Brian Stauffer
February 2008
Art Anxiety!
Apparently, some folks faint at the terrifying prospect of filling their white walls with artwork.  Snooty gallery personel, committement issues, resale values, and the fear of getting gouged make the world of art collecting a daunting task for some.  Ok, so it's not on par with more notable disorders like, say, Post Traumic Stress Disorder or Post partem Depression, but I guess it really bogs some folks down.  Anyhow, Joyce Wadler's piece in yesterday's (thurs 3/28) New York Times made for a good read and a terrific assignment as the cover for the Home and Garden section. Artcle here

It was a pleasure to work with Ken McFarlin on this one as he gave a concise suggestion at the start, "Think 'High Anxiety'".  The rest is (art)history.

Buck-up all you richies!  Buy art.
As it ran.
The Oscars Have Landed
I didn't watch the ceremony last night but I was pleasantly surpirsed by the overseas invasion of all the "best acting" categories. 

It reminded me to post Last week's "DateBook" cover for the SF Chronicle - AD Matt Petty who was a pleasure to work with.

I've yet to see any of the winning pictures as I've written-off trying to see movies in Miami theaters.  It would seem that the socially imposed ban on cell phone use in theaters has fallen to the wayside.  The last time I went a theater here I looked down our single row to see 4 people chatting away at the same time.  crazy
Attack Iran! With Words.
Thanks to Brian Rea and Guillermo Nagore for this gem of an Op-Ed assignment which appears in today's New York Times.

The text, which is entitled "Attack Iran, With Words", addresses the urgent need to choose diplomatic dialog over preemptive bombings to curb Iran's march toward nuclear armament.

I was initially more interested in the "Bush-Ahmadinejad "  mushroom cloud sketch, but the wiser folks at NYT wanted to go in the direction that  emphasized the dialog aspect of the article (jet dropping speech bubbles sketch).  I wasn't loving the dialog ovals though and suggested the possibility of using words or individual letters.
In the layout with dummy copy
7-UP vs. Coke
The Art Director had me at "cocaine-addicted heir to the 7-Up fortune."

Illustrators, for a good time call Tom Carlson, AD of the River Front Times. (
Cover image for the River Front Times. AD Tom Carlson.
As the art appeared on the cover. Notice that teeny tiny restrained type!
A detail to show some of the textures that combine for shading. The fingers were made out of legs from a 1960's lingerie ad from "Confidential" magazine. The nose was created from an old "How to cook swell turkey cookbook". It was the bone tip from a drumstick.
Warning To Dems

When I got the call this week from Cynthia Hoffman at TIME to do an illustration for Ramesh Ponnuru's column, I was cautious at first, given that he usually bangs the Republican drum pretty hard (I'm an Independent).  It turns-out that I couldn't agree more with the basic jist of what he had to say.

In his column entitled, "The Price of Overconfidence", he discusses the lessons to be learned from the hubris and over-reaching agenda which has sabotaged the once mighty elephant. 

This one had to be done fast, soup to nuts in a couple of hours.

Story here
The Tough Ones
Every so often a topic comes along that demands a depth of empathy that I find extremely painful to take on.  These topics, although rich with possibilities, force me to the reality that these stories we are illustrating are about real lives and events. I'm so eager to have a topic I can get dramatic with that sometimes I have to remind myself that these human condition stories that I seem to get so often represent the experiences of real people.  My biggest fear is of creating soul-less sensationalized images rather than delicately balanced provocative ones.  Keeping the real people at the core of these stories in mind is an emotional burden that I find difficult to pick but impossible to put aside.  This is made even more clear when the topic involves children.  For me, these stories hit too close to home.

So last week when Josue Evilla at the Boston Globe Magazine called, I felt the bitter sweet sense of excitement rush over me, "here comes a great topic, damn".  After all, the last assignment was for a story about a park ranger chaplain who comforts a dying moose after it was fatally struck by a car (previously posted but shown again below).  This assignment was particularly tough to tackle, being a parent of two young boys.  The article, entitled "Return To Me" by Stacey Chase, discussed the difficulties that parents must face when a child goes missing for years on end, most-often never to return.  How do they continue day to day suspended in the artifacts of the child surrounding them at every turn?  I did a handful of sketches for this one, but ended in agreement with Josue on the iconic element of a neglected and unused tricycle partially sunken into the yard.  In the back is a slightly open gate door.

A while back I got a call from Diablo Magazine in SF.  Tim Luddy (now at Mother Jones) had an assignment that really nailed me.  It was a story about a father and a selfish stepmother who repeatedly abandoned their 5 and 10-year-old boys over long weekends while they snuck out for romantic getaways.  What's doubly cruel is that the 5-year-old is autistic.  If there's a silver lining, it's that the 10-year-old was an amazingly gifted caregiver, beyond his years.  He fed and bathed his younger brother, dressed him, and consoled him.  After his parents returned from a 5-day New Year's Eve trip to Las Vegas the boys were found safe and sound and taken into protective custody by relatives.  The parents were put in jail.  Being a father of two young boys (Julian 5 years-old and Andrés 6 years-old) I had a particularly difficult time with this one.  The image below was the product.

An assignment for Northwestern Law Review questioned the right to die for death row inmates who have decided to refuse the appeals process in leu of immediate execution.  The state argued, I think insightfully, that although to John Q citizen the notion of granting the inmates' wish might seem like a no brainer, they argued that the jury should consider the entirety of the inmates life not just the resulting crime for which they were sentenced.  They felt that a prisoner's upbringing, in this case one of catastrophic mental and physical abuse, prohibits them from looking out for their own well being.  Consider the offender when he was a child, what that was like, and how it formed his sense of self esteem.  I am personally opposed to the death penalty, even more so after reading the argument in this article.

The subject of the rising trend toward medicating our children with anti-depressants and other mood altering prescription made for a tough assignment from Forbes as well.  What will history recall about this generation-med and the parents who are caught between legitimate medical advances and the lure of a panacea for problematic behavior?
Artifacts of a lost child
A park ranger chaplain blesses a dying young moose that was struck by a car
Juriys are asked to consider the catastrophic abusive childhood of death row prisoners who request immediate execution.
Children and anti-depressants.
His Way
An entrepreneur's 5 year journey to take his home-spun ginger beer brewing company public, HIS way, made for a fantastic assignment for the Feb issue of INC Magazine. Blake Taylor, INC's Creative Director, was an absolute pleasure to work with, balancing the needs of his editors with the need to have some fun. 

The story is a profile of Chris Reed, the ex-hippy entrepreneur who started Reed's Ginger Beer  out of his Venice Beach bathtub in 1987.  Five years ago he decided to generate much needed expansion capital by doing an IPO.  Unfortunately the hippy side of him told him that he could buck the system and do it on it own.  The story accounts the journey, his battles, and the result.
Our here starts on what he sees as a simple path. Of course the underlying reality is far more complex.
As the spread appears in the FEB issue. Nice type treatment Blake!
A detail of the spread
Reality sets in.
Is all lost?
Our hero thinks he is at the end of the journey, but...
The above solutions as presented in sketch form.
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Stauffer is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!