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"The Future of Farming" The Nuts and Bolts of How We Will Feed the World.

OCTOBER 23, 2015
Detail of robot head from the spread.


I got an email from My Rep Tricia about a new job for Newsweek. She said the art director had emailed me but had not heard from me. I had been travelling to Kansas to do a symposium at Kansas University, and out of pocket. I found the email in my junk mail file so responded right away, just picked up the phone and called Grace directly.
Grace Lee at Priest+Grace, Just love the stuff they have been doing in 8x8. So smart... great design work... I really wanted to do this, and cover for Newsweek. I had not done a Newsweek cover since the early nineties. Anyway she said she really loved my gouache drawings but that I could do whatever style I wanted. I thought it would be a little different, painting it rather than airbrush/digital like the "Beasties." The timing was great, they had a couple of weeks to get it done. Grace had a great idea to do a take off on American Gothic by Grant Wood. I have always loved his paintings. Such rich color. His landscapes are full of movement and detail...

 I think getting started was not so easy. I got back to the studio to some normal distractions. I left with a tree crew cutting up a huge tree that I watched fall from the window next to my drawing board. Fortunately it didn't destroy anything . and unfortunatly, since it didn't destroy anything, the insurance would not cover removal of all the debris.  I had to fly out and leave the guys chopping up the trees and debris and head for the airport. When I got back into the studio there was still alot of storm stuff that needed to be addressed but I decided first things first. COFFEE... coffee brewing. i heard a drip in the hallway. Leaky roof... ugh... went to grab a bucket out of the bath and noticed there was water all over the floor... Leaky roof, leaking sink... Okay shut off the water... bucket under the dripping hall ceiling... Now on to thumbnails....
tighter thumbnail sketches trying to work out the robots...

 I don't know why, but when i started I felt like I had forgotten how to draw completely. The best way to get over this is usually to just jump in both feet, and start doing thumbnails. I did a page full of about thirty or so. the next morning another handfull. I didn't really come up with anything better than Grace's idea. so we took off in that direction.
Revised sketch of the cover robots... Now that I am revisiting this I think I like that down turned mouth on the lady-bot... At the time I thought the expression was too negative.

 Somehow I did put down a few ideas that seemed to fit... I thought Grace's idea was my favorite also, so i did a tighter sketch... This sketch was a little awkward...I think the revised robots worked much better... Too much time is sometimes a bad thing. I tend to procrastinate... do color studies... FIx the drippy sink... take a long walk..
color studies... trying to work out colors before starting on the finished painting... (Really just procrastinating)

I tied shifting the color from the orange to green to try to make it work well for the type and design. But Grace decided the over saturated version worked best for her.

Back to the original thumbnails for a quick idea for the spread....

I had two week to do the cover... I took a week and a half to get it done. Sometimes work expands to fit the time available. We delivered the cover art on Wednesday....Wednesday afternoon, Grace wrote back and said they were planning to do a farming issue and wondered if I would like to do a spread.... Forest called me while I was driving out to take a hike. This art had to be done by Monday morning... Tighter deadline... I did the sketches, sent them off when I got back to the studio.
Added a few more the next morning. Grace had me fill out the page more. She said they really didn't need so much room for type. She chose the "Heroic" robot C. I filled the frame more. When I painted it I thought it would be appropriate to keep that same "Grant Wood" style in the landscape... I pushed the colors warmer and more fall like... Fall has not gotten down here yet... but cool weather has and the chill in the air means it will be here soon.


The cover illustration took a week and a half; this one took two and a half days including sketches...
I kept the background saturated with warm evening light and the robot in a pure shadow, to make him stand out. I really had intended to keep it darker, but opted for kind of a medium shadow acoss his body and face. This would allow his eyes to glow...
final art of the spread. © Bill Mayer 2015

Cover for "The Future of Farming" Nuts and Bolts of How We Will Feed the World. © Bill Mayer 2015

Spread for Newsweek © Bill Mayer 2015
  I thought the paintings worked out really well. Big thanks to Grace Lee and Priest+Grace for thinking of me for this project... It was certainly a blast getting to work with them... And the cover and spread looked great put together...
Grace wrote back and said they loved the art, and they had another magazine called 8x8 and would love for me to do something for them on that down the road. Wouldn't that be a BLAST?