Society of Illustrators Advertising and Institutional Annual Exhibition
Here are a couple of images that were selected for the SI Advertising and Institutional exhibition. The poster above is part of a continuing series of posters I’ve been doing for the Starfish Project. Sometimes, we try to figure out what the difference is between “fine art” and “illustration”. I go back and forth between doing both, and have been able to figure out some distinct differences. This project is a good example of why I like illustration. The Starfish Project is an organization that collects unused “leftover” HIV medicine from patients in the United States, repackages them, and redistributes them to villages in Nigeria. This is their current website. They wanted to create posters to put up in clinics and hospitals throughout the U.S. asking doctors and patients to save these medicines. The images would also be used as mailers, advertisements in magazines, collateral and on the web, along with photographs and information about the clinics in Nigeria. The Starfish Project approached a design firm for help in promoting their cause, and the design firm contacted me. We’ve all donated our time and work to the project. I didn’t want to sign the posters, I thought it might be a visual distraction, but they made a point of asking me to sign them because they wanted to show that the images were done specifically for the Starfish Project and not something picked up from a stock site. It’s not often one hears that. One of the reasons I got into art, illustration, and design was for projects like this, hoping to use whatever talent I was given to try and help people in some way. I really enjoy doing my personal work, paintings, sculpture, etc., but these kinds of projects remind me that there are much bigger aspects to life than whatever abstract aesthetic interest I want to express at a particular time. Helping people communicate has an important value as well. The fact that the poster was recognized by the Society of Illustrators has made the folks running the project very happy. The SI recognition will help shed a little more spotlight on the great work that they do.
The other poster that got into the Society of Illustrators Advertising show is the Cyrano de Bergerac Broadway poster I did this past Fall, pictured below. The S.I. show opening is this Friday, 128 East 63 Street, 6-9 pm. Show runs from March 29th to April 26.
The Society of Newspaper Designers is having their convention in Las Vegas this summer and asked me to contribute an illustration for a poker card. A number of artists will be part of the entire set of cards which will be given to all the attendees of the convention with the artists name on the back, serves as a sort of promo card. I thought it was a good way to have designers interact with the work of illustrators. I'm looking forward to receiving the final set and seeing how it all comes together.
I got a call from the Boston Globe, they are starting to use illustration as part of a new Op-Ed page, I'm not sure what they were doing before. The first story they asked me to work on was on the shutting down of Dodgertown, a Spring training facility down in Vero Beach, Florida. The Brooklyn Dodgers trained there and the place ended up being an experiment in desegregation during the time of Jackie Robinson. If you're a baseball fan, check out the article here, I enjoyed reading it.
I sent the recent Obama portrait I did over to the NY Times and they picked it up for the paper. It would be great if every assignment worked this way! Thanks to Brian Rea and the editors for going with it. Articles online here.
There has been a lot of discussion about Barack Obama's speech on race today. I've seen some selected clips on the news, but I think listening to the whole speech is worthwhile. At the very least, it's good to have a politician respect Americans enough to speak to them in an intelligent manner on a difficult subject. Full text of speech here.
I was able to find a few of Saul Bass's title sequences, some which I had not seen before. I've always been a fan of Bass's work, these title sequences are great, check them out if you have some time:
"It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World"
"Anatomy of a Murder"
"Around the World in 80 Days"
"The 7 Year Itch"
Since I’ve been working on some paperback covers lately, I thought I’d look around the web and try to find some of the ones that made an impression on me growing up. There weren’t any books in my house when I was a kid. My parents grew up in farms and small towns back in Cuba. They both went up to 6th grade and started working on the cigar and sugar farms after that, so books weren’t part of their world. When we came over to the U.S., the first books I was introduced to were in school. The teacher would bring out a box of paperbacks for the class and start handing them out. Looking back, I think this was one of the first times I was introduced to American illustration, it was back in the mid-80’s, when I was in Junior High. One of my favorite paperback covers was for “Catcher in the Rye”, above. Now that I look at it again, I notice some of the things that show up in my own illustration work, kind of strange—the line, flat colors, etc. I did spend a lot of time looking at that cover in school. When I was a teen, I had very little in common with the main character, Holden Caulfield. I had no idea what he was talking about most of the time—New York, Central Park, etc., it was so different from the environment I was in. I enjoyed the book because it gave me a look into some other world I didn’t know anything about. I don’t have the name of the illustrator for the “Catcher in the Rye” book cover above. If anyone knows who the artist is, please let me know.
Another favorite paperback cover and book when I was a teen was “Night” by Elie Wiesel. Yes, while a lot of teens were into comic books I was reading books about detention camps. I was trying to figure out a lot of things about politics at the time. My family and I were held in a detention camp for some time when I was 8 years old and I think this book helped me understand and realize that others had been through so much worse. I had no idea who had illustrated this cover until I was in college at Pratt. One day, I was talking with my professor, Dave Passalaqua, and told him how much I had liked the cover for "Night" by Elie Wiesel. He looked at me and said, "Heck, I did that!". Life can be funny. Dave was a wonderful teacher , I miss having him around.
1984 is probably my favorite book. I read it many times because so much of it mirrored what life was like growing up in Cuba. The power of the state, neighbors spying, Big Brother, etc. I’m not sure who designed the type treatment for this. It’s simple, but I still remember it. Maybe because I had the book around all the time.
I spent a lot of time with “To Kill a Mockingbird” in class and such. Helped me learn more about all of the race issues in America. This cover was done by Wendell Minor. I had no idea who had illustrated it when I had it, I just kept looking at it and thinking I wanted to paint book covers when I grew up.
“Animal Farm” is another George Orwell book cover I remember. Don’t know who illustrated this one either.
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. Don’t know who illustrated this either.
This Picasso drawing was on a paperback cover of “Don Quixote” by Cervantes that I read in my Spanish literature class. I haven’t been able to find the actual book. I think this might have been the first time I noticed a work by Picasso. I had a lot of catching up to do.
This cover looks familiar, I just came across it while digging around on the web. My wife introduced me to the whole "Clockwork Orange" thing when I met her in college. I think I listened to the soundrack first, then saw the film, then read the book. I like this cover, simple and graphic.
And one more. I remember spending time looking through all of the detail in this "Lord of the Flies" paperback. Not sure about the artist either.
Recently, mi amigo Flaherty was needled by J.D. King here about using a map in an illo. Hey, it happens, J.D.! This is for a tiny 2" spot in today's NY Times letters section responding to the whole Spitzer mess. The idea was to show Spitzer moving on and how the mess he leaves behind will affect New York State. The letters are online here. Hey, maps, they happen!
I did this image for a food magazine called Gastronomica. The story is about the intersection of Jazz and food. The musicians pictured are Fats Waller, Louis Jordan, and Bulee "Slim" Gaillard. Some of the songs discussed in the article are Waller's You're Not the Only Oyster in the Stew, and Jordan's Saturday Night Fish Fry and Fish and Cornbread.
A video clip of Waller's Honeysuckle Rose is below. There are probably people out there that know a lot more about all of these songs. It was fun to research and find some songs I hadn't heard before. For a larger view, go to this link.
Last year I was commissioned by Random House to create a series of covers for the paperback reissues of books by the African author Chinua Achebe. The first book I've finished is Things Fall Apart.
A description from Amazon: "Things Fall Apart is a relentlessly unsentimental rendering of Nigerian tribal life before and after the coming of colonialism. First published in 1958, just two years before Nigeria declared independence from Great Britain, the book eschews the obvious temptation of depicting pre-colonial life as a kind of Eden. Instead, Achebe sketches a world in which violence, war, and suffering exist, but are balanced by a strong sense of tradition, ritual, and social coherence."
This is the final cover design. I submitted a few hand lettering treatments for the cover and was happy to see that one of them was used by the designers working on the project (Helen Yentus and John Gall). I enjoy hand lettering and try to introduce it into some of the projects I work on. Some of the hand lettering and rough sketches for the cover are below:
This is for a feature in Billboard magazine on the South by Southwest (SxSW) Music Festival in Austin, Texas. For a larger view, you can go here. Some of the very rough sketches are below. I did the final drawing as a black line on bristol, scanned that, changed the line color to red and added the rest of the colors digitally.
This is the final linework. One of the things I like about working digitally is that I can change things after finishing my drawing and add some collage elements from the things in my studio. I wanted the background to be more dynamic, so I erased the lines at the top and added an image I had of a mirror with a circular starburst shape. I converted that image to a black and white graphic, added it to the background and colored it to create the light behind the stage.
The image on the left, and coverted to a graphic on the right.