The Sunday New York Times Book Review is the section of the paper that hangs around our house the longest, it’s usually still on the dining table when the next week’s edition arrives on the front porch. Nicholas Blechman calls the best illustrators and if they are like me, they always say yes to his assignments. So when he called last week to ask if I had time for a cover illustration I was in.
This was for a review of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” by Bill Keller. Nicholas’ only request was to avoid a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt and focus on the turn-of-the-century journalism aspect of the story, and that maybe the image should include some headlines. I made a list of things that appeared in Keller's review and designed a collage that carried some of the pounding-typewriter-vitality of the era. Blechman recently sent out a Twitter communication that said “Illustrators: you don't need to add texture to your images, there is already enough dirt in the newsprint itself,” so I kept to flat colors on this one. I was surprised the reporter’s cigarette and office bottle survived.
Cathy Gilmore-Barnes at The New York Times called for a portrait of Stephen Sondheim to accompany a review of Sondheim’s new book of annotated lyrics. The review was written by another great songwriter, Paul Simon. My job was to not screw it up.
I sent three sketches, a Times Square background, a backstage background, and the ol' 'letters in the head' trick.
The article mixes historical events with images from literature and popular culture. That's Brando in the center, (I've already taken some heat from friends for the sweating beefcake)
Last Wednesday Aviva Michaelov at The New York Times called with an assignment for the cover of Sunday's Week in Review. She wanted an image to accompany an article that looks at how long, hot summers have been a crucible for the evolution of America's idenitity from the very beginning of our history. The illustration covers a lot of front page real estate, 15.5 " x 8.6" She sent me a rough draft of the article with a note that the illustration should have a Hot Summer feeling not one of dread. A collage of images from the article made the most sense, and I added a Weber Grill and stole some Ben Shahn-style flames to wrap around the images. Aviva sent a layout that showed where the art would fit with the typography so I could design the shape to work well on the page. The sketch was approved on Thursday morning and I worked late and sent the final art Friday morning. A call for a quick turn-around for the Times always gets my blood going, and it seems like magic to see the piece in Sunday's paper.