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Sonia Sotomayor

MAY 28, 2009
I love fast turnaround jobs.  The client knows what they want, they might really need me, and though it will blast a hole in my day, the fallout is relatively minor.  I most often say yes, and then make my calls.  If I have work pending I call my agent to clear things for me and keep me in a protective bubble, and I call my wife to tell her I am going to be a nut for the next 24 hours.  MORE of a nut that is.
Time Magazine's Arthur Hochstein called on Tuesday and asked if I would do a cover.  The subject was Judge Sonia Sotomayor.  The photos of Sonia are quite varied and as she spoke at the White House during the announcement, photographers were clicking away.  In a way, THEY are my competition.  However, Sonia was NOT doing a photo-shoot, she was speaking.  She smiled broadly when speaking of her gratitude and was emotional when speaking of her family and mother.  It's great theater but not the best for a photographer hoping for an iconic pose.  I started this with reference provided by Time.  For the most part nothing was good on it's own but could work provided I piece it all together.  A black and white shot for her face that had a wonderful yet powerful smile, a great color shot for her updated hair, though not in the exact angle I needed, and finally I needed to put her in a judge's robe.  The last hurdle was the age she was in the black and white shot.  
She is a bit younger and her face was slightly less full.  
I worked like crazy Tuesday  and got approval by around 6 PM and worked all night and finished around 10 am.

Here is a trick I will divulge.  I hope it helps some of you out there who work in oil and hate when parts of your work go matte while it dries.  As I paint a portrait, I work  on the likeness first and stay on that until it's perfect.  The hair and robe can be off and rushed a bit but you can't do it with a likeness.  So, when I do that, as the night goes on, the face can start to go matte.  This would mean by the time I'm ready to start photographing the work in the morning, it looks odd on lacks depth.  My darks would photograph weak.  What I do is shoot the face WET then put the painting back up on my panel and paint the other parts.  I then would photograph the robe and hair WET as well and merge it all in photoshop.  
Perhaps this is no secret but there you have it.
Many things have to be aligned for a cover to run.  First, the art has to be stellar.  Next, photography has to be difficult to find or find the right shot.  If the cover is of people Time just can't have access to, you have a better chance.  
Finally a quick call when the painting is due in 24 hours is a good sign.

Time is a dream to work with and I've done many covers for Arthur.  He's super positive and always has smart advice as I go along.  One skill that he has that I hope I have learned is his ability to choose the right shots to work from.
Arthur also tells me what I'm up against always (I think he tells me all?) and always calls to let me know he's received the art.  That's a class move.  I hardly ever am able to take that call as I'm usually sleeping.
Yesterday I woke at 2 p.m., went for a run, then dinner in Battery Park with the family.  When I got home Arthur had called to say I got the cover and Rick Stengel will be revealing it on Morning Joe, MSNBC in the morning.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

I love when I do something that gets on TV.  I got a nice nod here.  Good for illustration in general I think.

When the phone rings I want to write down anything that is important to know. In this case, on the back of a piece of mail I write "TIME JUDGE SOTAMAYOR" (Spelled wrong). I clearly liked the call because I sketched a bird but it seems to have bashed it's head. Below is the thumbnail (Complete with red TIME boarder!) The pink splotches are Vitamin Water. I help keep 50 Cent rich.
This is the first sketch and the approved one as well.
An alternate. Got to show an alternate, right?
I liked this alternate. I had already done the first sketch and sent it when some new reference arrived. This one is iconic but perhaps the lack of eye contact sank it.
The full painting. There is a way to make someone have lines and wrinkles yet not look old. I keep them very warm and close in value. The information is there, just not in high contrast.
I think I forgot to paint her ear in, which is hinted at near her ear ring. Shhh.