Last month I was asked to contribute a portrait of Steve Heller for a small book that Seymour Chwast was putting together. It was going to be presented to Steve at the opening of his retrospective exhibition at SVA, part of the "Masters Series". I did this series of drawings and sent them off to Seymour.
Sometime last year I was at a show of paintings by David Choe with some of the Drawger folks. There was a video in the gallery which showed Choe punching himself in the nose, dripping blood onto a piece of paper and painting with the blood. Ah, art.
At the time, it got me thinking, what's the oddest, perhaps dumbest, thing I've done while making my work. I've done a lot of things, burning sculptures when they're finished to change their character, leaving paintings out all winter to see how they would weather, etc. But "Drawing with a Drill" stuck in my mind for some reason.
I was in college and working on about 60 masonite panel paintings. I was trying all sorts of things on them, cutting the wood, sanding it, etc. At one point I just started drilling holes in them. Then I looked at my drill and a piece of charcoal I had in my other hand, and the logical thing to do was of course to stick the charcoal in the drill.
I stuck the charcoal in, twisted the torque, and turned the sucker on. The charcoal jumped all over the place. I must have replaced four pieces of vine charcoal to do the drawing above. It made this quirky, jumpy line. I then proceeded to "Paint with a drill". Yes, a brush full of paint, going in circles, about 50 miles a minute. What a total disaster that was....still cleaning the paint off the ceiling.
You can't say I don't follow through on ideas.....
This was just straight on drilling. I did a few grids with holes in them. I forgot to mention that my painting professor at the time was fellow Drawger Jos. A. Smith.
Joe was the best teacher. He never told you you were crazy for doing something odd or that you had to paint traditionally like him. He would just look at my masonite paintings and start asking questions like "So, what size charcoal works best in a drill". Or "What brand drill did you use? Follow through on this, I want to see where you go with it". Joe Smith is the greatest!
Kids' books, politicians, and go-go girls, just another night in the city
Last week I attended an opening at the Society of Illustrators for The Original Art Show, an exhibit of original art from children's books. The show is juried by authors, editors, and illustrators in the kids' book field. My recent book, Oye Celia, was selected for the exhibit.
Each artist in the show gets to pick one image to represent their book. This is the spread from my book that's in the exhibit. The show runs through November 21.
I first went to The Original Art show back in 2002 when my first kid's book was selected. There are a lot of shows at SI, but I never see as big a turnout as I see for the Original Art show. The crowd is also very enthusiastic and excited about the work. Most of the people attending are book publishers, book editors, and art directors from all the different publishing houses. Steven Guarnaccia was there and we got to talking about the differences between editorial and kid's books. We got the sense that picture book editors have a real appreciation for illustrators. They truly rely on artists to make their books come together. As opposed to editorial or advertising, photography is not an option. This makes the illustrator a very valuable part of the entire team.
These are my literary agents over at Pippin Properties. Emily Van Beek, Holly McGhee, and Samantha Cosentino. They're GREEEAT! I've been with Pippin Properties since it's inception, they give wonderful feedback on the projects I'm working on. Oh, and Emily is a very good dancer. Hi Emily! One of Pippin's artists, Tae-Eun Yoo, received the founder's award at the show for her book The Little Red Fish
After the opening, my friend Raúl Colón invited me out for drinks with his Simon and Schuster crew. Raúl had three of his books selected for the exhibit. I think he illustrated five books last year, the guy is a machine! His New Yorker covers are also terrific. Thanks to the Simon and Schuster folks for having me.
THEN, Raul and I walked towards Grand Central Station, down Park Avenue, and bumped into David Dinkins in front of the Waldorf Astoria.....
THEN, we bumped into Elliott Spitzer, the governor of the state of New York. This guy needs better security, I think....
THEN, I went downtown to a party that the folks at the illustration site, altpick.com, were having. Free drinks, hot dogs, and go-go girls.
When I work on uncommissioned work, I usually just start drawing or painting without a preconceived idea. I start working and like to see where things go. I've started taking quick pictures as I work and I've enjoyed seeing how things change during the process, small things I hadn't noticed or that I forgot I had done as I was working. Some of the pictures from recent paintings I've been working on are above and below, along with a couple of stand alone images at the end. They range in size from 18" tall to 5 feet tall.
When the server crash thing happened I was uploading some of these pics of the opening at PEP Gallery last week. It was a great show, nice variety of work, reflective of what's being done out there. Jashar did a good job of putting it all together. Just wanted to show you guys some of the pics. Nice small gallery, fairly new to the area. The folks that run it were very enthusiastic about the artists in the show, drop by if you're in the area. It was also fun to see how my old Pratt neighborhood had changed, I hadn't been back in a while.
The close up images are of one of Chang Park's portrait paintings and Sam Weber's ink drawings. Both were terrific.
Tomorrow, Saturday, I'll be at this Green Day event that Felix Sockwell is putting together in Maplewood, NJ. I'll be there starting at 10 a.m. I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen, I'll be drawing or painting or whatever. The monies go to Green initiatives in Maplewood. So, bring your kid, your dog, or whatever, and I'll draw or paint something. Sockwell will be drawing too. If you want to witness creative chaos and lots of cursing when things go wrong, drop on by!
There's still time to sign up Drawgers! Drop Felix a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to participate, it'll be great to see you there.
***This is a one time event for a friend with a good idea. I don't do bah mitzvahs or kiddie parties.
Doing illustration work on a regular basis, one gets used to seeing their work in print. At first, I got excited about seeing even the smallest reproduction of my work. Over time, I got used to getting published and the idea began to seem normal.
Occasionally, there’s a job that makes me realize just how special this occupation is. In August, I worked with Gail Anderson of SpotCo on a great project for a new production of Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway. The main actor and producer is Kevin Kline. Also starring in the production are Jennifer Garner and Daniel Sunjata. There is more info on the production at Playbill.com and Broadway.com.
The neat thing about Broadway posters is that the actors and producers really get involved in picking the artist. Gail showed my portrait work to the producers and Kevin Kline really liked it and wanted me to be the artist to do the artwork for his poster. Pretty cool!
The process of creating a Broadway poster is complicated, there are a lot of sketches and ideas discussed. I’ll post some of that in the future. For now, I just wanted to show you guys how the final artwork is being used.
I was walking down 46th street wondering if the art was up yet at the theater. From 8th avenue, there was nothing to be seen. As I walked past the theater and looked up, I saw about a 20 foot image on the side of the building that faces Broadway. When I stood there and look at that, I realized why I love illustration. It made me feel the way I imagine a kid from a small town feels when they star in a Broadway show—an overwhelming sense of pride for my parents, the place I came from, and where I am today. Here I am, a little guy, from a dirty little town in Havana, up there on Broadway with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner. Crazy.
The finished artwork.
Up, up, up in the New York City sky!
The BIG poster on the side of the building.
If there is an illustration god, I will meet Jennifer Garner soon.
The poster also ran as a full page ad in The New York Times.
Performances of Cyrano de Bergerac begin on October 12th and continue for 10 weeks at the Richard Rodgers theater, 46 street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue, NYC. Walk by if you're in the area. I'll be the guy standing across the street staring up at the theater!
Many thanks to Kevin Kline, Drew Hodges, Gail Anderson, Darren, Jeff, and the rest of the staff at Spot Co. This was really a team effort, everyone at Spot had a lot of great ideas and helped me greatly with photo reference and costume ideas, and did a great job on the design of the entire campaign.