Back in January I was approached by SooJin to do a piece, a full page, direction was "crowded" or "ready to burst", something like that. I love that kind of direction, eliminates so much clutter and yet presents a challenge to try and convey that simple message-maybe simply, maybe more complex.
I had two roughs among several, one was fish and one was birds. SooJin told me to go ahead-I thought she said "fish"-maybe because I wanted to do the fish. I worked and obsessed and drew and obsessed for days over the swirling ball of carp. The night before it was due I decided to check back on the approval e-mail-it was birds not fish. So with one night to finish I cobbled together the bird composition, not the one you see here, I felt terrible.
Let me back track. I had seen SooJin at an SI event and we were chatting, I was as I often do, talking about being burnt out or uninspired, needing time off. SooJin's response-"So are you open for work?". You have to be an illustrator or artist, someone who struggles with inspiration, self doubt, questions of whether we are being our best, answering some sort of calling, or simply working hard enough to understand what a response like that means. It's a timed challenge, a recognition and understanding of our craft that few art directors get. -Feeling buent out? Need a challenge? Here you go. So when I set out on this assignment you can see where my head was at-do good stuff-different-challenging-thus the agonizing over the fish. I felt terrible about handing over my half assed bird composition-which will not be shown.
A month or so later I again see SooJin at SI-she says the bird piece is being held for a month-so I come clean and tell her that I thought the fish was the final and that I rushed through the birds. I said I'd like to do them again. She of course said my previous birds were great, maybe they were okay, not to me.
So I re drew the birds-my way-and I was pretty happy with the challenge. The fish were shelved but came up in a round of roughs for another project for SooJin, a cover and interior. When I was agonizing over the fish earlier-I felt they needed to be contained-in a bowl-a pot-something-and so came the trophy solution.
So thank you to SooJin for getting me to reach a bit deeper-not sure anything is a finish-it's process-I like the idea of doing more organic stuff. And as fate would have it I got a call from Kevin Fisher at Audubon asking if I'd like to do one of the reimagined Audubon pieces-YES! I would very much like that. So using lessons learned on the bird cage I just finished that piece-and will show a full version at a later date.
A few glimpses of my somewhat crude pencil drawings that I use in this approach. I'm so comfortable with drawing in vector that I don't need to follow my drawn lines exactly-not what I want-but I do try to resolve issues at that point. For Audubon I admit to following his bird silhouettes rather closely and improvised the rest.
Circuit boards, wires,structure and angles, precision and seemingly isometric. A lot of my work is that, mecahnical, technical, but I have also made small forays into more organic work, trying to feel out what feels right. I often use hands in my work, lots and lots of hands, simple my way of adding a human element to a composition, someone is doing something. It aslo may be because I like hands, I like working with my hands, just think about hands for a minute, expression, mood, articulation, pinkies and thumbs, simple expressions of the hand. Faces and figures on teh other hand can send so many messages with expression and gesture, that's a lot to put in an illustration-at least for me. I have some god awful attempst at figurative work out there, usually the result of a stubborn editor demanding it, like put some old people in there, ethnic diversity etc. It always feels wrong- weird. Sometimes I do these blocky lego like people, seems right for vector line, other times I do what I really want to do and that's a full expression of real figures.
Zimm was kind enough to ask me to contribute a poster for the 2014 Drawger Annual. I dredged my files and found this unfinished drawing of a woman. This was play-and I was happy to finish it off. Clearly heavily influenced by Aubrey Beardsley and a few others. I love stark contrast, clean line and solid blacks. I have a lot to learn and hopefully a couple more decades to explore these things. I imagine a whole book of these mysterious characters, a story perhaps.
No model was used in either piece and that probably explains the possibly bizarre proportions-as in the earlier female figure below-done about four years ago. I really should begin going to the MICA life drawing sessions, something I haven't done in so long. Just drawing figures in space.
To follow up on Leo's post. Here in the states the Ebola outbreak is simply a media sensation-if you take a look at some of the pictures and read some of the reports from Africa-it's quite real, terrifying, and difficult for us to comprehend such misery. Thanks to fellow illustrator Otto Steininger for putting this together- Art Against Ebola
This is a campaign to raise funds for Last Mile Health, a frontline health organization in Liberia that trains local health workers in rural areas where medical coverage is scant. Liberia is among the countries most gravely affected by the Ebola virus, which is killing thousands of people and devastating fragile health systems and economies in its wake.The UN Security Council declared Ebola a "threat to peace and security". If it isn't contained quickly it will spread exponentially and turn into a global health crisis.
HOW IT WORKS: You buy a print and the money goes to fighting this crap where it's really a terrifying reality, and I mean terrifying. Please visit artagainstebola.org
This is the image you will receive if buying my print. I do not have a printer that is capable of doing a really nice print. But if you pay enough I'll be happy to get fine Giclee prints on bamboo paper-maybe we can make that happen for a $100 donation. I'll have to check with Otto to see how this works. I will of course sign it.
My process-we were asked to illustrate a snake head that would be cut off of a larger snake. I didn't want to just do a snake head as I thought they would all begin to look the same, so I ditched the eyes and scales, made it a bit more decorative, possibly implying virus, creeping sickness.
Summer is still here, or at least the warm days, I like it and want it to stay. Kids are back in school and after a summer of time off, long drives up north away from the crazy mid Atlantic, mountain hikes, beautiful vistas, time with sons, time alone to reflect, pond swims, lots of reflection, grasping at happiness and thinking of what's ahead. What's ahead is work-what I need to focus on-it's a difficult thing to do at all times-focus-so many distractions, big and small, the noise-but now I'm finding it the one thing that I can and should be doing-focusing on work. I have been trying to find a new vein of personal work--haven't found it yet-but it's coming-soon.
For now here are a few things from the past couple of weeks- a return to work and a living after the summer. I'm still not ready for fall and less light-kind of dreading the loss of light.
Last week I had a few jobs come in simultaneously, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. I also had a couple of jobs that were longer deadlines, Chicago Magazine and Golf Digest. This is the way I like it-busy-because busy helps shut out the noise.
Back to guns. For those of you who recall the Newtown stuff, there were lots of guns-and blood-and darkness. I kind of want to forget all that. But I suppose enough time had passed. Alexandra Zigmond called with a quick NYTimes piece for the Sunday Review section. I haven't really followed any news lately, the airliner being shotdown, the horror of the beheading, the unrest in Ferguson. I would only catch ancillary bits. It's not that I don't care-rather I think I care too much-and it all becomes too much. Empathy overload, painful.
So I get this piece on police shootings and race. I fretted over a solution for a few minutes, race can be tricky. I knew the solution would have to actually be easy-and it was. But when I put the image down I felt I hadn't even done it, like I don't recall a thought process. My thought was "this image is smarter than me"-that's actually how I felt, because I didn't really know what the image was saying-but I knew it was right. The deadline for this was overnight as usual, but it happened in about 20 minutes.
The roughs I sent for the shooting piece. This was an instance where I didn't want to provide any more solutions because this one felt right. Not with the Times but with some clients I'll add too many ideas. some not good, and then 9 out of 10 times they pick the one I like the least. It's a lesson I never seem to lear, weed out the bad stuff, only send ideas you feel good about. Happens.
I've done one other Newsweek cover, few years ago. The magazine had stopped publishing a print edition and was only available in digital media, I was happy to hear they have been back in print since last September. Robert Priest art directed this and I was happy to finally work with him after knowing of his work for a couple decades now. The pressure is kind of on when the piece is high profile, people will see it and say they like it even if I don't think it's very good. Also the subject, taxes, I always hit a wall with this, and it's a cover and for this client I don't think the solution could be too oblique. It's a cover and needs to be a quick read. The deadline on this was quick, roughs on Thursday and final Friday, the gun piece above and a WSJ piece all had same deadline, Friday before noon.
One of the cover roughs. I was sticking with pretty straight forward stuff here. Difficulty getting at their corporate cake. Would be like some sort of iron cake box.
Thought it might make for a readable cover image. Of course I knew concepts like this won't "fly" after 9/11.
Pretty quick, but I was just going to have every manner of destructive sharp things being plunged into the back of the chair, exec puffing a cigar, i know i know-cliche.
What they went with-simple
Along with the Newsweek job and the Times job there was this Wall Street Journal job. Article/opinion piece written by Henry Kissinger. I once did an illustration to accompany a piece written by Jimmy Carter, I was a bit more honored then, but either way it's as close as I get to brushing elbows with living historiacal figures, both men being apart and witness to very much history and events in my lifetime. The idea was pretty much set by art director Keith Webb, he was thinking like a Rubix Cube (sp?) type of image.
Along with the high profile and intellectually taxing and stimulating political work are some other jobs that I enjoy just as much. This piece for Golf Digest on the various time issues with teh game of golf, ie: how long you have to look for a lost ball etc. Second piece is for Chicago Magazine, article on house shopping, what nightmare properties you see, that kind of thing, something I have experience with.
And a little detail ffrom a piece that I'll show after it's published. Tried something new, inspired by clear ponds on summer days when you can see everything on the bottom.