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Edel Rodriguez
New York Times Book Review Cover
posted:
Several Sundays ago I did this cover for the N.Y. Times Book Review.  It's the first time I've done a cover for them.  The art director is Nicholas Bleckman, one of the best A.D.'s working right now and a great illustrator as well.  Nicholas used to be at the Op-Ed page, where I worked with him on several assignments throughout the years.  Getting a call from him is great.  However, I always feel I have to put on two thinking caps because Nicholas is such a smart illustrator himself. 

The cover was a review of a crime novel set in Havana in the 1950's, titled "Dancing to Almendra".  I illustrated an interior image as well.  In the sketches I juxtaposed the laid back island lifestyle that everyone associates with Cuba with some of the seediness that was present in the novel.  Cuba looks very happy on the surface, but there has always been a lot going on underneath it all that many people are not aware of.

One of the nice things about doing this cover is how many people wrote or called me to say that they liked it.  I even got several requests to purchase prints of the artwork.  It felt great to know people are checking out the paper and are being touched in some way by the visuals.  I've always felt like a bit of an outsider in New York, but that Sunday I felt like a real New Yorker at last!  It's prett funny the things illustrations can do.
From the book review:
"The late '50s in Cuba were so rich with glamour and conflict it's a wonder more stories haven't been set there.  Such a time, such a place, and all these elements in a long, slow collision:  the sordid glory of casino culture, the last crest of old-shcool Hollywood splendor, the vicious florescence of the Italian and Jewish mafias, the worldly style of the Cubans themselves and the gathering rumble of the Revolution, all playing out in a gorgeous city.  Is there more in the way of material than this?......"
INTERIOR ILLUSTRATION
COVER SKETCH 1: I also sent in this option in lighter colors, a gun inside a cigar box.
COVER SKETCH 2, A bleeding Royal palm tree, the symbol of Cuba.
MORE VARIATIONS ON THE DANCERS IMAGE
Several years ago, I put together a hand bound book of personal photographs, collages, and drawings relating to Cuba.  Some of the iconography from that book showed up in these sketches so I thought I'd post some of the pages from the book here.  The red paper cover is above and more spreads are below.
Title page of book
Self portraits and a photo of a rare "twin" Royal palm.
Portrait of my grandmother
Self portrait cutout of myself dancing in my hometown in Havana.
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