Edel Rodriguez
January 2008
Today's Op-Ed: Kabul, Afghanistan
I did this for today's NY Times Op-Ed, accompanying a story about how Kabul has become a dangerous place again after it appeared to have become stabilized.  The Taliban is back and attacking hotels and restaurants that cater to the international community.  The full Op-Ed story is online here.

The assignment was for a black and white piece, but I did it in color and converted it after scanning.  Sometimes I do this, I feel I can get more tonal values by working in color.  I also get more into the drawing when working in color.  They ended up running the color piece on the internet.
Brian Rea is the art director, always fun working for him.  I've been able to do a variety of work with him over the years.  Some of those other assignments are in an Op-Ed gallery  here.

I took some pictures while working, you can see those when you scroll down.  The story behind the creased paper is that back in the 90's when I traveled to places like Cuba, Europe or Northern Africa, I used to take large sheets of paper and fold them to fit in my bags.  I never knew how big I was going to work when I started drawing on site, so I would tear off pieces of that large paper on site.  Sometimes my drawings would spread and keep going over the creases in the paper.  I started to like that because it created spaces in the composition within the drawing.  They were drawings within the drawing.  Now I have a bunch of folded papers all over the place.  I like having a surface like that to start on so I don't have a precious surface to have to think about.  The rougher reportage type work I do evolved from all of those travels.
Anyways, here's how this one went:
Final art: Charcoal, Acrylic, Spray paint, and Ink on paper, 9" x 11"
Paula Scher

Here's a link to a video on Paula Scher.

I like what she says about going with your instincts and getting the idea on the first or second try, as well as the concept of illustrating with type.  I was nodding a lot while I listened to her.  I think it's good to bring some art director perspectives into Drawger, so when I come across something, I'll add it to the mix.  Scher is a partner at Pentagram and was part of the team that redesigned TIME magazine last year.  Her bio can be found at the Pentagram site here.

"Make it Bigger", a book of her work, can be found here.
A show of her map paintings is up until Saturday Jan 26 at Maya Stendhal Gallery in NYC.  Go to this link for info and click on "paintings" to view more of them.
Society of Illustrators Sequential Exhibition
All images are charcoal, pastel, acrylic, pencil, polymer paint and oil-based ink on paper
A series of of my drawings about the war in Iraq will be in the Sequential exhibit at The Society of Illustrators.  The opening is next Tuesday, January 29th, more info on the show below. 
I did the work for Foreign Policy magazine, it was a series of essays looking at the state of the war four years after it began, and discussing some of the people and entities that have come out ahead because of the war.  The art directors on the assignment were Travis Daub and Sarah Schumacher.  They gave me a lot of freedom to do whatever I wanted with the assignment.
A Show in Spain
"Con Estas Letras", Cardboard, ink, collage, foamcore, approx. 24" x 24" x 24"
I was asked to participate in a show on the island of Tenerife, in Spain.  The show's title is "Las fronteras morales: Nosotros y Ellos".  The idea was to have artists create art that reflects on the concept of borders and frontiers, and what divides the "Us" from the "Them".  I think about this subject quite a bit, so I enjoyed taking part.  The process of putting the final art together and some pictures from the recent opening are below:
What was unique about the show is that each artist was mailed a cardboard box in the mail.  We were asked to put the box together and place our artwork within this box.  When we were done, we were to ship the box back to Spain.
Visitors to the gallery would look at the artwork through a hole in the side of the box.  In the hole we were to place a peephole viewer which was included.  I put the box together and looked through.  It made it an interesting challenge to try to figure out the imagery that would go inside.
For the last 28 years, since I left Cuba, I have been corresponding with my family and friends through letters.  For a long time, no one sent them by mail, because they were opened and read by state security people in Cuba.  They were usually hand delivered by other friends that had visited the island.  Most of the letters were about longing to see each other, request for medicine, births, marriages, and deaths in the family.  For me, it was always very hard to read these letters.  The difference of my situation here vs. their situation over there was right there on a piece of paper. 
While thinking about what to do for this project, I quickly did the schematic diagram drawing at the top left.  I decided to do drawings of friends and family over their own letters and place the sheets within the box.  I glued some to foamcore supports so there would be some space between them.  For all of them to read at a similar size when looking through the peep hole, the sizes were varied.  The drawings in the front are much smaller than the ones in the back.
Once all the sheets were glued to the wall and the foamcore supports were set, I closed up the box, and off to Spain it went.
Here are some pictures from the opening.  All of the boxes were sent in by artists from around the globe, each with their own interpretation of the theme.  I didn't make it to the show, but was glad to get some pictures to get an idea of how it all came together.
Here and below are some scans of the ink drawings up close.  I did them without photo reference, just going by memories and impressions.  I also worked within and around some of the words that I found while drawing. 
"Babel" by Carlos Zamora
This is the piece that my friend Carlos Zamora sent in.  I have no idea how those dominoes traveled.   Since the show is somewhat portable, it might travel to other places.  A write-up (in Spanish) is here.
Thanks to Carlos and Rafael García for asking me to contribute.  Muchas gracias!
Stefan Sagmeister
Sagmeister short film here, check it out.  Great to see how his projects come together.  I'm really into the idea of process and this film shows some of that. 

Sagmeister show and book launch at Deitch Projects in Soho, January 31, link here.
January 31, 2008 — February 23, 2008
76 Grand Street, New York

"Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far, an interactive exhibition by Stefan Sagmeister, opens at Deitch Projects on January 31, 2008. The exhibition will include works that have a life of their own, transforming throughout the exhibition as viewers engage with them. Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far is timed to coincide with the release of a new book of the same title, which surveys Sagmeister’s illustrious career.
Stefan Sagmeister is one of today’s most innovative and influential graphic designers. His conception and application of graphic design goes above and beyond traditional notions of the practice, taking it to the realm of performative and conceptual art, painting and sculpture. Sagmeister is most widely known for his album cover artwork for bands like The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads and Lou Reed, and for books, like Mariko Mori’s Wave UFO for the Kunsthaus Bregenz, which function as sculptural objects."

Sagmeister website here.
'Salt-Water Moon' poster for Soulpepper Theater
'Salt-Water Moon', 15" x 15", Acrylic, oil-based ink and collage on bark paper
I was commissioned by Soulpepper Theater in Toronto to create the posters for their entire 2008 season, eight plays in total.  Creating posters for a whole season of plays has been one of my dream jobs.  I've always enjoyed the work of Toulouse-Lautrec and others that did posters for plays and musicals.  I was also the set designer for plays back in college, and have a great appreciation for everything that goes into putting together a production.
The first play of the season is "Salt-Water Moon" by David French.  It runs from January 5-31.  The final art is above and some of the process and the final poster are below:
Working on 8 plays at once is very complicated.  I tried to organize it by working in one sketchbook on all of the work instead of random sheets of paper.  I usually start the process by reading the manuscript and the synopses.  Then I start sketching thoughts as they pop into my head.  There is not much attention paid to composition, I am just trying to find imagery at this time.  Some of those thumbnails are above.  The creative director for the entire project is Anthony Swaneveld, his website is  Anthony was great throughout the whole process as we tossed ideas back and forth.  He has a very good eye for looking at very rough thumbnails and being able to talk about them without having more finished sketches.  I trusted him so much that I just started sending these little rough thumbnail sheets just to get his thoughts.  We decided that for this poster, the two images highlighted above seemed to work.
More sketches, based on the thumbnails.
Hey! So what's this play about?  Here's a short description from some of the material I have:
" A moonlit night in Coley's Point, Newfoundland in 1926.  Young Jacob Mercer returns from Toronto to woo his beloved Mary.  If this night goes the way he plans, Jacob Mercer will marry his Mary, and the resulting union will give birth to a playwright named David.  David French will write several beautiful plays about his family including 'Leaving Home' and this play, the most popular romantic comedy of the Canadian stage."
The next step in my process was to try several color options before working on the final.  I did these digitally so I could change colors quickly and compare them to one another.  I liked the dark blue background, gave it moodier look than the brown.  I also tried something with the lighthouse, but preferred the face.  The idea of portraiture, or faces, began to appear on the sketches for the other posters and I started carrying it through as a theme for the series.  I will post the rest of the posters when the plays open this year.
The next step for me was to do a more refined pencil and charcoal study before going to final art.  This just helps develop the sketch some more.  I ended up collaging the edges of a doily to create the lace trim of the dress.
This is the final poster which should be up around Toronto now.  All the posters will be printed like this.  Some might be printed as large as five feet tall to go on bus shelters.

I've got 50 of these posters that I will put up on my shop when I set that up. 

If you'd like a poster now, send me a request by e-mail:

$50 American Dollars, 18" x 28", offset heidelberg litho posters, signed, price includes shipping in a fancy tube.  The shop accepts checks!

Identity design and website launch for 'Celia the Queen' film
This is the finished art for the Celia Cruz film I've been working on.  The official website just launched, the art is used as a fun intro on the website.  Check out to see it in use.

The film's trailer on the site is very moving.  One of my favorite parts of the site is the "faces and places" section, where they feature people in the film.  My dad is right at the top, standing next to his truck.  Followed by David Byrne and Wyclef Jean.  That's so much fun to see!  I suggested my father as a good subject because he's always been a big fan of Celia's music.  The producers hung out with him for a day and interviewed him on the truck and so on.

The art will be used as posters for the film, on t-shirts, letterhead, collateral, etc.  It had to work as a very large image as well as a very small logo.

The film will come out in the middle of the year.  I heard something about film festivals.  Maybe Cannes.  If this poster gets me a ticket to Cannes, then I'll be a happy kid.  Did you hear that Mario? (the film's director).  A previous post with some of the sketches and process can be found here.  Some screen grabs from the site are below:
website by
Goodbye TIME
A small selection of covers I art directed. Clockwise from top left: Marshall Arisman on criminal cops in Latin America, Brad Holland paints Hugo Chavez, Douglas Fraser on Canadian leaders, Luba Lukova on piracy in the rain forests, Matt Mahurin on people being jailed overseas, and Scott Menchin on NIKE's downturn.

For the past 13 years, I’ve been a designer and art director at TIME magazine.  Friday was my last day on the job.   I made the decision to leave the magazine so I could spend more time with my family and devote more of my energy to the various art projects that I’ve been involved with for many years—editorial illustration, posters, writing children’s books, work for galleries, animation, etc.  Part of my home studio will continue to take on some design and art direction projects, but I hope to visually integrate those more with the rest of my work. 

I thought I’d write about working for TIME magazine because it might be of help to students that are trying to figure out what to do when leaving art school.  I went to Pratt Institute in the early 90’s and was part of the Fine Arts program there, my major was painting.  I quickly noted that the job prospects for a painter were not very good, so at the beginning of my Sophomore year, I got a job working at the college paper as a graphic designer.  The paper was just switching to working on Macintosh computers at the time and I had to quickly learn Quark, Photoshop, etc., mostly by reading manuals.  The deadlines at the paper were very intense, usually went late into the night, but I Iearned so much about editorial design from my friends on the staff.  I always had an interest in design going back to high school, and read a lot on the subject as well.

I continued with my painting, sculpture, and photography interests at Pratt, and tried out a few internships, one at MTV and another at a Penguin Books.  During my senior year of college, I applied for and got an internship with Spy Magazine’s art department.  I had a great time interning at Spy,  and decided that working at a magazine was the kind of day job I wanted to have when I got out of college.  After graduating, I worked at Spy for a few months, and looked for jobs in other magazines, all the while showing my illustration portfolio to whomever would look at it.  I was able to get a meeting for a design job with Steve Conley, an art director at TIME magazine.  He looked at my design portfolio, and gave me an entry level job at TIME.

Within a few months, I was working with some of the top illustrators in the business (many of them here at Drawger now), and I was very happy.  I got a great education as an illustrator just by working at TIME.  I was able to see how all these illustrators solved problems through their sketches, how they presented and promoted their work, how they did their billing, etc—things one could never learn at school.  I continued to show my own illustration work around NYC and began to get some regular work from a variety of newspapers and magazines.  I was also slowly working towards an MFA in painting from Hunter college, more on that another day.

In 1997, I was promoted to art director for the Latin American and Canadian editions of TIME, based in NYC.  This was a great opportunity given to me by Arthur Hochstein, the main art director at TIME.  I was only 26 at the time, but I was itching to work on covers and bigger projects, and Arthur trusted me to get the job done.  I was at the position from 1997 until 2006, when I joined the U.S. magazine again.   I worked with three editors during my time as AD of the foreign editions—George Russell, Michael Elliott, and Adi Ignatius.  They were all fans of illustration and gave me a lot of room to do some very cool things on the covers.   During those years, I art directed hundreds of covers for the magazine.  My style of art directing was to try and choose the best person for the job and let them roll with it.  I usually didn't describe what I wanted ahead of time.  I always wanted to see what artists would come up with in their sketches.  I would make suggestions when I thought something would help make the work stand out or when I wanted the art and typography to communicate more cohesively.  The best part of the job was working with terrific artists and giving work to artists that were just starting out.  I took a page from Steve Heller’s book, and decided to meet with any artist that would call me or dropped by the office.  It was always great to meet new people and see some fresh work.  In the future, I’ll post more of the illustrated covers that I worked on and write about the artist’s work, why I hired them, etc.

I wanted to thank all the illustrators that worked with me throughout the years.  Besides the covers, I must have assigned over a thousand spots, half pages, spreads, etc.  Working for a weekly can be very intense, but everyone always came through for me.  I really appreciate that. My one regret is not having been able to work with so many illustrators whose work I really admire.  I will likely take on some small design projects through my studio, so we may meet down the road again.  Some of my upcoming projects include writing and illustrating a second children’s book for Little Brown(due in April), finishing a number of editorial illustration projects, and designing a website that organizes all of my endeavors into something that makes sense.

So, that’s it, I’m a freelancer!  I will now grow a beard, work in my pajamas, and watch bad daytime television.  And I will walk my daughter to school. 
An Ad for MTV
Clockwise from right: Jennifer Lopez, Juanes, Ricky Martin, Paulina Rubio, Alejandro Fernandez, Daddy Yankee, Enrique Iglesias. Final art is pastel, oil based ink, and acrylic on paper.
This is an assignment I finished recently for MTV.  It's an advertisement for MTV Tr3s, their music channel aimed at the Hispanic market in the U.S. and Latin America.  The full page ad will go in music magazines with some text and their logo at the bottom.
The whole process went very smoothly.  I received a list of the singers they wanted in the ad and was free to compose the image however I chose.  I sent in a sketch, it was approved, and I did the final.  I sent it in, and that was it.  It's rare for things to go so smoothly on advertising assignments.
I like the variety of assignments I get to work on.  One day I'm dealing serious editorial issues, and the next it's sexy Latin singers.  It keeps the work interesting. 
These videos usually involve a lot of cleavage, exposed tummies, hip shaking and the like.  After the fact, I noticed that Shakira, from Colombia, wasn't in the group of faces I illustrated.  If you want to get a feel of the music, you can check out one of her videos, some of the best Latin hip shaking in the music business. I have no idea how she does some of this:
It's Oprah Time!
Published in The New York Times, September 2007
I say if Hillary cries, then O-bama needs to bring in O-prah.  It's only fair.  On to South Carolina!  Or is it Michigan?  Nevada?
This is the art I submitted to the Iraq War show at the Society of Illustrators.  For a better view please go to this link.

The show is titled "Artists Against the War".  I think that almost five years into the thing it might be a bit late, no?  I wouldn't be surprised if The Gap came out with a line of anti-war t-shirts.  I don't think there has been much discussion about what art can realistically do to change the direction of a war.  Maybe we can do that here.

For me, the question is, what do we do now?  What does being "against" the war mean.   Does it mean leaving the country and letting all these ethnic groups fight it out?  That seems kind of inhumane to me.  My hope is that the innocent people of Iraq are protected by someone.

For an on the mark piece of art and an excellent synopsis of how we got into this mess, please visit  Dr. Flaherty's blog
Recommended shows, etc.
A drawing from the Seurat show at MoMA
If I have one new year's resolution it is to get out and see more of the great shows that are always happening in NYC.  This past year went by and I spent much of it working and missed many exhibits that I wanted to see.  MoMA has three notable shows and I'll be going this weekend.  Here are some links, check them out:

Seurat Drawings at MoMA. show closes on Monday, Jan 7th.

Martin Puryear at MoMA
He has been one of my favorite sculptors for a long time. 
Show closes Jan. 14.

Lucien Freud Etchings at MoMA.  Show runs until March 10. 

William Steig at The Jewish Museum.
  Oooh, this looks good.  Through March 16.

Kara Walker at the Whitney Museum.

Saul Steinberg sculptures at Pace Gallery.  I was not aware of Steinberg's wood sculptures and constructions.  Through Feb. 9.

Chuck Close documentary at Film Forum.  Through Jan. 8.

Persepolis, a film by Marjane Satrapi

One more. I can tell I've been a little too busy when I did not know that one of my favorite bands, Interpol, had a new album that came out, IN JULY! Anyways, my sweet wife got it for me for Christmas and I've listened to it about 30 times. If you're in the mood for some depressing yet upbeat music (Interpol's trademark), get the new album "Our Love to Admire". But you probably have it, because it came out IN JULY! Here's the song "No I in Threesome" from the album. I think it's a love song?
Notable Op-Ed Art of the Year
For an article about how the signing of amnesty orders could bring the country together in Afghanistan.
Here's a link to 17 pieces of Op-Ed art that were chosen by The New York Times as being notable for 2007. 
I have no idea who picks these (I think it might be Brian Rea just going "I dig this"), but it's nice to be in the company of all of these artists.  Links to the articles are also there for perusing.  Check it out, nice show.
Ray Barretto for The New Yorker
Final image is 9" x 12", Acrylic and oil based ink on bark paper.
First, I want to thank everyone on Drawger for all the terrific posts you contributed in 2007.  It takes time and effort to be part of the site and I really love reading and looking at all the material here.  This has really become a great place to visit often, meet new friends, and laugh when a laugh is needed.  Anyways, thanks for everything!  And much luck in the New Year.

I thought I'd put up this drawing that's in The New Yorker this week.  It's of the Latin drummer Ray Barretto.  Some sketches are below and a video of one of his performances from the 70's to give you an idea of his sound.  When I get jobs to do portraits of musicians I usually try to find some video footage of them in their element to get a feel of how they move and what their energy is like.  Barretto had a lot of energy.
Drawing never gets easy.  When I get these assignments I usually think about the subject for a while (procrastination).  Over time, I've figured out that the best thing to do is just start throwing lines around and see if the lines go anywhere.  Some sketches don't work, but at some point something starts happening on the piece of paper and I start feeling like I've got something.  I usually send all the sketches to the editor I'm working with and see what they think.
There were some pictures of him with groovy 70's attire and I worked with some of that.
We decided to go with sketch #2.  Before going to final art, I usually do a pencil study where I develop the rough sketch further.  In the study, I usually work about two or three times the size of the original rough sketch.  This is the final study for this portrait.
Here's a video from the '70s of Ray Barretto performing:
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