Bill Mayer
September 2011
Creative Carnival

Sometimes something just lands in your lap with so much potential. When you have a client that is open for you to do anything you want, and an audience of your peers that will surely thumb their nose at anything sub-standard, you can't help but panic a little at first; right? This little poster was just so much fun from the very beginning, it was hard to see it all come to an end. Much thanks to all of the folks at Workbook for giving me the freedom to take this wherever it ended up falling. For me, I am much more used to heavy-handed art direction, so this "Do-whatever-you-want" theme I have been getting lately is just such a joy. But also hard to settle down in any one direction. No art director, no writer... Just do whatever you like.... How much fun this would be....

I did the normal thumbnail blast of overthinking directions and came up with four ideas that I thought worked pretty well. So, I comped those up and shared them with Alison. She warned me not to show so many ideas; that although they will enjoy seeing the process, they will not understand them and probably take me off in a direction I really don't want to go in. So we talked about them, and she said, "Do what ever you want...." This is still so hard for me, making decisions on what or where to go with a project so I decided to keep working on them and flush them out and sooner or later one would immerge as the right direction. I took the candidates and ran them by my normal group of  internal critics and they like three, which I took a little farther toward the final poster. I wrote some copy and put together some type to give it that Carny feel...finally the two that were working both worked so well I figured either one would make a great poster so Sent them off to the "Reply all" group for feedback. They were split on wich one to go with but now offered some input (yes, of course, never too late for changes) on copy. Adding the performers and free drinks and victuals...( I had to look up victuals...)
Here are the first set of thumbnails i did trying to get some handle on style a direction

I always loved Carney's, the dark, sort-of seedy side of those traveling freak shows and circuses that we were exposed to early in life. We had a travelling fair that would come through our town every year. I remember those so vividly. There was a great little movie version of a Ray Bradbary story, taken from a line in Shakespeare..."Something Wicked This Way Comes" This was a pefect visual inspiration for the feeling of those old Carneys that I remembered. When we were in art school at Ringling, there were lots of old circus performers that lived in the Sarasota area. It was not uncommon to pass them sitting on the porch of an old boarding house... a dwarf and a fat lady, just sitting, enjoying the day.
This stuff has so much great texture. Lee and I collected victorian taxidermy animal freaks for a while . You know Chickens being ridden by squirrels with a little whip... Vampire mice with little capes, animated birds.... There is a great little shop, I think it was called Shoefer's on 31st between 6th and 7th Avenue in New York where we found a standing goat who's penis flies out when you pull his tail. Yeah I know silly stuff to lay around the house, but fits right in with our gypsy junk. Shoefer's is a glass eye sales and taxidermy rentals, bizarre little place that we frequented to buy strange and mostly damaged dead things out of the basement.
second set of thumbs, tied a few little color studies, Liked number 44....33, love this little character on 29...gotta think of a way to use him...

took some of the four directions and did a little tighter thumbnail and added type. these little guys are about an inch and a half tall...

Just trying to get some direction from the client as to where they want to go...unfortunately I liked them all... I did my usual poll of friends to see which ones they liked and decided to keep working on three of them.

I don't know seemed like just too much color. I liked this version better in the thumbnail...

I really loved the Black and white drawings, and tried leaving it that way. added subtle colors and distressed the drawing... actually, I still like the limited color..

Here is the final poster I sent for approval...I wrote some copy to give it a "Carny" feel. Seemed like it needed a second color. Red and black always work...

Beagle Boy to replace the Black faced clown...

So I didn't have an art director on this project until the very end and then seemed like everyone had something to say about it. Less type might be better.(Like I designed it originally, before you added all of the type?) Okay, let's bounce it off a few art director friends i know.mThey all say more type is better so the type stays... I am off on other projects. Honestly, I killed myself on this one by doing multiple versions of the same poster. Live and learn... and finally, the black faced clown had to go.... I loved that silly black face so it was hard to let go of this... But I had already been warned by both Lee and Alison that this would be a problem. The black face I never saw as a black person, but a way to bring some solid weight into the top of the illustration... But Black-faced Clown has to go. Finding a replacement I liked as much took a few tries. Seemed like Beagle Boy would do the trick....and he did work just fine.... Still awaiting a decision on which direction they will go with, but I like both of them, so either way I will be happy. 
And there you have it a final poster just in time for the holiday weekend...© Bill Mayer 2011

Projects like this are always so fun, it's hard to settle down and just do one version. They don't really come around that often and somehow you just really don't want them to end. Thank God for deadlines to help them out the door and help folks make final selections. Big thanks to Alison and the folks at WorkBook.
New York Times
Final illustration for The New York Times © Bill Mayer 2011

I got an email from Minh at New York Times about a little spot illustration for a story he said he would love for me to do. I can remember reading it, thinking, "Edel must be on vacation…" Anyway, a great little story about how “we seem to be losing the digital right to be forgotten or deleted." In Europe, there are legislations for consumers (if they wish) to have their personal information be deleted from company data banks. In the US, there’s no such thing. These companies need to keep your info so they can sell you stuff and trade it w/ others. Seemed pretty straightforward, so I shot him an email back and we chatted. He told me I could work in any style I wanted. We decided to let the thumbnails lead us in a direction for style.
I started off with a few random thumbnails of a man erasing himself and variations on other disappearing acts and these seemed like they were going no where. Then I stumbled on the idea of having the words coming out of the figure. This series of thumbnails are all loosely based in that same direction. A pretty good bunch of thoughts and some great little drawings in there so I sent them off to Minh to get his response.

One last little thumbnail, the article started off talking about going to the dentist and all of the information they would collect. It ended up on the same subject. So I thought they might want the spot to tie into the copy a little stronger. This little image popped up. A toothbrush with the words dripping from it... I wasn't really sure the right way to convey the personal data, as words or zeros and ones. I talked this over with Mihn and we decided on the zeros and ones, keep it simple and not get caught up in the details about the information being stored." Are you overdue for a dental cleaning? Want to recommend your dentist to a friend, write a review of his services, or try the Invisalign brand of clear braces?..."
A little side note, I always ask my wife Lee to pick her favorite. Without fail, she will always pick the same as Mihn. Number 3. He liked the simplicity of #3 and how it got the idea across without adding any other comments into the illustration. Simple is good… We talked about style and decided that the airbrush style was not right for this one. He had seen some of the little three-color line things I had been playing around with. After all this great direction we’re off and running.
Sketches for the illustration© Bill Mayer 2011

After lunch I started drawing the idea. It was so simple, and i was having a great deal of trouble keeping it that way. I started trying to add more character into the drawing and I stumbled on a couple of great character studies, one of a kind-of heavy guy that I fell in love with and desperately wanted to make work. But rather than sending a sketch, I put it together in color and sent it off to show Minh.
I had already started working on alternatives when I got Minh’s call. He said he had real problems with this direction. Although he liked the character, he thought it complicated the concept. I mean, who is this funny fat guy? Why is he peeing all over himself and why are you making this so hard on yourself? These little thumbnails are so nice and simple… Okay, Okay. I get it… simple is good…
Simple is good… But still, it just seemed too easy to just do the thumbnail. So, again, I drew and rescanned the figure in and put together little roughs to see which one would work the best. I loved the stark black figure on white and no matter how many textures and backgrounds I tried I still kept coming back to that solid black on white with limited color....Simple is good, yes....
I put together four of the little drawings into the concept to see how they worked. Two were working pretty well. This was pretty easy to do because I already had all of the numbers in a folder so with a little tweaking I could pull them around and get a basic sense of how this was going to  work...
I had two contenders in the end that I felt strongly enough about to offer them up for consideration. I think they both had things that worked really well so I would not be unhappy with either direction.
Minh called me and said he and the writer had gone over both of them. It’s funny how drawing can sometimes have a feeling that may seem to add something intended or not. Ultimately he said he felt the one with the face had more empathy. The dark figure looked too evil. I guess it was those glowing eyes.
Alternate illustration. Not used © Bill Mayer 2011

final illustration.The New York Times © Bill Mayer 2011

I took the character and took the numbers off  that fat man and as Minh suggested he made a pretty good “Fat Cat.” Just not right for this story. I am sure he will find his way to resurface somewhere.
Alternate illustration. Not used © Bill Mayer 2011

Anyway great fun working on this project with Mihn and a big thanks to him for keeping me on track and to Edel for taking the week off and giving me a chance to do one of these little gems. Much fun…
The printed page from the paper....It is still a big thrill to see my work in the Times....I know pretty silly but I can't help it.

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