aboutimage galleriescontactsubscribe

Time Cover; Thomas Edison

JUNE 25, 2010

It was quite an honor to be asked to paint this year's History Issue cover for Time Magazine.   D.W. Pine's request was on the day I found out that the Pope cover was going to run.  Good news comes in bunches just like bad.
Once the request was made, the tough challenge of coming up with a cover set in.  

These History Issue covers have been done mostly by Michael Deas in recent years and all of his pieces were stunning.  Quite a high bar for anyone to have to follow.  I knew they wanted some sort of concept so I opted for the obvious one of the invention of the light bulb.  Amazing that this world was dark at night quite recently.  As per usual I get some reference from Time.  Looking through it I look for useful elements and try not to fall in love with crisp reference in favor of the right reference.  This was an early career mistake at times.
I found a few laboratory shots I liked but felt his portrait was grim most times.  I needed to capture a proud and pleasant face.  Once I found a workable head I went about making my sketches.

Once a sketch was chosen, I needed to make it work for real.  
I tried to provide an alternate head and some alternate backgrounds but I was in favor of two backgrounds and only one head.  Skye at Time got me my reference very late at night and saved me a night of messing things up.

I've done many Time covers over the years and some are big ones.  Obama, Clinton, Person of the Year, and some are unpublished.  If I told you of the alternate history my unpublished covers describe you'd be amazed.  I'll save that for another time.  This cover was special to me.  First, it's out for a couple of weeks.  The fact that they called back so soon after the Pope was great too.  
In Elizabeth's (my wife's) family there are the Langmuirs.  This storied family are a successful clan and perhaps the most well know was Irving Langmuir.  Irving worked at GE and helped develop the gas filled vacuum light bulb.  Later in his career he received a Nobel Prize for his work on surface chemistry.
I wanted to try to pay homage to him and also remember another Langmuir, Paul.

Paul Langmuir passed away suddenly a few days before I got this assignment.  Paul was a long time lover of illustration and graphic design.  He taught at RISD and was a passionate man, full of stories and love.  We are all deeply saddened by his passing.  It is partially his place we go to each year on Martha's Vineyard.
To pay homage to the Langmuir name I painted it on the spine of a book in Edison's lab.  Of course it was cropped out but it will live here on Drawger.

Thanks D.W. Pine and Rick Stengel for the opportunity.
This is the reference I liked for the background.  I had other choices as well but this one would make a nice busy setting.
This is the head I found most appealing.  He looks almost cocky.
There it is.  Turn off the lights tonight and sit with a candle.  That's the world before Edison.  It made those days kind of short.

This background was too messy and did not make sense. Kind of like my studio

This is the approved sketch. I painted the whole thing. Fixing things up too forever.

This is the final art. All elements are part of his laboratories. I had fun actually.
Here is the book on the shelf...
It's dark so I enhanced it.  I wanted to hide it like a NINA.  It worked, no one would find it!

Here is the painting up close.  My copy of the cover is from my iPad as I don't have a printed copy yet.
It was painted full figure almost so cropping it kind of zoomed in on brushwork.  If it appears more loose than usual, that's the reason.