The Sunday New York Times Book Review is the section of the paper that hangs around our house the longest, it’s usually still on the dining table when the next week’s edition arrives on the front porch. Nicholas Blechman calls the best illustrators and if they are like me, they always say yes to his assignments. So when he called last week to ask if I had time for a cover illustration I was in.
This was for a review of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” by Bill Keller. Nicholas’ only request was to avoid a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt and focus on the turn-of-the-century journalism aspect of the story, and that maybe the image should include some headlines. I made a list of things that appeared in Keller's review and designed a collage that carried some of the pounding-typewriter-vitality of the era. Blechman recently sent out a Twitter communication that said “Illustrators: you don't need to add texture to your images, there is already enough dirt in the newsprint itself,” so I kept to flat colors on this one. I was surprised the reporter’s cigarette and office bottle survived.
I got a call from Christopher Smith at Desert Companion Magazine to do 16 spot drawings for a timeline of Las Vegas. The list of events to be illustrated was a lot of fun to research and I tried to bring a Vegas-mid-century vibe to the drawings.
Christopher sent me a rough layout to show where the drawings would fit, and designed a beautiful five-page spread.
I got a call from Chris Curry at The New Yorker to see if I'd do an illustration to accompany a piece by Ryan Lizza regarding the Keystone Pipeline and the challenges facing Obama as he makes decisions in the coming weeks. The article wasn't written yet but the outline described a long and complicated story of politics, environmentalists, and Big Oil.
For some reason I started thinking about those great Fortune Magazines of the 1930s and the depiction of big industry from posters and other magazines of that era. The article was going to state all sides of the argument over Keystone and I used the image of a small figure facing gigantic industrial forces. Sketch 2 was approved and the final went through without any alterations.
Sometimes with The New Yorker, a full-page illustration gets changed at the last minute to something smaller, so it's a relief to see the full-size printed piece with that distinctive New Yorker typography.