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Kim Jong Un for Time (update)

FEBRUARY 16, 2012
Final worldwide edition

Last week I received a call from Time Magazine asking if I would work on an international cover about Kim Jong Un, the newly anointed leader of North Korea. 
The idea was fluid and I offered some possible solutions.  One was the leader on the statue of his father, merely swapping faces.  This one almost was the final but a last minute switch was requested.
Calmly I re-calibrated.
They asked if I could paint Kim in a formal way like the state portraits of his father seen around North Korea.  It is an idealized style and smooth.  I don't mind having to do this, to paint in the style of another artist usually but I do worry privately that any smooth blending and frankly, less investigative rendering might be viewed as me slacking off.  It's not.
But this job evolved further.  The managing editor asked if I might try a smirk.  Now, I already painted a non-smirk portrait so I just said YES and painted another portrait.  I actually like the smirk quite a bit.  The second (or was it the third) request was to try out different backgrounds. 
So clouds were suggested, mountains and even patterns.
In the end we honed in on a certain pattern that was a cheeky idea.
In the final evolution Time had a type treatment and design worked out and decided to use my NON-smirk cover and their own type solution.  The combination is great.
I don't mind collaborating on projects at all.  If in the end the client puts my work in a new light, how can I resist that?  It's sort of like a musician playing with people they don't often work with. 
The last funny thing was a nice e-mail from D.W. Pine, Time's art director.  He conveyed how much he and Rick Stengel liked the portrait (which is something all art directors should do, by the way) and showed me a PDF of the final version.  What I noticed was all the domestic type stories above the TIME logo.  Was this now a domestic cover?  Did Jon Stewart's gentle ribbing the night before on the daily show have any effect on moving the story worldwide?  Rick Stengel was on Morning Joe this morning and deftly sidestepped the question but said they work up all kinds of covers for different places.  He did rib Stewart back saying that his objection to last week's story on Pets was based on Jon's well-known hatred of Animals, dogs in particular.  That was funny.
Anyway, an exciting and fast paced week of collaboration kept me on my toes. 
Anyone want a portrait of Kim Jong Un with a smirk on his face?
First idea was Kim as a grand marble bust. The sketches are all digital but the final portraits are painted.

This is a close up of a bronze statue. He looks like chocolate though.

I was given the green light to go to final but quickly halted to stop and switch gears. This would have been a great image to paint and I still might do it anyway.

The new request was to paint Kim like this stylized portrait, but to also work out a background that connects to him in some way.

A cloud. O'Brien always tries this first.

Korean lanscape?

North Korean flag?

My wallpaper behind him? This was approved and I made the wallpaper below.

This is the final portrait. It was painted then halted to paint a version with a smirk. I then went back and finished the jacket which would have to work for both.

The smirk. $2000 firm.

What I thought was going to run...

Finally two clips.  The first is on Morning Joe this morning.  Rick Stengel premiers the cover and discusses Kim and even the Jon Stewart ribbing the night before.
Rick held his own with with a smile and some flare.
The next clip is Stewart teasing Time Magazine for fluffy domestic covers.
Thanks for reading all this.
When I spoke to D.W. Pine about the final status of the cover, he said an outside designer worked up the background and type.  I loved it and when I got my issue today I saw the name of the firm.
Post Typography
P/F 410 889 7469
Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals did that work and really added something wonderful to the cover.  As you can see up on top, I didn't quite know where that background was going but I have to hand it to D.W. for not settling for what I did but for keeping the investigation going.  They were charged with trying out different solutions and to attempt a reference to Lil'Kim's album covers as well.  The result was a sheet of choices that really explored the spectrum.
Bruce told me the the sheet below is about only half of what they showed.
My art with that type and background made a great combo.  I'm glad to have shared that cover with them.
These are the type treatments of Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals of Post Typography. Thanks fellas.