As God is my witness, at my age if I pick up a PLAYBOY it’s to look for the illustrations. Almost 40 years in this business and I recently received a call from Mac Lewis, who used to be a Deputy AD at ROLLING STONE Magazine, asking me if I’d be available to do an illustration for Hefner’s publication. And a political one to boot! A pretty lengthy profile about current Secretary of State, John Kerry. How could I resist? Finally, after all these years, to add PLAYBOY to my credits. Very cool and very excited about it. The article was indeed an interesting overview of Kerry and the monumental and complicated challenges he has to deal with. Mac handed the responsibilities over to his designer, Robert Harkness and we started kicking around sketches. I have always found Kerry’s face to be both a joy and a challenge to caricature. A blessing because it is already so ripe with unique features. A challenge because it is already so ripe with unique features. Often, a face that is so close to a caricature in reality is very hard to add anything to and can go seriousl;y wrong if too much emphasis is placed on an already, by nature, exaggeration. Recently I have shied away from going for the easy distortion preferring instead a more studied approach, but in this case a bit of stretching of features seemed perfect provided it fit the concept and layout. I personally have no axe to grind about Kerry and yet he is indeed a gift that just keeps giving. Thanks to Mac Lewis and Robert Harkness for the opportunity to work for PLAYBOY.
From the copy it quickly evolved that Kerry is involved in a nearly overwhelming juggling act as a modern Secretary of State and we needed to show that. My first thought even before serious discussions and while still reading the copy was a remembrance of the old Ed Sullivan Show and the plate spinning acts he’d occasionally have on his variety hour. But there were so many elements and so many countries and leaders that to position them on plates crowding the top seemed absurd from a compositional standpoint. A failed lion taming act seemed another possibility. My guess is that a lot of the key players in the story were not easily recognizable faces. In the end, a simple multiple globe juggling image satisfied the parameters of our theme.
Another great assignment for THE AMERICAN PROSPECT art directed by Mary Parsons. A challenging one in that the articles I was asked to illustrate on the theme of the "End of the Solid South" dealt a lot with stats and nuts and bolts information. How to turn that into viewer friendly imagery? The old tug of war between Republicans, who have held a firm grasp on the southern states since the advances in civil rights in the 60's and especially Nixon's "Southern Strategy" in'68, and Democrats who have slowly been making inroads in elections. Ironically, it was the Democrats who controlled the racist southern stronghold since the Civil War up till the 60's. The more things change the more they stay the same.
The articles that I worked on tended to concentrate on certain key states. Texas was one. A slow, very slow process to resting control from Republican dominance of the legislature. The skunk hat is a nod to the Three Stooges Curly who would wear them in their great spoofs. Seemed totally appropriate here as well.
The dominance in part ties in with discouragement of non-white voters to partake in the election process.
" You missed a spot." Probably my favorite image was of David Koch and his heavy hand in turning North Carolina from a progressive state to a red state. I just like drawing this guy. The state hack doing his dirty work had a great flabby Elmer Fudd kind of mug to make it even more fun.
The loss of control as represented by states stars falling from the Confederate flag. Crucial error here on my part. I put the blue sky in the spaces where the stars fell but didn't factor in the subtle, not very noticeable difference. This is where a good art director comes in.
Voila. Simple. Almost too obvious, but a perfect solution. Thanks to Mary Parsons for the assignment.
Speaking of the Koch brothers. A sketch never used for ROLLING STONE on the weird state of affairs in Kansas, another state heavily invested in politically by the Koch brothers. From left to right, Sam Brownback, Dorothy, a crushed Uncle Sam, and the Kochs.
A fun piece to do for the fantastic SooJin Buzelli. An article on Tony Broccardo of Barclays, steering clear of turbulent waters for his clients. Another opportunity to indulge in rough seas rendering. Love doing waves.
In the current ROLLING STONE (with Johnny Depp on the cover) Matt Taibbi does another one of his stunning feats of journalism working his way through the horrific labyrinth that is modern financial wheeling and dealing. "The Last Mystery of the Financial Crisis" breaks down the break down in ethics and standards among the major ratings agencies that gave AAA clearance to what was already known to be junk. An awful conflict of interest expose where the agencies were being paid by the very companies and banks they were supposed to issue objective ratings of their products. First thought was the classic see,speak,hear no evil image with plenty of money involved.
The idea of these ratings agencies essentially turning into whorehouses was another way to go.
A variation on the whorehouse theme, with the setting brought inside.
The idea that these agencies would put a top rating on any piece of shit if paid enough.
But the winner was the sketch showing the kitchen in a rating's agency like restaurant where rats and other stuff were being ground into AAA burgers.
It's always fun to know when Matt is tickled by a particular image. This one got a good gross laugh out of him.
Thanks to ADs Joe Hutchinson and Mark Maltais.
Drawings from last week. A golf event at Chevy Chase sponsored by friends David Feherty and Rick Kell, co-founders of Troops First Foundation, hosting wounded vets with golf pros playing the course there. Fellow Society of Illustrator member Jeff Fisher, Joe Bonham Project founder Michael Fay and I were on the scene drawing some of the vets and getting their stories. In this picture quadruple amputee Brendan Marrocco, US Army, with recently surgically attached arms- real arms- and his brother Michael. Brendan's story has been a truly remarkable one covered in the press. He already had a drawing I did of him for a Feherty column years ago in GOLF magazine. He was very gracious and straight forward. Still, I couldn't help but feel like I was invading his space, as he was the object of much camera attention. His brother, Michael, has been a constant source of support.
Charles McIntosh ("like the apple") was a Corpsman servicing the wounded. Not wounded himself but certainly no stranger to suffering on the battlefield.
I was drawing Master Sergeant James while the both of us were being eaten alive by black flies. He remained focused and in good humor. I tried.
Finally, Omar Avila, who suffered massive burns in an IED explosion while in his Humvee in 2007. Over 75% burned and loss of right foot. Still maintaining a great sense of humor.