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Who Died and Made YOU Boss?

SEPTEMBER 28, 2010

Earlier this year I had the rare opportunity to work with the great graphic designer James Victore on the cover of his monograph "Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss?". James had consulted his long time friend and associate Marc Burkhardt to find an artist who could do a traditional  "power portrait" of a fictional modern fat-cat power broker type- which he would then work over in his own signature "graffitti" style. Mark (who certainly could have done this project himself, taking it in a different direction altogether)  generously refferred James to me, and hence began one of the most rewarding collaborations I've  been involved in.
This was an exciting project- it was especially challenging in three ways, First, in that the typography design was to be eccentric, to say the least, it was to appear sideways and I would have to position elements of the figure within a complex network of folds and letterforms. Second of all, I knew that my painting was the "base" of the cover, but that Mr. Victore's graffitti drawing would be on top of it.
an in-progress sketch with positions of folds indicated...bear in mind that the entire work was to be viewed sideways...
The third dimension of the challenge was that of pressure. I never felt the least bit of pressure in my conversations with James, but I realized that this was not only going to be on the cover of an Abrams art book, and though I had a small part in it, that the final result was to represent 25 years of work on the part of Mr. Victore. Furthermore, I was referred to James by another fellow artist who I respect greatly. To be entrusted with any part of any book is always a privlege I do not take lightly, but in this case there was a special kind of pressure. In the back of my head, This one had to be good. Fortunately, I like pressure.
The finished art was 26x36 inches. I always shoot the art with color bars so that the client or printer can calibrate the color.

detail (before graffiti)

To add to the pressure-my model for this painting was my friend and mentor, sculptor (and former illustrator) Bruce Wolfe.
Detail- every power portrait needs a Rolex!

A pre-release advertisement.
James worked over the art digitally. I had actually hoped that he would work on the original painting, but the results were good
An interior page example from the book.

From Amazon: "In his first book, iconoclastic designer James Victore gives fans a survey of his work and his no-holds-barred take on the practice, business, and teaching of graphic design today. Known for making vivid, memorable, and often controversial work, Victore has sought comrades, not clients—brave, smart collaborators who have encouraged him to reinterpret old design solutions and to pressure viewers to think about issues in a new way. Leading readers through this collection of “greatest hits,” Victore tells the stories behind his inspirations, his process, and the lessons learned. The result is an inspiring, funny, and honest book, which showcases a body of work that has been plastered on the streets of New York, hung at MoMA, and featured in magazines all over the world."
I make the kind of work I do because it's the kind of painting I always loved. It's always a challenge to find new ways to make traditional skills relevant in todays world- though I think they are more relevant and valuable than ever before, its always heartening to work with people who also value these skills for the ways they can be used to communicate ideas.It was a rare priveledge to work on this project, thanks to James, Marc and Drawger, without which I wouldn't have been able to make these connections.
Buy the book!