Michael Sloan
Top 10 Annual Illustration Lists
My 2013 Top 10 Illustrations
Here's a selection of some of my favorite illustrations and related work from the year 2013. Many thanks to everyone who I had the pleasure to work and collaborate with this past year:
#10 - The Wall Street Journal

Two of several assignments completed this past year for The Wall Street Journal. Daniel Smith is the art director and a long-time client. Thanks, Dan!
#9 - Yale Alumni Magazine

This illustration accompanied a review of "William Shakespeare's Star Wars", a book by Ian Doescher. Mark Zurolo is the art director at Yale Alumni. My youngest son had just discovered Star Wars which made this assigment all the more fun.
#8 - Large paintings on canvas
Sometimes it feels like the size of my illustration work is limited by what I can fit onto my flatbed scanner. It's nice to break out and work on a larger painting that takes up to a month to complete.
Here's an acrylic painting of a Paris street scene. The canvas is about four and a half feet high by a foot and a half wide.
#7 - NYC Outward Bound Schools

Cover art for the invitation to an annual benefit. Thanks to Carol Carpenter at NYC Outward Bound Schools.
#6 - The Boston Globe

My cover illustration for The Boston Globe's "g"style magazine, about new movie cinemas that offer a luxury experience with reclining seats and meals ordered from and brought to your seat. Jane Martin is the art director.
#5 - Zen of Nimbus comic
#38 - Le Quartier Nimbus.

My Zen of Nimbus comic follows a strict three-panel format. Nimbus is visited by a variety of creatures, circumstances and events. Will he ever allow these situations, some of which are quite intrusive and annoying, to disturb his meditations?
You can see my Zen of Nimbus comic here in my blog. T-shirts like this one can be purchased here.
#4 - The Christian Science Monitor spots

"Chinese Thanksgiving," one of several illustrations commissioned this past year by design director John Kehe at The Christian Science Monitor. It's always fun to work with John on these assignments.
#3 - Sketching along the Mekong river in Laos

Here are sketches made during a week's visit to the magical city of Luang Prabang in northern Laos.
Luang Prabang sits high up on the banks at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers in the midst of the jungle. The Mekong river is wide and full of activity. The long stairs that led down the river bank to the boat launches provided me with many things that I love to sketch.

#2 - The Christian Science Monitor cover art
Cover art about America's trend towards isolationism. Thanks to design director John Kehe. This idea was inspired by our family summer vacation at the beach where we built sand castles and watched them get swept away by the surf.
#1 - Exhibit of Hong Kong street market paintings at the Yale-China Association
Eighteen of my paintings of Hong Kong street markets are currently on exhibit at the Yale-China Association in New Haven, CT.
These paintings were completed during the past year while living and working in Hong Kong. Being able to exhibit these paintings is a dream come true.
Thanks to the Yale-China Association and to Annie Lin, the Senior Program Officer, Arts.
I was attracted to Hong Kong's outdoor markets that are like street theaters robust with life and soul, chaos and smells. The people shown in my paintings are the characters that breathe life onto that stage.
The exhibit is at the Yale-China Association through June, 2014.

Happy New Year!
My 2012 Top 10 Illustrations
Here's a selection of some of my favorite illustrations and related work from the year 2012. Many thanks to all the art directors, designers and editors who I had the pleasure to work with this past year:
#10 - Yale Public Health magazine.
Several of my sketches of people at a local street fair were published by Yale Public Health magazine for an article on obesity. The sketches were also selected by American Illustration 31.
Thanks to Yale Public Health editor Michael Greenwood and designer Angie Hurlbut.
#9 - Lecture at the University of Hong Kong.

Many thanks to Staci Ford, honorary associate professor in history at the University of Hong Kong, for inviting me to present my work to her class. The presentation includes many of my illustrations published in the NY Times Op-Ed Letters column on the theme of American pop culture, followed by a question and answer session.
#8 - Paris sketches.

Sketches from a trip to Paris with my family. Not long before this trip I had a daydream that if I added color to my black and white sketches it would take my sketchbook work to a new level. It feels like these Paris sketches are the ones that I imagined in my daydream. You can see many more of my sketches from Paris here.
#7 - The Zen of Nimbus comic.
#3 - What the pearl diver found.

#9 - Discovering Nimbus.

My Zen of Nimbus comic follows a strict three-panel format. Nimbus is visited by a variety of creatures, circumstances and events. Will he ever allow these situations, some of which are quite intrusive and annoying, to disturb his meditations?
You can see my Zen of Nimbus comic here in my blog. T-shirts like this one can be purchased here.
#6 - San Francisco Chronicle cover.
I love drawing cityscapes, so this assignment was easy for me to get excited about. Thanks to art director Matt Petty at the Chronicle.
#5 - NYC Outward Bound.

Cover art for the invitation to NYC Outward Bound's annual benefit. Thanks to Carol Carpenter.
#4 - The Boston Globe Op-Ed.
Gambling in Massachusetts?

Here are two of the several assignments I worked on for the Boston Globe this past year.
At left: The Hidden America.
Many thanks to art director Jane Martin at the Globe.
#3 - The Christian Science Monitor.
The U.S. consumer protection agency is ineffective because of bureaucratic red tape.

Here are three of the dozen illustrations I did this past year for The Christian Science Monitor. At left: Reviews of new mystery novels.
At right: Tethering a laptop to a smartphone to receive WiFi service.
It's always a pleasure to work with director of design John Kehe. Thanks for the steady work, John.
#2 - Hong Kong sketches.
Shoppers from mainland China at Shatin mall in Hong Kong.
My family and I moved to Hong Kong in July, our home for one year. I've discovered the pleasures of being a flaneur, exploring Hong Kong's neighborhoods, and sketching street scenes especially in outdoor markets and malls.
You can see all of my Hong Kong sketches here on my blog.
#1 - The Wall Street Journal.
This is my first full-page assignment for The Wall Street Journal, one of my most consistent clients over the years. I'm well acquainted with this Manhattan street scene since it's a few blocks away from The Society of Illustrators. I'm glad that I could include the Roosevelt Island cable car which is one of my favorite forms of public transportation in NYC. Thanks to WSJ art director Becky Markovitz for the great page design.
I hope everyone has a healthy and prosperous New Year!
My 2011 Top Ten Illustrations
Here's a selection of some of my favorite illustrations and related work from the year 2011. Many thanks to all the art directors, designers and editors who I had the pleasure to work with this past year:
#10 - Investing in cities. For the JP Morgan Chase employee magazine, a long-time client. The topic inspired a vibrant city, a favorite theme of mine:

#9 - Global warming and insect-borne diseases. For Yale University School of Public Health. The article begged for a frightening image and colors to compliment it:

#8 - Art about the environment. For The Washington Post's Green Lantern column. I've completed over 50 of these assignments with art director Brad Walters. The topics are always interesting to me, especially those related to weather. Here's one about tornados:

How Siberian snow cover affects the severity of winters in North America:

#7 - The Christian Science Monitor.
The Monitor has become a steady client, and I always enjoy working with the art director John Kehe. The illustration above is about omnipresent scan codes.
The illustration to the right is about home finance and interest rates.
#6 - Professor Nimbus and the Arctic Horror.

A rogue scientist, the hazards of genetic engineering and a recent trip to Scandinavia inspired this latest Professor Nimbus adventure. The setting of a scientific facility on a remote Arctic island seemed a perfect location for a sinister plot involving the breeding of carnivorous plants poised to overwhelm the planet. This comic was accepted into The Society of Illustrators 54th annual exhibit, sequential category. You can view the entire comic here.

#5 - A birding adventure. For OnEarth magazine, Gail Ghezzi is the art director. A mother and daughter volunteer to take the mid-winter bird census. I enjoyed researching the bird's plumage:
#4 - My Town series.
Wait 'til next year.
Although I haven't lived in NYC for ten years the city is still a tremendous source of inspiration for me. Fortunately I'm able to visit often, and when I do I always walk past the shoeshine stand at Grand Central Station pictured below.
#4 - Shine or floss?

#3 - Oil paintings. I always have a painting in process on my easel. They take up to 4 months to complete and are a nice contrast to editorial assignments with quick deadlines:
The Night Train.

My Town, based on a brush and ink illustration that appeared on The New York Times Op-Ed page in 2009.

#2 - My Venice sketchbook.

Sketches from a five-day trip to Venice, Italy in April. This trip rekindled my love for Venice and also reminded me how fun it is to travel with my children. The weather was perfect so we were able to sketch outdoors every day. You can see more sketches here.

#1 - My Extraordinary Dream.

This comic is an account of an unusual dream that occurred one night this past spring. When I awoke I realized that I had to record my dream right away before I forgot any of it. I immediately went to my drawing table where the entire story poured out of me before I came downstairs for breakfast. Later I developed my sketches into this comic.
My Extraordinary Dream was awarded a silver medal from The Society of Illustrators 54th annual exhibit, sequential category. You can view the entire comic here.

My 2010 Top 10 Illustrations
Here's a selection of some of my favorite illustrations from the year 2010. Many thanks to all the great art directors, designers and editors who I had the pleasure to work with this past year:
#10 - The middle classes in developing countries are becoming voracious consumers. For Plansponsor magazine, SooJin Buzelli, art director. I appreciate SooJin giving me the freedom to come up with this unusual concept which was inspired by watching a feeding frenzy of hungry carp in a pond in China this past summer:
#10 - Plansponsor magazine.

#9 - Looking beyond the landmarks to find culture in Europe. For The New York Times Sunday Travel section, art direction by Corinne Myller. I'm always looking for reasons to draw anything having to do with Paris or Venice, though this is the first time I've been able to show both cities in the same image:
#9 - The New York Times Travel section.

#8 - Poster art for a lecture by a cognitive neuroscientist. The lecture at Yale University is titled "Probing the Secrets of the Mind". I'm pleased with this "quest" concept, and how the mind is represented as a dense forest through which the rider must travel:
#8 - Poster art for lecture by a neuroscientist.

#7 - My Wyoming sketchbook. Sketches completed at a dude ranch in Wyoming. While we were at the ranch it made me very happy when an accomplished horseback rider looked at my sketches and thought I'd been drawing horses for years. I'd never drawn a horse before in my life!

#7 - My Wyoming sketchbook.

#6 - Weekly assignment for The Washington Post. For The Green Lantern column, Brad Walters, art director. It's always a pleasure to work with Brad on these assignments which deal with environmental issues, a topic that is important to me:
The effects of gold mining on the environment.

#6 - The Washington Post. Left, How green are food carts? Right, China or India: who pollutes the most?

#5 - The Travels of Professor Nimbus. An ongoing series of prints and oil paintings that help to keep the character featured in my graphic novels alive in between lengthy book projects. The large oil painting directly below was inspired by something I saw while standing on a street corner in Hong Kong this past July:
#5 - Travels of Professor Nimbus.

#4 - Cover for The Weekly Standard. Philip Chalk, art director. A terrific assignment on a short deadline. Thanks, Philip!
#4 - The Weekly Standard.

#3 - "Standing Room Only." Published by Yale Alumni magazine, Mark Zurolo is the art director. The Yale men's hockey team is ranked #1 in the country by the NCAA and attracting big crowds to home games. A clever fan made this ingenious device to cope with the slope of the walkway that surrounds the rink:
#3 - Yale Alumni magazine.

#2 - My Hong Kong sketchbook. During a two-week trip to Hong Kong in July I began using a brush marker, a tool that was new to me and very liberating. Suddenly I was able to draw with a brush from different and exciting vantage points (such as standing on a busy street corner) where it would have been difficult to sit for any length of time and paint with my usual watercolors. Now I'm using a brush marker for all my drawings. This entire sketchbook will be exhibited in the Society of Illustrators 53rd Annual sequential show, opening on Friday, January 7th:

#2 - My Hong Kong sketchbook.

#1 - Art for a Tony Judt essay titled "My Endless New York". For The New York Times Op-Ed, Jennifer Daniel, art director. I have strong ties to NYC since it was my home for ten years, so I was very moved by Judt's essay about what NYC meant to him. It brought up feelings of hope and longing for me which I tried to express in my drawing.
"...And while there is no other city where I could imagine living, there are many places that, for different purposes, I would rather be. But this too is a very New York sentiment. Chance made me an American, but I chose to be a New Yorker. I probably always was." - Tony Judt
#1 - The New York Times Op-Ed.

I hope everyone has a healthy and prosperous New Year.
My 2009 Top 10 Highlights

Here is my annual Top 10 list of illustration highlights for the year 2009. Many thanks to all the great art directors, designers and editors who I had the pleasure to work with:

#10 – A good year in the annuals. Here’s my spread in the Communication Arts 2009 Illustration Annual featuring work from my “Travels of Professor Nimbus” print series. Three of these images were accepted into the Society of Illustrators 51st annual. The Venice image at bottom right was also accepted into the American Illustration book. I’m very pleased that clients are increasingly asking me to use this "blue" work for assignments and hope that this trend continues.

#10 - a good year in the annuals

#9 – Publishing my latest graphic novel. “The Redemption of Professor Nimbus” is about catastrophic global warming, and takes place in Hong Kong. It was a pleasure to work on these brush and ink drawings, especially the detailed and complex images of Nimbus walking through the bustling streets of Hong Kong. You can read all about the book here on Drawger.

#9 - publishing my graphic novel
#8 - My 100th Letters illustration, on health care reform

#8 – My 100th New York Times Op-Ed Letters assignment. This work represents one of my longest-running collaborations with a client: my first Letters assignment was published in 1993, and my 100th this past September. These assignments have always thrilled me and continue to be among my favorites.  Created under same-day deadlines, modest in size and succinct in nature, they are my haiku of illustration. Thanks to Leanne Shapton as well as all the other Op-Ed art directors whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the years. You can see my complete gallery of 100 Letters illustrations here on Drawger.

#7 – Unpublished assignment for The New York Times / This Week in Review. The article asked: Why is it that during this current recession there is an absence of large-scale, WPA - type utopian projects and big thinking of the sort that occurred during the recession of the 1930’s? Kelly Doe, the art director, suggested showing a retro-utopian fantasy landscape floating in the sky, buzzing and alive with fantastic structures and transportation, exactly the kind of scene that I love to draw.  Sadly the art wasn’t used, though this disappointment doesn’t take away from the fact that I like this illustration a lot and had a great experience working on it with Kelly.

#7 - unpublished art for NY Times / This Week in Review

#6 – Greeting card for a law firm in San Francisco. The art features a Kirin, which, according to the firm’s website, is “a mythical chimerical creature known throughout various East Asian cultures, and is said to appear in the presence of a wise person. It is a good omen that brings serenity or prosperity to those it visits”. Working on this project was such a pleasure that I’ve started my own series devoted to such mythical beats and monsters.

#6 - Greeting card for a law firm in San Francisco,...
...and two more from the ongoing series.

#5 – Weekly Assignment for The Washington Post. I started working on the Green Lantern column in September. The column deals with environmental topics, something that interests me greatly. The art prints at a nice 7” x 8” size. Working with Brad Walters at the Post is always a pleasure, and having a weekly assignment these days feels very reassuring.

#5 - Weekly assignment for The Washington Post. This illustration is about the continuing deterioration of the Amazon rainforest.

#4 – The Zen of Professor Nimbus on, the website for news and discussion of science fiction and fantasy, commissioned a new series of ten strips that appeared on their site through the summer. This represents my first substantial paying project featuring Professor Nimbus. Thanks to Irene Gallo, and to Pablo Defendini for giving me complete freedom and for being so enthusiastic and great to work with. Thanks also to Zimm and Drawger for helping to make “Zen” possible in the first place by supplying the vehicle and encouragement to publish the original series here on my blog in 2007-08.

#4 - The Zen of Professor Nimbus on

#3 - Silver medal from The Society of Illustrators 52nd annual. What a great surprise when Anelle Miller and Kate Feirtag from the Society called me on a gloomy day last month to tell me about winning this award. I continued my “Travels of Professor Nimbus” series of limited edition prints with five new drawings in 2009. They all show Nimbus in unusual locations - often places where I have visited or lived – and give me a chance to stretch my imagination and brush & ink technique. This image, “The Happy Valley Trolley”, was awarded a silver medal in the uncomissioned category. Two other prints were also accepted into the annual.  You can see more work from this series here on Drawger.

#3 - Silver medal from The Society of Illustrators 52nd Annual for "The Happy Valley Trolley."

#2 – Prolific outdoor sketching. A family trip to Scandinavia in August and my daughter’s skating classes provided me with a lot of opportunities to get out of my studio and sketch. You can read an article about my Finland sketchbook here on Drawger. My daughter’s skating lessons take place in the local rink, a recently restored architectural landmark designed by architect Eero Saarinen, and you can see more sketches like the one below here. My resolution to sketch as much as possible was inspired by a terrific post on painting outdoors and staying productive in between illustration assignments by fellow Drawger artist Robert Hunt. You can see his post here.

#2 - Prolific outdoor sketching. Here's a sketch of wheat fields in Finland in August...
...and a sketch of my daughter's figure skating class.
#1 - Above is the watercolor painting that I did for Barron's...

#1 – Assignment on hedge funds for Barron’s. Here’s an example of a seemingly dry topic (starting hedge funds in difficult economic times) producing an illustration that works for the client and expresses something very meaningful about me. I knew I had a chance to create an illustration that could be immensely satisfying when the art director Pam Budz suggested during the initial phone conversation that I show something growing out of a desolate landscape. This is right up my alley, since I like working with images that show a combination of desolation, longing and hope. By the end of the phone conversation the composition was fully formed in my mind.  After I finished this watercolor painting I began to wonder what it would look like as an oil painting. I started work in oils in October and am almost finished.

...and here's the oil painting, almost finished.
My 2008 Top 10 Highlights
Here’s my annual list of my favorite illustrations from 2008. Thanks to the great art directors who I had the pleasure to work with. At a time when I’m looking towards the coming year with some concern, I can look back on a great year when my work developed in exciting and unexpected ways:
#10 - A mother writes of her 8-year old son growing up in Manhattan as he begins to find his way around the city by himself. For Richard Weigand at The New York Times City section. Richard suggested a “Where’s Waldo?” treatment. I loved drawing the various NYC characters in this scene.
#9 - Article on Laughter, for art directors Matt Petty and Nanette Bisher at The San Francisco Chronicle. This printed large and looked great on the broadsheet cover of the section. I used my pencil sketches of the faces in the final art (the first time I've ever done this) because I realized they lost their "soul" when I tried to re-do them in ink.
#8 - Investment Strategies: Is Buy And Hold Dead? Full-page for art director Nai Lee Lum at Fortune magazine. On a quick deadline I only submitted one inked sketch which was approved as-is, and I used this sketch as final art with the addition of the blue background. A happy accident: I ran out of my usual ink and resorted to another less-opaque brand of India ink instead. I like how the transparency of the ink shows the brushwork, particularly in the vulture at upper left.
#7 - Watercolor sketches from my family trip to Hong Kong. With our three young children in tow and my wife at business meetings, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to sketch at all. I readjusted my way of working (much faster, taking interruptions in stride) and created a series of paintings and drawings that are among the best “en plein air” work I’ve ever done. These sketches are great souvenirs of a great trip, and you can see more of them here. They also inspired my latest graphic novel, “The Redemption of Professor Nimbus”, which takes place in Hong Kong.
#6 - NYC Outward Bound 2008 Benefit Invitation. In the 12 years that I’ve been creating the cover for these invitations, I’ve never integrated text and illustration as well as I was able to do here. This illustration was accepted into the institutional category of The Society of Illustrators 51st Annual.
#5 - The Travels of Professor Nimbus. A series of limited edition prints that I’m using as self-promotion. I wasn’t getting good full-color prints from my printer, so as an experiment I made a print using only black and blue. Since I began mailing these prints to clients, I’m receiving requests to work in black and blue (which I find very satisfying). Four images from this series have been accepted into the sequential category of The Society of Illustrators 51st Annual. The Eiffel Tower image above was chosen for the American Illustration 27 website.
#4 - Movie Houses of NYC in the 1970’s, for Jesus Diaz at The Village Voice. This was one of five black and white illustrations used for five articles about bygone eras in NYC. In each case my sketches were published as-is. I’ve been trying to work this way more often since my sketches usually have a freshness and soul that is lost when I re-do them as “final art”. I’ve added color and am using this image as a limited edition print.
#3. Clockwise from upper left: Are Obama and Clinton Tearing the Democratic Party Apart?; The End of the Clinton Campaign; NASA's Attempts To Stay On Budget; General Petraeus Testifies Before Congress.
#3 - The New York Times Op-Ed Letters, for art directors Brian Rea and Leanne Shapton. These assignments are always a thrill because of the high adrenaline deadline involved (same-day), the conceptual freedom they afford, and because they’re in black and white. Two years ago, former NYT Op-Ed assistant art director Sam Weber first suggested that I use my inked sketches as final art (as is the case in these four images). His suggestion revolutionized the way that I work. The image of Obama and Clinton on the donkey was chosen for the American Illustration 27 website.
#2 - Investing in Retirement Funds with Strong Roots, for SooJin Buzelli at Plansponsor.  This was the first time a client had specifically asked me to work in my Ewan MacLeish style. This watercolor looks and feels like it belongs to the narrative that characterizes the work in my Ewan MacLeish portfolio, which you can view here.
#1 - The Redemption of Professor Nimbus, my third graphic novel. This book is about catastrophic global warming, takes place in Hong Kong, and is inspired by the sketches that I painted there during a family trip in July 2008. I’ve inked over half of the panels, and if all goes well I will publish it this coming summer 2009. Working on this book is incredibly satisfying. I work on it whenever I can, in between assignments, and often late at night.
I wish all the best for the holidays to all of you!
Recent Articles

The Travels of Nimbus (17)

The New York Times Op-Ed Letters Art (102)

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