This portrait was commissioned to grace the cover of the first redesigned issue of The Saturday Evening Post ( Jan/ Feb 2013) and to accompany an interview with Shirley MacLaine. I am honoured and thrilled to be a part of this debut issue, and it's encouraging to hear that the magazine plans to continue with illustrated covers.
To get started on sketches I focused on key elements in the interview that resonated with me: Shirley’s positive attitude, her infinite curiosity of the many facets of life, and her sense of humour, especially her ability to laugh at herself.
I was aiming to depict a timeless representation of Ms. MacLaine, and to reference her recent appearance on Downton Abbey. While drawing the teacup, I had the idea of adding a twist to the teacup; a subtle reference to her remarks in her book “Out on a Limb” on past lives, alien communication, etc. My intent was to depict her laughing at this in jest.
additional note : I feel it's the eyes that most often reveal a likeness, therefore my idea of depicting Shirley with eyes closed goes against my own "portrait" conventions, but my instincts kept telling me this laughing expression best conveyed Ms. MacLaine's personality.
I told SEP that this sketch was my fav, and so I was delighted that they gave me approval to proceed.
As many of you may know Shirley lives in New Mexico. I have spent a fair amount of time in NM, and it seemed to me that many of the residents have some degree of fascination with alien theories. I spent more than one night listening to such personal accounts, that were erie, strange and definitely compelling.
One of the color comps. I liked the idea of a white background.
It was suggested that "the saucer" should be played back a little.
A fun part of my research for this assignment was watching her performance in the recent film “Bernie” with Jack Black, by director Richard Linklater. I loved the “Greek chorus” of real Texan town folk, I thought that was a brilliant addition to the film.
Working with Amanda Bixler and Brian Sanchez at Saturday Evening Post was a pleasure.
To read about creative director Andrzej Janerka's process on redesigning the cover, please click this society of pubication designers website link. http://www.spd.org/2013/01/the-new-look-of-the-saturday-e.php
Designer Brian Sanchez had sent a preview of the design, so I knew it would have several headlines on the cover and it was best to keep the image simple.
The colors shifted a little in the printed version.
My first illustration for the New York Times book review: “Dear Life” by Alice Munro.
Like most people, I first came to know Alice Munro from her compellation of short stories “Dance of the Happy Shades”, since then I have read 3 of her other books.
I found this assignment to be a challenging task. I felt it required a simple approach because the illustration would run small, a quarter page, but I also wanted it to reflect the tone of her writing and not just be executed as a classic portrait.
I decided to try to echo the bare, unsentimental, 1940’s hardscrabble era often reflected in Munro’s writing.
Munro confesses that the last suite of four stories in the book are more autobiographical in feel than anything she has written before. With that in mind, I decided to focus on one of her stories, “Amundsen”, where the story begins with a train station.
I referenced the train station from her hometown of Wingham, Ontario, which oddly also resembles the train station from my hometown of Montréal West.
this detail was painted with 0/3 paint brush.
Another possible direction, depicting Alice as she examines stories from her childhood in Wingham.
Thanks to Rex Bonomelli for the assignment and to being receptive to the idea of approaching this portrait in a non-classical manner.
One of the things I love about working for the New York Times is the broad visibility. On the day it was published I received requests for prints and the original painting was sold. As an illustrator my role is to illuminate the accompanying written material and so when the client lets me know they are pleased with the final results, it’s a very rewarding feeling. I find it especially gratifying to hear that my work has resonated with someone on a level that they want to hang it in their home.
Such requests help to quell my anxieties (for a time) about my work still being painted traditionally at a time when so many others are working digitally.