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Amid Capeci 1961-2012
Maybe I'm the wrong person to be posting a tribute as there are probably any number of fellow Drawgerites who were on closer terms with Amid Capeci. I didn't do that many illustrations for him in the course of our association. But the news of his death today truly shook me as yet another example of cosmic malevolence.
I have only known Amid on a professional level; as an illustrator working for an art director, but never once did I get the feeling from Amid that it was strictly a professional relationship. He had an incredibly natural and relaxed way of making you feel like a friend and colleague. He was so good natured and good humored and possessed a playful enthusiasm when collaborating on an idea and the sketching process.
I thank him for that call in 2006 on a relatively quick turnaround illustration for ROLLING STONE's 'National Affairs' column that turned out to be my big foot in the door and has led to one of the most satisfying working relationships in my career. He didn't remain long with RS after that first assignment, moving over to NEWSWEEK. He called me in on a nice handful of assignments, including one cover, and as much fun as they all were, the ease and pleasure of working for this true gentleman and class act was what made the illustrations such a joy. Even the pieces that never made it to print were mitigated by the reality of yet another opportunity of having worked with Amid. We kept in a casual contact via emails and not much more. And when a call came it was with a casual warmth that made you feel you had gone out for a couple beers just the other day.
I can't say much more, other than Amid's death rattled me in ways I did not expect. Maybe because he was way too young. Maybe because he was way too human and accessible. Maybe it's that the older we get the more we become aware of our sorrow when good people pass away.
I don't consider this just my post. I invite the Drawger community to send me some of your favorite assignments and recollections and I'll add them to this thread. I would also like to know who did the photo portrait of Amid so I can give credit.
Sincerest condolences to Amid's family.
That great photo above that so captures Amid's spirit is by Glenn Glasser.
My foot in the door piece for RS on domestic spying.
Putin as Potemkin.
And two that got away. This one on Matt Drudge and his growing irrelevance.
And this one on the FOX naysayers.
Amid was a kind of person we see rarely in our field, someone who could understand the value of what we do, actually advocate for it and even, if need be, fight for an illustration. In retrospect now I only see how rare that is. He had power in his office; a trust in him by editors to be an editor in his own right. His track record bore this out. But non of this can inform you of how decent and kind he was. His was an understanding and encouraging voice on the phone and in person. And beneath that sweetness was the toughness of a hard-nosed journalist.
Here are some things we did together.
I am very unaccustomed to having a designer ask for stronger work. But that was Amid.
A wise man/warrior/philosopher-prince of graphic art, in a place where he could really make a difference. And one of the ways he did that was with illustration. Peace Amid. We carry on better for knowing you.
Here are a couple of pieces from my days as the movie guy. Going to the movies with Peter Travers, we didn't really see a good flick in the 2 years I did this. But there was Clint East'wood in Absolute Power.
Then Madonna in Evita.
Warren Beatty liked this so much (and her) that he asked me to do the poster for his last good film: Bulworth. I credit Amid with this even though he didn't make a dime. - SB
Here's Bush as grill man, selling filthy junk food to America in the Iraq War run-up. - Steve Brodner
My last piece for him at Newsweek. Paul Krugman watching as Obama taps Wall Street to regulate itself.
Here's a story that I think tells a lot about him. For National Affairs the story was on how Bush was trying to ex-out Public Broadcasting. Here are my funny, but tapered ideas:
Big Bird as a turkey. SB
Bush spying on Bert and Ernie. SB
Then Amid said, "How about Abu Graib?" I asked, "Are you serious?" He said, "Let's just see how far we can push this." Am I hearing correctly???? When do you hear art directors speak like this?
Anyway, here's his idea!! -Steve Brodner
We all settled on the jail cell, with Bush as the idiotic morally bankrupt Lynndie England.
I was on the road and unable to post when ROLLING STONE (with Paul "Who's He?" McCartney on the cover) hit the stands with my homage to pulp fiction art accompanying the 'National Affairs' story on the Obama Administration's reversal of drug policy and its reactivation of a drug war against medical marijuana. Perfectly legitimate growers and distributors are being treated as criminals and shut down regardless of their previous vetting and certifications. State laws are being trumped by federal policy. The state of California alone will lose billions in tax revenue collected from the sale of the medicinal pot. An incredible waste of time and money prosecuting a phony 'war'. I personally smell the hand of the prison industrial complex that is so firmly entrenched in government. Without more people to put in jail for frivolous drug busts, the prisons will be unable to continue growing their jail populations and creating profit. And, god knows, we need more cancer patients in prison. I personally have no dog in this fight, don't like pot myself and don't smoke it, but this is an egregious and stupid exercise of federal authority. More a bureaucratic diversion from the real problems facing our country than anything else.
The advance copy , along with some loose guidance from the editors, seemed to indicate to me that we could have a lot of fun making this illustration echo great pulp fiction art. There are any number of books on the topic and Google is chock full of pulp magazine and comic cover images. G-men were a particular favorite so enough good reference was compiled to get the clothing, props and colors as right as could be. The Society of Illustrators last here had an outstanding exhibit of pulp art and it was quite an experience to see these no holds bar paintings up close. The bravura gestures, application of brushwork, and color choices so made these images such great fun to view and learn from.
I definitely did not want to use pen and ink for this assignment, chosing instead some thicker lined pencil work colored over with watercolors and gouache. I worked up a couple ideas that played with a drug bust theme and with a more symbolic confrontation between the feds and the pot itself. The final decision to go with and focus on the difference in scale between the President and the G-men vs the tiny ubiquitous pharm perscription bottle containing a Charlie Brown Christmas tree like pot plant was a good one. All that was required was to keep the image fun and somewhat garrish and over dramatic. There's also an affectionate nod here to the great Kurtzman/Elder team of the early MAD Magazine days in the way I approached the faces and bodies.
Once again, thanks to the folks at RS, in particular my point man, Steve Charny.
Earliest idea. Breaking into dying grandma's house with IV's and doctor on hand.
We switched the locale to a pot pharmacy/distribution center. Had we gone with the drug bust scene I so wanted to include a nod to Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, one of my favorite strips when I was a kid. I would have made everyone Dick Tracy.
The approved sketch.
I worked this up almost entirely with flat rectangular brushes, which have slowly become my brushes of choice in many illustrations. I held back a bit from going overboard with bright primary colors.
Days before heading out on our cruise at the end of December I received an inquiry from Mary Parsons at THE AMERICAN PROSPECT about work that would need to be done by later in January; when the calendar was examined it would be a few days after returning from the vacation.My only concern was being able to send sketches while floating in the Pacific and once it was confirmed that the Holland America had effective wireless, it seemed like a great way to work and play at the same time.Mary was game and the hard work was done during that time away.I’d work up sketches, photograph them with my Canon, feed the pix into the laptop, Photoshop them and email them out. It all worked out well and fit in nicely with the other work I was doing on the cruise ship.
When Mary called she was looking for a cover and inside illustration dealing with a story about Americans Elect, a grouping of wealthy Wall Streeters financing a third party to run a presidential candidate in the November elections.A party that could potentially take the wind out of the sails of both the Democrats and Republicans.The article deals a lot with the intricacies and machinations behind the building of such a power base not to mention the curious purposes and cross purposes of the organization.Copy wasn’t tight and I essentially worked off the editor’s notes.
The initial suggestion from the editors was of a character- maybe one of my iconic pigs in suits pushing his way between the usual argument between the jackass and the elephant.
That seemed appropriate and with the right gestures could look good.So I played with variations on that theme.But I also had in mind something of a third fighter/boxer entering a ring.I liked what I saw with my early sketches and secretly hoped that it would be the cover image.As it turned out, the editors opted to run the boxing image inside and the wedging image on the cover.
Both cover and inside pieces work beautifully with the layout and copy.Another fun job with Mary and the folks at TAP.It’s always a pleasure to work for people who enjoy working with illustrators. If what I am working on is making me chuckle it’s going to be a good time at the drawing board regardless of the deadline.
Early concept of maybe incorporating a spoof of the Monopoly man.
The right idea but there's lack of clarity in what the pig is doing. I also made an error in trying to morph Monopoly Man's mustache with the pig. Too confusing. Out.
Attitude is better but Mary wanted more of the 3/4 point of view. Plus the arms weren't working for me on the jackass.
Pig is just a bit bigger and the arm problem is resolved with the jackass and elephant along with an unintended type of symmetry in the fists that looked good.
Original version. Loved the expression and gesture of the pig- made me think of a Robert Clampett Warner Bros. cartoon.
Mary opted for the figure using the other leg. Attitudes were very funny and now the challenge would be to replicate that freshness.
I've turned to scanning a number of my finished drawings before applying watercolors because a) they satisfy as drawings and b) if I screw up I can always print and color a new one.
It's happened very rarely in my career where an illustration I've done for one publication hits the stands and looks uncannily like another illustration from a different artist for a different publication. I remember one, a cover, done for BUSINESS WEEK decades ago of a bull jumping over the moon published the same time as a cover for FORTUNE of the same theme, but a different approach. Still it caught enough attention that NEW YORK Magazine ran a small story on it.
Steve Brodner called me Friday to say that he had posted his Odd Couple for NATIONAL JOURNAL on Drawger only to get a quick message from someone informing him that my Odd Couple for ROLLING STONE had just come out that day as well. And they looked like kissing cousins. We had a good laugh about it and frankly I felt a curious type of pride in the unintended unison of concept here. What I found most remarkable was that we had both adjusted, for different reasons, our images from the original movie poster composition, by flopping the positioning of the Oscar/Felx characters.
Steve used the basic theme as a takeoff point for some improvisation on the character attitudes. Our intention at RS was to spoof the movie poster as much as possible, with some additional props/side gags mushed into the image to make it relate more to Newt and Mitt. I was very fortunate to find some less than robotic expressions of Mitt in photo searching that matched very closely Jack Lemmon's in the poster. This was an illustration that was improvised on even in the finished stages.
Now that Perry has disappeared my only hope is that Newt carries this fight for as long as he can because he too is a special gift to satirists and caricaturists.
Once again, a great working assignment with RS and Steve Charny.
Were it not for the uniqueness of this situation I would have held off posting this till my other one got off the front page. So apologies in advance.
One of the early sketches, sticking pretty close to the poster. I wasn't entirely sure even then about what Felix's ladle had to do with Romney. Also it became clear that Newt didn't need Oscar's cigar as much as a pencil or pen and rather than reading the sports pages be involved with writing for posterity his great thoughts.
For the sake of the layout of the page Steve Charny suggested the flop. Which was no problem. When reference is good anything is possible. I thought a silver spoon would serve better than a ladle for Mitt. A turned around hat, like Jack Klugman's portrayal was suggested by the gamng at RS.
On the fast track to finish when it became apparent to me that Newt's Oscar clothing wasn't meshing with the theme as much as it could. He was South Carolina, was definitely playing the mean spirit Southern strategy card. This was too urbane.
Found reference on Confederate t-shirts and sweatshirts to make the changes. Didn't follow my intuition and went with the black and flag look. Changed color of the pants to blue jeans.
A note here about good bond paper. When it is dry mounted on heavier paper, or board, and corrections need to be done, it accommodates a lot of abuse. Bond paper doesn't totally absorb watercolors and can be water lifted almost 85%. Erasing what's left over after drying the paper allows for a pretty successful reapplication of colors. All that's required is patience so as not to rough the paper up too much during the lifting.
Suggestions from Charny. Classic grey sweatshirt with flag. As Newt's appeal was to the reddest of red state voters it seemed appropriate to change his hat and sneaker colors to red as well. Some other minor adjustments to book title and more strewn notes and we were all satisfied.
Terri and I have been on a couple cruises in the past. The one to Alaska in '06, on Holland America, was great fun. The other one to the Carribean, on Norwegian, so so. Terri was attending a seminar/workshop event that was starting out of Sydney, on a Holland America again, and winding its way around the Fiji Islands. I found myself coming along for the ride but not looking forward to leaving work behind and scrambling on return (didn't matter because the scrambling happened anyway). It was going to be warm, so my packing was going to be light as far as clothing was concerned. So my other suitcase was a chunk of my studio. Brought along work that needed to be done for a book of Presidential anecdotes and also brought along a lot of paints- watercolors and acrylics- and brushes, the usual ammo of pencils, and my moleskin drawing and watercolor pads. The pads I kept to no larger than 9"x12". Still.it was enough to put us into overweight category and pay extra. I could only imagine what the overweight fee would have been if I hadn't edited my supplies.
The illustrations were fine distractions from the rituals of cruise entertainment- namely food and more food, which held the potential for great abuse. Daily workouts in the gym and on the decks and pools didn't save us completely from adding a few pounds. But as I had no interest in shopping, sun bathing, or the casino while Terri was attending her lectures, making time each day to finish my work for the book was a no brainer and very productive in terms of concentration. But what I really looked forward to as often as possible was to grab the paints and exercise those skills on the truly magnificent skyscapes, seascapes and landscapes encountered on the journey. My goals were modest- painting, with a capital P, is not what I do all the time- and I had no desire to go for grand statements. I just wanted to have some fun and play and screw up but try to capture in some small way the glorious light and colors and movement of the elements if possible. It was difficult at times not to think of fellow Drawger and friend, Robert Hunt, and imagine how he'd be blowing my attempts away if he had an easel next to me.
The colors of the ocean and beaches and foliage were of a variety and intensity I've not experienced before. They almost seemed unreal. On many occasions, by comparison, they made the colors of the Carribean, with all due respect to the Atlantic, seem anemic. I could have spent my entire time just trying to come up with the right mixture of paints to replicate what was before me. As it stood, it was obvious to myself that I was failing. But it didn't bum me out, it just made me want to keep trying. Interestingly, I soon abandoned the watercolors preferring instead the plasticity and potential for impastoing that the acrylics afforded.
Since returning home, there's been very little time to scan and prepare something for a posting, what with work and deadlines being what they are. I'm starting slow here and will more than likely keep adding to the posting as time permits. Hopefully I will find a sketchbook or two that seem to have been missplaced since the unppacking and add some relevant material from them as well. Enjoy. It was great fun.
The most consistent frustration, whether moving along on the high seas or sitting stationary in the harbors, was the rapidity with which the landscape and lighting changed. Before a color could be successfully mixed it was rendered irrelevant as opposed to what I was seeing in front of me.