Steve Wacksman
Itching And Scratching
Sexy Teenage Vampires Take America By Storm
I'm both amused and flummoxed by the wave of teen vampires in pop culture lately. One has to imagine that they've infiltrated tthe zeitgeist for a reason, although I'll be damned if I can figure it out. Hey, that's kind of punny, huh? Damned if I can...

I'm not all that taken with the notion of the vampire as a whole. The Dracula mythos as it relates to Vlad the Impaler is a touch spooky and Nosferatu is downright terrifying, but the rest of it generally leaves me cold ( is that another undead pun? Am I kidding?) The seductive vampire that Lugosi begat and is seeing a resurgence in books/films like Twilight and True Blood strike me as sort of comic and inauthentic.

One film I saw recently that dealt with vampirism intelligently was 'Let The Right One In'. While not overtly horrific, it manages to get under your skin with implied violence and a sense of claustrophobic sadness set against the backdrop of a suburban Swedish winter. Highly recommended but don't blame me if you don't like it. There will be no refunds.

The above are the stars of Twilight, a film I haven't seen and will in all likelihood will never ever see. They are Robert Patinson and Kristen Stewart.

Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"
I read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" several years ago and it left an indelible impression on me. It is the story of a man and his young son following the road south in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear attack. They are ill prepared to face the ravages of hunger and nuclear winter. Men have turned to violence and cannibalism out of necessity and in order to survive. Paranoia, fear, loneliness, illness and hunger cast a long and dark shadow every move the man and the boy ( both remain unnamed throughout the novel) make. The distant sounds of humanity send them into a scurrying panic to get out of sight and hide the shopping cart in which everything they own is contained.
Immediately after finishing the novel I began sketching, trying to capture what my mind's eye saw in McCarthy's artful descriptions of the bitter landscape. I imagined trees burnt to sticks; a watery sunlight casting no shadow upon the cold,frozen and stony ground. Bones and carrion were common sights along the cold grey expanse of empty roadway.
The original composition.
My first attempt was unsuccessful on a couple of points- the road itself was too narrow; it favored a country road more than a two-lane highway. Furthermore there was no evidence of humanity in the landscape; as such it became little more than a winter scene. Other projects came along and forced me to abandon this pursuit, but it stuck with me and as time allowed I revisited it. The addition of the guardrail along the roadside and the widening of the road made for a satisfactory composition and I finished it one evening in between projects.
Quick pencil sketch.
Neo-Cubism and An Incident At The Secret Illustrator's Ball
I got into a groove a while back that was a sorta 'neo-Cubist' thing. It wasn't really premeditated and it's a fairly obvious riff on the work of Picasso, the ever-rich minefield of Jim Flora, and Gene Deitch's work of the middle 1940's. Some of it was kinda sinister. That's not altogether rare for me - I grew up on a fairly rich diet of sinister imagery and it's deeply-rooted. Blame Edward Gorey, for whose works my Mother had a curious fondness. "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" followed hot on the heels of Dr Suess in my childhood library.

I recently saw Mr Steven Guarnaccia at an illustrator's shindig and we got to talking. Catching up, really- I hadn't seen him in years. Unfortunately, I was drunk. Not filthy drunk, but at the point where drunkenness had rather rudely and abruptly elbowed sobriety out of the driver's seat and was starting to swerve erratically. He asked me what I'd been up to and I proudly boasted that I was raising my son and doing some 'really interesting work'. Sober me would have never said that, as the work I was doing at the time was pretty far south of interesting and was in fact boring the pants right off of me. But I started in on these 'neo-cubist' scribblings I'd been filling my sketchbooks with to keep me amused. He looked intrigued and asked how I'd come about them.
At this point the margaritas had a rather firm hold on me and I started blathering on about Ben Shahn and David Stone Martin ( neither of which were technically relevant anyhow). David Foster Wallace had recently died and I guess was on my mind and I inadvertently substituted his name for David Stone Martin's. Guarnaccia, ever the gentleman countered with something along the lines of "I'd be interested to see how DAVID STONE MARTIN's work translates to cubism". The slender sliver of sobriety I retained recoiled in horror. My face turned beet red and I dashed from the ballroom in shame. As I passed the buffet my heel broke and I careened recklessly into the table, spilling confectionery and candleabras everywhere. I upset the crystal punchbowl which loudly shattered into a million glistening pieces. The band stopped playing, startled by the din. I looked down at my feet as a cold wave of shame immobilized me. It was then I realized that the bottom half of my taffeta ballgown had ripped away in the melee and I was wearing nothing but my control-top undergarments.

Man, I loved that dress.
Let's Laff! With Lincoln.
Do you remember 'Wheel Of Fortune' host Pat Sajack's short-lived talk show? I vividly recall one of Pat's opening monologues in which he quipped (and I paraphrase):Valentine's Day and Lincoln's Birthday are just a few days apart. This year I opted to celebrate them as one holiday and I freed my love slaves.

More Tales Of Tigers. Get it? Tales? Of Tigers!
The final gatefold cover artwork, a bit cropped.
I'm not one to make a promise I don't intend to keep. I often make promises I don't keep, but my intentions are always good and that's what makes me a sweet, shining golden star.
I promised you more tigers were on the way and you, faithful reader, believed in me. As long as you slavishly stick with me and hang on my every word and never ever question or doubt me you have my solemn word that I will never abuse that trust.

If you'll glance back at your notes you'll recall our discussion of my past album covers for multi-platinum recording artists Sour Jazz here. Unlike most aging family men, these stalwarts have not faltered in their devotion to Rock'N'Roll (despite scientific researchers claims that the artform breathed it's final shallow breath in October of 1982) and are prepared to loosen another lava-hot slab of greasy meat-rock upon us. Lord have mercy! This one is entitled "American Seizure", a cheeky nod to Iggy Pop's 1993 album "American Caesar"
Being connoisseurs of the visual arts (and - full disclosure - friends with a limited art budget) they contacted me to provide the visuals. And being a man of good cheer and level humors, I naturally obliged. There was, however, a caveat provided this time around- past covers have referenced 'jazz era' and Blue Note design conventions. This was thought, in hindsight, to be somewhat alienating to the Rock fan that would ostensibly make up Sour Jazz's audience. Rick at Acetate records had an idea: let's do a more traditional 'rock' image.
Ah cutcha!
I got to it right away, fueled by bourbon and microwave popcorn. I worked late into the night breaking only for the 6PM airing of "Wheel Of Fortune" ( Hi Vanna if you're reading this!!!) and to pay nightly homage to Khonsu, the cannibalistic Lunar God. Here's a look at some of the scratchy quasi-Cubist output from those sessions
A southpaw! Man, the puns are really flowing today!
It was only a matter of time before the tigers crept in. As I mentioned before, they've been quite insistent of late. The minute this one appeared before me I knew he would be hard to subdue. After reversing, revising, revisiting, and picking away at him we finally reached the promised land. Here is the final artwork for the outside cover, a paper gatefold in the grand tradition of the 12" LP's that you used to use to roll joints on when you sat in your parents wood-paneled basement "rumpus room" ruminating on the awesome depth of "Brain Salad Surgery".
100% On Topic
As an illustrator who's not commonly called on for portraiture or weighty topics, i rarely have pieces to share when other Drawgers are showcasing their 'bear market' / economic catastrophe pieces or reverent portraits of President Obama. My time is more often used churning out eye candy to accompany hard-hitting exposes like "Butt Exercises You Can Do Lying On Your Back" and "How To Save Money On Your Family's Grocery Bill".
This time I'm locked and loaded. This portrait of 44 was comissioned by the Brennan Center For Justice, a nonpartisan think tank at NYU. While it might lack the subtlety and detail of some of the other portraits hanging here in the Drawger galeries, it has the unique distinction of being a 'web-use only' work that will be seen no larger than 300 pixels wide. So..y'know. It's small.
The inauguration is on the TV in the other room; Arethra's belting it out. What a crowd. As much as I generally dislike pomp and circumstance, this one gets a pass. This is huge.
Boston Globe Op-Ed
Facing the future with grim determination.
The other day I was up to my elbows in picture-drawing activities when the estimable Greg Klee phoned in a request. Could I do a piece for the Globe's Op-Ed section? Erm...I really shouldn't thinks me. I'm already on a deadline, the baby's sleeping and Mrs Wacksman had a job interview which would leave the baby in my care. I had 3 hours in which to complete the piece, but Wacksman the younger is unlikely to nap for more than two hours. I was really pushing my luck, but (like firefighting, soldiering,policing and podiatry) this is a profession for heroes with a can-do attitude.
I took it on. I set my egg timer, gobbled down a Pixie Stick and a multivitamin and set about the task. As Mr Klee and I have a longstanding working relationship he allowed me to bypass the sketch phase. We discussed some ideas and agreed on this one. I got the sketch done in record time and went to finalize it. I was a well-oiled machine and coming around the bend when young Dashiell awoke with a roar. I steeled my nerves and carried on, putting the finishing touches on this one while the youngster crawled around my studio sticking his fingers in electrical outlets and ingesting al manner of inedibles. I beat the clock by seconds and collapsed to the floor in a pale, sweaty heap.
This one is about how America's twenty-somethings believe they are guaranteed a future. The author opines that they'd better roll up their sleeves and take their futures in their own hands.
Wheteh or not this piece actually ran I don't know- my mother in law gets the Globe but only does the crossword.
Now We're Talkin' Tigers.
One of many tigers that's made it's way through my studio as of late.
Those of you who keep a sketchbook know that certain elements and themes can take root in your consciousness and stubbornly refuse to let go. Oftentimes they'll fight their way onto the page regardless of their appropriateness. I have books with pages and pages of gemstones, dozens of images built around birds and playing card suits. Once I thoughtlessly doodled a spiky ball that resembled an oceanic mine in a sketchbook; it returned as a motif in almost every drawing I did for months on end. Cyclops, paramecium, bomb pops, guitars, dachshunds...they've all taken up residence at one point or another.

Lately I've been plagued by tigers. Not literally, mind you or I'd have lent that sentence a decidedly more exclamatory tone. Just been drawing them. When I was contacted by the almighty Greg Klee, longtime client and man of unparalleled vision, to illustrate an article for the Boston Globe regarding military protection of endangered species I seized the opportunity.

Tigers, I thought, they're endangered!  I'll give 'em tigers.

And tigers they got. For this one I made use of my beloved ballpoint pens and returned to ink and brush, albeit in a much looser and more rapid fashion than I've employed in the past. Coloring was done, as usual, in Ye Olde Photoshoppe.

I'll post yet another tiger tale in the very near that's sure to top even this one for suspense and edge=of-your seat action.
A look at the sketch, as per Mr Webster's request.
Manny Acta and the Long Road to Washington
Manny Acta, Nationals manager and traveling man.
The Washington Times contacted me last week looking for a portrait of Nationals manager Manny Acta. The article focused on Mr Acta's many professional stops along the way and the AD hoped that my portrait could somehow reflect that .
On The Inevitable Extinction Of The Human Race or What, Me Worry?
Last week I was contacted by the great Greg Klee, he of the Boston Globe and a client with which I've been fortunate to have a long and fruitful relationship. And though I've never met the man in the flesh, I imagine him to be a dashing gentleman who dresses to the nines, has impeccable manners and can crush walnuts with his bare hands. In short, a man for the ages.

He briefed me like so ( and I paraphrase, but just barely):

" Some scientist or another claims that if we found fossils on Mars it'd  mean that intelligent life is more common throughout the universe that we think and since we're a neighboring planet it would mean that we're next in line for extinction"

Or something like that. The details, as presented. were fuzzy.
Never deterred by lack of understanding, Greg and I carved out a two part solution:

A) Mars Rover discovering fossils on Mars
B) Alien Probe discovering fossilized human remains on a barren Earth.
I've always enjoyed drawing machinery (excepting bicycles which, like cattle, are hard to draw). In this particular instance I turned in a finish with which I was pleased, only to have an editor feel that it needed revisiting. Such are the pitfalls of collaborative efforts.

Having not read the scientist's argument, i might have misunderstood, but I assumed that human extinction would not have been brought about by our own hand. I drew an intact city in the background, implying that humankind perished due to plague. I like to think Monkeypox, but only because I think it's a funny name for a disease.
The editor, on the other hand, imagined it would be due to warfare and requested that I demolish the city. He furthermore opined that the alien rover looked too familiar and asked that I strip it of its treads and make it a hovercraft.

Armed with the knowledge of our imminent demise, I threw caution to the wind and polished off an entire case of Genesee Cream Ale this weekend.
Piggybacking To Vancouver
This gentleman received a hefty settlement after a melee with a security guard left him bruised and toothless
A short while ago I was contacted (via Illoz- vive le Illoz!)  by a Mr Randall Watson on behalf of Vancouver Magazine. He had a handful of spots to accompany an article spotlighting the Worst of Vancouver in the year of 2007.

Being a fairly crabby man who finds great solace in complaining I felt confident that Mr Watson had reached out to the right man for the job. It was great fun and Randall was a joy to work with; he let me do what I do and made a few suggestions all of which were helpful. A rare job in which I felt neither shorted for time or money- both were ample.

I've found a friend in our neighbors to the North. In fact, most of my best gigs in recent years have swept down on the icy arctic Canadian breeze. Thank you, gentle friends. Labatt's and back bacon for the house! I'm buying!
A patient whisked off to the ER found to bleed green blood. Evidently this is common amongst Vulcans.
A young woman was apprehended in a supermarket after complaints that she was stabbing the produce and menacing the customers with large knives.
Within a month police discovered two left feet floating in the river.
Plans to populate Stanley Park with life-size mechanical dinosaurs provoke outrage
A family calls police to surrender a human skull found in their linen closet. Apparently it had been in the family for years although no one knew to whom it belonged.
Exhibitor Spread
The final art, although considerably smaller than actual size.
Recently the fine folks at Exhibitor Magazine displayed their good breeding and exceptional taste by hiring us to produce a double page spread for their fine publication. Well played, Exhibitor. Well played.

The brief that was sent to us via electronic mail revealed that the piece would be a hard-hitting expose of the often questionable tactics used to draw attention to oneself in the competitive arena of the trade show. An example cited in the brief had one desperate outfit dressing midgets ( their words, not mine. Little people need not bombard our PR staff with angry missives) as Mexicans and filling their sombreros with chips and salsa. The project proved impossible to resist.
Also included in the spread were naked cowboys, urinating statues, man dressed as prophylactics, scantily-clad pizza slinging tarts... a regular comic smorgasbord.
As is becoming more and more common here in the hallowed halls of Drawger, I'm including a look at the 'process' as it were. Here's a snippet of the sketch. All characters were scanned and saved as separate layers then scaled and moved about as need be. The intention was to have each character be an individual color to differentiate one from the other.
It was decided the sexual aids were a bit risque for the publication's genteel readership.
I labored like a one-legged tapdancer trying to get the colors satisfactory. It was an uphill climb but I finally nailed it. I sent a progress report to the client who countered that she preferred a more limited palette.

That night in the wee hours I sprung from my bed inspired. I summoned my manservant to prepare a mug of hot cocoa with a dash of whiskey. And I rummaged through the stacks until I uncovered my inspiration- Roger Duvoisin's "Petunia". A symphony composed solely in 3 colors. I pointed and clicked well into the night and by sunup had finally achieved a satisfying solution.
When Books Are Outlawed..
..only outlaws will read books.

Many of the books that have been banned from schools and libraries in the past are now considered literary classics and in some institutions are 'required reading'.

It may surprise you to know that such beloved classics as Lolita, Ulysses, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 and The Lorax have been banned in these United States at one point in history.

A closer look at Ol' Scratch, bibliophile and reigning prince of darkness.
A Little Hocus-Pocus From A Non-Believer
Several years ago my career as an illustrator was flourishing in a manner I never could have foreseen. Despite the fact that my abilities were meager and my attitude was unfailingly bad, my work was sought after by a multitude of clients.
Recently I was looking over some of my past output that I'd archived and largely forgotten about. One of the works that simultaneously intrigued me and brought upon stinging waves of shame was a series of tarot cards I'd done for Comedy Central. I'm afraid I can't recall the reason I was called upon to produce them, but the drawings themselves were such clumsy lefthanded scrawlings I was shocked that they were ever deemed acceptable by the client.
In any event, I was inspired to revisit them. Here are the results. I am too ashamed to show the originals, although I recognize the appeal of comparing before and after. Sorry.
OK, fine. I'm showing the originals, but under duress. I agree, it makes for a more interesting post. Have at 'em.
The Dreams Keep Me Awake
A recent triptych entitled "Scared, Scarred, Sacred".
People often ask me about my 'personal work'- do I paint or do any 'fine art' work? I bristle at the notion that what I do professionally is perceived as anything less than 'personal work', No matter what the content, it always reflects my sensibilities and mine alone, and is the distillation of all my numerous influences. I have always been an illustrator, even well before I was paid to be. With very few exceptions my influences have their roots in some facet of commercial art.

That said, I do have books and books of sketches that were done for no particular purpose other than my own amusement. Looking over them recently I saw a scrawling in the margin of one page of a cartoonish weeping heart. For whatever reason it stuck with me and invaded several of my recent sketches as well.

I've had this title and a vague idea attached to it kicking around for a while. I finally grabbed a few hours to put it together.
Some Pictures I Recently Drew
All that's in MY locker is a "Magic Tree" air freshener ( original pine scent, please- I'm a purist)
I've been tied to the scribbling post quite a bit recently. Here's a look at some of my output.
I don't believe I've ever used the word 'ritzy' in my life.
This young man has a knack for trying his teachers patience.
This gentleman donated some money to his alma mater.
A Dramatic Re-enactment Of A Recent Commission
Them: Wanna do a supercool gig?

Me: Yeah, I surely do.

Them: Seriously, get this: It's a drawing of a soldier on a hallucinogenic trip while wearing virtual reality glasses. Are you feelin' it?

Me: Well, I don't usually talk like that, but yeah- I guess I AM "feelin' it". Yeah...yeah, I am!

Them: OK, here's the thing: we need it quick and fast and we have such a paltry budget that you'd be better off giving it to us for free and declaring it a charitable donation on your 07 income taxes, ai-ight, Dawg?

Me: Great!

Amendment: Actually, none of the above conversation took place. Although the 'no time, no money'  portion of the dialogue is technically accurate.
In fact I was contacted via e-mail by an extremely gracious woman to whom it was nearly impossible to say no. She basically assured me artistic freedom, which was all I needed to hear.

Epilogue: It appears the editor has decided to 'go in a different direction'.
There's A New Gun In Town.
Once again, Hollywood "rediscovers' the Western.
Heya! Huh? Yeah, it's been a while. I been busier than a one-eyed cat watchin' five rat-holes lately. Sure, I been cuttin' the hay as always ( like this here picture above what I done fer the Boston Globe). But to ice the cake, the missus and I went and had us a young'un. Dashiell, we're callin' him, and he's a cute as a mongoose though he don't seem too keen on sleepin' much. Reckon he'll figger it out in time.

OK, the hayseed gag's run it's course. The above illo was done for the mighty Greg Klee of the Boston Globe. Self, wife and offspring are doing fine, thanks.
If Icon, I Will
Say what you will, Canadian government: an apple will NEVER satisfy the way a personal size 'meat lover's' pizza will. NEVER.
Thought I'd take a break from the home renovation postings and focus on something a little more relevant to the Drawger realm. This being an illustration blog and all. Thanks for asking, though- the renovation work is going swimmingly. Almost ready to enter 'phase 3': the exterior.

Anyhow, what I was getting at is this: I AM an illustrator (according to my tax returns) and as such I'm occasionally called upon to produce icons. Actually, I'd go so far as to say 'frequently'. Sure, magazine covers and national ad campaigns and toy designs and the like are swell and have their supporters and acolytes, but who'll stick up for the modest icon?

I happen to love doing these things. These were done for our neighbors to the North; evidently the Canadian government  seems to think that refined sugars and preservatives aren't healthy alternatives to fresh fruits and vegetables. As an American raised on Tang and Pixie Stix, I find this an alarming bit of juju science, but Canadian dollars are as green as anybodies and who am I to get in the way of their dietary experimentation?

Actually, they paid me by check- are Canadian dollars green? I know they have beavers on their nickels.
Trans-fats make for good ideas!
I've never claimed to be a financial wizard. I can add and subtract, multiply single digit numbers, and calculate a 20% tip. That's gotten me this far.
Recently I got a gig from a financial mag. The AD gave me a pithy account of the article's content and suggested an image that she'd like to see sketched out. She also requested that I sketch out 3 or 4 ideas of my own.
I read the article and, for what I believe is the first time in my professional life, could make ABSOLUTELY no sense of the content. I  thought  about the AD' s suggestion for an image and couldn't  for the life of me understand excatly how it fit in with the article. A thin layer of perspiration settled on my brow. My knees went weak and rubbery. I ate an entire bag of Doritos.
Then I started highlighting key phrases. One of them was 'recapture' - I used that as my springboard and came up with several images of 'assets' being 'recaptured'.

This is the one that was chosen. I owe it all to the Doritos.
I love dogs of all sorts. But I try to be realistic about them. American Pit Bull Terriers, APBTs or simply pitbulls are a good example.

Purebred dogs all exist for a reason. Rottweilers were butcher's dogs used to pull carts, and drive cattle. Dauschhunds were used to hunt burrowing animals, especially badgers. Newfoundlands to retreive fishermen's nets from deep and cold water.

Pitbulls? To fight.

This doesn't make the 'bad dogs' to me. Terriers have a heightened prey drive; we bred them to so they'd be good ratters. Pitbulls were selectively bred for a hightened prey drive coupled with intense tenacity and strength. HUMANS made them that way. When they fight, they're doing what they were designed to do.

I don't condone dogfighting- I think bloodsports of any type are barbaric and inhumane. But in the recent past every country in the world had their own versions. Pitbulls are a remainder of this culture in America.
Assault By Mail
Hound doggies and corn-squeezins!
Throughout my 'career', postcards have been the most effective means of advertising. I've tried websites and sourcebooks, skywriting and cold-calling. I hired a gentleman outside my local methadone clinic to wear a sandwich board and hand out free kittens. Still, I've found nothing that equals the postcard for sheer simplicity and effectiveness.

WIth that, I give you a peep at my latest entry; an image I call "Hoedown". They're my first I've done with Vistaprint and I'm pleased to pronounce their quality 'satisfactory', if not awe-inspiring. You get, as the saying goes, what you pay for.
Howdeye Doodat?
Thanks for the gig, Nickelodeon Magazine.
Apart from my ability to wriggle through a keyhole and shoot armor piercing lasers from my baby blue eyes, my third most mesmerizing talent is illustration. No matter where I roam, people stand in awe of the rich and colorful tapestries I weave out of nothing more than a cupful of imagination and a handful of determination. How, they ask, did you do that?  They often assume some witchcraft is involved.

In order to dispell this notion, I offer you a rare and priveliged look behind the curtain. As it were- there's actually no curtain involved.
Here's a vignette that depicts a young man finding out his services as an actor are no longer required.

The designer I worked with, Catherine Tutrone, had this idea in mind and described the scene to me when she contacted me. Any excuse to draw a critter, that's my motto. I cheerfully accepted. She gave me dimensions, etc, and turned me loose.

First, pencils. In this case I concentrated mostly on the central image, figuring I'd build the scene around it.
Once satisfied with the pencil sketch, I scan it in and open it in Adobe brand Illustrator. I trace the important shapes and delineate colors. Also here I work out my layout with simple, blocky shapes.
The "Sketch"
After reaching a satisfactory composition, I open the document in Adobe brand Photoshop. I ice the cake with some scrawlings on the trusty Wacom tablet, then flatten the whole shebang. This is shipped off via electronic mail to the client ( in this case Ms Tutrone) for her notes.
Once the sketch is approved, I refine the illustrator paths until fully satisfied. I'll then print out a low res copy and ink all linework on a vellum overlay. My preferred ink is made from the spittle of Madagascar's giant fruit bat, but in a pinch FW Waterproof will do the trick.
Lastly, the whole shebang is sandwiched together in Photoshop . I'll keep everything layered so I can fidget with colors and add some texture. And, of course, I'll sacrifice a goat on a marble dias while wearing a mask made of corn husks and gopher teeth. Brings the whole thing together nicely.
Steroids Can Be Fun!
Connect the 'backne' to complete a picture of a syringe!
I've been up to my chinny-chin-chin with a variety of productivity-sucking activities- tax prep, car repairs, doctor's appointments... a full and cripplingly boring cavalcade of errands and responsibilities.

Stiil, I know how my eager audience checks in on an hourly basis to see what gems I've posted for their delectation and/or edification. Trust me, readers, it's not a responsibilty I take lightly.

With this in mind, I give you an oldie but a goodie: A 'fun page' I did under the direction of Sports Illustrated's talented art director Linda Root. This was completed during the Barry Bonds steroid speculation era and was originally meant to feature Bonds personally. SI's lawyers thought better of that and the 'slugger' was changed to a generic player.

Hope you enjoy these puzzles. You'll have to flip your monitor upside down for the answers.
While On The Subject Of Balls...
Um, Angus? Are you blushing?
Since I've fired up the old "Wayback Machine', let's take a moment to ponder this ill-advised sketch for the cover of AC/DC's "Ballbreaker" album.

The year was 1995; I was reveling in my 'young gun' status and the jobs were flooding in at a furious rate. The climate was such that, when I was offered an AC/DC album cover my attitude was "Let's go off the rails and see what these so-called rockers are REALLY made of".
Alas, I learned the hard way that no matter what the lads of AC/DC were really made of, the marketing department at Elektra Records was made of a desire to sell records. And they, bless their avaricious little souls, didn't think this image was the best means to that particular end.

So, OK- maybe it's a tad offensive ( even for an album entitled "Ballbreaker). Still, I see a degree of artistic glee here that reminds me of those exciting ( and staggeringly lucrative) times.
Why Do Bunnies DJ?
1997 ( I think) MTV VMA ad for Elektra Records.
What is it that makes these lop-eared little scamps love to spin the hits? It's a mystery that's stoked the artistic fires of all of us at one point, I'm certain. See Mr Leo Espinosa's earlier post for further proof.

This one was an ad in the MTV Video Music Awards program for Elektra Records. Unfortunately, the final artwork is contained only on a dusty Zip Disk, an obsolete format that I have no means to read.

I'm posting this unimpressive bit of scrawl only because I ( and maybe  I'm alone in this) found it to be an amazing coinky-dink that Studio Espinosa is currently showcasing an (admittedly MUCH better) image of a DJing bunny. What are the odds?
AA Bondy
A tribute to Scott Bondy ( ex Verbena) and his new album 'American Hearts.'
Verbena was a favorite band of mine, a Stones-y outfit with punk roots and Southern swagger. Unfortunately, myopic critics dismissed them as Nirvana clones and, after 3 albums and an EP,they disbanded without much fanfare.
A bit of digging revealed that Scott Bondy, Verbena's singer and guitarist, has resurfaced as AA Bondy and has a new album of acoustic songs.

I only wish I could tell you more. An e-mail to his publicist went unanswered, his record label hasn't updated their website, and tour dates are only available via his label's MySpace page.

To hear the music that inspired this piece, go to AA Bondy's Myspace page. He'll be playing at Brooklyn's Southpaw on March 17.
Maybe I should be getting his publicist's paycheck!

UPDATE: I just received this response from his label, Superphonic records:

We're still not exactly sure when AA's record will be released but it will probably be early June.
You Kids and your Digital Thingamajiggies!
What's next? Jet packs? Robot Maids?
Seems that the young people of today are less likely to go to the theatre and take in a moton picture- they're accustomed to a more 'on-demand' lifestlye as a result of downloadable content. Well, duh.

I put this little number together for friend and fellow Drawger Dave Bamundo at the Wall Street Journal. I'm still a poking around with the new 'no outline' style. Slowed me down a bit, but made me think and be a little more engaged, which is always welcome.

And while we're on the subject of movies, we went to see David Fincher's latest, "Zodiac" this weekend and I'm sorry to say I can't recommend it. Without getting too deep into it, I'l simply say it would benefit greatly from a "45 minute-ectomy'.
And I'm Off
Buy the YYY's new album "Show Your Bones" today. You'll like it. Maybe.
As of the very minute I stop typing this post, I'm on vacation. Which is well-needed, I might add, as I have a rather advanced case of what medical professionals have termed the "Mid-Winter Blues".
I might also add that this morning while I was walking my dogs,  a small Japanese sedan full of misanthropic teens slowed down to a crawl in order for the passenger in the front seat to roll down his windows and shout a string of unintelligble epithets at me. Why they felt it neccessary to bring midmorning traffic to a halt to assail a stranger is beyond me, but I guess boys will be boys. I could easily shrug it off had he not followed up by flinging a Popeye's takeout cup full of ice and the remnants of an orange soda at me.

Fortunately, they missed by a country mile, but really - it gets one thinking, and the thought that occured to me was-

Who the holy hell is eating fried chicken at 8AM?

Anyhow, here's a portrait of Grammy Nominated New York No-Wave trio the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

And with that, I bid you adieu. I'm on vacation.

Poe-Poe Zao
It's a wild world when one finds onesself at the confluence of Edgar Allen poe, Scott Bakal, and K-Fed. But here we are- a portrait of the author, as inspired by my colleague and titled in a tribute to the pop icon himself.

A while back Scott and I got to talking about Poe and he proposed that we both attempt a portrait. I was in the throes of some project or another and replied that, while game, I wouldn't be able to get to it for several days.

An hour later I found myself at a standstill- my client had not responded to my sketches and I was doodling my time away. So I got a jump on my Poe portrait. I finished it within an hour and posted it on my illoz site, to my discredit and Scott's dismay.

Anyhow, here it is. No musical accompaniment, I'm afraid, although I believe I was listening to the Ron & Fez show on XM 202 at the time.
The other night the missus and I settled in with a digital video disc entitled "The Illusionist". The entire affair was filmed in Prague and was visually quite a stunner.  This is in no way meant to discount the story or acting, both of which were immensely satisfying, but I couldn't seem to shake the vision of the ornate Victorian theater.

And so the next day found me producing this image of famed escape artist ( and NOT illusionist, yes I am aware of the difference) Harry Houdini. After I completed it I pulled a shiny nickel out of my ear! It's magic!

The Illusionist, starring the incomprable Ed Norton,  fellow Brooklynite Paul Giamatti, and the truly, truly lovely Jesssica Biel. Maybe not a 'must-see", but more of a "more enjoyable alternative to two hours of  Alf reruns".
Conejo Con Radio
Painting from a sketch that's been tacked to my corkboard since Regan was president. This piece might give the viewer the impression that I like jazz. The sad fact is that I've been unable to foster an appreciation for it, despite multiple attempts.

Go ahead, Jazzbos of Drawger- lemme have it.
Nostalgia Act
The Replacements circa 1985
Late-Onset Sentimentality is an inherited disorder; my father became quite a mush in his later years and it seems that I'm genetically predestined to follow in his footsteps.

This portait of Minneapolis rock outfit The Replacements is a good example on several levels.
First the band:

This is them in 1985. I was a Junior in High School and going through what I imagine every boy my age goes through; a maelstrom of emotional turmoil, a combustible mxture of arrogance and self-doubt, drunk on possibility.
The Replacements had just made their masterpiece- a poignant album called Tim, that spoke volumes to me. It was a raucous affair, dirty and full of boozy bravado, but at it's center it was fragile and, at times, downright mournful. It was a band on the verge- they imploded after this record with a bid for commercial acceptance that didn't suit them and they collapsed under their own uncertainty.
These days I listen to "Tim" and I can still smell the moldy floormats and sun-baked naugahyde upholstery of my old VW. It's atill a perfect album.
The brilliant Aurelius Battaglia
As time's gone by I find I've developed an anachronistic streak a mile wide. This is especially true in matters of aestetics, and doubly so where design and illustration for the juvenile market is concerned.
I did a job last year- a rather massive job, in fact, over 30 full color illos - for a children's almanac. Somehow, I allowed myself to call to mind my Childcraft Encyclopedias from the late 1960's and I used these as a touchstone for all my work. I honestly don't know WHAT I was thinking here, but the designer didn't stop me...
When I received the finished product in the mail I was appalled. Not at the garish, saturated, drop-shadowed, hysterical mishmash  that I held in my hand but at my foolishness. How could I have believed the end result would have been anything else, let alone the simple and understated beauty of my beloved Childcrafts?
These drawings by Aurelius Battaglia ca 1952 say it all for me. My Replacements portrait was inspired by these; their simplicity and lyricism is at the zenith of 'children's book art' in my eyes.
A Little Later, Another Nader
Ralph's Rebirth
My last post was a portrait of Ralph Nader. It was an ugly affair and I considered it a failure. What left me somewhat vexed was why someone like Nader would present such a challenge. Bell's Palsy has left half his face partally paralyzed. His eyes and eyebrows alone say almost everything that need be said.

I felt that my previous portrait captured his likeness ( although looking at it now I see it even less- he looks more like actor Dan Hedaya), but I felt that stylistically it was stiff and graceless. I put it away for the weekend and tried to put it out of my mind.

Today before starting work I sat down a doodled a portrait of Nader from memory. I wanted to implement the convention that all the great characaturists do: exaggerating the most prominent features to capture the likeness. I thought again about Nader's eyes and eyebrows and his crooked smirk.

And lo, Ralph started to appear! I went to my photo reference and tightened up the sketch until I had a likeness that is at once recognizable and stylized and, to me, sums up Nader much better than my previous attempt.
Star Gallery
Beyonce. Not Eva Longoria.
I've never concentrated on doing portraits; I enjoy character design so much that it's always seemed somewhat pointless. In addition, I've suffered the most at the hands of egotistical subjects that feel that i didn't adequately capture their unique beauty and radiance .

I'm not really interested in plastic perfection, which is why I prefer doing portraits of male stars to female- it's difficult to make the ubiquitous Beyonce (above) not look like omnipresent Eva Longoria - it's all hair, teeth and eyes.

But I had a great time doing these and I think most are pretty succesful. I ask you, my friends, to critique these so i can hone my skills.

Check 'em out HERE.
A Brief Treatise On The Bomb Pop and It's Influence In Contemporary Illustration
The Bomb Pop; A masterpiece of efficient and iconic culinary design; at once a refreshing and sweet summertime delight and visual reminder of US military might.
Seeing this now makes me want to punch myself in the face it sucks so mightily.
My artistic output has been bedeviled by these frozen treats for . years now. Though it pains me to do so, i reveal to you a piece I had published in the venerable Annual of American Illustration #16, published in the late Juraissic ( and, incidentally, the first and last time my artwork would ever be included between it's hallowed covers).
See what lengths I;'m willing to go for you, dear reader? So that you may see the evolution of the Bomb Pop and better grasp it's place in the annals of Illustration history?

You're Welcome.

Anyhow, here's one I did yesterday that was the catalyst for today's painting. And yeah, JD King- those antennas  in the main image above are indeed ripped-off directly and unapologetically from you.
A Little Holiday Cheer
Keeping the momentum up. Oddly, this one took 4 tries until I got it right and I must confess: I took it to Ye Olde Photoshoppe for a bit of clean up.
And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program
I did this little number for tne esteemed Dave Bamundo at the WSJ this week. Dave Bamundo is good people in general ( despite supporting a losing team ) but as an Art Director, he's tops!

He gave me an overview of the article, a thumbnail for layout and dimensions and gave me an indication of which of my pieces he liked most stylistically. Sketches were promptly approved. e-mails promptly returned  - it was downright heavenly.

I had a blast doing this piece! I decided to forego the Streamline/ Illustrator technique and do it all in Photoshop. Which was a bit of a revelation for me - I think my old technique might be obsolete. Somehow the Photoshop finish just looks more natural.

Anyhow- hats off to you, DaveB! Thanks for the gig!
Dogue de Bordeaux Paintings
Okie will be one year ld on Monday the 20th- happy birthday, little pal!
While I know that some of those amongst us consider dogs the embodiment of evil and a suitable visual metaphor for man's inhumanity toward man, I love 'em. I mean, I LOVE the critters enough that I ( a devout athiest) consider them probably the only living proof of the existence of a divine being. Once I sw the face of God in a brick oven fired pizza, too. That's probably a story for another time.

So, as those of you who care enough to actually read my longwinded blather here already know, I've started pushing paint instead of pixels lately. We're still very much in the experimenting/relearning phase of this mission and are attempting to stay light on our feet and not get bogged down. Failures have been numerous, but slowly some interesting works are emerging from the pile.
I was contacted by the head of Australian Dogue de Bordeaux rescue to do a couple of pieces for a calendar, the proceeds of which will be funnelled back into the rescue efforts. These dogs remain fairly rare and it is a source of wonder to me that someone will go through what i had to go through in order to obtain one only to mistreat, neglect or simply throw it away. In fact, though, it happens enough to neccessitate rescue organizations to collect and rehome these magnificent creatures. I was happy to help ( and declare the paintings as a charitible donation to the Feds).

Here they are. I'm pleased with them, although they represent a stage in the process and not what I'd consider mature or confident works.
Smoke Pot Now!
Not that i advocate the smoking of marijuana. I could care less.I was just looking for a provocative headline.If you're just sitting home watching Fashion House and eating microwave popcorn in your fuzzy slippers you can be chasing the dragon for all I care.
 Presonally, I get all claustrophobic when I smoke pot- had to give it up. I'm too much of a control freak to enjoy drugs. But that's not to say I won't cash the check of a pot-advocacy group when they hire me to do 20 drawings debunking many of the long-established myths that accompany discussions of the ol' wacky tobaccy.

Here's a couple of 'em.
Stoned and unmotivated
The book is as-of-yet unpublished (and, I might add, the check is as-of-yet undelivered...) but if you want to be one of those blowhards at parties who loves to pontificate about how hemp makes really strong rope and all that, this might be one for your 'must read' list.
Taking Apart A Well-Oiled Machine
A failure, sure, but a learning experience.
Yesterday I visited the optometrist. After gazing through a series of high-tech binoculars, stereoscopes. monocles and spectacles I was rather ruefully informed that I was 'in biiiig trouble'. It seems that i've been in need of specs for some time now (15 or so years, by the doc's estimation) and have been forcing my eyes to focus, the equivalent of spending your waking life with your fists tightly clenched.

When I was finally fitted with lenses of the proper perscription I felt a sense of relaxation and relief that I had no earthly idea I was missing. It was as if someone had loosened a screw in the center of my forehead.

Interesting, right? But what's the relevance, you ask. Well, ( and bear with me; this might be kind of a stretch)- it's all about ways of seeing. I've been focusing, literally and figuratively, on one level for so long that I've lost touch with other...planes? possibilities? And while my 'style' has most certainly evolved over the years, I fear that my thinking about my artwork hasn't.
Quick and photoshoppy.
I'm trying some new things; new approaches, techniques, media. I'll keep the rambling to a minimum, but here's a look at what's been going on. Keep in mind that these are baby steps- I'm unbelievebly uptight. But I'm dipping my toe in...
Think FINK!
Monster Art of the 1960's is one of the things that inflames the passions of my inner child, along with Funny Face Drink Mix, Pilsbury Food Sticks, Evel Kenevel and Rankin-Bass holiday specials. Here's to the king monster of Monster Art- RAT FINK!
A "Delusional System" Is Born!
Dragging out the brushes after 10 years of 'pixel pushing'.
"The distress of chaos followed by the establishment of a new order is a typical course of events which takes place in all creative activity, whether in the arts or the sciences. This Eureka pattern is also characteristic of religious revelation and the delusional systems of people we label insane".

 -Anthony Scott
Feet Of Clay: Saints, Sinners and Madmen: A Study Of Gurus
More Fun Than A Barrell Of Flash Animated Monkeys.
Ugly and Hamfisted- But strangely addictive.
Finished up this little number a couple of weeks ago. Had fun designing the characters but the end result is a bit of a dog. I did the finishes with the impression that they'd be bigger in the body of the game and not so big in the opening panel. So the bride looks angular and stilted in the opening panel and everyone is too detailed for the small size they appear in the actual game.
Other complaints: Why are the tables in the background larger than those in the foreground? I supose my more detailed backgrounds were stripped down to save memory, but the end result is a bit lackluster.
Anyhow, give it a shot. I've played and found it to be less fun than streaking but more fun than cricket.
Bride V Bride Bouquet Toss Game
Rhinos And The Riders Who Ride Them
Monday Is "Dudes On Rhinos" Day.
If you haven't done so, I implore you to stop by Mr Jos A Smith's Drawger page and have a look at his latest post. His giant drawing of a fantastic knight astride a rhinocerous was so impressive that upon viewing it my bowels went all watery and I fell to my knees sobbing. Well, OK- I guess I'd call it weeping, but whaetever- what I'm trying to say is this: I love drawings of thuggish brutes riding rhinos and I'm thrilled to see that I'm in good company.

What inspires the creation of such an image? Is the brutish armored beast a metaphor for the restlessness and unslakable fury that lives in the heart of a true warrior? Is  the prehistoric otherworldliness of the rhinocerous meant to connote a longing to know the unknowable?

In the case of the above image, one I've somewhat transparently entitled "Ice Cream", the moment of inspiration came to me in a flash as it so often does. I was sitting at my post enjoying a repast of Baked Doritos and Fresca when I thought to myself- I should draw a picture of a guy riding a rhino.

The rusulting image pleased me and I thought to use it as a self-promotional postcard. As I often do, I employed my focus--group to give me their impressions of the images marketability. The consensus was that it was an image with no message- what was it meant to convey, they wondered aloud. I countered that monsterous dudes riding bucking rhinocerouses were their own reward, but that argument didn't wash with this crack team of tastemakers and the image was sent reluctantly to the dread Isle Of Unwanted Artworks.

It appears here and here only for your review. I hope you will see some merit in it and respond more charitibly (if you see fit to respond at all). And before you ask "what's up with that stupid hat" ( a query put forth by several members of the House O' Wax focus group with no evident sense of pop-culture history) it is a nod to the late, great Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and the tattered hillbilly headgear that his charming monsterous progeny are often depicted wearing. So there.
On Portraits/Likenesses
Elliot S! Maggin, at least according to me. Kinda a reversion stylistically, too- I used to dig anime a ton in the early 90's.
I did this piece last week depicting Elliot S! Maggin. the writer of Superman comics for some 15 years or so. I had one recent pic from which to work, and the guy really had no defining trait. He was of average looks and build. Grey hair worn in an indistinct style. It was a real challenge for me to nail his likeness. Not sure I really did, in fact, but how many of you out there know what Elliot S! Maggin really looks like anyhow?
Likenesses and portraits have never made up a huge portion of my assignments and,while I don't mind doing 'em, it doesn't really come naturally.
Fresh Off The Drawing Board
Here's a little something I whipped up for Boston Magazine's John McCauley. John's an Illustrator's dream- always calls with over a week until deadline and is as easygoing as can be. If he offers any criticism it's ALWAYS constructive; oftentimes I feel like AD's just want to put their 'stamp' on something and feel like if they don't suggest some ultimately insignificant change to the sketch then they haven't earned their paycheck. Actually, now that I've said it, I guess that trend has been waning recently, at least in my experience. Anyhow, hats off to John - it's always a pleasure.

This one's about folks that hire tutors to come to their Summer houses  over vacation. I rarely work in a perfect square; I usually like to do a sillo or something. This time I wanted to keep it square- just trying to go against instinct. Also trying to place a little more emphasis on environment - the majority of my efforts are generally spent on character design and the composition and backgrounds usually suffer as a result. Before starting this one I sat and thought about concept and thought I'd take a stab at doing something more 'high concept'. But as I doodled away I though to myself "Self, is this the right direction to do in? Hmmmm? Are you listening to me, self, or are you thinking about America's Next Top Model?It's a tight race, isn't it?". Anyhow, the upshot was that I felt that this wasn't a prime opportunity for a high-concept solution. Maybe a larger or a smaller piece ( I like a hi-concept icon - kind of a highbrow sight-gag ), but this was a quarter page piece. So here she is.
Maybe not a gold medal winner, but making some progress where progress needs to be made.
How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Photoshop
Listen, before you say anything, I know. I know it's corny and hackneyed.I'm sure you've seen it a million times before and better executed. But lean a little closer, friend; look a little deeper.
For those not up to speed, I got a Wacom tablet last weekend and I'm learning to use it. The ultimate goal is to produce work that closely resembles the paintings of late 50's - mid 60's animation art and the illustrations in Little Golden Books of the era. To call this a lofty goal is an understatement, especially as I have virtually no idea how to effectively use Photoshop.
I had this image scanned as a pencil sketch from a job I was working on about 4 years ago. While the linework is clumsy, there's some elements here that have me feeling pretty optimistic that I'll eventually
achieve the desired effect.
The Way Of The Wacom
Things are going OK with the tablet- it's been pretty fun and inspiring to experiment with and some of the results have been surprising. I have volumes to learn about P'shop, but I've been able to at least approximate everything I hoped to achieve.
Of course I wouldn't be me if I didn't have some complaints. One of my initial gripes was the texture of the tablet- it was so glasssy that I found it didn't approximate the feel of drawing on paper at all. All-Star artist Leo Espinosa sved the day in MacGuyver style: he suggested I tape a piece of paper over the drawing surface. I did and viola! I'm a happy man- thanks Leo, I owe you a soda-pop!
One of the other things that's getting me down is this: The tablet allows you to sit a good distance from your monitor and draw all lounge-like. But it kinda cramps my style when I have to lean forward all squinty-like to read the Photoshop menus (i.e, the brush preset names). Anybody know how to increse the type size? I like to keep my feet up on the desk and when I lean forward, my cigar smoke gets in my eyes!
Anyhow, I'm thinking about putting together a children's book. Not because I love children or have anything of real value to say to them, but because I once said "Anything Madonna can do, I can do better". After 9 years of Latin Dance lessons and spending the last 167 Friday nights at the Kaballah Center studying by candlelight I'm not about to drop the ball now! 
Way Cool Wacom
Over the weekend I picked up a Wacom tablet. As i mentioned in my previous entry, I've been aching to work in a more spontaneous manner and do some looser looking peices.. I've been looking at tons of production sketches and paintings from animatiors of the late 50's and early 60's and its got my wheels turning like mad. I wanted to  emulate some of these- especially the ones done in black pencil and india ink washes. The idea of getting back into wet media was none too appealing, though. I figured the tablet would be the way to get there. So far i've found drawing with the thing a bit less intuitive than I expected/hoped, but painting in P-shop has been downright dreamy. I'm giddy as a schoolgirl. More to come as soon as I produce something that I deem worthy- until then any thoughts or advice on tablet use will be greatly appreciated.
Hackin', Choppin and Photoshoppin'
I have to admit that, despite my status as a tech guru to my immediate family,
I know very little about these newfangled computin' machines. I do what I do well
 (scan, streamline, illustrator) but the rest remains shrouded in mystery.
I've been getting restless with my usual technique. I've been attracted to more unfinished and raw work; been looking at a lot of illustration animation from the 50's and 60's that had a much looser, sketchy quality to it. My attempts to emulate this in Illustrator have been largely unsuccesful and I haven't really wnated to drag out the paints for years. It was time to finally wrestle with the elusive demon Photoshop.
My main goal was to get some tight sketches together and color them simply, but with a looser, more spontaneous look. The two drawings above are a fairly good indication of what I had in mind. Although a pretty rudimentary bit of p-shoppin', I'm pleased with the result and plan to continue as time allows.
G.L.O.W.: The Gorgeous Ladies Of Wacksman
If there's one thing we dig around here, it's foxy ladies. The other thing is Kandy Korn, but that's a seasonal delight. Here are some images from my sketchbook of some such ladiefolk, More TK when I have nothing better to do then scan.
Attention: Fashion Editors
Would you buy shoes from these elves?
I've been wanting to do a fashion editorial for a while now. Mrs Wacksman works in the rag trade and has been a vocal proponent of the idea; fashion, as they say, is her passion.
I had the idea to do illos that look, at first glance' like children's book illos but featuring a recognizable fashion accessory. Here is the first one completed, featuring a Moschino shoe.
Be prepared for dogs to meow and fish to fly on the day that an American fashion editor greenlights THIS idea!
Apologies To Gentleman Jim
Sorry, jim.
A few years back, i had some "zine" that had an ad in it for some unremarkable garage rock outfit. They'd swiped some Jim Flora piece for the artwork. Naive pip that I was, I was completely unfamiliar with Mr Flora's work. So, doing what one of limited imagination does, I decided to (in the parlance of the professional commercial artist) "rip it off". Here is the product in all it's dubious glory:
Buy this album. Or don't- it's not like MY wallet gets any fatter!
The band, Sour Jazz, went on to produce a few other great sides. Fans of Iggy Pop, The Saints, Radio Birdman, The Beasts Of Bourbon would do themselves a favor by checking 'em out. Like every teenage girl and pimply WWF enthusiast in the known universe, they have a myspace page. Go there to hear the tunes for free, then download them illegally. Don't look all like, "who, me?"
Anyhow, here's their latest - with cover art by little ol' me, natch!
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