Dale Stephanos
Communication Arts Illustration Annual
Here's a piece that made it over the wall into this year's Communication Arts Illustration Annual. It's always nice to be included in these things. Thanks to whoever voted for this. Considering all the huge talent out there I'm honored.
Oh, that's the late author John Updike.
Holy S@*!t! <
Not that the Pope is taking notes from me, but if you ever find yourself sheltering child rapists and giving them even more opportunities to ply their trade, then rest assured that you are a bad guy. You know, evil. I could go on and on, but I'll just let my little doodle do the talking and add that the Catholic Church (not it's followers) is as corrupt and evil an institution as there ever was. Thank you.
Here's another one just for fun. Jimi. I love Jimi above all others. A couple of weeks ago we had some dear friends visiting. We were sitting at the kitchen table having a good conversation with the usual insane spread that my wife always seems to conjure out of thin air. My friend Dennis was telling me a good story and suddenly in the background I hear "the Wind Cries Mary" on the radio. I continued smiling and nodding. After about 15 seconds Maria butts in - "Dennis, he's not listening anymore. Jimi Hendrix is on the radio". Busted.
I had all sorts of distracting shenanigans going on in here until my wife came in and demanded that I paint all that crap out. As always she was right. Thanks Maria.
I used a popular photo by (I think) the late great Jim Marshall for this. RIP.
Jack White
Jack White. Just for fun. In high school I must have drawn every rock star of the 60's and 70's. I've been doing a lot of musicians between jobs lately. Uh, drawing them I mean. I'd like to do more music related work, so I'll be posting more soon.
Sam Shepard
This is playwrite/actor/celebrity guy SamShepard. I'll admit a bit of cultural ignorance here and admit that I had really only known him from his great role as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff. For reference I used a photo by Rudy Waks from last week's NYT Book Review. This was really just for experimentation - I used several different drawing and painting programs, turned the thing sideways, upsidedown and backwards. It still looks like I did it though. I'm a big fan of the idea of cutting your own head off and trying to grow a new one, but that's easier said than done. Baby steps.
JD Salinger
News that the reclusive author J.D. Salinger passed away sent me back through the years in several ways. This is a sketch from a a couple of years ago for a job that died a premature death. The writer was sent out to do a "Finding Salinger" story - a task at which he thankfully failed. I remember thinking that Mr. Salinger chose not to be a public figure, and how it was offensive that somebody was out to find him simply because there was no other news going on. In today's culture of everybody being famous on Youtube, twitter, blogs(!), and the internets in general, Salinger's one and out strategy is particularly refreshing. He said what he had to say, and that was it.

Twenty or so years ago my brother Kyle and I had a strange hobby. We had these great maps that showed every road - paved, dirt, abandoned. Some even cut through people's yards. We'd spend a weekend trying to figure out how to get from the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border all the way up to the US/Canada border using only dirt roads. We had a Suzuki Sidekick, a case of beer (Hey, we were in the woods) and a box full of heavy metal tapes. Often, we'd pass through Cornish, NH, Salinger's hometown, and a couple of times I imagined I spotted him ducking behind a tree or a rock. Of course, it wasn't him and it didn't matter. Those trips were like our little mountain version of Holden Caulfield's journey. But with a Metallica soundtrack and Budweiser.

Thou Shalt Stand In Line For One....
It seems like the whole media world is waiting on the edge of it's seat to see what exactly Steve Jobs will unveil next week. Will it just be a big iPhone? Will it make me ditch my 3 newspaper a day, 5 magazine a week habit? Most importantly, will I be able to get those awful supermarket checkout line tabloids that I buy for my wife to spare her the embarrassment of doing so herself?

Brown is the new purple

This is what I love about politics. The election of Scott Brown to the US Senate last night was an upset for the ages. It’s right up there with the Red Sox’ victory over the Yankees in the ALCS in ’04,  Spinks beating Ali, and the US Olympic hockey team beating Russia in 1980. As pure political theater, it was as entertaining as anything I remember. Martha Coakley, the democratic candidate was pretty much considered the incumbent and the election itself was more ceremonial than anything. The republican candidate (just those words in Massachusetts brings a smug grin from most people around here) was treated the way an eight year old would be for attempting a magic trick at a family party – “That’s cute kid, very nice, now run along”.


As the campaign rolled along, we saw less and less of Coakley, which was okay because what we did see was a tight lipped, overly cautious, entitled politician who seemed to think that mixing it up with the electorate was a task that was beneath her. You almost expected to see her wearing latex gloves while out shaking hands with the people, and the way she showed her teeth was more grimace than smile. It takes a very special kind of politician to lose a 30 point lead to a republican in Massachusetts. Coakley seemed to be a great AG, but she belongs in politics about as much as I do. Talk about a charisma vacuum. It’s as though someone took Mike Dukakis, rolled him in with John Kerry, and then drained what little charm remained, if any.


On the other side you had Brown, driving from town to town in his battered pickup truck with 200,000 miles on it. He seemed to genuinely enjoy getting out and asking people for their vote. He’s as off the cuff and thrown together as Mitt Romney is shined and polished. While Brown was on television every day with his ads showing him in the family kitchen talking to you like a neighbor, Coakley was nowhere to be seen, only responding eventually with a barrage of negative ads.


As far as why Brown won, as always in politics, it’s as complicated as trying to design a flow chart on why someone falls in love. Lame lazy de facto incumbent meets eager, good looking refreshing challenger. A bad economy where the working people (those who are left) are asked to pay for someone else’s –war, bailout, healthcare, etc. We love an underdog in this country. But bottom line is that the country found out what we in Massachusetts have known for a long time. It’s the independents who rule this state. We elected Bill Weld and Mitt Romney not as republicans, but as a repudiation to an entrenched one party system. Same with Brown. We’re not a blue state, we’re not a red state, we’re a purple state.


After Brown’s rambling victory speech in which he seemed star struck at the idea of talking to the president, being onstage with Doug Flutie, and mentioning more than once that his daughter is available, I’ll bet that first twinge of buyer’s remorse may have flickered across many minds. There’s a big difference between politics and governance.


What the hell, I'll be opportunistic. This was for Golf World's Newsmakers '09 issue - Jennifer Cole is the AD. I did about 15 pieces including the cover, which I'll post later. I don't know a whole lot about golf, but from what I could gather Tiger lost a big one here. I'll bet looking back he thinks this was a pretty minor event.

Summer Studio
This is the summer studio. Katama Bay, South Beach dunes beyond that, and then the Atlantic. I installed a nice breeze and the sound of waves crashing and laughing children. As Dudley Moore once said, “It doesn’t suck”.
Ted Kennedy
Yesterday was Kennedy Day here in our household. While I was working on a portrait of the late senator (not the piece above), my wife was on TV all day yesterday doing live coverage of the wake, which was more of a tour. (At this point I am resisting making any comments about the possibility of a certain punk band reunion). She had the opportunity to go to Kennedy's home a couple of years ago to interview him, and I'm including her recent blog post below.

Good luck out there Ted!


-From Maria's blog:

I know I'm a public person, but the truth is, I'm very private. I tell you all that because I want to share some of my private notes I jotted down right after I interviewed Senator Ted Kennedy in Hyannisport. It's rough, but just a stream of consciousness that I thought you might find interesting. Here it is. Excuse the typos! I wrote it the minute I got back to the station...

Finally drove past the signs that say stay out. we pulled around and it took my breath away... the water was so blue.. the house was so white, and there was Vicki standing on the porch just chatting and mike Barnicle. I walked in and was hit with a musty smell and I was instantly overtaken by the history that surrounded me. Everything in there meant something. Everything in there was history. Pcitures of his family.. Jack ,Joe, Dad, Rose... Caroline Kennedy with her daughter so beautiful... the chairs were antique and beautfiul. He came out.. looked disshevled... out of sorts... but with kind big blue eyes. I miked him up and we just started. I asked him to show me around... he was so proud of his paintings... showed me one and made a joke about paint by numbers. He told me he painted it after he was in a plane crash then showed me the table that the Kennedy family sat down and ate their meals at. I was most impressed and overwhelmed when he talked of his mother saying she loved to take walks and everybody wanted to walk with her. When they walked as children she would grill them, ask them questions... 2x2 ?. She would always keep their minds sharp. I flash to my kids and all the crazy things I grill them about. In all the years of doing this crazy job, all the interviews, all the time I stood outside the Kennedy compound I was in.. and it lived up to what it stands for. So moving to sit in the place where there a preisdent once lived, to speak to a man who cares so deeply about what he does.He told me the story about the woman wtih a baby in her arms asking him about nuclear freeze. He hated his answer and made sure, SURE he changed that and got it done. reached out.. made a difference. I learned so much today from a man I have sometimes judged, but a man who has moved me. He is flawed. We all are... but he's also the person who has picked up the phone and personally called every victim of September 11th. He looked at pictures of Jack and Joe his brothers and tears filled his eyes... that has impact. I tried to imagine the family there, talking politics, talking issues... incredible.He told me about the painting that hangs in the dining room and was frustrated with the way a house came out... so he painted over it with trees!!! He was very proud of his paintings.. but told me his legacy will be his family, not the 44 years in Senate, but his family. his children. his grandchildren.

Here's the sketch, which I actually prefer to the final.
Liberty Magazine
Here's a cover I did for Bryan Gray at Liberty Magazine last month. I've admired the work of the illustrators he's worked with in the past, so doing a cover was something I was very happy about. I usually prefer to come up with my own ideas for what I'm going to illustrate, but Bryan came to me with what I thought was a home run. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia addressed the UN on religious freedom, which was ironic because he himself is responsible for oppressing such freedoms. I loved the image of the folds in the king's robes being prison bars. There's no telling what horrors are down there.

Put a cork in it
Angela Moore from The Santa Fe Reporter called last week for a cover. After a weekend of miscommunication I had Monday afternoon to complete the sketch/final. The story was about how and when free speech had been shut down over the past year. Stick a cork in it was a phrase I've heard often in my life. This is for all who expressed that sentiment.

A word about the art itself. As a kid one of my favorite album covers was the Scorpions' "Blackout" cover art by Gottfried Helnwein. I could not get enough of that guy's work. The Belushi, Clint Eastwood and James Brown Rolling Stone magazine covers he did are still in my files here. I had no intention of tipping my hat to him with this piece, but when I finished I thought to mjyself "Hmmm...that looks familiar". It's a funny thing we do, drawing pictures.

I often have this expression when there's an overnight deadline.
Half Full?
So is the glass half full or half empty? And which is better at this point?

Ray Charles
Here's something I've been poking away at between sketches, finals, phone calls and jam sessions with the kids. I've been trying to get my digital wotk to look less polished, while trying to polish up any traditional media work I do. I have dozens of half done pieces lying around and in files and it's fun to revisit them. It's also very productive to hit "delete" when the time comes.
John Updike
John Updike died yesterday. Along with Andrew Wyeth, who died last week, he takes with him one of the great American voices of the 20th century. I read a fair amount of what Updike wrote - I enjoyed "Run, Rabbit, Run" in particular - but I can't say that I'm any kind of authority on his work. I always saw a kind of kinship in the approaches of Updike and Wyeth in their stark verisimilitude, cold sexulality, and amazing technique. I also see a bond in their timing here: Just as the last vestiges of the American Century are going down in flames two of it's artistic giants bail out.
I did this portrait of Updike a couple of years ago for an alternative weekly. As I recall, the angle of the story was that Updike was a Renaissance man. Or something like that.
Crackle alert!
Mother Jones
I guess it’s okay for me to piggyback on Harry Campbell’s post here.

Over the last year or so I’ve become a big fan of Mother Jones magazine. Sure, they have groundbreaking reportage and all around good writing, but as a guy who enjoys looking at pictures I’ve been impressed with just how much illustration they use. So when creative director Tim Luddy called and asked if I had time to do a cover for their inauguration issue I felt like I had just been given a winning lottery ticket.

Tim had the idea of quoting a 1935 Saturday Evening Post cover, which was painted by the legendary J.C. Leyendecker.  We tried a couple of different approaches to the baby new year theme – top hat, no top hat, different expressions, but I think keeping it simple was important. After working on this for a while I started to relate to the image itself – you walk a fine line between satire and ridicule doing what I do. I generally don’t like when the former turns into the latter, which can easily happen when  you get some momentum going. Still, it’s not often that a man can look back on his day of work and proudly say that he was paid to draw the president of the United States in a diaper.

As is often the case, this issue of mother Jones is full of top notch illustration ( and photography, but that’s not my tribe), and I’m thankful to Tim Luddy for seeing the value in what we do. It’s obvious that many of us bring our A game when Tim calls. I’m honored to share the same spot on the newssstand with many of my favorite fellow artists. I’ve included many below, but if I missed you, it’s only because it was time to go shovel.
Golf World
See anyone you know?
Way back in June Jennifer Cole from Golf World called to asked me to do a full page illustration of golfer Rocco Mediate. The job died a quick death because they went with a photo. Still, Jennifer said she’d like to do something with what we had started. Maybe towards the end of the year. It was midsummer and business wasn’t slow, but it wasn’t really a crushing schedule either, so I just chalked it up to the way things happen sometimes in this business and moved on. To my surprise Jennifer called back in August ready to make good on the idea of having me do all the illustrations for Golf World’s end of the year Newsmakers issue. I was excited about biting off a big piece of work heading into the fall. When Jennifer sent me the first list of illustrations I’d be doing, I swallowed hard and buckled in for some long days and nights.

As I worked on what would end up being 16 pieces (full pages, spreads, spots and a cover) the world around us was changing drastically. The election was wrapping up, and the economy had gone to hell. News of magazines and newspapers shutting down or going out of business was everywhere,  and here I was with tons of work. In addition to this particular job, the phone was ringing more than usual. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bragging about how well I’m doing while so many people are hurting. Rather I’m just thankful to those clients old and new who have continued to see the value of illustration. Maybe there’s something about illustration that’s more “fun” than photography. Maybe I’m just cheaper than a photo shoot. I’d like to think the world has finally realized how incredibly charming I am, and that I’m as loyal as a puppy.

Whatever the case, thanks to Jennifer for this huge job. It was a lot of fun.
I was looking at a great Chuck Close book around the time I did this one.
This was done for King magazine. Chris Constantino was the art director and he's a pleasure to work with. The story was about how the Obama campaign needs to project itself to lower income urban voters.
The final cover
It seems that most of the interesting projects that have flown through the studio this year come with the provision that I sign an oath of omerta until a grand public unveiling. The problem is that after years of doing this professionally, once a job is completed and delivered I’m on to the next and I seldom look back. So it was a nice surprise when my friend Mark Penta emailed me a photo of this book cover that I finished months ago.

Cherlynne Li art directed and just let me do my thing. I hope the book sells well in spite of that.
Sorta kinda finished sketch
Obama has two very different looks. When he's all serious and stuff, he looks much older than when he smiles. I am the opposite. When I smile my face folds itself into several dozen creases and I start to resemble a shrunken apple head. Remember those? I loved them. Anyway. The arm is awkward because originally it was going to wrap around to the back cover. If we had decided to go in this direction I'd have resolved that problem. Really.
Some thumbnails. It's at this point when I think to myself that the client will change their mind and use a photo. After years of doing this I still get a little panic rush that helps the creativity along.
Such a nice young man.
George Carlin
For better or worse I received a good part of my philosophical education through comedians when I was growing up.  In his early days, George Carlin was best known for his “7 dirty words” routine, which was quickly committed to memory by anyone who heard it. When I was a kid, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the date of any important historical event but those 7 words were instantly burned into my cerebral cortex.

I’m hoping they will be my last words.

In his later years Carlin evolved into more of an apocalyptic philosopher who still threw in a fart joke while ruminated on the absurdity of a loving, caring God. I think he referred to the Big Guy as “The invisible man in the sky who will damn you to eternal hell and flames to suffer forever if you break any of his rules….but he LOVES you”. Or something like that.
Carlin was also the narrator for the “Thomas the Train” tv show. I got a huge kick out of that when my kids used to watch it.

My brothers and I used to listen to a lot of comedy albums as kids. Looking back, the ones that stuck were, in particular order:

George Carlin – Class Clown
Richard Pryor – That N-‘s crazy
Steve Martin _Wild and Crazy Guy
Bill Cosby – Wonderfulness
Cheech and Chong – Big Bambu

Anyway, here’s to Carlin. I hope the invisible man in the sky has a spot for him.
There Will Be Mud
I'm looking forward to tonight's debate. I've been fascinated at the way Hillary has melted down with each loss to Obama. It seems as though her campaign is throwing the different sides of her personality at us the way a bucket brigade would throw water on a barn fire. I smell futility.

It's also interesting to see how Barack Obama has gained a such a strong following by being a more focused personality, but much murkier policy maker than Hillary. They are two sides of the same coin. Change.

This was a cover for the Providence Phoenix - the Boston Phoenix' offspring. The Boston PHX was my first steady freelance gig. They're fun to work for because I can do pretty much what I want, and the dealines are pretty tight. The work I do for them tends to be more spontaneous than some of my more rendered stuff, and it straddles my cartoonist/illustrator personalities nicely.

For this kind of thing, I try not to look at any reference photos if I know the personalities well enough.
Oh, God.
Title: Too much work for too little money. I should aslo mention that the cramped composition is because I had to make room for the logo, headline and mailing label that's on the cover as well.
Back in the 80's when I lived with my older brother in a little apartment in Boston, one of our preferred leisure activities was to enjoy some of nature's bounty and watch late night televangelists. This was in the Reagan years, so Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority where on the media's radar screen, and Jim and Tammy Fay Baker were kickin' it, doing what they do. Or did. I can't tell you how many times we'd look at each other wide eyed and say "Oh. My. GOD" and burst out laughing.

Well, one person's sucker is another's parishoner I guess. When I got the call to do a piece on Senator Chuck Grassley's investigation into the "Grassley Six" - a select group of televangelsts who are suspected of - get ready for it - inappropriate fiscal activity for a nonprofit entity, I said sure, I'd love to get a shot in.

The funny thing about this story is that Grassley himself is a christian right winger who is putting it to these cats because they're ruining the Christian Right Wing name. Okay. At least someone's doing it.
Sir Edmund Hillary
Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man(followed by a footstep by sherpa Tenzing Norgay) to step on the summit of Mt. Everest died yesterday.
He was one of the last of the world's old style adventurers who conquered one of earth's last frontiers. There was no Goretex, cell phones, ladders, or any of the comforts that today's Everest tourists use to assist in their trek up to the top of the world.

I've been watching the "Everest, Beyond the Limit" show on the Discovery Channel lately and the most amazing part of it is thinking about how the first few people to trek up there could have done it. In the back of my head, I've always wanted to take a stab at Everest. That's nothing more than a purely Walter Mitty kind of thing. As a kid I'd go hiking with my older brother and my father fairly often and he'd tell us about Hillary and Everest. Later on, there was some discussion about actually going and climbing Everest with my father, but really nothing more than that. I regret that we didn't take it further. It's the kind of thing that would be great to look back on. But actually doing it?

This was done about 5 years ago. I think it was a killed project. It's one of the last pure paintings I did before going electric.
This portrait of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was for a story on how Bloomie has  shaken up NYC schools. When I first talked to the art director about the job, it was suggested that I depict "crowds of people running away in terror". In a panic, I blurted out "Red tape! Red tape"! They went for that instead and for the first time in a few months I got to do a job that involved just one face.

I'm usually more comfortable throwing tomatoes than spreading rosepetals, but not being 100% sure of the issues surrounding this situation, I was happy to try to make a good looking picture.
I could spend weeks just working on the flesh. I'm always a little disappointed when I know I've done enough and it's time to move on.
Please don't vote.
Are you undecided? Has the presidential campaign just started showing up on your radar? Are you leaning towards Obama because you think it might be nice to finally have a black president, or Hillary because "It's about time a woman was elected president"?

If you've found yourself in any of these positions and you live in New Hampshire, then please, please, don't vote tomorrow. An ignorant vote is worse than no vote. It's what put our current president in office, and as a result quite a few people have died. Pick up a newspaper and read about that nice looking candidate. Hell, even the internet can provide some information about these folks. But you won't find what you need in the TV listings. This is not a new show that you can tune out of with no consequence. Yes, John Edwards has withstood quite a lot of heartache in his life, and may be in for more. He has a very courageous wife. He has GREAT hair. Do you know where he stands on immigration?

No? Skip this round.

There'll be another soon enough, and you'll know more by then.

Remember, every vote counts(hopefully). Make it an informed one.

Thank you.
Artists Against the War
Dead Tie
Here's my piece for the Artists Against the War show that Steve Brodner has put together. David Flaherty said on his blog that it's such an enormous subject that boiling it all down to one image that sums up how you feel is daunting. I agree. I feel very conflicted about this conflict and I find that I'm against myself half the time, and the rest of the time I’m just plain wrong. Don't even ask how the inner dialogue sounds - it ain’t pretty. Suffice it to say that there have been some real room clearing brawls up in that melon of mine. I care though, if that counts.

After batting around many ideas, I finally settled on the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) approach. I kept asking myself, " How can I hang the deaths of these soldiers, who Bush professes to support, around his neck?" I posted an earlier stab at this a while back, but this is the version that ended up in the show.

I’m also including a peek at some failed attempts to try to get at what I was trying to say. I still don’t feel that the image I settled on sums up my feelings as much as it illustrates one aspect of how I feel about this mess.

I hope to see many of you at the opening.
I reverted back to the editorial cartoonist in me, which is really my default setting. I wanted something with a more elegant solution. This felt like a sledgehammer. Or a cleaver.
Does the world need another Napolean picture? No. Not from me it doesn't.
Gone Baby Gone
Top: Pavorotti, Evel Knievel Middle: Norman Mailer, Beverly Sills, Robert Goulet Bottom: Kurt Vonnegut, Anna Nicole Smith, Ike Turner.
2007 ended in an avalanche of work which was based in one of two categories: People who annoyed us, or people who died. At one point I was about to suggest that someone should do an article on people who annoy who should die, but I realized that was a very un-holidayesque idea and just kept my mouth shut.

This was done for one of my favorite art directors, Michael Hogue at the Dallas Morning News. In case it’s not obvious, this is an obit piece for entertainers who won’t be down for breakfast in 2008. Not all of these cats had shuffled offstage when I started,  and I tried to resist the urge to wish someone to death simply because they’re fun draw.
Sports Illustrated for Kids
Thank God I only had to get two likenesses.
When Beth Bugler from Sports Illustrated for Kids called to see if I was available to do a cover for their football issue I just happened to be showing my son how to draw the Patriots logo. The last time I had done a cover for SI Kids was about 7 years ago. Time heals all wounds I guess, and Beth was willing to give it another go. My enthusiasm wasn't diminished one bit when she said that they wanted ALL 32 TEAMS in the NFL represented as players on the cover.

32 people on one page.

As a rule, I like doing challenging things I've never done before. But 32 big football players crammed into the space below the magazine's logo, beside the headline and over the mailing label? Beth is a pleasure to work with and made it completely painless.

Then I remembered that most of my kid's friend's are SI Kids subscibers and that because of me my kids would be hailed as heroes once the issue came out and everyone knew who's art was on the cover. Or so I thought.

Wrong again.

We happen to live in the same small New England town that the New England Patriots play in. The stadium is way over on the other side of town, but this time of year, when all the leaves have fallen, you can see the fireworks go off when something big happens at the stadium. Every Sunday is Halloween around here, with very large grown men wearing costumes of red and blue, in various states of sobriety, doing their best Braveheart imitation.
Behave Yourself.
My son is scared to death of clowns, and I don't blame him. I get the same feeling when I see nuns. If (!), when I come to the end of the road I end up on the "down" escalator, I have a feeling that it will be cold and populated by clowns, nuns, and reality television, not little red tailed, horny headed devil types. But that's just me.

This was for Delaware Today. Any time I get to draw a pissed off nun is a good day for me.
Information Week
Whenever Mary Ellen Forte from Information Week calls, it sounds like she doesn’t think I’ll take the assignment. Information Week is, as it’s name suggests, a Weekly, and as such, the deadlines are fast and furious, which is my preference. This time around, Mary Ellen mentioned  “A group of Penguins walking around, going somewhere. And they have to have personality”. My first reaction was to kill off most of what might constitute a “group” of penguins and focus on just one or two, and simply suggest the idea that there are more out there.

The focus of the article is where Linux will go next. I’d say my biggest challenge here wasn’t giving the penguins a personality, but trying to ignore the multitude of penguin personalities that Hollywood had thrown at us in the last couple of years.

The penguin is the mascot of the Linux operating system, for those of you who don’t know. Apparently, Linux devotees are like Apple users, only geekier, more devoted, and they actually know how a computer works.
I thought I'd make a model of the penguin to see how the light would fall.
I know how popular Sculpy is around here, so I felt an obligation to use the stuff.
Dead Tie
This is something that came out of pieces of sketches that were rejected, or just not chosen, or didn't work for whatever reason. I'd been doodling this image for a couple of months, so in between jobs I thought I'd pick away at it. It's more a product of absent minded drawing while doing something else than hard thinking.
I messed around in Painter to try to get some morte painterly textures...
I think I used just about every brush I could find for the flesh.
Ah, Halloween, the season of ghosts, ghouls, and… Giving!
Around here, the kids have a Halloween tradition that’s right up my alley. It combines juvenile delinquency with kindness. It’s called “Ghosting”.

I had never heard of this until my daughter brought the idea home with her a few years ago. Here’s how it goes: At night, a bunch of kids go around the neighborhood to their friend’s houses, creep up the stairs, quietly place a paper bag in front of the door, ring the doorbell, and then RUN LIKE HELL!

The catch is that the paper bag is filled with candy, along with a note that the recipient has been “Ghosted”. You’re supposed to put the sign up on your door so you don’t get repeat offenders, but somehow, that sign never seems to stay up for long, and before you know it your doorbell’s ringing again.

Since this is an activity that requires exacting parental supervision, I end up driving the getaway SUV. It’s a lot of fun really. We stake out a good out of sight spot, and after the kids do the deed, they come sprinting back to the car, pile in on top of each other, panting, sweating, and screaming “GOGOGO! “and I lay down some serious rubber getting out of there. The next day at school is the great guessing game of who ghosted whom.

As I said, I had never heard of this game in particular, although I have heard stories of a paper bag, dog crap, a match, a doorbell, Mrs. Smith, parents hanging up the phone, and a spanking. Maybe I saw all that in a movie. Maybe not.

*Traditionally, the tag accompanying the bag o' candy is your basic photocopied, handwritten affair. I thought I'd show up the local moms and show what you can do with a computer and 10 minutes.
The way I saw it.
Like many of you, I start the day with the biggest, strongest bucket of coffee I can rustle up. There's a Starbucks up the road and the drive up there is a pleasure. I go past the local farm where the change of season presents itself daily, I get to play “beat the crossing guard”, and that guy who stands in front of his house pacing and chain smoking all day never let’s me down (such dedication!) The early morning joggers, walkers, bikers, and exercisers of all stripes get me inspired to go out and chase them all down.

One of the things I snicker at every morning in a pompous, superior way is the "The Way I See It" campaign that 'Bucky's has printed on their cups. They're all inspirational-ish sayings that you would hear on Oprah if you weren't actually trying to make a living. This morning's was something about warning us not to turn into our enemies in the pursuit of justice. Good point, but I feel like a tool when I get my wisdom from overly sentimental tripe that’s printed on a coffee cup.

*reprinted from yesterday's edition.
Water Mob
"And if I see ANY grass growing, I'm coming back!"
Around these parts we generally have green lawns, kids running through sprinklers on a hot day and such an abundance of water that it seems to just fall from the sky. I’m told that it’s not like that everywhere though, especially in the Southwest.

This was done for a small alternative weekly in Santa Fe – The Santa Fe Reporter. The story is about how the local authorities have taken to using strongarm tactics against the top ten water use abusers in the area. Angela Moore,  the AD, suggested a mob type in a threatening position. Kinking up the hose like he was breaking a leg got the idea of “You might want to turn the faucet OFF”across. A couple of years ago I told myself that I would no longer do much work for these small weeklies where I got my start, but I’m often drawn back by the lure of interesting stories and almost complete artistic freedom. Let’s face it, I like working, period.

When we first moved into our house back in the nineties we had to put a new lawn in, and after spending a few grand on the whole process, I’d be damned if I let it all go to waste and not water the sucker. Of course, there were water restrictions in place (even after a record rainfall that spring), and the local inspector happened to drive by while I had the sprinkler going and he gave me a ticket for about $50. So now I NEVER water my lawn.  It is mysteriously green though.
A particularly unattractive piece of reference.
Seeing what you believe, see?
I started this as a doodle while I was on the phone. When I began, the proportions where "correct", but I didn't see Sean Penn in there, just his likeness. After a drawing version of "Fight Club" ensued I finally whipped him into shape.
For a long time now I’ve wondered why I tend towards exaggeration. It’s not an intentional thing, but more a reflexive impulse to underline and emphasize the way I see things.

I’ve tried drawing over projected images a la Norman Rockwell (I used to call this “tracing”, but there’s more to it than that.)
I’ve tried grid drawing, and the drawing on the right side of the brain thing. To me, things never look quite right until I’ve thrown some elbows and pushed the subject around a bit until I get things my way.

I think I actually see in exaggeration. People look like this to me.

Lou Brooks put it best over on Zina Saunders great portrait of Joe Newton –“Same uncanny quality as the great comic book masters. By that I mean, if you begin to deconstruct their drawings, you can easily feel that it's drawn all wrong -- but really, it's oh so right! And moving anything in the drawing around causes it to start to collapse, because it is not a literal interpretation at all, but some weird delightful thing in the wiring between their eye and hand. They just see things incorrectly -- which is really 100% correct.

Jules Pfeiffer said something or other once (boy, do I gotta paraphrase here) about artists being able to paint the sky red because they already know it's blue... and them there NORMAL people GOTTA paint it blue, because otherwise, everybody will think they're stupid.”

I’ve been enjoying just plain drawing lately, and there are times when I’d love to say to an art director that we shouldn’t go past the sketch phase, because it won’t get any better, it’ll just be more “finished”.
Newsweek International Edition
Brown, Merkel, and Sarkozy
I have figured out the secret to getting the plum jobs in this business. You want a Rolling Stone cover?  Are things a little slow and even a half pager would make you happy? Hey, what about a Newsweek cover?

Plan a vacation.

Even better than that, plan a vacation around a bike race that you’ve trained 2 months for.

That’s right, all you need to do is get all your vacation ducks in a row, pack things up, get all the paraphernalia you need for a weekend of fun/suffering, put one foot out the door, and with your hand on the key that’s in the door as you’re closing it, stop and listen. Hear that? It’s the cash register. Or, as we call it here, the phone.

It was Adolfo Valle from Newsweek International looking for a cover, due the next day.  “Can you do it”? Adolfo asked after giving me the particulars of the gig. I said sure, and saw my weekend evaporate in one syllable. The job itself went so easily that I was starting to worry. I sent the first sketch and Adolfo told me that the editors had no changes at all and go ahead with the final. The piece is about how the European countries are still pro-America despite their misgivings about our leadership at this moment. 24 hours later, I pressed “send” and off it went.

I’m lucky to have a family that not only doesn’t mind stopping on a dime and changing directions, but enjoys it. We were all excited about this particular job. The only thing that’s a drag is that I won’t see it on the newsstands. If any of our European or Latin readers see it out there, let me know.
Musical Memories
Jeff Tweedy of Wilco
I don’t have a sense of smell. Never have. Sometimes this is good (I changed a lot of diapers when my children were small) and other times it leaves me feeling as though I’m missing a critical part of life. For me, that magical link between the olfactory and memory doesn’t exist. Remember the smell of cookies baking when you got home from grade school? I don’t. How about the smell of your newborn child’s skin? Not me. How about that first whiff of Spring in the air on a blustery March day? Nope. I’m told that smell and memory are lashed together like King Kong and the Empire State Building, or Ahab and Moby. You smell my drift.

For me, instead of smells being the exit ramp to Memory Lane, it’s music. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John brings me right back to a nasty bout of insomnia I had for a time when I was around ten years old. ”You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor puts me back on Nantucket with my mother during the summers when I was younger. I heard the song “DOA” by Bloodrock recently, and the hair on my arm stood up because that song was the soundtrack to a nightmare I had when I was very young. And yeah, there’s “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead that brings me right back to stage diving at the Channel in Boston and getting knocked out.

Every few years I reach the end of the musical cul de sac I’m strolling through and it’s difficult to make my way out. I usually try to just keep going straight and hack my way through the brush, forcing myself to listen to music I haven’t heard before. Or, more likely, I’ll try to appreciate a band that all the critics have proclaimed brilliant, but to me, seems anemic.

In 2002, Wilco was that band.

I bought Wilco’s album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” after reading all the glowing reviews and after a couple of listens I chalked it up to another case of record reviewers having themselves a little joke at our expense. Jeff Tweedy sounded like he had just woken up, the songs were disjointed, and it seemed like there had been a fistfight between the songwriter and the producer and the listening audience somehow got pulled into it and got it’s ass kicked.

In the summer of 2002 I decided to attend the Illustration Academy, which was run by Mark English (and featured, among others, Sterling Hundley) and his son John.  The drive from my house near Boston would take about 9 hours, so it’s natural that I only remembered to bring one CD. Of course, it was the CD I just described above, so I took it as a chance to make a music appreciation breakthrough on my way to a creative breakthrough. I listened to that damned disc for 9 hours straight, and by the time I got to Richmond, VA, it was starting to grow on me. Of course, when I got there, all ready for 3 uninterrupted weeks of self-improvement, the calls for jobs started flooding in. Good jobs, too. Not just the usual spots that you can toss off over night. So, after a week and a half, I finally gave up and headed for home.

By now, the Wilco disc had settled in nicely, I knew the words, was used to the idiosyncratic structure of the songs, and I thought the album was brilliant. Happily driving north on 95 on a bright sunny June day, I looked up the road and saw a car silently rolling over. “Huh, that’s funny, that car’s just turning over and over” I thought. As I approached, it seemed a little unreal. There were no crashing sounds, no dramatic camera angles, just a one shot 200 yard away view of a non descript car rolling over the median and then coming to a rest on the other side of the road.

By the time I pulled up, several trucks had stopped as well. The car’s roof was almost flattened, all the windows smashed and the woman who had been driving was staggering around mumbling something about needed to get her CD’s. The highway was strewn with debris from the car - cups, candy wrappers clothing,  CD’s, a sippie cup.

Hold on there, I thought. That’s what my kids drink from.

I asked the woman, who was now sitting on the road holding her bleeding forehead, “Are you alone”? She didn’t seem to speak English, but she pointed a shaking finger at the back of the car “CD!” the yelled, very anxiously. “CD”.

Shit. Seat? As in “child seat”?

I looked at the rear end of the car and it’s smashed in roof, and perused my fellow bystanders. They were all southern trucker types. Not one of them under 6’4”, 250 lbs. I felt like a sapling in a redwood forest. No way were they going to fit through that narrow assed slit that used to be a rear window. We were all on the same page though, and without discussion, decided that I was going in. One of the big guys had some sort of metal tool and cleared the remaining safety glass shards from the edges of the opening I’d go through with one sweep of his arm. I squeezed through and breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that all that was back there was the usual detritus that’s left of your possessions after you roll your car.

 I heard someone say “Fire” quietly ( I couldn’t smell smoke) beyond the cramped, wrinkled confines of the car, and started to maneuver my way around to get the hell out of there when I sensed movement. The passenger’s side front seat had been pushed back into the back seat. But there was a strange plastic thing between the two. It was vaguely familiar. “Hey”, I thought, “That looks like the bottom of our booster seat at home”.  I lifted up the front seat and there were these big brown eyes looking blankly up at me. I thought it was a doll at first. Then the eyes blinked. “Uh, there’s a kid back here” I said calmly. I tried to lift him up and out of the space, but he was buckled in pretty tight. “He’s strapped too tightly, I can’t get him loose” I called, and almost immediately a huge, tattooed, fleshy arm holding what looked like an even bigger knife came swinging in through the space, flailing blindly. “Hey, you’re gonna kill me!” I yelled. I took the knife and carefully cut the straps holding the little guy into his seat, then gently eased him out, praying he’d emerge from his little space all in one piece. After handing the boy out to the many waiting big strong arms, I squeezed my way back through the opening, vaguely aware that there was a smoke taste in my mouth and my eyes were stinging.

I stood on the road watching the men bring the boy over to his dazed, bleeding mother and looked at the thick black smoke billowing from under the crinkled hood of what used to be a car. I felt as though I had been watching these events unfold, as opposed to participating in them. As the first responders arrived, I kicked my way through the shattered glass and debris, back to my still running car with it’s driver side door ajar and the song “I am trying to break your heart” playing through the speakers on the other side of the highway, got in, and drove away into the bright June morning.

A quarter hour or so later, I noticed the steering wheel shaking, and thought, “Oh great, the damned car’s coming apart”. But then I realized the car was fine. It was me that was a little shaky. I called my wife and said to her, “I know it’s a cliché and all, but I just pulled a kid from a burning car”. She had kind of a “Oh, that’s nice” sort of reaction, which is just about right. It wasn’t a big dramatic thing, it was more a case of following events to their logical conclusion without a whole lot of debate.

So, when I hear Jeff Tweedy’s voice now, I think of burning cars, frightened children, and perfect June days.
Hammerin' Hank
A very wise man once said “ Bonds is a jerk, a liar, and an ass”.

I’m a little late, but I thought I’d honor Barry Bonds surpassing Henry Aaron’s all time home run record with a tip the pencil to Hammerin’ Hank himself.

Maybe it’s that Hank was of the Ali/ Kennedy/Beatles era of relative innocence that we see him as one of our morally uncontaminated American heroes.  It seems easier to put the celebrities of back in the day up on a pedestal. Maybe it’s because the media wasn’t as voracious in its appetite for fresh blood every day. Maybe the country still believed in itself with the afterglow of World War II still in sight.  The truth is, there aren't many people who can hold up under the intense scrutiny we bring to bear, and the image of our old time heroes are akin to the nostalgic way we look back at our childhood, when everything was "better".  It's all bullshit, of course.

Where was I?

I confess to not knowing much about Aaron past the home runs, the gracious demeanor, and that he was in that first wave a black ballplayers who were finally allowed to play outside the Negro League. While today's pro atheletes are suspected of enhancement through pharmacological alleyways, Aaron was said to have gained his enormous forearm strength by carrying ice blocks with tongs while growing up. However he got to where he was, he sure could hit 'em out of the park.
Here's a Kanye West portrait I did for the Wall Street Journal's Pursuits section a few weeks ago. The Pursuits section uses a lot of illustration, and from what I read it's Rupert Murdoch's favorite part of the paper, so I'm hoping the good times will continue to roll for us over there.

Our own David Bamundo usually assigns art for this particular space, but I think he was off catching up on some much need sleep that week.
The Cannibal
“I used to just sit on my bike, weeping in pain” – Eddy Merckx

Babe. Michael. Tiger. Lance. Say these names and nobody says “…who”? Virtually unknown here in the States but a legend in Europe, Eddy Merckx is the mountain on every bike racer’s horizon that none can climb, only pass by in a valley.

With over 500 wins in his career, Eddy was nicknamed “The Cannibal”, for his aggressive style of riding and winning. He achieved 5 Tour de France wins, including 34 stage wins and 96 days in the yellow jersey. He’s also the only man ever to win all three jerseys in one Tour (Yellow-Overall leader, Green-Sprint points winner, Polka Dot-Climbers points).He also won the Giro d’Italia 4 times, and the Vuelta once.

Most impressive for me though, are his Spring Classics victories. While the grand tours (the Giro, the Tour, and the Vuelta) are what most folks associate with bike racing, it is these one day winner take all races that are most exciting. Think of them as the bike equivalent of Ultimate Fighting, and you begin to get the picture. In one season, Eddy won 7 Classics, including the legendary Paris-Roubaix.

With all the doping scandal that infests this beautiful sport, it’s hard not to look back at Eddy’s dominance and think that maybe he was a pioneer in more ways than one. I prefer to just enjoy the idea that maybe he was just that good.

A word about the art:  One of the things I enjoy about having a blog is the opportunity to swerve off my usual path on occasion. I like simple drawing as much as I like the more rendered way my work usually appears. I've been an illustrator for many years, and this messing around with different ways to skin a cat is sort of like recess was in elementary school was for me.
Information Week
The Good, The Bad, The Filthy @#%!!! Rich!!
I did this cover for Information Week. The AD was Mary Ellen Forte and Michael Gigante. I like working for them because it seems as though they trust me to do a good job, which makes me want to impress them.

For this, a story on how Bill Gates is a ruthless businessman AND one of the most generous philanthropists in the world, Michael suggested that we try to communicate some movement into the piece, like Gates was smiling at us and suddenly turned his head to show us his other side.

I took some pictures of myself turning my head so I could see what the blurred motion would look like and then gave it my best shot. I like how it came out. I'm glad it wasn't what I started, which was similar to that Time magazine George Bush(Sr.) man of the year cover many years ago.
Tough Guys
There's a train of thought that says we are attracted to our opposites. That must be true because if you crack open any of my sketchbooks you'll find that they're full of Tough Guys. Like this one here, Yvon Chouinard.

Yvon is the founder of Patagonia clothing. He started out as a hard core mountaineer, surviving on whatever equipment he could sell out of the trunk of his car. Today, Patagonia is a huge Fortune 500 company.

I'm not sure why I like drawing Tough Guys. Maybe it's because I'm lazy and it comes easily to me. Maybe because it gives me a chance to show whatever humble ability I have in a showoffy way without actually showing off.

But it's probably because I'm not really a Tough Guy, and it's a chance for me to climb into their skin for a few minutes like a Halloween costume. When I close the sketchbook I'm Peter Parker again, or worse, whoever Aqua Man's alter ego is.

I used a photo from Outside mag for reference. The photog is Jim Herrington. Thanks Jim.
Ralph Ellison
Here's a portrait of Ralph Ellison, author of "Invisible Man", done for AD Michael Hogue at the Dallas Morning News. Michael suggested that we try to work in the idea of an "Invisible Man" somehow, so I thought that having the head fade in and out of the book's pages might be a good idea.

On the technical side of things, I messed around with some of the charcoal papers and brushes in Painter X, but that program is so slow that it started to drive me crazy. So I finished painting in Photoshop using a bunch of different brushes.

One of the things I like about doing portraits of authors is that I usually get sucked into their work and discover some great writing. I'm embarrassed that I hadn't read this great work before and I'm enjoying it quite a bit.
With a $400,000 "Performance Bonus" on the way before he leaves, Wolfie waves goodbye.
The thing I find most upsetting in the Paul Wolfowitz saga is that he has a girlfriend. I know that there's someone for everyone and I'm glad that the Wolf Man is gettin' some. But it's like when you were a kid and realized that your parents actually had sex. At least once. I picture Uncle Paulie with his mortician's demeanor putting the moves on and I have to go somewhere else in my mind. Somewhere more pleasant. Iraq, even.

Stashing your girlfriend(s) on the payroll is a time honored tradition in politics, but so is getting caught. The Wolfster is a two time loser in this administration, which probably puts him ahead.


I'll try to do this once in a while until Professor Brodner starts up the summer semester. Until then, don't mess with the substitute teacher.
Jerry Falwell, R.I.P.
I'd like to say something nice about Jerry Falwell, as he passed from this veil of tears today. So. Um. He sure was fun to draw!

This was done a while back, when Rev. Falwell trained his laser vision on the Teletubbies and realized that "Good God in Heaven, that purple one is GAY". Any day you can put a guy like Falwell in a Tinky Winky suit is a good one.
Say it ain't (Bas)So
Ivan has a stain on his jersey
My favorite of the 3 grand tours, the Giro d’Italia starts this Sunday. Last year’s winner, Ivan Basso won’t be at the starting line. Like so many pretenders to the throne before him, Basso copped a plea in the doping scandal known as “Operacion Puerto”.

In short, a couple of dozen bags of top pro cyclist’s blood were found in the possession of a doctor who was caught in a blood doping ring. Basso, along with other Tour de France favorites Jan Ulrich and Alexander Vinokorov was not allowed to start last year’s tour and was eventually let go from the powerhouse CSC team (Which is headed up by former Tour winner Bjarne “mister 60” Riis. The “60” referring to his hematocrit level. The legal level is up to 50, and then they suspend you because it takes some pharmaceutical assistance to get it up that high. Lucky for Bjarne, he got out of the sport before they instituted this rule.). Last fall, Basso signed on with Lance Armstrong’s former team, Discovery, and it looked as though he was on his way back to the top.

Basso had been a favorite of mine because he embodied what I loved about the sport. He was tough as nails, gracious, self-sacrificing for his teammates, and could climb like an angel. He was the only rider who could rise to the challenge of riding shoulder to shoulder with Lance Armstrong in Lance’s last two Tours. Armstrong and Basso became close friends in 2004 when, during the Tour, Basso learned that his mother was diagnosed with cancer. When he won last year’s Giro, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Basso would win the Tour in July.

And now he’s all done. Caught red handed, so to speak, he’s copped a plea, been fired, or resigned from Discovery, and admitted only to “attempted” doping in preparation for last year’s tour.

If it all sounds hard to follow, it is. It used to take weeks to hear about European race results. After Al Gore invented the internet, you could get results within days, and now you can keep up live, with video and everything. But now, the drug scandals have overtaken the racing and it’s all sort of a drag.

It all has me wondering, is there a sport that isn’t infected with doping of some sort? I’m starting to have my doubts (As I look at my 2nd Starbucks venti bold of the morning)
It's a Sonny day
Sonny Barger
This was done for a book review of Hell's Angels founder Sonny Barger's autobiography. Another from my "trying to be an oil painter" period.

The book is pretty much what you'd expect - Lots of tales of badass derring do and mayhem of all sorts. My favorite stuff was how he described threatening kick Hunter Thompson's butt while Thompson was writing his breakthrough "Hell's Angels" even though Thompson's book would put both parties on the map.

I find that I'm attracted to thugs and derelicts of all stripes. Since I can't afford real art, and I'm totally self obssessed, I have a lot of my work hanging in the house. My kids are probably more familiar with what I like to call "Badass Culture" than the more worthy recipients of historical recognition.

I'm probably the same as those white collar Harley types. I like to paint these guys, but I wouldn't last long around them.
Short Cuts
The late Robert Altman, legendary film director.
I had the good fortune of getting a piece into American Illustration this year. The piece was unusual for me in that I normally get pretty anal in how "finished" a final is. My favorite part of the process (after the idea itself) is just plain old fashioned drawing. The spontaneity of a good sketch is hard to beat, and layers of paint won't make it any better, just more colorful. In my opinion anyway.

So I'll be trying out a fresh approach and we'll see if it works. It's fun to change it up sometimes.
Wall Street Journal
It was Drawger weekend in the Pursuits section of the WSJ this weekend. I landed on the front, with Michael Sloan over there, and Joe Ciardello inside.

The AD was Susan McDermott, who I always enjoy working with. It feels like she trusts me to just do my thing and that's usually when the best work happens.

I think that when they were having their brainstorm session to decide the content, David Bamundo coughed several times, subliminally mixing in "Dale Stephanos". It worked.
I actually like how newsprint messes with the color and texture of my stuff. It gives it a weathered look that I'd like to introduce into more of what I do. Where's that filter?
Mob Tie
This is something that got whacked early in life, but I decided to give it another chance at life and use it as a postcard. If it doesn't go out there and earn, I'll give it two in the hat and you'll never see it again.

I'm not one of those "It's not as good as it used to be" Sopranos viewers. I think the heart of the show lies in Tony's hopeless attempts at growth. For me, the mob hit scenes are okay, but not as memorable as the subtle elements of family, work, and the intersection of the two.

Anyway, the end is near.
Ornette Coleman
Marc Burckhardt's Medal of Arts post describing how he met, among other VIP's, Ornette Coleman reminded me of this piece I did a long while back. It's just pure fanboy art, and the only egg tempera I've ever done.
This is the Year!
Really! It really is this time. Dice-K is here to prove that '04 wasn't a fluke and the Red Sox are the real thing.

Or not.

All I really want to do is go hang out at Fenway a few times this year. On a nice summer night, there is no better place in the world, no matter what the score is.

Play Ball!
We're gonna have a little talk.
I’m working on a Sopranos piece right now, which made me think of another job I did a while back on the godfather of the mob genre, that’s right, The Godfather.

This was done around the time Mario Puzo, the author of the Godfather books died, and the article examined Puzo’s impact on our view of the Mafia (You know, it doesn’t really exist!) as well as the Mafia’s own self image.

There was a dispute between the AD and the Editor. The AD ended up with his you know what in his mouth, tied up in the trunk of his car with two in the hat and thrown into the East River.

Not really.

The AD wanted an image of Marlon Brando, because he’s instantly recognizable as the Godfather. The editor wanted an image of Mario Puzo because “The article is about Mario Puzo, not Marlon Brando”.

I got a lot of reference of both guys and tried to do a mash up of the two (even though that term wouldn’t come into use for another 6 years or so). Also, I got the book and tore pages out and matte mediumed them down on the canvas.

They loved the final. The AD said “Great Brando” and the editor said “Great Puzo”.

This is back when I was trying to be an oil painter. I remember that I’d always try to be making things finer, smoother, more realistic. Now that I work digitally it’s the opposite. I try to leave some kind of evidence that a hand created the work.
Where's the credit?
Willie Nelson after a Annie Leibovitz photo. Okay, I added the American flag.
Everyone was so complimentary about the Sinead sketch I posted yesterday that for a minute, I thought I was getting pretty good at this. But then I remembered Laura Levine’s photo that I used as reference, and I remembered where a good deal of the credit should go to.

I’m as dependent on good reference material as anyone. What I usually do is gather up as much as I can and sort of mash it all together to form a likeness. After that, I’ll shoot reference photos of myself just for lighting and pose. Sometimes though, you come across the perfect photo, and it says “PAINT ME”!

I avoid lifting directly from photos when I can, but when I can’t, I’d like to acknowledge the source material. But if it’s a choice between my name or the name of a photographer in the tiny, hard to find fold where the AD has crammed my name, get out of my way.

I know there are at least a couple of art directors here as well as those of us who create likenesses. I’ve never been sure just what the ethics are in this area. I'm not one of you fancy pants art school types, so I was never told "Thou shalt not ..."

The New York Times once asked whose photos I used, but that was the only time.

So when is credit due?

By the way, this Willie Nelson is from a photo by the great Annie Leibovitz.
Teddy and Jack
Ted and Jack
There were one or two or three posts on my old blog that I wished I could have put up here because I thought the Drawger community would enjoy them. Here's one.

I've never been a big Kennedy fan. Here in the Boston area, the Kennedy's are like royalty. And like royalty, the public seems to be split into lovers and haters. I've never been either, but if pushed, I'd usually be in the more critical camp.

Last year, though, my wife had the opportunity to interview Teddy at his home in Hyannisport. She's one of the few journalists I've seen who has managed to get him to reveal himself as a real human being instead of the caricature that we're usually presented with (Often by yours truly).

He went through his home with her, showing old photos of the family, telling stories about when he was a kid walking on the beach with his mother, and most interestingly to me, about the small artistic rivalry he had with his brother Jack. At one point he stopped in front of a painting Jack had done when he was young (not bad) and explained that Jack was the better painter of the two, but Ted explained that he always tried to keep up. He seemed choked up. It was a rare moment of vulnerability and he kind of won me over. I've been looking at him as, well, more human since then.

My wife later recounted her story at a family gathering that was full of, let's just say, not Kennedy fans. She felt honored to have been able to sit in a historic home and speak frankly with a true historical figure, and get paid for it. Instead of saying "Wow, what a great experience", there were lots of "I hate that guy" type comments. It got me thinking about how in politics, we easily dehumanize the other side so that it's easier to ignore their point of view.

This piece took a lot of twists and turns. I'm still not sure if I'm done or if it will take another turn, but here it is. I'm also showing a Ted Kennedy that I did about 10 years ago. It shows the evolution I've made in a number of ways. Not bettter, but different.
Ted K as the winner of Survivor.
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