Brian Stauffer
August 2010
Illustration Landmine
   There's a rush of excitement and fear that accompanies a call from Aviva Michaelov, AD of the New York Times Op-Ed. For me, the rush isn't about the fast turnaround times (often just a couple of hours from concept to final), it's about the responsibility of trying to distill potentially explosive opinions about complex international issues into accurate and powerful symbols.  A fellow artist once referred to these Op-Ed calls as "Oh, F**K!" calls. "A sinister blend of happiness and sheer terror."
   "Yep, I'm feeling that", I replied at the time.
   So it was, when I got the call last week to do an image about the revival of peace talks in the Middle East and how religious settlers obstruct any chance for piece.  (Insert waves of anxiety and fear here).
   "Here’s where the complication comes, its the middle east, its Israel, its the Palestinians, it’s a landmine for illustration", wrote Aviva. 
   My thought, "Yep I'm feeling the complication."
   She continued, "Could you come up with a solution that doesn’t portray a religious settler, a Palestinian or any middle eastern stereotype/flag/symbol? Can you be as abstract as you can, focus on the idea of blocking peace?
   My thought, "Yep, now I'm REALLY feeling the complication."
   Shown below is the sketch sent.  This was my first idea. The handful of others fell into the traps Aviva warned of so I didn't even sketch them.  This one just felt right.  Luckily she agreed. (article here)

Three-peat, Baby!
I know how much we all love self congratulatory postings, but I just wanted to say how honored I am to receive the award for Best Cover Illustration from AAN (Association of Alternative News Weeklies) for the 3rd year in a row.  
The image selected this year was the "Good Cop, Bad Cop" illustration created for Peter Storch at the New Times in Phoenix.  This one is particularly sweet because the Phoenix paper was the first job out of school that I fell in love with. As a green AD, it was in a large conference room on the second floor of a renovated old school, surrounded with brilliant writers, that I knew I wanted to be a part of bringing social issues to print. 
Thanks also go to Michael Shavalier, the Design Director of Village Voice Media (New Times' parent company).  Michael has worked for the last few years building a team of gifted and dedicated AD's. Industry icon, Bob Newman has written a few profiles of these folks on his SPD blog that are worth a long look (articles here).  
I've said more than once on this blog that I thrive on the rich topics these publications bring to the table, and In the next few days I'll be posting a handful of more recent collaborations with various papers from the VVM group.
Below are the winning images for the last three years. 
Best Cover Illustration 2009: Good Cop, Bad Cop About in-fighting in the Phoenix Police Department over the choice of a new Chief of Police. AD: peter Storch
Best Cover Illust 2008: 7-Up Vs Coke About an heir to the 7-up fortune and his losing battle with cocaine. AD: Tom Carlson
Best cover Illust 2007: The Suitcase Killer About a serial killer who stuffed all of his victims, many prostitutes, into suitcases. AD: Ivylese Simones
Tear Down The Wall / Prop 8 Falls
This just in: California's ban on gay marriage, the infamous Prop 8, was just overturned by Federal Judges!  (article here)
I thought this might be a good time to share an SF Weekly cover illustration I did back in June for a story about how California's Prop 8 discriminates against it's gay citizens by not allowing equal application of spousal privileges under immigration law. In many cases, the law was forcing the deportation of non-citizen spouses, in effect using sexual preference as a wall between homosexual couples.
Thanks to AD Andrew Nilsen for such a challenging and emotional topic.  The typography really made the cover.
The sketch.
The cover as it appear on stands
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Stauffer is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!