas. I thought about trading originals, but let's try prints. People love them. Best, Robert
P.S. I posted the Dallek Icon to get your attention!
From a book I did with John Lithgow, "I Got Two Dogs". A crowd pleaser...
These prints from the "Wow" books frame up nicely. Funny, if I print from my old Photoshop 5 software, the color comes out richer.
Our school library.
From "Wow Ocean"
This is from "Shiver me Timbers" with Doug Florian. I know I can get Doug to sign this too. Great book.
From "What Little Boys are made of".
So that's it. Thanks! R.
I do a lot of little spots. As we see more and more publishing going online, small, iconic illustrations are as important as ever to make a clear point and augment the text with color and, hopefully, wit. I've always been a big fan of Stuart Goldenberg's work in the Times. The other day, he had a terrific little piece on the cover of the on line edition of Business Day. It's something I hope to see more and more of. Recent Drawger artist's pieces that migrate from print to web are a case in point. We saw a lot of this in the late nineties, and it was looking like a whole new platform for illustration. Now, two recessions later, we're heading back in that direction. Knock on wood, but this looks like a really good trend. Here are some of my recent efforts.
This was for The Hartford Courant, about creating security for your personal electronics.
Risk, for NY Times
More investing stuff, NY Times
It's OK to have wrinkles! For Slate.com
More Business, more Times.
I had Edward Gorey in mind with this one.
This was for American Lawyer about minorities creating opportunities.
This was a little bigger than a spot, about Science being a quest for a black cat in a dark room that may not even be there... Columbia Magazine
For Wall Street Journal- when a building goes up in front of your view...
This is what we went with...it's the most literal sketch I sent, but we had a three hour deadline and sometimes,a straight line is quickest.
I just liked this drawing. It was for WSJ, about new advanced placement classes for very young kids in NYC, so out come the tiger moms. We went in another direction. I drew this with an old Mont Blanc fountain pen that I bought cheap when I was in art school. It has a soft gold nib and would cost.... $700.00 today.
This last spring I had the pleasure of giving a presentation at the Mazza Museum of International Art from Children’s Books at the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio. I would have posted this much earlier, but for some reason all of my photos came out blurred - I put the post aside, and then picked it up again last week. Through the magic of photoshop, using the smart sharpen filter, I was able to restore some semblance of focus.
The Museum is quite fabulous, really- everyone at Mazza loves children’s book illustration and they treat you like a king. The facility is on university grounds and is spacious and well organized. They have a vast collection that is growing larger all the time.
Ben Sapp, the museum’s director, contacted me well in advance of my visit- they are very efficient at Mazza. They took care of all traveling expenses and provided an honorarium. I was picked up at the airport and driven everywhere I needed to go by museum volunteers. When I arrived, Dr. Jerry Mallett, the curator, took me to dinner and outlined the history of the museum. It was endowed by one Dr. Mazza who loved children's book art, for starters... I toured the museum, which had a great cross section of international Children’s Book Illustration, including some choice early 20th century stuff. For a much better description than I can give, here’s a link to the museum’s website: http://www.findlay.edu/offices/academic/mazzamuseum/Pages/default.aspx
I gave a presentation that was well attended by children, students, and adults. We had a book fair and a signing event. It was a great experience all around. The most enjoyable part of it all for me was to see the collection- Children’s book illustration from across the last century lovingly catalogued, presented and cared for. The bookstore is quite extensive, and the climate-controlled archive, where the originals are stored when not on view, is state of the art museum quality. This was a great experience for me as an illustrator and an author, and I recommend it. It’s also a great cause to donate work to- they especially love sketches and work that shows the book making process. See the website for a list of the artists in the collection...
Thanks to all the folks at Mazza for caring so much.
Pardon for the blurry pics…
the museum store
Each artist has a binder with biographical information and bibliography.
Beth Krommes, from "The House in the Night" 2009 Caldecott for Illustration. Scratchboard.
Love the old stuff. They had some Ludwig Bemelmans (Madeline) on display...
This was a beautiful pop up dummy- by ....I didn't get the artist's name....?
State of the art climate controlled archives.
This picture doesn't do justice to the size of the room, but I'm pretty sure we had over 100 people there of all ages.
Here's Ben Sapp, the museum's director in the supply room.