Every year I always think I'm going to finally get it together for Halloween. Sure enough this year it arrived and I was late on deadline and was drawing frantically even as the neighborhood was abuzz with sounds of children coming out for trick or treat.
Thankfully Cynthia had been getting the house ready. She egged me to do a large cut out for our front picture window, so I decided to try out redoing an older image I had done for Martha Stewart Living back in 2006.
I printed it out, blew it up using a grid onto black paper and slapped it up on the window. Cynthia took these pictures....this one is from our living room looking out toward the street through the blinds.
At night we made sure to back light it.
This is what Martha originally intended: pumpkin masks. We did this once, and it worked quite well.
Drawger extraordinaire Cathie Bleck got the cover of that issue.
Here's the original cat image.
Anyway, happy Halloween everyone!
An addendum: Here are the other three "pumpkin masks" from this same issue...
This is the most recently completed cover of a series I've worked on for the UK author Alexander McCall Smith. A lovely group of mystery books and an even lovelier art department to work with (Little Brown UK).
A. Richard Allen sent me a nice note about these books recently, as he'd seen them there in the UK recently. Thanks for the kind words, Richard.
Here are some of the earlier covers.
The challenge in these designs has been to bring detail and mystery to very simple spaces. Add to that an attempt at capturing specific qualities of very specific locations within Britain and Scotland, all while attempting to capture some of the mystery of the narrative.
I always enjoy the challenge of creating an iconic look for a series. With these, I settled on the font and horizontal bands on the first book as it looked good for the elements that existed in that particular book. The challenge continues in applying the "branded design" in the subsequent books, making them work compositionally and as a series.
On most of these I've been asked to do some back cover artwork as well. This is an image for the most recent book.
A couple of months ago I got a call from Mike Bain, who I've worked with on and off over the years. He's now at Oprah at Home, and wanted to know if I'd be up for an assignment based on my sketchbook work.
The story was a reflective piece about a woman who's main residence is in Iowa, but spends her summers on the Louisiana coast. O at Home wanted artwork that showed a sort of diary-like reflection of her feelings about the contrasts in her two residences.
Her Iowa home reflections centered on the cold winters and modern architecture, a more internal feel, but with the surrounding Ozark mountains. Having grown up in Missouri, I channeled a bit of my own childhood experience getting through some crazy cold winters and river trips in the Ozarks.
Her Louisiana home reflections focused more on the beach and family. The few references provided included this large red plastic toy truck, so I used it as well as I could. This was the first sketch, which they thought was too focused on the kids and not enough on the landscape.
This was approved; I thought it was a better image as well - a bit more open to interpretation and less nostalgic.
I love to sketch whenever I travel, and always enjoy an assignment where I can simply draw. Unlike my travel work though, these required assembling scenes from provided reference as well as instilling mood into personal scenes of people who I knew little about. Fortunately for me the writer, novelist Ellen Gilchrist, did a great job and made the job a bit easier for me. That said - and not that I needed it - I have a new found respect for illustrators who have to assemble believable scenes out of limited reference.
These are simple, straight up drawings. I use a ball point pen, a sketchbook, and some Windsor Newton watercolors - and hope it all works out. No pencil first, that's cheating.
Here's the final printed spread. Mike did an amazing job of placing the images onto "sketchbooks" using his wizardry.
This time last year I did these three drawings for Mullen in Massachusetts, and they were going to be market-tested to be used in the Panera Bread restaurant chain.
A nice Christmas gift, I was notified that they're now up in Panera Bread restaurants. As they don't have them here in SF, I haven't seen how they look. Apparently they're used as banners, table top thingies, etc.
Is there anyone in Boston or Seattle or Detroit or other Panera places out there who stops in for a cuppa Joe at Panera from time to time? Snap me a shot, I'd appreciate it!!
photo by Robert Saunders, taken in Brookline, MA Panera
Here's the first pic, fresh from the camera of Robert Saunders! Many thanks Rob!!
It's funny, as soon as I saw this I remembered that the actual illo had a table as well, and a background so the steam could be white...
These were recently done for the excellent Matt Petty at the SF Chronicle, as a cover and spots for their Travel section's annual "Geo Quiz".
The cover concept was based on the question: Which country has lions, tigers and bears living in the wild? Hint: it's in Asia, hence the attempt at an Asian feel to these illos.
I was attempting at making images that made the viewer question a bit, so I liked the non-sequiter angle of having these beasts as an image that was talking about travel. I also wanted to avoid the Oz cliche.
With the spots, I wanted to do a similar graphic treatment but refer more to the specifics of a few of the given questions. Any guesses at what they might be about?
This was a project from earlier in the summer. For the whole month of July all I drew were robots. Child robots. Grown up robots. Robots in parks, in libraries, running around. Who doesn't like drawing robots? Didn't draw any robots riding bikes though.
It was essentially an entire advertorial, cover, inside spread and spots, that arrived with the Sunday LA Times as a separate insert. A resource guide for parents, encouraging children to read.
The idea was to avoid race issues, so robots were the answer. The type on the cover had to be bi-lingual. Janice Gilson, the art director, was great to work with. I snuck in my chicken character from my first kids book on the cover of this book.
This has been stuck on my "to finish" bulletin board for a year. Maybe it was the 9/11 anniversary, I dunno, but I felt an overwhelming urge to put aside my deadlines and book projects to finish it up.
Last year I was one of a group of artists hired to create a new T-shirt design for the American Cancer Society's annual event "Relay for Life". I got all the way to the last round and was beaten by the great master Michael Bartalos!
Well, they called me again this year to re-submit the idea that made it all the way the previous year. Somehow, this year it won. I have no idea who I competed with this year, was it a Drawger?
The job had some personal sentiment to me, as I've lost both my mother Nancy and my older brother Kevin to cancer. Here are the sketches and process and whatnot, for those interested...
I should preface this by explaining that this is a monstrous organization. Many tiers of people vote on the designs, which have to not only appeal to the masses but also incorporate their logo and corporate color. In this case, a particular PMS purple and it's subsequent tints. For whatever reason, I am not a big fan of purple, so it was a bit tough for me to work with that.
So here were my three submitted sketches from last year. Art director Tom Deal sent me a huge packet with reference from the event, where cancer victims, survivors and their families walk a sort of "vigil relay" on a track all day and night. The event happens all over the country, and these candles are always placed along the track. The sun design and the balloons design went on to the next round, but it was the balloon design that made it right up to the end.
I was surprised to get called again this year, but happy to give it another shot. They wanted to resubmit the previous year's sketch, with a few alterations. They also wanted me to provide four different comps with specific color situations - 1c purple on white, 1c white on purple, etc. I found this tougher than I originally thought.
Here are the four variations. New art director Bobbie Johnson was super to work with, as she had a really monstrous task of pre-production preparations. You see, ACS wanted each of the final sketch designs to be made into actual silk screen products in order to make the final decision. So, Bobbie had to create all of these screens using sketches!
She sent me the t-shirts, made with my lo-rez sketches which she had rasterized using the new Illustrator CS3 process. They ended up moving the logo into the image, replacing the big foot in the foreground.
I look forward to seeing the final t-shirts when they come out in 2008. It was an honor to be part of the project, and I hope the t-shirts make folks happy and the events are a great success!
Coincidentally, the band I play in with my wife will be playing in a benefit for the American Cancer Society here in San Francisco at The Make-out Room on June 3. We're going to raffle off a couple of the "sketch" shirts I think! Here's our cd cover, illustrated by the genius Christian Northeast and produced by the great Karl Derfler, who did Tom Wait's latest.
Daniel Smith at The Wall St. Journal asked me to do these travel stickers, for a quiz feature. When he first assigned it the only direction was to pick a few of the countries and make some cool stickers. So, I submitted these sketches.
I figured I'd run into problems having to do with stereotypes, etc, but went for it regardless. He liked them but after their meeting they needed my imagery to be more specific to the content of the quiz, which was exciting subjects like iron ore and cement.
I ended up painting them twice to give him a variety of color choices.
Not sure which of these ended up running.
A happy coincidence to do all of these as well as Arrive Magazine's at once, I could really immerse myself.
For some reason, I received two simultaneous jobs where I was asked to create a set of travel sticker ideas for editorial projects. One was for The Wall Street Journal, the other was this job here, for Amtrak's magazine Arrive.
The feature was about summertime travel in the Northwest United States. For the opener, I had a lot of fun drawing a camper covered in stickers. In all my years drawing for a living, I think this may have been my first camper.
A fun twist in this assignment was the non sequitur quality of the imagery as it relates to the location. This one was about a King Tut display in PA.
Massachusetts, the drive-in state. These east coast States have too many damn letters in them!
Vermont, a state where Joseph Daniel Fiedler likely enjoys himself.
Virginia, the My Little Pony State.
I had a lot of fun creating the hand lettering, something that's enjoyable but always a lot of extra work. Fortunately, it was made a breeze by working with the easy-going Tamara Kopper.
Every now and again a job comes in that pushes me into a new place and throws me into a mode of obsession. In this case, it took over my last month and made me turn everything else down and get broke over it. But man was it a blast.
I believe this book will be a huge seller, as it is flat out ingenious. For the UK publisher Cape/Random House, "God's Behaving Badly" by Marie Phillips.
The premise is that the ancient Greek Gods are still alive and living in modern day London. Their powers have been diminished with the arrival of Jesus, so they spend their immortal days bored and reckless in a dilapidated shared house.
Ms. Phillips wraps the tragic Greek hero story into it, making an amazing and hilarious romp with the personalities of the Gods. I could go on and on about how skillfully she subverts and magnifies the mythology of each of their characters. It's a great antidote to the religious times we live in.
Anyway, the cover was especially challenging, as they were hoping for a landscape that not only showed modern London's skyline, but also a number of the Gods in action. This, plus type, as a long horizontal wrap-around.
Above is the cover comp w/type.
Here's the complete cover, hard to see at this size. Some of it will print in metallic ink.
Here's the end papers illo.
One of the great things on this job too was the fact they wanted full color illustrated end papers. We went with the Underworld, which in Ms. Phillips book is accessed through the London tube!
It was really good to work with the art director Suzanne Dean, who really had a parallel vision for this book. We had a bit of a tiff over the color on the cover do to time constraints and marketing (etc), but in the end I think it all works well together.
Apollo, watching some of the war that he's created on the evening news.
The interior is illustrated with a few icons of some of the Gods, which I did as simple silos. The fun of course is to contrast the old with the new.
Hera has a smoke.
Athena has a presentation.
Here's Eros. He's born again! He acts as a sort of logo in the book and on the spine.
Late last month, I got a call from my Alma Mater, Parsons School of Design. Er, I should say Parsons The New School of Design.
Anyway, they wanted to know if I was interested in illustrating an admissions poster for them. I told them it would be a great honor, of course I'd do it.
When I met with them in NYC, I realized it may be a bit hard to represent the current state of illustration being, well, an illustrator! It seems kids going into Art School are perhaps more interested in being an animator, or a video game designer, or, well, something besides a person who makes actual drawings.
Anyway, I decided I'd just make some weird drawings, something about being creative. Here are the sketches I submitted, roughly colored in.
The director dug them, and was excited about going forward. After making the various rounds, they ended up at the Dean's office. That's where the project came to a screeching halt!
I haven't seen what they went with, but apparently it isn't illustration: Clip-art silhouettes is what I heard. Maybe that's what the kids are wanting to learn at art school these days?
Anyway, if I get some time maybe I'll finish up one of these. Any opinions from the peanut gallery? The forest one is related to a kid's book concept I've been toying with, so maybe I should work that one up...
Well with all of the Halloween posting going on, I'll post what we did yesterday.
A field trip for the kids, in Petaluma, California, to Copperfield's book store. A field trip for the illustrator and designer, in Petaluma, California, to read their newest book "Oh No Not Ghosts" by Richard Michelson.
the restless natives
This bookstore Copperfield's is really great. They have a fabulous program with the local schools, and the kids were out and ready to be spooked. They also have the best selection of children's books I've seen anywhere in quite some time.
The youngsters were primed and ready for some spookiness, and we gave them our best. Aided by my "assistant" (better half) Wig on musical saw and percussion - and a black top-hat, I did my best to read Richard Michelson's poem in a spooktacular way. It worked for the most part, barring the occasional smart-aleck. Most of the time the kids were looking at Wig with bulging eyes, but occasionally they'd look my way, likely thinking "who is this odd man, and when will he give us the candy?".
Later I drew random stuff, based on what they requested. I've found this works well in front of kids. For some reason, drawing a horse on the spot seemed to impress the young'uns the most. That, and Wig's musical saw. They thought my chicken looked like a duck however - it being a chicken farming town with many a chicken farmer's kid in attendance.
I recently finished the final Time Warp Trio book, "Marco? Polo!", by Jon Scieszka, which is just now out. This one was one of my favorite of these books to draw; some of you guys may remember an earlier post of some of the interior sketches while I was working on them. All I have left to do is the paperback cover, and then that will be it for Time Warp Trio!
After eight hard back covers, 16 paperback covers, some 250 interiors, all over the course of seven years, it's all enough to get a tear in the ol' eye. I still will never feel like I deserved the gig, and stepping into Lane Smith's shoes was about as intimidated as I've ever felt professionally. I learned so much working with Jon and the amazing team at Viking, and talking with Lane and learning his wisdom.
I just dug this out of the files, a piece I drew when I was fourteen and in my first punk rock band, Painful Rectal Itch (PRI).
It's going to be shown in a group show at MOCHA in Oakland (Museum of Children's Art) along with a piece from my most recent book. I think the show will be pretty cool, illustrators from the Bay Area showing a pice they did as kids as well as their more recent stuff.
Opening is on Saturday Oct. 21 if anyone out there is interested, from 2-4. MOCHA is a really cool organization.
"Airplane snakes waltz down the aisles with big snakey smiles"
Aaron's snake post made me think of this spread, a sketch from a kid's book dummy that never made it. When I first heard about the movie "Snakes on a Plane", I was annoyed because years ago this spread was shot down by an editor who thought it to be too creepy for a kid's book! Who can blame that decision I suppose, maybe I should be trying to pitch stuff in Hollywood instead. Anyway, these are just sketches, hopefully you can see the gist of it...
I've taken Edel's advice and prioritized Drawger over my in-laws, wedding and life in general, by posting this illo. Just squeezed it in before shop closes down, and did it in my "sketchbook" mode.
One of the weirdest dimensions I've done in some time: .5" x 11.8"
About employers working from home to avoid all of the crazy world issues that come from working in public places, like terrorism, bird-flu, etc. My biggest regret is I couldn't make the x-ray chickens bigger...
Apologies for being absent from Drawger here for the last month or so. I've been crazy busy finishing up jobs, throwing a party for 70 for my fiance's folks 50th, and am now in the final few weeks before our wedding. Basically going crazy.
I'm dying to have my work done so I can focus more on the wedding! Anyway, Rob Dunlavey recently posted his awesome musical bugs illo that was for this same project. I just finished these two crazy busy compositions, for 6th grade text books I believe.
So these are the initial sketches... A train station, emphazising the people's interactions, and a scene of kids and sports.
Sports Sketch One
They wanted the sports one to be more of a scene, less abstracted. I was a bit bummed, as I liked this composition. Anyway, the second sketch followed...
Sports sketch two
This was approved. Finals...
Anyway, not as cool as musical insects Rob!
Now, two more book covers to go and I'm off to the world of nuptuals...
This was just finished for a magazine that needed a feature illo about authentication fraud, and wanted the ol' conceptual chestnut of the police line up, except somehow show them all being the same person. This is the initial sketch.
The art director was happy with it, but he told me he was gay and felt perhaps insecure about the mohawk dude, who reminded him of the Village People. He wanted to ask the editor first if he felt the same before approval. He called me back with (surprise) more changes based on the editor's discussion. Rasta dude had to be nixed, and replaced with another woman. Also, the kid had to be more of a teenager, and the Village People guy had to look more like an office worker. Over all, they also wanted more tech worker vibe. So, please send a revise...
The a.d. called back and said now it would also be the cover art, and the woman in the middle looked like a transvestite! So, put on a skirt and rearrange the figures so that they could crop in on the center section (using three or four figures) and use that part for the cover. One last revise, please...
The approved final sketch.
I had fun. I like the art director a lot. I learned that drawing women with mustaches can turn them into transvestites unless I put them in a skirt and emphasize their curves.
I just returned from an amazing camping trip with friends in the Sierras to some great news from the publisher about an apparent flurry of reviews for the latest picture book project that's out, "Mom and Dad are Palindromes", by Mark Shulman. An "A" from Entertainment Weekly, great reviews from NY Times Book Review, Publisher's Weekly. Hardly any of the picture books I've done have gotten many mainstream reviews, so it's really exciting.
At this point, I've sort of gotten used to my picture books dissappearing into the void, so it's really encouraging that maybe this one will grow some legs. It was an incredibly tough job in that there was barely a story line, no character development, and the subject matter was words (101 palindromes had to be built into the artwork).
That said, the writing was great, and of course palindromes are a blast. Me and my fiance, Cynthia Wigginton (who designed it), had to work together with the publisher to make sure it all flowed properly. It was fun, but man it was hard.
I just did these for one of my favorite clients, Ronn Campisi. As many here may know, Ronn rocks both forward and backward - not to mention retroactively, as his years of playing bass in The Ramrods doing things like touring with the Stones back in the Day.
Anyway, Ronn has always encouraged me to have fun, and in this case he asked me to do what I dream of doing a lot more of - my sketchbook work. I've always had a hard time imagining directly drawing for illustration work. Working this way is so personal and random, but for me it's actually much closer to my heart than a more "techniqued" method.
In any event, the job was a feature for a trade mag about lawyers in Japan. I had fun. Who knows if this will lead me to more of this approach, but I hpe so...