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New Pictures From the Old Year

JANUARY 19, 2012

I'm Not Me This was the opening painting for an article titled “The Insanity Virus” in Discover Magazine. The art director was Mike DiIoia. I spent a couple of days doing a previous version. It was much more dramatic, but in the end I didn't like it. So I told Mike if he'd scrap it, I'd do it over. He did, I did, and the second time it came out much better.


God Knows Where I Am A full page painting for The New Yorker about a woman who was released from a mental institution, but couldn't cope with the outside world and ultimately fell through the cracks. Chris Curry was the art director. I sent her six or seven pencil roughs and they picked this one. It was my favorite of the sketches and the painting came off without a hitch.


Lock and Key This was an ink and charcoal drawing for Aviva Michaelov at the New York Times. It was published with an Op-Ed article titled “Making Disability Work.” It’s always struck me that many of life’s problems are too big to be solved by anything as temporary as life. So sometimes the best we can do is drag our tiny answers into the vastness of the world’s questions.


Voilà This was a poster for the Odeon Theatre in Vienna. The production was to have a bird motif. I sent a dozen sketches to the theatre’s director Erwin Piplits. He picked this one, the most graphic of the bunch. Next, I refined it two ways. In one version the feather was healthy and straight; in the other it was distressed. The damaged feather suggested hardship and travail. That fit the production’s theme, so Erwin picked it and I started painting.


Duet This was another painting for The New Yorker, for an article called "Peace in Our Time." The subject was violence, or rather the longing for peace, those twins that seem to go everywhere together. 


Lucky Spurs This painting was one of several I’ve done recently for Arizona Highways, art directed by Barbara Denney. For the most part it was painted in several hours as a demonstration for Jim Burke’s class at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. I started painting early in the morning on a rickety table surrounded by Jim's students. I didn’t have a steer handy to pose, so I made this one up as I went along. The mesa wasn’t part of the original painting. I added it later when I decided the picture needed one.


Larry the Lawgiver Last year I wrote an article for the Journal of Biocommunication about the anti-copyright origins of the Orphan Works bill. We stopped Congress from passing that legislation twice, in 2006 and 2008. Yet each time we had to act so fast that there was never time to expose its roots. In “Trojan Horse: Orphan Works and the War on Authors” I did that. But it’s a long article and, squirreled away in a scholarly journal, I knew that few people would ever be likely to see it. So over the last few months I’ve cut it up into installments and done pictures to go with it. This one shows legal scholar Laurence Lessig, the chief evangelist of the anti-copyright gospel. I plan to publish the installments here on Drawger – with the pictures – sometime in the new year.


A Perfect Match This was one of four paintings I did for an issue of Northwestern Magazine. The art director was Christina Senese. At first I sent her several sketches, but she passed on all of them. Instead she asked me to do something with playing cards, something similar to  book cover I had done for Random House. With that as a spur this picture seemed to paint itself.


You Say You Want a Revolution An article about the power of non-violence for the University of Dayton Magazine. As I do with most clients, I submitted several sketches and this was their pick. Art director Frank Pauer said that in trying to "compliment the art" he "had some fun with the typography." I should say he did. The picture doesn't seem complete without the type now, so I'm including both pages here.


Choppers Another picture from my Orphan Works article. Most people don't realize how close Congress came to passing that bill. To stop it, we had to expose the false claim that it was just a minor tweak to copyright law. The truth is it would have orphaned any art you failed to register with a commercial registry. And these weren't hypothetical registries either. Several of the key players in drafting the bill had already left government and had taken high paying positions at companies that expected to benefit from the its swift passage.


Half a Loaf Because they expected to ram the bill through Congress without opposition, everybody said the Orphan Works Act was a done deal. The special interest groups that planned to get rich running registries were already licking their chops. Calling the bill just “half a loaf,” the anti-copyright lobby was already pushing for additional legislation that would let them gorge on the rest. Luckily they didn't get to celebrate the bill's passage that year, but with an appetite like this, we shouldn’t assume they won’t try again.


After the Flood This was an uncommissioned picture that just seemed to evolve over a period of months. Whenever I'd hit a snag with an assignment I'd paint on it for half an hour or so – just to give my mind a rest. Then one day I found it sitting in the corner looking finished. The ship looked familiar to me, then I realized why. It resembles a clumsy little boat I carved out of driftwood when I was in fourth grade and which I used to sail – float might be a better word – on the creek behind our house back in Ohio.


A Different Kind of Mind This was one of a series of posters I did for Chester College last year to promote the school's Creative Writing Department. Anthony Padilla art directed the project. Although I started with a half dozen sketches for each poster, the need to integrate so much text with the art tended to make the final ideas self-selecting. In the end, I submitted only one finished sketch for each design, but I got an OK within minutes and went to work immediately on the final art.


Home is Where You Live Another of the four paintings for Northwestern Magazine, about a homeless man living in a campsite along a river in Sacramento. When the county Parks Department tried to run him off he put his foot down. “Home is where you live,” he said and he refused to budge. 


Global Balance This drawing was for “Japan and the Ancient Art of Shrugging” published on the New York Times Op-Ed page. It was an article about the US and its relationship to the growing dominance of Asia. It was overnight assignment, although the idea was one I’d had around for a while.