I was recently commissioned to illustrate the cover of The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association. The subject of the cover article is on foreign doctors trying to navigate the landscape of bureaucracy; to many this can be an unwelcoming experience.
Art director Emma Dalby requested that the editorial team would like the illustration to have a “fairytale feel”, possibly including the typical Norwegian landscape with mountains and fjords.
I have never been to Norway, but I was immediately awestruck by looking at photos of the magnificent fjords. It's intimidating and daunting to illustrate such beauty, but I was given the creative delight of transforming this splendour into something menacing.
The Tidsskrift covers have consistently been designed with partial backgrounds and/or silhouette images against a white background; this created an opportunity for me to create a landscape within a floating shape.
One of my initial sketches with a partial background. Emma suggested I do a version of this one as a silhouette shape.
Revised sketch done in colour pencil to show my proposed colour direction.
Playing with textures and line work.The key is not to overwork the piece.
My signature thorns depicted as barb wire painted with a tiny tiny brush.
Creating the menacing face within the mountain was so much fun.
The final cover (above). It was such a delight to work with Emma Dalby on this project, it was thoroughly enjoyable collaboration. I thank The Norwegian Medical Association for the opportunity and for continuing to use illustration on their covers.
Earlier this year I was commissioned to illustrate a feature package on the subject of Courage for Middlebury magazine.
We read about acts of bravery everyday in the news; strife, personal and environmental hardship, and oppression are prevalent across the globe. I found it to be a humbling experience to contemplate imagery for such a profound topic.
In this feature package the theme of personal courage was illuminated through eight first-person essays. The editor Matt Jennings wanted the cover to reflect a triumphant spirit. I tried to make the figure riding the lion as gender neutral as possible.
A few other cover concepts presented:
I wanted this cover concept to echo this quote that I found by Mary Anne Radmacher: “Courage does not always roar, sometimes courage is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying: I will try again tomorrow”
Colour comp variation presented utilizing the commonly used colour for courage.
The cover and opening images needed to address the general theme. For the opening image I decided to focus on depicting fortitude and perseverance.
In the cover essay, Ellen Hinsey, a veteran reporter, writes about what makes a person courageous; where courage comes from.
Portrait of Zaheena Rasheed "A young woman journalist in the Maldives, Zaheena has had her life threatened repeatedly because of her reporting on her country's authoritarian government. In the days after a colleague was kidnapped, she awoke to find a note pinned to her door with the words "You're Next." Holding it in place was a machete. Yet Zaheena continues to work. " Matt Jennings
Coincidentally I had created this illustration just before the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. This illustration inspired this quick sketch.
Portrait of Frederick C. Kelly "The 93-yr-old WWII vet, a pilot of a B-24 bomber airlifting supplies and intelligence agents behind enemy lines to support the French Underground. On his fifth mission, the plane was shot down. Though our pilot was thrown halfway threw the windshield—held in place by the parachute attached to his waist—he was among a handful of the crew to survive. They were hustled into hiding by the French Underground and began a clandestine journey to make their way to Allied territory." Matt Jennings
It was a privilege and delight to work with art director Pamela Fogg on this profound topic and extensive assignment.
Fall always represents beginnings to me so I thought I'd start a new post for the season on the theme of beginnings and what could be a better subject than giving birth?
This series of three illustrations were created for Middlebury Magazine for an article "Rebirth" written by Lauren Markham. Once considered an ancient practice, midwifery is experiencing a resurgence across North America.
This image focuses on the practice of home births using the water method, where with the help of a midwife the mother gives birth to the child in an inflatable pool, or bathtub.
This image addresses the misconceptions and myths of midwfery represented with the 19th century costume contrasted with the contemporary practices of modern equipment. This piece was initially suppose to be a full page, which is unfortunate because I liked the sensible shoes as part of the midwife's costume ;-)
This sketch really evoked home delivery for me, but the image was far too visceral for the editor ( more specifically the male editor).
The one below is a tamer version : a spot illustration employing a childbirth myth icon: the stork, but here used to represent home delivery.
Unfortunately I am not a parent, I have never experienced the miracle of giving birth. Some inspiration was derived very loosely from my memories of watching my friend Esther Pflug give birth to her daughter in a very poignant and visceral documentary film created by her partner filmmaker Louis Taylor.
The award winning film "Esther, Baby and Me" has actually nothing to do with midwifery ( althought there is a bathtub scene) it's a candied account of Louis' own experiences on the reluctant road to fatherhood. I highly recommend the film. http://hotdocslibrary.ca/en/detail.cfm?filmId=25145
It was a joy to work with Pam again at Middlebury. I love how she dropped the dot in the "i" of Rebirth, a subtle touch to the title.
“Know your limitations “ is an important bit of advice that I tell my students.
I have seen others produce work within a time period that I find impressive and awe-inspiring; I have always been keenly aware that speed is not one of my fortes. So when Mark Maltais from Rolling Stone asked me to produce 8 illustrations in 2 weeks, from start to finish, the only thought that ran through my mind was “Impossible” in a French Canadian accent. Our drawger mate Thomas Fuchs has impressively done this gig ( on more than one occasion I think ).This year has brought me many challenges that forced me out of my comfort zone. While I didn’t want to rule out the assignment entirely, I still felt very ambivalent whether I could actually accomplish it. So I called a good friend, Ellen Weinstein to be a sounding board. Ellen reassured me by saying “You can do it, you may just need to approach it differently.” I agreed that a more distilled approach than my typically detailed work would be vital in this case. Working backwards from the deadline, I laid out a time sheet that factored in how long I could spend on research, roughs and painting for each portrait. My goal was to have an even level of finish for each piece, so pacing myself was key to keeping my energy and creativity up for the entire duration. The pace reminded me of a cycling tour I did in Vermont where I cycled 60 miles a day for 6 consecutive days (some days with 5 miles continuously uphill). The pace for this assignment meant I would also have to loosen my perfectionist expectations, when the allotted time was up on a certain piece, I had to leave it and move on to the next, and tweak details if time allowed on the back end. I could not have completed this many illustrations within this time period without the help and support of my husband and creative partner (and lapsed illustrator) Balvis Rubess. He helped me with various components including research and digitally tweaking and completing the illustrations. And Balvis cooked me fabulous meals.
Balvis’ work can be found at plasmalife.com
A few of the sketches: I proposed that St. Vincent be displayed upside down to add variety to the layout.
Another idea for Ezra Koenig's playlist on musical artists born in the 90's
Originally Dan Auerback's playlist was going to be illustrated, but there was an editorial change.
Mark liked this composition and idea and wanted me to apply it to the Ulrich portrait.
Each portrait of the musical artists incorporated a conceptual element that reflected the content of their Playlist. Oddly, the one I that I was most reticent to work on (Miley Cyrus) ended up being the most fun. I told Mark I cursed him for making me look at reference photos of Miley.
Miley Cyrus on the Flaming Lips.
The original paintings, prior to Balvis' additions. You can see the unfinished Sitar.
Aretha Franklin on amazing performances. The hat was a nod to her performance for Obama's inauguration.
Lars Ulrich. I got to include a nod to one of my favorite albums from his playlist:
Stone Roses Fool's Gold. Yes!
Gary Clark jr. on the three kings; B.B. King, Albert King and Freddie King.
Erza Koenig on Nineties Babies.
Lorde on Arcade Fire
Tom Petty on George Harrison's music. Balvis did all the details to the sitar.
I think the rapid problem solving skills that I apply during critiques on a weekly basis as an illustration instructor helped me execute these ideas and sketches so quickly. The final piece, the portrait of Ulrich was completed at 3 pm on May 1st, and three hours later (with a rigorous personal clean up in between) I was at OCAD U toasting our illustration thesis students on their amazing Graduation Exhibition, and partied with students and faculty until the wee hours. You can see their work at : ocaduillustration.com
There are many factors at play when you are under the gun working on a quick deadline. One of the key factors for me is the support of the client and art direction team. Mark Maltais and Joe Hutchinson were tremendously supportive with expeditious communicative responses and encouraging feedback throughout the process. It was such a delight and pleasure working with them. Thank you for the fantastic assignment.
The Playlist Special is a fold out, so this photo is comprised by displaying 4 issues laid out to show all the final printed pieces. Rolling Stone issue #1209