It’s been nearly two years since this project started and finally, I am honored to post my cover for the young adult book Gabriel Finley & The Raven’s Riddle from Schwartz & Wade Books! I worked with the amazing art director, Rachael Cole.
From my first read while it was still being edited, I thought this was a very special book. I ended up reading it many times. In part, for the job but also the final work for pleasure. The publishers seemed to have thought this book was something special as well as you’ll see.
It was a lengthy project for a variety of reasons. Originally, I was commissioned just to do the cover but then good news came that the publishers wanted to add chapter openers and other neat little bits to the book, dust jacket and end papers. Below are photos and notes about the project.
During the process of making the cover, it was decided that there would be a spot UV coating added in the cut out portion of the raven. You can see a little bit of the gloss on the edge of the spine compared to the matte part.
Copper foil color as well as embossing was added to the dust jacket to give it a nice tactile feeling and luxurious look. As many in the business know, the 4 color process can be expensive as it is but with a custom color like the copper ink, each jacket had to be run through the press an additional time specifically for that color. It really makes this book special.
An added feature of the book is a deckled edge which up until the 19th century, it was pretty standard to find on most books. The process of paper-making made this unavoidable until technology caught up. It adds a nice ‘classic’ feel to the book.
Illustrating not only the cover, but as the project progressed, we discussed the idea of adding images to the end-papers as well as little other bits and pieces throughout the book. On the cover and spine, the additional gate image and ravens were drawn for the book.
One of my favorite parts of the project was illustrating the section openers for the book. I enjoy the challenge of reading through the sections and finding that one image that can be an anchor for it but not give it all away.
While I love all of these, my favorite is the Part 3 opener. In part, it was the hardest to agree on but it is also, a very powerful image. I estimate at least 20 or more separate sketches were drawn and discussed with the team to get the ominous quality just right. I think we finally landed on the perfect image.
The process in creating the art for the book was fairly simple and usual…until new thoughts and ideas of what the book could be started being realized.
As I indicated earlier, I was originally commissioned to create only the cover. Below are the original rough ideas I sent in to Rachael after my first reads of the manuscript. Usually, there may be several rounds of these thumbnails done to get to feel and idea for the cover before refining the sketch.
As you can see, this part turned out incredibly easy and fast. The first sketch idea I presented in the top row was selected immediately as the cover. Not to give too much away of the story, I liked the idea of an image of Gabriel coming out of the mausoleum which is an important portal in the book. Instead of using a classic doorway, I felt that the shape of a raven would be perfect – both in image and in concept. I wanted the connection between Gabriel and the raven is represented and felt that having their heads aligned as well helped this concept. Reading the book, you’ll understand why this is important.
After the thumbnail was selected, I refined the sketch more and more, tightening the lines in order to solidify the composition and what Gabriel and the rave will actually look like. I included a color study to give Rachael an idea of the palette and mood I was thinking about.
The image below is the original painting created for the cover. With some minor adjustments to Gabriel, they went to create a proof of what the cover could look like. I had already made some separate drawings of ravens and the gate which you can see in the proof just below.
It was decided at this point, only working on the project for a couple of months, that it would be put on hold to be released the following year. These sorts of things happen in publishing so I wasn’t concerned. We would get back in touch when things started rolling again.
I was incredibly excited for this book. I propped up the painting on the other side of my studio to occasionally look at it as I was working on other projects. As weeks went by, looking at the painting regularly, a discomfort started to grow. I am very self critical, so I know that after a job is completed by the deadline, I need to put it away in storage and not look at it. With the painting staring at me daily, I came to the conclusion that I could do a better job. I wanted to give Gabriel a more ‘human boy’ look rather than the caricature that I initially created.
I have re-done paintings plenty of times in the past when I didn’t like them but in this case, it was already approved and ready to go. I decided I needed to re-paint it. Below is the original version of the second painting.
Months later, when Rachael got back to me to bring the project back to life, I was told all the neat ‘special effects’ were going to be added to the book I described above as well as adding three interior illustrations. I was excited! In the conversation about the other new parts of the project, I told Rachael about the new painting. To shorten how it all happened, Rachael and the publisher loved the new version and decided they would go with that instead!
There was a bit of change – if you look at the original cover, the team liked the texture and lighting of Gabriel’s shirt and head but wanted the new face I painted with the qualities of the older painting. Not uncommon in some of my work, I took both paintings and digitally combined them to make what ended up being the final cover.
Digital Edit of First and Second Paintings.
Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle was an amazing project to work on and I was honored to be part of the project. It’s been a dream to create art for the wonderful George Hagen’s story. I could never have gotten through this project and have such joy doing it without the wonderful guidance of an incredible art director, Rachael Cole. Thank you, Rachael.
I hope you go and give this book a read! Random House / Schwartz & Wade shop Amazon Store
I was asked a few months ago by Irene Gallo for Tor.com to have a go at a story called Seven Commentaries.
It was tough to wrap my head around it in the beginning because it seemed to be written in a rather fragmented way. I ended up loving the visuals associated with this job and ended up drawing something for each section of the story. Eventually, I found myself asking Irene if I could do a few pieces. Luckily, Irene was all for it and found some extra money in the budget for the series. I wanted to do more but life and other projects prevented me from doing more.
It was a fun job but also, very exploritory for me.
It's been an introspective time lately with my work and process.
<-- One of my palettes.
It may not obvious in the work here but I started exploring again in my sketchbooks (which led to the previous post - Skulls of Ultimate Death) and I think I am at that beginning stage of change once again. I'm not forcing it. I'm just going with it. If something changes, great, if not - it's okay. As long as I am experimenting and seeing what the possibilities are.
To that end, I've also been working on other creative endevours which I hope to show one day. That has really taken my mind elsewhere to see new possibilities.
That all being said, thank you Irene for amazing work and I loved the way these pieces ended up coming out. It's always a pleasure to be able to work with you and get to do this fun stuff.
With Tosca opening this past weekend, I am honored and privileged to present, after nearly a year under wraps, my paintings for the Vancouver Opera. The operas are Tosca, Albert Herring, Don Giovanni and Don Carlo. I would like to thank Doug Tuck and especially designer Annie Mack for making this experience exciting and wonderful.
I didn't know much about the opera so I had to take a crash course on it as well as study the performances that I was going to work on. After hours of watching DVD's they sent me and getting schooled on the history from Doug, I dove into the project with a newfound respect and excitement for the artform.
To create a single image from seeing such intense operas is quite daunting. Trying to encapsulate the mood and the subject matter in one image from operas that provide unlimited visuals isn't very easy. I am grateful that Doug and Annie were there to talk out the possibilities of each image and pare it down to one solid piece of art that hits the heart of the piece. It was a wonderfully collaborative effort.
A couple of months ago, there was an added angle to this project when the Vancouver Opera decided to create TV spots for Tosca and Don Giovanni. An animation studio in Vancouver, Giant Ant, did an absolutely stellar job taking my original painting for Tosca from the files I provided them to create a powerful 15 second spot that blew my mind. Don Giovanni will begin production in a few months.
Below are a fraction of the sketches I did for the project. These were the one's that I sent the client.
As you can see, Tosca and Don Carlo were the pieces that we went back and forth a couple of times discussing exactly what they were looking for. I think they felt those two performances were the most important because Tosca is a powerful opera that opens the season and Don Carlo is an elaborate production that the Vancouver Opera hasn't put on in 30+ years. The Albert Herring and Don Giovanni work, they felt I got it right in the first round and selected from these initial sketches.
One of things Annie wanted to do which is different than past posters is include the text right on the art with the art being a separate entity. In the past, the art was either completely separate from the text or composed with the text as part of the art. I initially didn't feel too good about that as I want to compose the art in its proper space and let the designer work out how to deal with text. In this case, there needed to be monstrous space in the art to accommodate the type.
I decided that if this was the case, then I wanted to do the lettering along with it. Annie was excited about that and let me have free reign with the type and listened to some suggestions. You can see in these sketches that I was thinking about the text as I was composing some of the ideas. I was getting a feel for the type of lettering I wanted to do.
Originally, I wanted the text to be a sort of script. Annie and I deduced that we needed to make sure it was legible and we were worried that script would be too problematic so I went with a print-style version. I do wish some of these layouts came to fruition though. The center sketch wth the two eyes in the top row I thought could have been interesting.
Here is a selection of finished drawings that I used for the paintings and a sort of color treatment and layout option for Don Carlo that ended up being a direction that the rest of the posters ended up being designed.
All pretty much stayed the same except for Albert Herring. About a week ago when Annie was finishing up the layouts for the posters which were only just finalized (nearly a year after these sketches), Annie realized that Herring wasn't going to work. So I did some of my digital magic to pull the head and hat off the art and recreate the background to make room for the lettering and information.
Here is the collection of final posters with the final type. I don't think there is too much of a need to show all the lettering studies. In a nutshell, I used pencil, charcoal, ink, ink stopper, chopstick and other 'pens' to write the titles over and over...and over again. When I found two or three for each opera that I felt best convey the opera but that could work collectively together as part of a series, I sent selections to Annie to choose from.
I am extremely pleased with this series and speechless of the honor to be able to create work for the Vancouver Opera. I've already been getting nice notes from folks up in Vancouver who have seen the Tosca posters and advertisements. Good luck to the opera and the new season and thank you again Doug Tuck and Annie Mack for your trust, wisdom and the wonderful experience.
My dreams are bigger than I have time for sometimes. As a personal project, I was planning on doing a few portraits of fashion designers this summer. I actually said something like '10'. With the workload I eventually got, I got one done. I am going to continue the series but at the very least, feel pretty good doing this one.
I wanted to do this series for a number of reasons, one being portraits. Portraits are not something I am entirely comfortable doing. I'd like to get more of that work and challenge myself. I also have a growing interest in fashion and Alexander McQueen is a standout. I am not a 'fashion buff' but I was floored when I saw the Savage Beauty exhibition at The Met. I saw the show three times.
I wanted to play with composition and juxtaposition of elements in this piece. I used some new media here also - the entire background is gold leaf. I've discovered gold leaf is not incredibly easy to paint on or work with. Photographing this painting was also a chore. Scanning this sort of thing is impossible and lighting the painting to not have glares or hot spots is an art in and of itself.
I thought the gold leaf would be interesting as well as the skull and would make an interesting comments on his life and death. One of my memories of The Met exhibit was his use of gold and silver...really, metal and his choices of color seemed to surround these warmer tones.
There were many personal creative hills to climb to get the piece done but I am very happy with the final. I am back onto other projects for now but I still keeping the portraits going.
I also took a photo with the glare completely covering the piece. This itself was actually kind of difficult. Usually there would be a spot glare somewhere. This is a GIF I quickly made to show the difference if there was an all-over glare. You can really see the gold leaf in a silvery way but it totally drops out the rest of the piece.
I was invited by Dave Murray, illustrator and owner of the Garrison Creek Bat Company to create a custom bat for an upcoming celebrity charity event for the Toronto Blue Jays. Each bat is custom made by being turned on a 50 year old Rockwell lathe before being hand finished.
The auction happens at "The Curve Ball", which is the charity gala happening May 13th on the Rogers Centre field. It's a huge event with tickets running at $600.00 a piece with many of the baseball players themselves attending the event. Unfortunately, I have prior commitments and cannot be there in May but I am trying to set something up for July for a visit - check out a game and hang with my iller friends up in Canada.
The charity is the Jays Care Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Toronto Blue Jays. From their website: "Since 1992, Jays Care Foundation has created opportunities for children and youth in need by providing access to programs that promote regular physical activity, encourage the pursuit of higher education and impart fundamental life skills. The Foundation has made possible the building of dedicated, accessible, safe youth spaces for recreational programming, inspiring engagement through the sport of baseball. As the charitable arm of Canada's only Major League Baseball team, Jays Care is making a Major League effort to invest in Canadian children and communities from coast to coast."
There are 15 artists who created bats and I hope they all sell at the auction to help raise money for this amazing foundation.
My bat is called ‘Propulsion’ – named for that power one wants when they are up for bat - also connected to the concept of the foundation; having the power and help to succeed and thrive. As a teacher and long time advocate for student scholarships, I think programs and foundations such as this are immensly important to the future of so many young kids and I am honored to be part of this project.
Thank you Dave for the invitation and a special thanks to Kristina for being a sport and modeling for me.
Love makes the world go 'round.
Love is all you need.
In time for February's Valentine's Day and the season of love, is the new issue of Yoga Journal in which I was fortunate enough to get a call to do their feature story.
I had originally wanted the opener to be a darker and sadder piece. You may be able to get a sense of what I was thinking in the thumbnail. I thought that starting off the feature with a dark brooding non-love piece would be a nice contrast to the happier 'love-ly' ones later on in the article.
In the end, lighter hearts prevailed and I eased up on the mood of the opener.
The article is about the practice of Bhakti yoga, which is about love; about healing yourself and filling your heart up. Two of the sections within the article are about filling your life with love through song and nature which ended up being the focus of the artwork.
I am thrilled to announce that I have a rather large show opening on Friday, June 8th at the Gallery360 Boston!
The show will have many illustration pieces but also new personal work. Its been great to get these new pieces done especially since I had started some of them late last summer. A few of them are quite large (30"x40") and required more time than I expected to finish each one - in particular 'Float' and 'The Diamond Power'.
I was humbled to find out a few weeks ago that four pieces: 'Float' and 'The Diamond Core' series #1-3 will be printed later this year in the next American Illustration Annual! I am always thrilled to have work recognized by any competition but there is a special satisfaction when personal work gets recognized like this. Major thank you's to the judges of AI.
Thank you to Chelsea Turner and Naomi Littman for all your hard work at the gallery helping get the space together. Thank you to Molly Stone, former student/illustrator/assistant for helping me out with the details. Super big thanks to Andrew Nilson, art director at SF Weekly who has taken the industry by storm the last couple of years for designing the poster for the show! Of course, a special thank you Kristina for helping me with everything else along the way.
I look forward to seeing and meeting anyone who is able to attend the opening!
Of the 40+ pieces in the show, here are a few of my newer pieces revolving around my alien character on his polluted planet trying to figure out ways to save it.
Global Warming | 16" x 20" | Acrylic and Ink
Frost | 16" x 20" | Acrylic and Ink
Float | 30" x 40" | Acrylic and Ink
This one, 'Float' is one of my favorites. I asked Kristina to help count the fish - she refused. I'm still not sure how many there are. I spent quite a few weeks working on this 30" x 40" and got the effect I wanted. If you sort of stare at the center of the piece long enough, it looks like the diamonds sort of hover.
With the designs I used, dense spirals, fish, the illusion of movement started happening - I really dug it and kept pushing it in some of the pieces. When hanging the show, the assistant helping hang the show had to keep looking away from 'The Diamond Power' (the poster image) because he said it looked as if the spirals were spinning. Dizzying. Unfortunately, its not easy to see here.
The Diamond Core #1 (The Pollution) | 16" x 20" | Acrylic and Ink
The Diamond Core (The Energy) | 11" x 14" | Acrylic and Ink
The Diamond Core (The Cleanse) | 16" x 20" | Acrylic and Ink
The Diamond Power | 30" x 40" | Acrylic and Ink
The Smog | 11" x 17.5" | Acrylic and Ink
CO2 | 16" x 20" | Acrylic, Ink and Silver Leaf
Covers for - Dim Stars #1-"Broken" and Dim Stars #2-"Flower"
To coincide with my opening, I will also releasing the first two of a series of fun 'zines called 'Broken' and 'Flower'. They are 8.5" x 11" fold-over zines which will be on various topics I find important or interesting.
This job was done for the wonderful A/D Dave McKenna at 5280: The Denver Magazine. One of the things I wanted to start exploring in my work is using color of similar values and seeing how that looks in certain areas of the painting. The hair, skin and the background is where I focused on that idea. That might be an artistic no-no, but who wrote the rules anyway?
I love the blues. The music I love the most seems to have come from some inner core of the blues and I usually am able to track back most of my more favorite music right back to the Delta. The emotion, pain, joy and experimentation of all the different styles of singing and playing the blues - and I love the range that has developed over nearly 100 years. I also enjoy the mystery and discovery. Unfortunately, there are so many blue musicians that are rarely heard about, have only a few recordings or just never were recorded and only are talked about in stories that are slowly being forgotten. Finding a musical gem once in a while is like finding a treasure chest.
The call from Carol Ann Fitzgerald to do this project for the Oxford American was exciting because it involved the blues but also a musician Henry Green and a particular song, Storm Thru Mississippi, that I've never heard of before. There was no known photo of him and no one really knows much about him other than the 4 recordings known to have been made and only two were ever issued on Chance Records - which itself only existed for a few years.
The song recounts storms and tornados that happened in Tupelo Mississippi in the 30's killing hundreds of people. I decided on an image that was a bit foreboding as if Green knows what will happen - looking up into the sky and he sees it coming.
"And some had to drown
Well, some was burned into ashes
And some could not be found."
Along with the printed magazine, Carol Ann showed how grateful they were by sending me a note that she and the entire staff signed as thanks for working with them on the project! You can't be much classier than that. I even got a cool CD that the magazine produced full of blues musicians.
"The Alien Brushes His Teeth and Saves the World" | Acrylic and Ink | 8"x10"
I created this painting for Vend Send Mend which is a fundraiser aimed at raising $8,000 for Doctors Without Borders in relief of Japan's March 11th earthquake disaster. The focus of the show is about how many vending machines there are and the stuff you can get in them. The curators of the show didn't want 100 images of vending machine - and I didn't want to draw one either. So I just went for concept. Apparently these vending machines can sometimes include toothbrushes and toothpaste - I guess in case if you need to clean your teeth immediately while out on the town. I wanted to combine that with and idea of helping the victim's of Japan's earthquake.
There will be a total of 100 artists who include students and also famed artists such as Jaime Zollars, Mark Todd, Martha Rich, Ellen Weinstein, Harry Campbell and many more.
All 100 original works of art will be featured during a one-night event at Sub-Basement Artist Studios, Baltimore on Friday, July 1st, 2011. The artwork will be raffled off through a gumball machine. Instead of gumballs, ticket holders will receive a ball numbered anywhere from 1 to 100, determining the order they get to choose their piece.
This fundraiser is organized by MICA student illustrators Jee-Shaun Wang and Craig Bowers with advising from Whitney Sherman. It should be noted that Craig Bowers was a finalist this year for the Zankel Scholarship which I chair at the Society. He's got the right stuff! I hung out with him and the other nominees for a few days and he's got a bright future ahead of him.
Art Director Bryan Gray contacted me to do this full pager for the next issue of Liberty Magazine.
This was a tough article to read because of all the horror surrounding it. The heart of the story is religious percecution and how it goes on in today's world. We're not talking about shouting at each other in the streets who have conflicting views of religion, we're talking about out and out murder in the name of whatever God/view one deems more important.
It is largely an ignored issue in popular media so the article is to help try to bring this issue to the forefront and describe what is being done with past legislation and if any new laws or international rulings that can help stop the atrocities.
"[In 1997] China, 85 house-church Christians were arrested in two dragnet operations on May 14 in Zhoukou. Christians reported brutal beatings resulting in paralysis, coma, and death. Other methods of torture reported include binding detainees in excruciating positions; hanging them from their limbs; tormenting them with electric cattle prods, electric drills, and other implements; and crushing the ankles of victims while they are forced to kneel."
I am an atheist and don't believe in any God or think one exists. Still, in my opinion, whether someone wants to believe or not, they should not have to suffer these sorts of persecutions.
In the final print, Bryan came back to me with the idea that maybe we should take out most of the lines within the bird. He thought that it was a bit of a distraction for the image. While I didn't think it was much of an issue, I think it could've worked either way and agreed that the lines can come out. When I was painting the picture, it felt pretty good with it empty but I just went with my original vision.
This piece above, which I simply call 'Jailed' was done for Stephanie Glaros at Utne Reader.
I did it quite a few months ago but I haven't been too good keeping up with the blogging recently. It was for a first person story that an inmate wrote about getting old in jail. "Sentenced to Life"
In my studio typing this up tonight, I paused a minute to enjoy a moment of success that I haven't really thought about...at least success in my mind. Many years ago when I first started illustrating, I always wanted to work for the Utne Reader, in large part because I wanted to be part of a magazine that used so many illustrators. They have interesting articles and stories which are ripe for imagery. I am glad that I have had the opportunity to do so. It's nice to accomplish goals here and there throughout life.
I am also happy to say that the 'Jailed' piece will be featured in the new upcoming Communication Arts Illustration Annual #52 and the just released Luerzer's 200 Best Illustrators Worldwide book along with 5 other paintings.
This piece here is the most recent job I did for Utne which I call 'Repetition'. The article focuses on one's own spirituality and in order to succeed in any disipline, one must continually repeat whatever you're learning. "Pray It Again....and Again."
Thanks Stephanie for the continued opportunity to work for the magazine!
It's not my birthday (Happy Birthday, Zimm!) but I got my copy of CMYK just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Ronald Cala III, Creative Director at CMYK and I had a conversation many months ago about what I could write about. He didn't want the usual question and answer thing but wanted something that was more organic and telling of what goes on in an artists life.
Since this magazine seems to cater to the 'New Creatives', the idea was to take some part of the illustration business and talk about it from a first person sort of view so new illustrators out there can get a sense of what it is like to get started and what it takes to be an illustrator.
Every year I see some seriously talented students hang up their shingle and see so few make it past 3-5 years in the business. We just got done with the Student Scholarship for this year and the work is unfuckingbelievable but the numbers will drop pretty quick of those who will remain illustrators. This business is hard and in my opinion, you have to be very dedicated to it and push through all those hard times that will come. Oh yes...they WILL come. It may be oversimplifying but I think in part, brains a good work ethic, a love for making art and good work, you just might have a career.
Ron also thought it would be cool if I illustrated the number that has been adorrning the cover for the last couple of years and of course, I thought that would be fun to do as I've been toying with type here and there and want to expand on it. I've been making 'spikey' images in my sketchbook lately and starting to put them in some of my work so I wanted to give this a shot.
I'd like to congratulate Yuko Shimizu and Drawger/Illoz/Illogator/Ohger/etc. creator Robert Zimmerman for both having articles in the same issue and Chris Buzelli for judging this issue's New Creative Competition! A special nod to Victo Ngai, new illustrator tearing up the print world who has got a few pieces in this issue.
Thanks to Ronald and CMYK and thanks to everyone else who has emailed me about this article!
Also, to catch up with everyone else's postings, my piece 'Red Fish' is hanging at the Society of Illustrators Advertising and Institutional show this month. It's one of my more favorite recent paintings and I am proud that is was recognized.
...and for one more little blast of happiness, unbeknownst to me, my client at Teaching Tolerance Magazine entered a few of my pieces I did for them in the HOW International Design Issue and 'The Only One' was accepted in the Illustration Category! I've never personally entered the competition before and was thrilled to get the email from the client when all the awards were announced.
I was contacted by Heidi Spacher at Natural Solutions Magazine to do three paintings for an article about Adult ADHD. Leo Espinosa mentioned seeing these pieces in his copy of the magazine in my previous post. The heart of the article is about learning how to control the emotional confusion created and learn to work with it in one's life.
I haven't looked at these for nearly two months and reflecting on it, I would say that I really went in a very abstract direction with this work with only some frail lines showing the woman dealing with this issue.
Maybe the abstract and confused parts of these paintings came from my own confusions. The week I was doing sketches for these, I was running around Massachusetts looking for a new place to live, sleeping on someone's couch with a periodic trip to a hospital in Connecticut to visit my Mom. (She's fine.) I think a lot of what I was going through ended up in these pieces...to be deep about it.
This is the second series I've done with Heidi. (Thanks!) It's nice to be able to do series of pieces rather than the one-off all the time. A nice collection of work comes from it.
I finally have started getting my life back on track again. As some of you know, I had recently moved to Boston from New York. Moving can always make a person nuts and I am the type of person that gets pretty freaked out when things are upside down. You see, I don't mind change, I just don't want it to happen when I am there! Most have experienced the horror of moving but after I got through the first few days, life up here in Boston (except for the locals inability to drive worth-a-shit) has been splendid.
I've been lurking here and there on Drawger wanting to share some of the wonderful experiences so far and some work I've been doing. In the last 30 days, I've moved, visited NYC for the Giant Robot Dime Bag opening, buying antique furniture from the local auctions, hanging out with local illustrators Leo Espinosa, Elizabeth Traynor and Alan Witschonke and apparently a big to-do is happening up here this month with more fellow paint-slappers. Edel Rodriguez also popped up in Boston with his great family so Leo and I met up with him at the Barking Crab for lunch. Later we took in the Shepard Fairey exhibit at the ICA ---*cough*--- and loads of other neat experiences.
Lots of things to post and write about and glad to get back into the swing of things and find some normalcy again.
To pick up where I left off, the above job was done the same week I did the three Yoga Journal pieces back in March-ish and printed in May (and since did another for them last month). This was for good 'ole PlanSponsor and Soojin Buzelli. The art direction was 'Not Quite Fitting".
One of the first rooms I needed to get done in the new house was the studio. Here's a couple of shots for now. It's a beautiful 1910 Victorian about 18 minutes south of downtown Boston by train.
I've been working on a personal series which I started this week...one of which is here on the table and which is sort of a rip on one of my other piece titled "Intergalactic Neighbors #1". I guess I ripped on my own art because "Intergalactic Neighbors #1" was lost/stolen in New York and I think I was suffering from seperation anxiety.
I had some ideas lingering about for the last few months and I wanted to draw some stuff very simply and clean. I've only done two so far but I have about 50+ different ideas thumbnailed...and I have no idea if I will follow through with this series. I am feeling right now that it is just to get into the rhythm of working again after nearly a month of turning down jobs, living out of boxes while I get things organized and living without a studio.
"The Intergalactic Study of Life on Planet Earth" | 15x12 | Ink and Acrylic
"The Mothership Refuels" | 15x12 | Ink and Acrylic
In July of 2007 I called up Rob Dunlavey and asked if he would like to do some sort of sketchbook experiment. I really didn’t know how to define how or what we were going to do this but I was open to anything. We ended up talking about ideas and directions of what we could do.
As we’ve all here at Drawger have come to find out, Rob really takes his sketchbooking seriously. It is really inspirational and I always enjoyed looking at his sketchbook stuff here at Drawger. I thought it would personally be a cool experience if I worked with him on something like this. Maybe I’ll learn something, maybe he’ll learn something…maybe we’ll make a pile of shit. Whatever! No matter what we thought would come of it, it would be a pretty cool project.
I was happy that Rob thought it was a cool idea and the rules we ended up with were pretty simple. We’d get a sketchbook, hold onto it for a couple of weeks/months and play around with it and mail it to each other when we hit a point that we thought we should pass it on. As far as the work itself, all was fair game. If one of us wanted to paint over something or redo a page, we did it. If we wanted to add something to an element that was already there, we did it. The only stipulation is that if we add or subtract something from a page, even completely painting over an entire page, we had to do it with respect to making a better piece. There certainly were some failures in this book and I’d say about 6 or so pages in their current state were completely different pieces of art when they started. This is a tall order because we are two separate artists with different sensibilities. We actually did have a couple of phone calls that were along the lines of “Oh man! You painted over that! I liked that!” when one actually liked what was happening and the other didn’t. Such is life.
This version was in progress: I remember Rob getting all pissed off when I painted this white figure all over his laborious circles that he painted then cut out individually and pasted down. It reminded me of that thing in Chuck E. Cheeses that you can jump around in with all the balls.
This sketchbook travelled the greater New England area for a year and a half and we saved some of the cancelled postage to go along with that book.
One of the things that I knew which was going to happen, and which I wanted to happen was the development of new elements and bringing my work somewhere new. Some of the elements that I first started in this sketchbook regularly appear in my professional work now. How to deal with odd shapes, strange colors and textures that I normally NEVER would have thought using was thrown in my face from Rob to deal with and elaborate on. Knowing that it was a no-holds-barred situation, it allowed me to mess with things and not worry too much about result. In my mind, often it was about the act of making art and not worrying too much about result. Still, I studied what I ended up making in the work and saw if something actually ‘worked’ or not. Even today, I look at some of the pages and think…”Nahh…that one still doesn’t work.” It came to a time with this book where we both needed to stop and accept the current results.
This version was in progress: I bought a tube of Liquitex Brilliant Blue I wanted to try out and had my wits about me to paint these stripes all over the place...even over pre-existing drawings. Rob ended up taking some of my used train tickets I threw in one shipment to create a new face.
During the time I had the book in-hand, I often took the opportunity to show the progress to students to inspire them to start their own sketchbooks. They still ask about it! In turn, over the last year or so, many started collaborative efforts with classmates or started their own very experimental sketchbooks themselves. It is fascinating to see what the students have been coming up with.
I attached in this post are some midway scans of the some of the art as a reference for you to see how one image developed over a period of time to what we ended up considering the ‘final art’ for the book.
In the end, it was a great self generated project and I made a great friend throughout the process. We haven't worked through what we're going to do with it yet but we've gotten into discussions about putting it up for auction to create a scholarship for the Society's Student Scholarship Competition or to give to a charity that we agree on. We'll see where that all goes. We did want to share the fun with everyone first!
This version was in progress: I thought this thing sucked but ended up pretty good in the final version after Rob got a hold of it.
Showing our sketchbook to students at the Academy of Art in San Francisco during my lecture there April 7th. (Photo: Chuck Pyle)
John 'Tough Guy' Dykes, Rob Dunlavey holding the book and Alan Witschonke. I went to an opening of Rob and John's and handed off the book to him.
The well-worn packaging that has seen at least 1,500 miles of traveling back and forth!
The first lines of the article:
“On November 5, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying. The proponents of Proposition 8 based several of their arguments supporting this amendment on the premise that same-sex marriages posed a threat to religious liberty.”
This was an interesting article I illustrated for Bryan Gray at Liberty. This article covered both sides of the argument. While I do not see an issue with same-sex marriages, it is interesting to read the detailed arguments about why people are for and against it not only discussing the religious aspects but the laws as they exist. A hot topic indeed but I personally think largely misplaced by the people against same-sex marriages.
Here is the last paragraph:
“What is most tragic about Proposition 8 is that it will make it even harder for people to understand that instead of being seen as inconsistent values, religious liberty and gay and lesbian rights should be understood to reinforce each other. Both religious individuals and gays and lesbians seek personal autonomy. They want to be able to live their lives based on who they are – not on someone else’s idea of who they should be. The best way to resolve conflicts between the right of same-sex couples to marry and free exercise rights is for advocates from both sides to recognize the basic truth that the best way to persuade someone to respect your rights is to demonstrate that you are willing to respect their rights."
(Also...kudos to Dale Stephanos who did the cover for this issue and Randy Enos who also did an illo!)
So I got this email from Dena Verdesca over at what will used to be called Best Life Magazine about a month or two ago. It read:
“How do you feel about serpents and vipers?”
Being an old Dungeons & Dragons dork, I quietly responded:
“I think they’re kinda cool.” As I was making the sign of the devil with my hand and jumping around and playing air guitar listening to Ronnie James Dio in my apartment excited about the prospect of painting something so freakin’ cool!
Some quick thumbnails that were scanned and emailed as we were discussing possible directions to take the image.
Here is the text I was given: Although it's far from the best book I've ever read, Philip Wylie's Generation of Vipers, which I encountered at age 18, woke me up, turned my brain inside out, and launched me on the trajectory of reverent irreverence that I've travelled ever since.
Up to that point, the values -- social, political, and religious -- instilled in me by my Southern heritage, had never been seriously challenged. Wylie's philosophical rant pulled the rug out from under those belief systems in such a way as to fracture them, yet leave me feeling better than ever about being alive.
Having been been both shaken and exhilarated by Wylie, I was somehow inspired to weave this newfound liberating skepticism into the wild and wooly fabric of my innate literary imagination (I had begun writing at age five) and my evolving world-view. I don't know if I would have been any less open to Zen, French avant-gardism, psychedelic drugs, etc. had it not been for Generation of Vipers, but I can say for certain that it was the lobster claw (succulent and dangerous) in the tuna casserole of my pupilage.
-- Tom Robbins
More thumbnails. I had about 20 or so thumbnails that I did during our 'idea' phase...these are just a couple. The snake swirling around the hat was Dena's favorite but the Masters Above liked the snake.
Now, Dena and I have been friends for a good part of a year or so and I we had talked about her art directing style and my art direction getting style and I initially felt that it may have been a tough time if we ever worked together. I didn’t think too hard about it until I got the email to do a job for Best Life and then I got a bit worried.
It was all for nothing and that feeling escaped me in mere minutes. I think this may have been one of the best art director/illustrator collaborations I’ve had. Within a couple of hours and a flurry of emails, scanned thumbnails, and learning about all the books Tom Robbins wrote (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Frog Pajamas, Skinny Legs, etc.) we had something that we both were really proud to go forward with. Easy as pie. I think it was the fact that we were friends for a while that really helped this job because we were able to play off each other’s ‘work personalities’ without a hitch.
Monday the 9th was a busy day at the Society for me but when I got there, I bee-lined it into the gallery to take a look at the Advertising/Institutional show. I wasn’t able to get to the opening because I’ve been battling a nasty cold for the last week which today, I am finally able to breathe out of one nostril. A small miracle indeed.
I am proud to be part of such amazing shows at the Society and congratulations to all my friends who were accepted into the show and walked out with various medals! Yay! (Clapping!)
A view of the work to be judged from the stage.
Then I had to head up stairs to the restaurant to do my annual chairing responsibilities to award the monetary awards for the 2009 Student Scholarship Competition. Every year, I am stunned by the work submitted. It might sound cliché, but I am going to put my foot down and say that there wasn’t a single piece I looked at that I felt that was really flawed in any way. As a matter of fact, all of the judges spent a significant amount of time looking at all the artwork before I started giving them instructions to start isolating their top picks for the awards. After that, it took just as long for a juror to select the first painting to be put in the judging pile! All the jurors seemed perplexed. How could they “possibly pick one or two of these pieces? They’re all so wonderful!” a couple noted to me as I walked among them.
Judges Charles Hively taking the process very seriously and Leo Espinosa and Geoffrey Moss discussing....how they can get their hands on the scholarship money.
This year the process went very smoothly and the jurors were very serious and intent on picking the best pieces for the awards. This year’s awards are of landmark amounts. We have 33 total monetary awards from $250 up to two $5000 awards. The total cash awards are $54,250! Plus we gave away a 7 week and a 1 week Illustration Academy Award and Master Class Program for Science Fiction and Fantasy artists. Finally, something new this year: In talks with Dick Blick Artist Materials, we are able to give every student that actually got into the show a $50 gift certificate with Dick Blick donating $1500 toward this! So every student walks away with something. Total awards going out this year including the gift certificates: $59,000! Yowza!
Friday, May 8th, 6PM is the opening and Awards Gala at the Society of Illustrators and it is free to attend. As usual, all are invited: professionals, students, art directors and the general public. As a note, this show is going to look amazing partially because of the new walls at the Society but with that, I’ve instituted that all artwork for this show must be professionally framed. In the past, only matting or mounting was required. Many judges commented yesterday on how professional the work looked. It’ll be saa-weet!
Go to www.soicompetitions.org to view the winning entries.
Judges looking at the selected few that were up for the $5000 awards.
On another parallel note: Randy Gallegos, one of the jurors for this year’s competition, has spent some time writing up his experiences about actually judging the competition on his own blog. For the students that come around here to Drawger and enter the Student Competition, he gives some wonderful insight and his views on the art, the process, fairness and quality of the work being submitted. And photos!
His experiences are in two parts: Round One Judging Round Two Judging
Photo Courtesy of Mark Korsak - Judges doing their job.
I would like to thank all 25 jurors that took the time to help judge this amazing competition and would like to congratulate all the students that were accepted and awarded.
I look forward to May 8th when I am standing up on stage calling out names and shaking the hands of all the students that were awarded. This money could really help jump start a career.
Cut to the Drummer: Bill Ward/Black Sabbath (UPDATED)
Portrait of Bill Ward from Black Sabbath | 16" x 20" | Acrylic and other stuff on Canvas
Cut to the Drummer Exhibition, Music Show and Auction this week!
I was asked by Sandra Dionisi along with a few other Drawgers who will probably be posting soon also to participate in this amazing exhibition. From the website: “Cut to the Drummer is 50 portraits of 50 drummers by 50 artists. Who will be featured? The talented. The notorious. The influential. The drummers. From Jazz great Tony Williams to Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. From Neil Peart of Rush, to Travis Barker of Blink 182. Who are the artists? You’ve seen their work in every major publication in Western culture. In magazines. Newspapers. Broadway posters. Books. Postage stamps. Product packaging. T-shirts. They are the aesthetic leaders of our times.
"Cut to the Drummer is an Art show and Drumming Event in support of F.U.M.S. for the MS Society of Canada Scholarship Program. It is the fourth public art show mounted byThe Bepo + Mimi Project, a Toronto-based organization that promotes the value of illustration as an art form. It is supported by Joint Design Advocacy, a Canadian group that facilitates and supports great design thinking in Canada."
Bill Ward thumbnail
Bill Ward final sketch
I am a HUGE Black Sabbath fan and grew up listening to all those early albums…okay…ALL the albums that Sabbath has made over the years. I think Bill Ward doesn’t get the attention he deserves. I mean, yes, he is the drummer of Black Sabbath, one of the first if not THE first metal band but the credit usually goes to Ozzy and Tony for their sound. It is the combination of the part that make the whole. If you really listen to the songs and listen to Ward’s drumming you will hear not only a wonderfully heavy and solid thumping, but he has a way of inserting these magnificent fills throughout the piece. The one example that jumps out at me is his work in the song ‘Snowblind’. Listen carefully when the vocals come in. Along with keeping the beat without a hitch, he adds these wonderful, what I call a ‘skipping snare’. (Not being a drummer, there may be an official word for it.) Whenever I listen to that song, I always focus on that.
I hope the show goes off without a hitch and wish I could be up there for the opening.
Courtesy Warner Bros. Records
1970, Paris: Backstage footage and an excellent performance of their song, Paranoid. They were so full of energy...the band was very new and they were out there to kick ass!
Thought I'd add more great film! Iron Man!
Black Sabbath doing the song Black Sabbath. "Official' video.
...and probably the craziest concert I've seen. 100,000 people and they were all in Ozzy's hands. Children of the Grave 1974
After years of doing this, I still get a rise from seeing my work in the final printed piece. You figured it would become ‘old hat’ after a while but that elation never has left me from full pages like this to small bitty spots. I think it makes me feel lucky that I have the opportunity to do what I do.
I was waiting in Penn Station for a train sometime around 1AM and went through one of the magazine stands. I saw the new Discover Magazine issue which I recalled I did an illo for and remembered really enjoying the editorial. It was my first time seeing this piece in print. I looked around further and saw O’Brien’s Rolling Stone piece and Stephanos’ Mother Jones, Kroninger in Time, Stauffer in the rest of the magazines….among a whole bunch of other iller’s work. It’s just so cool. It’s like a gallery show! Forget the Society and AI shows…just hit a good newsstand! The problem, I guess, is that at the newsstand, there is no one to serve you a glass of wine and horse d oeuvres…bummer.
For the most part, I work pretty often in my sketchbooks. Actually, one day I mentioned to a friend that I think I am slowly moving away from being an illustrator and becoming a professional sketchbook artist! I just got addicted to the thing. Simple, fast, to the point. An idea is in my head then in a few minutes an impression of it is down.
Of course, the problem becomes a book full of impressions and nothing ‘finished’. I thought about this a lot. Couldn’t a sketchbook piece be a finished piece of art in itself? Maybe. I guess it depends on what you are looking for. Some sketchbook stuff, I wouldn’t dream of recreating because I think it stands on its own. Some, definitely need to go somewhere.
Many of us here have posted stories about how the sketchbook is the ‘window to the creative soul’, so to speak. I agree. For so many years, a sketchbook was only something to do sketches for client in. Not necessarily for the sake of creating images. There were a couple of people in my life that changed that, one being fellow Drawger Rob Dunlavey. The Sketchbook Machine! I recently posted something about an exhibition he was part of but go take a look at his library of sketchbook work. I totally dig it. I am grateful for the inspiration because it really opened my eyes to my own personal possibilities as an artist. I sometimes find myself asking fellow artists for me to look at their sketchbook before their finished work! I don’t know…I think it has something to do with ‘seeing behind the curtain’ of their technique and so-called style.
Here is a sketchbook piece I did on my couch one night watching Northern Exposure reruns and the next day, and since I liked it so much, created a final from it. It was one of those sketchbook pieces that needed to be painted properly.
This Friday I will be going to the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design to give a presentation of my work and spent some time with the seniors. My friend Charles Beyl invited me down there for the weekend and I never pass up to opportunity like this. I can't wait to see some old friends and make some new ones!
I'm a tree hugger. I've had this image rolling around in my head for a couple of weeks, in particular, the horizon line and the tree stump tangent pushing an image of a before and after.
Considering the speed at which the planet is being deforested, world powers are seemingly slow to move on protecting the trees and incidentally, our possible futures.
According to the World Resources Institute, more than 80 percent of the Earth’s forests already have been destroyed. Up to 90 percent of West Africa’s coastal rain forests have disappeared since 1900. Brazil and Indonesia, which contain the world’s two largest surviving regions of rain forest, are being stripped at an by logging, fires, and land-clearing for agriculture and cattle-grazing.
Among the obvious consequences of deforestation is the loss of living space. Seventy percent of the Earth’s land animals and plants reside in forests. Rain forests help generate rainfall in drought-prone countries elsewhere. Studies have shown that destruction of rain forests in such West African countries as Nigeria, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire may have caused two decades of droughts in the interior of Africa, with attendant hardship and famine.
Deforestation has global effects as well. Trees are natural consumers of carbon dioxide—one of the greenhouse gases whose buildup in the atmosphere contributes to global warming.
-Information and stats from National Geographic
Here's an interesting article at the NASA website.
I did this one for a favorite art director Bryan Gray and again, working with him is a dream because I pretty much have the ability to do whatever I think would work for the story.
This story was about whether or not one should put trust into other people. The article cite examples of people doing good things for others yet still getting 'screwed over' in the end. I thought of the visual of someone giving 'a flower of trust' to someone else yet the flower itself becomes the source of the pain.
I also wanted to really experiment with a VERY limited palette. I think there are only 2 or 3 blues, white and a splash of red. I used a sepia pen for the line work.
I thought I would make a comment about this as some students questioned why I send in such rough sketches for approval....really they're just thumbnails. They're not ALL like this but most of them are. I think if the Art Director, especially in an editorial market, knows the work, the details aren't always necessary. Sometimes I'll send in a little bit more refined sketches usually to new clients but I like to keep the ideas looking loose in case I need or want to change something. Laboring over a final sketch at this point sometimes seems to be work that doesn't need to be done and I have a technique that allows for this loosness.
The refined drawing below is what I make for myself prior to the finish. Sometimes I'll send them this one also just so they know what the real final will look like in the proper format. Sometimes art directors like to drop final drawings into the layouts as placeholders.
Apparently, jumping right along with JD, I am posting a piece I did for SooJin this past month also for PlanSponsor's Bells & Whistles section. As usual, working with SooJin was wonderful because I had complete freedom to paint what I wanted.
I wanted to show birds in hibernation in 'bell' jars except for the one that freed himself and is 'whistling' loudly to the world.
I loved doing this piece...it's a recent favorite of mine.
I've had some successes and failures with portraiture. I've never been a portrait artist or even a 'likeness' artist. Over the last few years, on and off between other work, I've been working on how to translate my evolving technique into portraiture and think I am finally finding my way through it. I think, in my case, it is more about the essence of the person being painted rather than a dead-on likeness, although there needs to be some semblance of them. That's the balance.
That being said, and after some practice, I came up with a couple of good ones including this William Shakespeare. It opened a new door creatively for me and I like where its heading. Even better, the Shakespeare piece recently led to doing four conceptual portraits of some scientists for Discover Magazine of which I posted two of my favorites.
Skip Rizzo | Virtual Reality Expert
Eric Anderson | Interview with him about privatizing space flight
Me & the Devil! I am finally getting around to annoucing this book release here! I've been darting all over the northeast and Florida enjoying the summer with friends and family for the last 2-3 months so I haven't been in one place long enough to get to this properly. I've been selling them as I've been travelling around, getting them into book stores and doing signings and all that stuff...what a great time!
Here is the description from my website:
This series of art has been published into a full color, hand-signed, hard-bound limited edition book of 666 copies. This largely wordless book visually narrates the part fictional and part non-fictional story of legendary blues musician, Robert Johnson.
The book is cloth hard bound with silver inlay book title on the cover. The interior pages have been carefully proofed to match the color and values of the original art and printed on 80# Xpressions paper. A special red book jacket was produced for the first 333 copies. The book contains 44 pages and each book is hand numbered and signed by the artist on a special page printed within the book.
Various illustrations in this book have been so far accepted a total of 15 times from all the major illustration competitions including the Society of Illustrators, the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, American Illustration, Spectrum and 3X3. One of the images, "Got Down On My Knees and Prayed" has also won a prestigious Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators of New York.
Below are some shots of the book, links to pages to purchase the book and shots of a couple of exhibitions the work has been in already. Thank you to everyone that has commented in the past here on Drawger when I was in the process of doing the work. Here's the final result and I couldn't have been happier! View The Book! (There will be links to purchase by credit card or download an order form for check, money order or well hidden cash!)
FYI: Any Drawger, Illoz and Illogator members will get a discount if they decide to purchase a book...e-mail me for a special link.
Photo without dust jacket.
Photo of interior.
Society of Illustrators: Silver Medal
Silpe Gallery, CT
Vermont Opening (I found a place that has worse walls than the Society!)
Local news station in Vermont interviewing me...apparently the show was big news up there. It was the largest turn out they ever had for an opening.
Here's another couple of illustrations I've done for Discover Magazine's special 'The Body' issue on newstands now.
It's an interesting article about steriods, doping and all its wonderful options which makes it so easy to get and use. So not only are the top athletes using it, but even your Mom and Dad...or even the guy serving you coffee in the morning. Talk about getting your 'Morning Boost'!
As the Olympics get moving along, i am sure we'll be hearing loads about this stuff.
The other illustration I did in the same issue. The article was about a fellow named Michael West who sees a day that humans can go without surgery, design stronger bodies and I quote "Even grow wings!". He also goes on about stem cell research and trying to beat the problems associated with freezing bodies to hopefully be regenerated another day.
Sort of makes one stop for while...and think about science and what it is being used for out there, huh?
The art directors and I decided to try something a little odd with the spread layout which accounts for the open areas and odd placements. I had a great time working with them and how open they are to ideas and playing around with space.
While I was in Miami hanging out with Brian Stauffer, we ended up talking about illustrators and art directors, who we've worked for and spinning interesting yarns about jobs and all that.
While out by the pool I said: "You know, it seems like everyone has worked with SooJin Buzelli except for me! I feel so left out." Then I proceeded to sob furiously in my hands.
A few days later at home, guess who shoots over an e-mail to do an illustration? Mrs. Buzelli herself! Talk about good karma!
It is all true about what they say about her art direction, simple and direct with enough freedom to scare the pants off you. Her only art direction was: "Too much/overdoing something" That was pretty much it. I sent her some thumbs I posted below and she chose one. An excellent experience and I enjoy what came out of it.
(Thinking hard: "It seems like I'm the only one who's never done a TIME cover!"
This job was a fight...not for content, but for time. I got the call on my cell phone Thursday from Pete Hausler while I was in a cafeteria eating lunch with some military officials in Colorado Springs working on a 3 day reportage assignment (info about that coming soon). He needed to see sketches by Friday AM and the final done by Monday 9AM.
Since I was working on a job at the moment (and I was at this location on their dime so I felt I should be paying attention to the job at hand) and Friday was a flight day to come home, and Saturday was previously booked with a birthday thing, I needed to get sketches done the moment he called and really work this into my schedule. Pete gave me the option of doing something another time after I told him what was going down but I have a hard time turning down work, especially with people I like to work with.
I found a Xerox copier that can FAX and e-mail where I was so I grabbed some printer paper and got to work. Art direction was simple: "Come up with something...here's the article." My favorite kind of art direction! Pete is really cool about jobs and let's me do what I need to do. He certainly was very understanding with this job as there were a few technology bumps with him getting the sketches. He finally got them though.
While I was flittering about the place like a madman, I was busted by security by the Xerox machines because at the location I was, I needed to have a full-time escort with me wherever I went...again...military stuff. I ditched everyone for a couple of hours to get these sketches done but was caught and reprimanded. All in the name of art, man! At least I didn't have to do 200 pushups!
On Friday, while I was delayed again at the airport (American Airlines has earned the Badge of Suckness from me), I got a call from him saying that a sketch was approved and I can go to final. So I did when I finally got back in the studio on Sunday.
The job was printed in yesterday's paper. The article was about folks in their late 40's-50's going back to their colleges to consult with councellors to get new jobs.
The 4 sketches I sent in.
Final cleaned up sketch I did when I got home after approval.
It's been a while since I posted up anything work related and now I think I am going to start catching up. I also wanted to expand a bit on my normal 'here's a new piece' sort of posts and show some process. Minnesota Magazine called a while back to do a job. The story was really good and even better, the art direction was excellent: "Read it and draw what you want." and the deadline was long. Oooo...we all can only hope for this sort of thing. As a matter of fact, it seems to be a dream job!
There was a lot of interesting imagery in the article. Since I had time, my usual methods is to just draw and draw and then pick and chose from those drawings and build upon it further. I am posting about 2/3rds of the sketches I did (most of which the art director didn't see) just to show process and thinking.
"Winston Churchill called it his Black Dog..."
"I've called it the Black Horrors and have been known to lie in bed, curtains drawn, waiting fo the storm clouds to pass."
This is my final rough sketch prior to hitting the board.
Sometimes I'll scan in a piece of art in progress to see how it looks. For some reason, it gives me a fresh eye to see it in another format...in this case, on screen. As soon as I looked at it, I knew that the pill bottles needed to be changed. It didn't feel heavy enough.
Yup...it is that time of year where everyone feels the pain of looking at their waistline or their packs of cigarettes or their finances or their loved one's or their chocolate addiction and decide (or not) to make changes for the next year. Yes...very painful indeed. I don't know about you but dark chocolate is here to stay in my house buddy so back off.
There is so much pain associated not only with the New Year's Resolutions but the holidays in general, especially if you were raised as a guity catholic such as myself. "Did I buy enough gifts?" "Will they like them?" "Did I send everyone a card?" "Am I giving Mom this year's fruitcake or LAST year's?" ...and it is all a ferocious mess of visiting the mall, checking lists, racking up the credit card until Christmas Day.
Then finally...silence, peace and quiet for a week. I was lucky enough to be with my family up in CT for the last week enjoying everyone, eating too much and, ah-hem, drinking my share of wine. Lovely. The gifts were cool too. I got one of those fancy 80GB iPod Classics. Not sure what to do with it yet but I do feel more hip and cool now through osmosis.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the pain of self-evaluation. Questions about one's life comes up: Where am I now? Where have I come from? Where am I going? All good questions but if we had any sense, we would ignore them because they can lead to anerysms and unneeded stress especially 7 days after a mad rush fueled by catholic guilt. Should one only take stock once a year? Probably not. It should be a weekly or even a daily ritual. But today and tonight, I will have a brick of chocolate in my left hand and a beer in my right and friends all around me. Life is good.
Happy New Year, folks!
The beginning of the end of another year which requires by CONTRACT a sappy holiday post. It's written into the Drawger contract right under Sub-Section 12 which states: "Zimm has the right to use your spleen whenever necessary throughout the life of this contract throughout the known world and the entire universe....oh and your gall bladder too, but that's just for fun."
I wanted to wish my Drawger family and all the folks that come and visit here to read and see us ramble about art and various livestock, a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
...and to put you in a hop-skip-and-a-jump mood, here's a little Jim Noir to tap your toes to. (I can't get the darn thing to embed.) Jim Noir - My Patch Watch for the livestock!
You wouldn't know it from the weather we're having here on the East Coast but it is supposed to be getting cold. I was going to go to the beach last weekend if I didn't have a cold I've battling this week. I am feeling better so maybe if this Global Warming thing keeps up, I'll go down there this weekend.
I did this job for Women of Spirit a while ago for a recent issue with Bryan Gray. It is a heart-warming story about a woman who sees a homeless man standing out in a below zero storm as she goes into a food store. She buys him a sandwich and soup to help him out. A real sappy story to warm the 'ole bones.
Since I ate my share of soup this week to help fight my cold and I finally met Bryan Gray (in from Idaho) and put together a lunch for him at the Society with a few fellow Drawgers, I thought this was a timely post.
Final thumbnail ideas. Three out of 8 pages worth with different views and subject matter.
Peter Cusack and Bryan Gray. We walked up to the Met after lunch at the Society.
Since we're on the subject, I did this on the train ride home on Friday when my cold was at it's peak. I was thinking about Alka-Seltzer Cold & Flu medicine...
For some odd reason, for the last three auctions, I've been asked to contribute to the Robert's Snow Auction. It is usually reserved for children's book illustrators but they still keep asking. That's fine by me because I did it to help raise money for cancer research. This has been one of my pro bono things that I do yearly. The two 'causes' I usually do stuff for are Cancer and Diabetes research.
I think it is important to contribute to these thing, especially if they a reputable and are actually getting things done. The Robert's Snow auctions have raised over $200,000 so far. The 2004 auction was even developed into a 'children's book' of the snowflakes created in which the profits go toward research. I was asked to be interviewed for this blog on the Robert's Snow artists.
For more information: Robert's Snow Website
Yesterday I shipped out 22 paintings for an exhibition I was invited to have at the Quimby Gallery at Lyndon College in Vermont. I will also be doing a digital slide lecture later in the evening opening night. If anyone is nearby it'll be cool to see you!
Quimby Gallery/Lyndon College | 1001 College Road | Lyndonville | Vermont | 05851
October 11-31, 2008
This post is dedicated to all the teachers out there.
The new semester started and I happily prepped for my classes…well, sort of. This semester I am teaching a portfolio class and a couple of sections of digital illustration for sophomores. I would have to admit that after a lazy August, I really wasn’t excited to get back to all the chaos that is the academic/educational system. I knew though, that after a day or two of people discussing rubrics, measurable results and proper syllabus formats, I KNEW I would go numb which would invariably save me from launching myself out of the 8th floor window shouting “DOWN WITH RUBRIC!!” on the way down to my crushing death. I also knew that once I started seeing these incredible brave and creative students, I would relax and get into it again.
So, knowing that the groove will come back, I walked into the building confident and assured that I will have a delightful first day of school. I even dressed up for the occasion wearing a nice striped button up, sport jacket and Converse sneakers. Who said I wasn’t ‘hip’? I arrived to my first class a half hour early to check over the facilities and computers to make sure things started up properly and I had everything I needed.
As I walked into the room, the first thing that hit me was the 90 degree weather in the room. Apparently the heat was on. The second issue was a wall of stink that smelled like 10 day old fermenting cow. I briskly walked across this computer lab to open up the windows and halfway through the room my feet started sloshing on the carpet. Half the room was flooded! Looking at about $30,000 of computers including these new fangled digital blackboards…AND power cords all over, I ran (actually skipped-hopped) out of the room.
I called IT on one of the emergency phones in the hall and worked out transferring the class for that day to another room. There were students already showing up to class. I had to move fast and make some signage to get 20 students corralled onto another floor and room. Apparently, a pipe burst in the radiator but they couldn’t explain why the heat was on. This ate about 45 minutes into a 3 hour class. Finally, all the new students and I were in the new temporary classroom. I took my sport jacket off as I was beginning to perspire. I went through the usual schpeel about attendance, professionalism and grading procedures and went over to the computer to begin showing a slide presentation of illustrations. As I clicked the remote to turn on the projector mounted on the ceiling, those two words that all fear “Replace Lamp” glowed menacing on the screen. Already an hour and fifteen into class.
I tossed the remote on the desk and said a rather scruffy comment under my breath which prompted giggles from the students as I went across the hall to IT and told them the issue.
I gathered the 20 students around my computer and showed them the presentation as an IT guy tinkered with the projector by standing on the desk in the middle of the room. No, it wasn’t distracting in the least. As soon as I was done the projector lit up like a Christmas Tree and projected my desktop across the room. Poetic.
Trying to keep things moving along, I decided to refocus the class (and myself) to their computers and start going over some of the tools and palettes and get to know these students capabilities by assigning a couple of in-class projects. Things started moving along normally; my frustration and nervousness started to dissipate. The students were peering attentively at their screens then a couple of gentlemen in blue coveralls barge into the room and started chatting and pointing. I BRISKLY (note the caps) walked over and in a gentle way asked, “WTF?!?” By now my sleeves were rolled up. One said, “We were supposed to reimage these computers at 3PM and we were told you’d be out by 5PM.” I started thinking about the 8th floor window and pondering that a good up-draft could keep me afloat for an extra few seconds….cool, I’d be like Superman....or hiding under my desk in the office...slowly rocking back and forth. It would certainly be safer.
Being that this was the first day and I essentially got done what I needed to get done, I wrapped the class up in the most classy way I could and got them started on work to be done for the following week. The moral of the story: Never, in any part of your life, EVER stop and think that you have things under control…and never work in a building that has more than 2 floors.
After seeing some fellow Drawgers studios, I think maybe this could be an article they should read...
After doing my "Dead Dad' job for art director Bryan Gray a couple of months ago he liked the work so much that he threw a couple of manuscripts at me and said "Pick one and do whatever you want!" An illustrator's dream. We also had some back and forth about the page design also and ended up drawing a hand placing one of the balls into the headline based on one of my other sketches. It is great to have that collaboration with the director.
I picked this one only because I was beginning to start doing my 'Spring Cleaning' which usually takes a couple of weekends to do...(so far 2 Sundays and probably one to go). I usually take all the electronic equipment out of the cabinets and desks and clean all the wires and behind furniture, kitchen cabinets...you know...that 'top to bottom' cleaning stuff . Sparkely fresh. In the process, giving away stacks of books I don't read or use anymore; going through closets and getting rid of clothes...in all, a very big purge.
Coinciding with my purge, I have been photographing some real old illustration and art that I've done since 1989 and been collecting dust in the bottom of closets. Mainly an excuse to go through them, save and photograph what is good and reappropriate the bad ones to paint over...or just toss them out all together. We photographed between 200-300 and I got about another year's worth of four and five ply Strathmore illustration board to use from the stuff I am getting rid of. Cool!
So, OCD people unite and clean! Not surprising this is one of my favorite shows.
I am happy to say that I've gotten the notices from American Illustration that this one will be included in the AI26 book! Oh yeah!!! It has been a long time coming and I am proud to be part of the book along with so many other fabulous artists including fellow Drawgers!
Amidst the 12 paintings I've done in the last 5 weeks for various projects, I did this personal piece. This is one of those personal pieces that I really didn't know what I was doing or where I was going with it until I got about half way through it and the concept started to reveal itself based upon what I have been thinking and going through lately. I did it out of the sheer need to escape for a couple of hours...to just start something with no sketches and let my brain go because things have been nuts around here.
This painting is about choices. All the choices one makes throughout their life, some good, some bad. This is that moment of contemplation when you look back at all these choices and analyze whether or not each choice, or branch you took was the right one, the wrong one...or the lucky one.
No matter which choice a person makes in life whether good or bad, that person is probably learning something.
I landed this job fairly recently for a small little magazine called Women of Spirit and as it turned out, it was a great article and assignment. The Art Director is Bryan Gray; the kind of art director we can all hope for: He gets out of the way. His opinions were short and insightful, not that there were many at all and did not once step on any toes creatively.
The nutshell version is that a young boy loses his father but he never speaks of it. Later, when a 'family' dog dies, he is able to begin speaking and writing about his father's death by first using the dog's passing as a catalyst...with a little help from a therapist.
It was a touching story and everyone is happy in the end just like a story should be...too bad I like illustrating the miserable parts of the articles!
Over a month ago I got a call from Joannah Ralston at Insight Design to do a series of illustrations for a trade magazine I never heard of. I found out that the guy Milken went to jail for some reason or another (??).
This was an interesting article that I wanted to feature here because it dealt with a new method of reducing carbon emissions which lead to global warming. The method is making money off of carbon pollution by buying and selling 'carbon credits'. The conservative right that always hemmed and hawed about greenhouse gasses and whether or not it actually leads to global warming are listening up and joining the bandwagon because now; they see dollar signs.
Briefly, how it works is that companies that emit gasses are given a certain amount of 'carbon credits' and they may buy or sell these credits to other companies if they have too many credits and the other company releases more gasses and needs these credits to offset their pollution. While it is an incentive for the larger companies to TRY to reduce their emissions, if they have the cash, they can buy their way out of it so it becomes a rather shady idea. Now, these carbon credits are traded on various stock markets and it is really gaining momentum.
While it is not commonplace to trade these credits yet, I feel this subject needs to be thought about a little more because other than a vehicle to make money, some of the methods of dealing with pollution are pretty thin. If it reduces emissions, I guess it could be a good way to go...my jury is out on this one.
This is a new client and the art director was absolutely grand to work for. I would post more sketches but I have dozens as I had the latitude to conceptualize whatever I wanted in the beginning and then we went through the piles of work and sifted through what she wanted and what the editor wanted. It also gave me a chance to play with doing some black and white work which I haven't done since 1995! There will be more posts of recent black and white stuff which I am excited about. This black and white work led to another job for another new client.
So, get green people...and make some money! Ugh.
A few weeks ago, I was reminded how sensitive I am to smoke and oils. One of my senior students was working in oils in class and had standard turps as his cleaning agent. I haven't used oils in 7 years so smelling the stuff was a pleasant surprise for my memory banks for the first 20 minutes of this lingering odor. Then, some odd things happened...my throat started closing up and my lungs started to feel heated...not really a burning sensation but sort of tightening up. Those sensations eventually lasted about two days.
What a surprise! I was surprised about how sensitive I got over time. (The girls dig that...) Thinking about it, I rarely even smell cigarette smoke anymore either but when I do, I try to clear the room. I smoked for 15 years while I was using oils and was constantly sick with strep throat and other bronchial issues. One time (because of a Crystal Clear incident where I was spraying outside and accidentally breathed in some fumes) I got so sick to the point of getting pneumonia and having to live on antibiotics and steroids for two months. Certainly nothing as bad as Parada's experience but still, every once in a while I think about the damage I've done to myself since 1987 using oils, Liquin, Cobalt Drier, turps and Crystal Clear on top of smoking well before that, the possible future scares the hell out of me.
Smoke Free: somewhere around 6 years Oil free: 7 years....
That is my Public Service Announcement for the year. Just say no.
The drawing for this was done last year when I was thinkng about my anniversary quitting smoking and I eventually did this piece a couple of months ago when I had some down time.
I was asked by Dan Smith over at the Wall Street Journal to do this piece. As usual, an overnighter for today's issue (Saturday). Happy St. Patrick's Day!
He said he was initially embarrassed to assign a 'leprechaun' illustration (the editor wanted it) but thought I would give it a new interpretation rather than the 'ole schtick' of the cartoony sort of versions that are predominant out there.
Sadly it is going to print black and white with a spot in color on the front page of the Finance section. I really think the black and white version reads well especially the texture. I was excited to desaturate it and see the result. The type was added in the end digitally. The original didn't have type but I suggested to him that I think it would work better in this case. I drew out some text, scanned it and did some masking in Photoshop.
It is always fun to work for Wall Street, especially with the quick turnarounds and, of course, the snazzy people that work there!
Late at night for the last week when I am done with other stuff, I've been putzing around with this from my previous post as a full color piece. Not sure if it is completely done at the moment but I like where it is now.
When working on it, I decided to use some colors that while not cliche for the 70's, reminded me of the decor/colors in my house when I was young.
I was working on a series of drawings for a cover and 3 interiors over the weekend for a new client and got side tracked.
I was reading some articles Saturday morning on CNN.com while having the usual cup of Earl Grey and this story jumped out at me. Last night, I started noodling around with some images in the sketchbook thinking about the article while eating Fiery Habanero Doritos and watching Law & Order: Criminal Intent again. This is what came out of the pen around midnight.
Woman, 6 Children Die In Pa. House Fire
WAYNESBURG, Pa. -- Fire swept through a house in southwestern Pennsylvania early Saturday, killing six young children and a woman and injuring one other person, state police said. Several people in the house were able to escape, state Trooper Brian Burden said. Police said the young victims were four girls ages 4, 9, 7 and 10, and two boys ages 2 and 3. Authorities said the woman was the mother of three of the children. Robert Husner, who was staying in the home, said Joshua Arthur Sr., the father of three of the children, woke him and the two of them tried to rescue all six children, who were sleeping in at least three separate bedrooms. "The flames were just too high," said Husner, 27. "I couldn't get in, there was so much smoke." The home's gas furnace was not working so the residents were using space heaters throughout the home to keep warm, Husner said. Authorities said it was unclear whether they contributed to the fire, which was being investigated by a state police fire marshal. State police identified the victims as Rebecca Eddy, 26, and her children Tiffany Blake, 10, Rebecca Blake, 9, and Diamond Blake, 7; and Arthur's children, Donna Jo Arthur, 5, Joshua Arthur Jr., 3, and Christopher Arthur, 2. Arthur was listed in serious condition at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. Husner and two other people escaped from the flames, authorities aid. Firefighters arrived at 3:15 a.m. and found flames 10 to 15 feet high coming from the split-level house, Waynesburg Volunteer Fire Company Chief Larry Marshall said. "Fire was shooting out all the windows and doors," Marshall said. The blaze was under control in about 30 minutes, "but it was too late," he said. Neighbor Mike Vukmanic, 23, who lives about 100 yards away, said he called 911 after he heard "a screaming, pounding noise" and looked out to see the home's back door open and flames inside. A few minutes later, Vukmanic said, "it was just engulfed." Vukmanic's stepfather, Tony Simonetti, ran to the house and found a man who told him there were people inside. "I looked. There was no way to get into the house," Simonetti said. Waynesburg is in rural southwestern Pennsylvania about 35 miles from Pittsburgh.
In the spirit of streams of portraits that get posted every now and again, here is a recent painting of Mr. Edgar Allen Poe. Poe is a pretty common portrait to do but he's got that mystery around him and his deshevelled look makes him look a little overly-artsy which is cool...plus all the Quoth the Raven stuff helps....
Every painting I do has a 'soundtrack'. A song or album that I end of playing over and over again for hours because it just works so well with what I am doing. I am guessing, many others sort of have a similar habit.
In this case, it was Beethoven's 7th Symphony, Movement #2. I had this one going all day even when I wasn't working. Not only arguably one on my favorite pieces of music, but to me, it seemed to work right when doing this one.
So here's is a little Monday morning mood music to have with your coffee. Beethoven
Very early sketches working out Poe's features...what a noggin!
I haven’t posted new art in a while.Just lurking with a spurt of posts here and there and I apologize that I haven’t posted on some of your additions, my dear friends.I am reading them though!By the way, special nod to Kroninger for being the nicest guy in the world.
I have been finding myself a lot more introspective lately and it isn’t something surprising either.The last couple of months have been incredibly humbling.I don’t know about everyone else but sometimes a series of things happen in life that sort of culminate into drastic changes and one can never be sure what the change is or will be but you know it is going to happen and you are very aware of it.
In simple terms since December, my Mother has started dialysis (59 years old) with the hopes of a kidney transplant, she will be having an eye operation (again) to prevent her from going blind from diabetes, my cousin recently had a hysterectomy because of cancer and just this week found a new lump on her neck (36 years old), three days after her operation, my friend Dorinda (62 years old) has a stroke which rendered her brain dead therefore the family decided to pull the plug a day or so later, and another artist friend (40 years old) has breast cancer.This is to name just a few things going on around here...there's more but that's enough to get an idea.
This stuff isn’t meant to grab sympathy.These things happen in life and I think one should expect it.What I am pointing to in telling you this is that incredibly severe occurrences around you with people your love can really change ones way of thinking and sometimes, free a person from fears and habits that normally one would find themselves wrapped in.That is not to say or to tell people to ‘look at the big picture’ and never mind about the small things.I feel that life is made up mostly of the small little details that develop the bigger picture.You can’t have a wing without feathers.
Art is about expression.After many instances of these dark occurrences, I looked out of this hole of sadness of what is going on around me and saw some light.I turned inward and drew. Then…I painted.I didn’t know where I would come out of the hole but this is what it looked like.I’ve done a few new personal pieces like this and I am more excited than I have been in a long time about my work. And, because of what's been going on, I am seeing parts of life and in the case of this post, art in a new way. Well, that is my ‘fartist’ statement for the week. (fine+artist)
So I went to CVS to pick up some good drugs...you know...NyQuil. It was on the 2nd or 3rd of January and I have been congested and sick through Christmas which I don't mind saying...sucked. I am feeling better now which has helped me focus back on work.
As I walking to the back of the store I notice that the center aisles were already LOADED with candy hearts and Valentine's Day items. Over a month before!
Watch out, they may start putting up Easter stuff this weekend. Geez, these companies are in such a rush to get the earliest dollar in. I say, don't buy Valentine's stuff this year...buy something unexpected...like a basil plant. The gift that keeps on giving.
So, with all this in mind, here's some art. Happy Valentine's Day.
A new installment for the week...and rather experimental.
First, for this one, I tried to let my natural drawing style come out. Over the last few years, I have been doing a lot of quick drawings, looking to see how I draw without 'noodling' the hell out of it. I don't know if I am doing myself a disservice but I am having a blast. Anyway, 95% of the time, no-one else can tell the difference except me so blah, blah, blah.
Second, I looked at my palette and said, "That's it! I have had enough!" and decided to use 4 colors. One warm, one cool and two 'sort of' neutral. Prussian Blue, Cad Red Med, Unbleached Titanium, Burnt Umber.
Yes, I am a rebel.
So this is what came out on the other side.
Version 1 - Nothing too different but I always question myself when it comes to key elements. I have a tendency to do a full scan then go back into it.
NOTE: By the untrained eye, this may look like Edel's 'red'. It is not in any way, shape or form. This red was blended between the thighs of lovely chinese women to get that oh, so perfect value...and it was cheaper than Liquitex.
This is a job for the Newspaper Association of America. This was a quickie I did over Thanksgiving about how not only services are being taken overseas but the product is being purchased overseas rather than here in America. The newspapers are buying their newsprint from China because of the inexpensive price.
I follow outsourcing quite a bit and find it somewhat disturbing. There is not much that can be done about it either at this point. The global economy has started and it isn't something that can't be stopped.
Here's a link to a great program on this stuff. 1-800-INDIA
It was a fun piece trying to figure out how to get the flag's stars in the proper location as they are on the flag yet work with a boat smacked in the middle of them.
This was originally a rejected sketch by Power & Motoryacht magazine. A very good client to me but I thought my concept was much better than what they ended up going with.
A true story: A man went fishing with his buddies and the one day he forgot his fishing knife on the kitchen table (where they later found it). He speared a giant Grouper fish. Forgetting his knife wasn't a problem until the fish pulled him over board subsequently drowning him and the fish dying from the spear. Both were found near a beach, dead.
The magazine, knowing that the people involved in this double homicide will be reading the story, didn't want anything visually offensive so I came up with this sketch. The issue was, I think the A/D sold an idea already and kept pushing for something else which was supposed to be much more sensitive.
The idea was as sensitive a showing the fish actually drag the man down into the depths of the ocean to his death. Yes, that sensitive. Let's show the reader exactly HOW he was killed! Haha! Also, they wanted me to cover the guy up more with the fish's tail which really ruined the composition. I tried to talk them out of it but they had whatever was on their minds.
Needless to say, I had to do theirs but I did mine anyway because it is a good image. I am posting the printed version also.
Last year I was lucky enough to go to Arles, France for an extended amount of time. During my stay there, (besides drinking an enormous amount of wine) I went to a bullfight which ended up being very startling. Being naive, when I thought I was going to a bullfight, I thought it was more of a 'for show' sort of thing. It didn't sink down that they were going to kill 8 bulls that afternoon until they started in with the daggars.
This was around the same time I started sketching in pen which has been very gratifying as opposed to using pencil. It's so definite. So unchangable. It is what it is and I can't go back. It really has helped sharpen my skills a bit.
There's a series in here somewhere, just don't know what the story is yet...I've got an hours worth of bullfight video and at least 200 shots of that afternoon for reference. A few more are posted in the Arles Sketchbook section.