Here’s a look at the latest CD cover I’ve done for Milan Editions collection of Hollywood Soundtracks. Milan is a label in Paris that has been asking me to design the covers of some re-issues and collections of American music. That's right, a record label comissioning new art! The brief is always about two lines, something like “Would you like to design a cover for a collection of music from Orson Welles films?" I say yes, and send the art, they say “Merci” and send me a box of CDs. What a pleasure.
This is the final installment of the Illustrated Scroll of Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road.” I started making one drawing for each page of the book in 2012 and reached the end at page 309 a few weeks ago.
Something that started out as a little side-project got a lot of attention online and has been re-posted many, many times. I’ve heard from Kerouac fans from around the world and the drawings have been featured in magazines in the US, England, France and Spain. Many people have written me kind notes about the project and a woman from Lowell, Mass. wrote to tell me that her grandmother had a crush on Kerouac when they were in the same high school typing class.
Last month, Paul Slovak, editor at Viking Penguin called to see about publishing the drawings as a book. He had some great ideas about packaging and design and it looked like it was going to be in stores next fall, but we got some bad news from the Kerouac Estate. They decided not to grant permission because they feel that the project “detracts from the book,” is a “dumbing down” of On the Road, and “diminishes the aura” that the novel possesses. We disagree, but it seems the Estate has made up its mind about it.
It’s disappointing, but you never know, these things have a way of finding their own time, and maybe something else will come along down the line. It's been a fun ride.
A lot of tension in the room on live assignment day
One of the pleasures of teaching at Art Center is a class I co-teach with the great Brian Rea called Op-Ed Illustration. A few years ago when Brian told me he was leaving the grind of NYC and his spot as AD of The New York Times Op-Ed page for the equally treacherous streets of Los Feliz, I suggested we plan a class that would be a bridge from school to the real world for illustration students about to graduate.
The concept of creating thoughtful illustrations that communicate an idea is not easy for students to grasp and the only way to get good at it is to make a lot of images. We try to duplicate for our students the procedure that illustrators who work for the Op-Ed page go through. That means we e-mail the article just before the class and expect to see 4-5 smart ideas the next day, we pick one and the final is due the next week. Not exactly the one-day turnaround that Op-Ed demands, but a lot quicker than students are used to working.
Hannah Chi's first NYT illustration
We’ve had the generous support of the ADs at the Times who agreed to assign a live assignment each term. Students get the topic in class and sketch their ideas, we approve one and the final has to be e-mailed to Brian and me the next morning by 9am. We send them all to the paper, they pick one, and someone has their first piece in The New York Times the next day.
This semester we had the pleasure of working with the great AD Nathan Huang who was a student in the first illustration class I ever taught about ten years ago. It was a Letters piece about the controversy surrounding the number of food carts in front of the Met. Brian and I always tell the AD, that if none of the students’ pieces are right, one of us will jump in and do the illustration, so far there has been no risk of that happening.