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Rob Dunlavey
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A miscellany: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
posted:
break time
The day after the election
Oh little town… (Aleppo)
Aleppo
Swans
Owl Sees Owl (published Oct. 2016, Schwartz & Wade)
Every day, a peaceful ending (because we need it like that).
Owl Sees Owl endpapers
Observations 2015
posted:
02-07-16 ink
02-07-16 ink, chalk
02-10-16 charcoal
02-15-16 charcoal, watercolor
Above are a couple of recent landscape drawings. Last year, I made several hundred of these types of studies. Most of the drawings are of a small area of the Charles River near my home. The philosopher says "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."
 
am addicted to drawing this place.
 
I just self-published a small book of the 2015 drawings. This book is A5 format, full color, runs 358 pages and costs $22.00. Check it out here. There may be a few bad drawings in this book but the point is more my cumulative presence and a sense of Time in a specific Place. Sometimes it feels like civil disobedience to stop in the rushing flow of this anxious age.
owl book progress
posted:
Quick snaps from a work in progress for Schwartz & Wade. The text is by Laura Godwin. The project is caoably and lovingly designed & art directed by Rachael Cole and Lee Wade. Support by Elena & Holly at Pippin Properties. Go Rob!
Baby Owl
posted:
I'm working a new book for Schwartz & Wade. Here are some sketch details. Lot of work to do yet so I'll save details for later on. I do have two completed picture books in the pipeline (scroll down if you're interested).
"Counting Crows" written by Kathi Appelt is being published by Simon & Schuster in a few weeks. Below: "Over In The Wetlands" by Caroline Starr Rose and also published by Schwartz & Wade hits bookshelves in July.
Before I go to work
posted:
Nifty brush and ink drawings of Canada Geese. Now that Summer is really here, the word has gone out to waterfowl far and near that South Natick is a destination!
There were lots of animals hanging around the South Natick Dam in the last week or two. As the water level goes down (unless we get more early season man-size hurricanes --unlike wimpy Arthur). Families of mallards will start holding swimming lessons, herons will be bumping into each other and children wil splash across the shallows over to the island to look for buried treasure and return home with poison ivy.
You can find me over there most mornings between 7:00 - 8:00 am before I go to work. 
He reminds me of the Marlboro Man: aloof, tall, strong and handsome.
Like just about every day I check these guys out. It's cheap therapy
Take a number! Geese line up on the tip top of the dam across the Charles Rover. Love that dirty water.
Drew this technicolor goose off site. I think it was in church…
The South Natick dam has a fish ladder on one end. I've seen fish trying leap up over the dam. There's no way they can make it over. They really ought to use the fish ladder. What were they thinking?
An Eastern Painted Turtle. His appearance was auspicious: I'm working right now on a painting of a similar type of turtles for a new picture book. More action shots in a facebook album:
These fish are too heavy and they do not spawn upriver as far as I know. They must weigh 10-15 lbs AT LEAST. There were about 15 big carp cruising back and forth along the face of the dam the other day. I blogged about them here
detail of three fish. (charcoal, watercolor)
Bird Brain
posted:
I draw birds a lot. Most of them are of the imaginary variety. Some of these doodles and personal works have inspired the few children's books I've completed in the last year or are currently working on.
back in 2012 I was sitting in the bar at the Hard Rock near Fenway Park one afternoon doodling in my sketchbook and enjoying a bowl of chili and a frosty beer.
I came up with a few pages of these silly crows. I guess it was my Coco Chanel phase. My lovely agent (Elena at Pippin Properties) loved the image and found the perfect manuscript by Kathi Appelt to go with it. Simon & Schuster is publishing it next Fall. The art is all clean graphite drawings with digital color added. Below we see the dirty dozen (minus two!) palavering about their next meal.
"Counting Crows" is made up of rhyming text about a dozen very hungry crows. Here they are eating stale potato chips and slimy snails.
A few other animals in my portfolio captured the interest of Anne Schwartz, Lee Wade, and Rachael Cole at Schwartz & Wade. "The Dandelion's Tale" written by Kevin Sheehan, was published in March. The reviews have been gratifying to read. People get so much more out of the book than I ever imagined. It's about friendship, loss and grief.
The dandelion complains that she is old and no one will remember her when she is gone. The sparrow takes pity on her and in the process of listening to her recount her favorite memories, they become friends.
This is typical of the images that were in my portfolio in 2010 when I visited Schwartz & Wade. Rachael was drawn to the relationships between the characters. This is from an as-yet unpublished story about a small tern and an owl and their friend, a big red bear. It's all very symbolic.
In "The Dandelion's Tale" there's a big storm one night. Things don't end well but I had fun painting this spread. It's ink, watercolor, charcoal, colored pencil and some digital rain
In the book I'm currently working on for Schwartz & Wade: "Over In The Wetlands" by Caroline Starr Rose there's another big storm (actually a hurricane). Here's a digitally colored pencil sketch of egrets cowering in the face of the intense wind and pelting rain. I'm embarking on the final art this weekend and it will be completed sometime in June.
I'm not crazy about this drawing of owl and tern enjoying a piece of cake around a campfire perhaps but I can call it process work. I post most of my sketchbook pages and doodles online in different places and it piles up like an archive. This is another image from my owl and tern saga that Schwartz & Wade dug up and found compelling. We'll see what happens. The book comes out in 2016 sometime. This new book for very young readers is about an owlet who takes a flight one Autumn night.
The Short Form
posted:
a procession of worthies
evaluating some celestial bodies
Wait till we get home!
Chicken Little
The Short Form:
  1. brush on some paint
  2. draw characters with ballpoint pen
  3. add texture
  4. repeat
Have a great week-end people!
Bird Brain
posted:
detail: flying mallard (pen & ink)
I'm drawing birds a lot this summer (no real surprise there). Most of it is for my own enjoyment but it goes hand in glove with a few picture book commissions I'm in the midst of or just beginning. The books both involve birds. Once I'm further along with these projects, I'll see if it's okay to blog about the process. So in the meantime, some birds for you…
Near my house in South Natick, mallards at the dam on the Charles River. (ballpoint pen and drybrush ink)
detail
a doodle
"The Telescope" –another doodle (mixed media: collage, ink, watercolor, acrylic)
sketch (pencil. digital color) for a children's book I'm painting for Schwartz & Wade/Random House. Due out next year.
odds and ends while watching the Olympics.
Frog Wrangling
posted:
A while back, I too had some business to conduct with Jim Burke who is the creative director behind Dellas Graphics Frogfolio calendar for 2013. He is also the chair behind the new lively illustration program at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. Thank you very much Jim!
It was daunting to be included with many famous and noteworthy frog wranglers such as Bill Mayer, Tim O'Brien and Marcos Chin. I suspect it was my frog-wrangling skills rather than my illustration abilities that appealed to Jim. Nevertheless, I created this painting/collage what-have-you. Since this diversion was all just for fun and no money changed hands, I worried and perseverated and overworked it as much as possible.
You can see one of my sketches to the left here. I think it all worked out for the best. Inter-species love affairs have their logistical problems (at the very least).
Muddled media: collage, ink, crayon, charcoal, colored pencil, acrylic, watercolor on some indifferent heavy laid paper.
the edge of some spiral bound paper gets used as balusters in the architectural detailing.
I'm still learning to keep commissioned work as fresh as my personal work. I'm getting there slowly as work in this style and market (children's books) gets traction.
This garden is near my house. It's the Hunnewell Pinetum on Lake Waban at Wellesley College. I did this drawings last summer.
a conté drawing of a real bullfrog. Pucker up ladies!
Messing around
posted:
cloudy with a chance of paint
like a video game
various grades of cardboard, charcoal, colored pencil, watercolor, crayons
single edge razor blade wrapper (and a John Broadley book spine)
Like knitting or quilting, when I have a few minutes and don't know what to do with it, I retreat to doodling these buildings and cutting them out. I like to explore them with a camera. Just messing around.
Status Update
posted:
It's a really rainy miserable day here in the western suburbs. Sketching sketching and more sketching for two books. Coming up for air to show some of the clutter that accumulates when lots of fun projects are in the air.
a rough storyboard for a new picturebook
 
Since there's no sun today The Song of the Moment (an oldie but goodie) is:

For laughs, read a few of these explanations of the lyrics for "Blister in the Sun"
Back to work!
The Life & Death of a Pencil Tip
posted:
The Chosen One: does this scrap of pencil have any idea what its fate is?
News Flash: pencil lead breaks!
I save these little things. I have collections of pencil stubs, scraps of paper and assorted ephemera that I believe has an interesting pedigree, personality or potential. I love art supplies and I really love orphaned or abandoned art supplies. Got a broken ball-point pen? I'll probably find some use for it. I'm constantly pillaging my kids' cast-off art sets for too-hard colored pencils, colored paraffin masquerading as crayons, scented markers, and watercolors that should never see the light of day. These inferior things get my creative motor running. But do you save broken pencil tips?
In my personal work, because I often don't know what I'm going to draw before I've drawn it, I seek out the stimulation of these bits of junk that usually prove worthy of exploitation. It provides a starting place when staring into the great white void. So, for what it's worth (doing my part to keep the level of unprofessionalism high at Drawger) I present to you the mighty labor and last moments in the life of a quarter-inch piece of pencil lead. He left it all out on the field.
The grip of a seasoned professional. Note the extension and curl of the pointer finger. Everything seen here was performed on a closed course using professional drivers.
a tense moment! Don't choke on me Mr. Pencil lead!
Hmmmm… what can I do with this broken tip?
A scan of the drawing. Let's see: 1/4 piece of pencil = one page drawing without any shading. A pencil is approximately 8 inches long so I might get 32 pages of drawing out of one pencil… seems like it should be more. Still, that's one picture book, 32 pages…
Drawing Nature
posted:
I've always thought that the only difference between illustration and what we call fine art is where the text comes into the process. In illustration, presumably, the text comes first. It's usually accompanied by a third party who desires an image to accompany a text. Fine art, on the other hand, precedes text. It flows out of a different set of desires and assumptions.
Yet, as a illustrator who blogs, the images come first — like fine art. Some of you may have some thoughts you need to get off your chest and you write them down. Then you may look for something to go with them. Or you want to describe a recent job and you assemble your collateral images to illustrate your descriptive text.
I've gotten into the habit of doing these life drawings and landscapes I see on my frequent walks near my house. Later, I scan them and the sketchbook is closed until I see something new to draw.
Many of them make it into a nature diary/sketchbook blog I've been more or less faithful to for about a year.
It's not illustration. But it doesn't feel quite like Art. Art is the illustrated life then. I guess I can live with that for the time being.
a roadkill raccoon escorted to the roadside by a snowplow is revealed by the melting snow.

Nearby forest and paths. Media: china marker or litho crayon. approx 8 x 11"

The Charles River in flood the other day. I have a lot of views of this bridge in my "Observations" gallery

3/14/2011: Coots and geese, Lake Waban, Wellesley, MA

Glimpses of this and that
posted:



The whale and the totem people are part of a collaboration with Violetta Testacalda (Sara Cimarosti) from Bologna.



Stuff in my studio today.
What's here? Flotsam and jetsam mostly: houseplant cuttings, a flourescent orange crystal city that frightens away winter's gla gla weather, a postcard from Mogu, a Balinese shadow puppet, sketches of Rififi, an amorous glow worm, a postcard/bookmark from Chantelivre (the premiere Parisian children's book seller) and a postcard from La Maison des Contes et des histoires from their exhibit "Les Temps des Heroes". Arjuna approves!
Bonne journée!
December Errata
posted:
First: A recent passle of illustrations done for The Christian Science Monitor for their 2010 end of the year Gift Guide. It was a treat and a challenge to parlay my Pointy People into a commissioned job. The Christian Science Monitor gave me my first editorial assignments when I first moved to Boston in 1986. The art director now is veteran John Kehe and he has a loyal following among many illustrators.

a detail (colored pencil, water color, digital)

This illustration ran across the spread and bled off the top of the page

An illustration that led the Gift Guide section.

Second: I was invited by Alain Lachartre of the French design agency Vue sur la ville & Mister Brown to contribute a drawing to their 2011 calendar. A great honor to say the least. Naturally, I choked on the pressure to produce something that would span the briny and inhospitable Atlantic in its "savoir faire" and "je ne sais quoi". Other contributers include: Aline Zalko, Jamie Cullen, Laurent Courvaiser, Bruno Salamone, Yan Nascimbene, Laurent Auduoin, Laurent Lolmède, Fernando Togni, Frédéric Rébéna, Serge Bloch, and Steven Guarnaccia.
It's just a bit of nonsense. Alain only asked that, if possible, the art include the name of the month, the numbers of the days and some reference to "Mister Brown". Of course, it never hurts to add a few alligators or foxes.

Finally (I hope you've gotten this far) I've just gotten my 2011 calendar back from the printer and am sending them out. Please let me know if you want one and send me instructions as to how to mail one to you. Bonne Année et bonne santé!
The poster is 18 x 24" offset printed on a semi-gloss text weight paper. It is shipped folded.

destination: UNKNOWN
posted:

If you really like this sort of thing a printed version is available here.
Cabinet of Curiosities
posted:
Tucked into a corner of a European Decorative Arts gallery at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is a curious object that has fascinated me over the years. I think it's a fairly recent piece in the collection; it may actually be on loan to the MFA. Anyway, there it is, this hulking monstrosity in a room judiciously populated with naturalistic Meissen porcelain peacocks, views of Venice by Guardi and Caneletto, a large allegorical painting by Tiepolo and a rustic romance by Gainsborough.
It is an almost six foot tall cabinet made in Germany in the mid 1700's.The decorative style mimics Asian lacquerware with rich reds and golds used on a black ground. This piece of furniture however was created entirely by craftsmen who had never travelled far from their German homes. Every surface is decorated with exotic scenes of people and potentates traveling and hunting. According to the caption that accompanies the exhibit, the illustrations were derived from a popular 1699 German translation (presumably) of Johannes Nieuhof's " An embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces, to the Grand Tartar Cham Emperor of China." Nieuhof and a his delegation of Dutch businessmen visited Peking in 1655 to negotiate trade agreements with the Chinese. What they found was a country in the middle of a war. As a result, the embassy took longer to achieve its mission and this gave Nieuhof time to amass his observations. The resulting book was popular and it is an indication of how the European world was shrinking as trade and empires expanded. In a short time, popular tastes began to include the results of the new realities of global business.
A marble bust of Jaques-Rolland Moreau (by LeMoyne) and the Miessen peacock assess the cabinet. Is it worthy or a crass party crasher? We are voyeurs to Crespi's voluptuous "Woman Playing a Lute" lost in her own world of music.
I like that the cabinet is illustrated. Every surface has a picture of some little adventure: a group of men pilot a ship that is half Dutch galleon and half Chinese junk. A fashionable woman rides in an ornate litter carried by two hefty Chinese lads, a peasant man in exotic pajamas confronts a lion with spear and shield and two gentlemen enjoy tea under a leafy Oriental bower. There's this charming and awkward clash of cultures: Chinese to Dutch to German… to me!
I like that in this gallery filled with Art, there is a clunky decorated thing. Artists were commissioned to make images that reflected and informed the worldview of the owners. Despite my training as a fine artist, I like illustration and Decorative Art better. The messages seem clearer than Art. The images seem unafraid to be just what they are. And in this case, clumsiness of execution reveals the humanity (good & bad) behind the enterprise. The reasons for its existence are down to earth and in accord with the scale of my interests.
cheap camera no flash = fuzzy images. I try not be too precious in my photo documentation of things I'd rather internalize and make my own.
In 2009 I heard about Kerala, India and I started drawing these whimsical boats. They were doodled offshoots from the German cabinet boats. I hadn't seen any photos of Kerala at the time but my boats bear a slight resemblance to boats from this intriguing coastal area of southern India. More importantly, they were an adaptation of my research concerning the German cabinet. I started seeing these boats all over.
So, 350 years ago, the Dutch went on a fishing expedition seeking trade and returned with a catalogue an an exotic culture. The Germans, enmeshed in a market for luxury goods catered to popular taste and adapted their traditional working methods. Later, A collector appreciated the craftsmanship of the cabinet and eventually wanted to share it with the world by loaning it to the museum. I then bring along all my personal and cultural baggage and aspirations and cherry-pick what I love and apply it to my own artistic projects. At some point it's all bound to come full circle. I wonder what that would look like?
Pointy People
posted:
screen shot of a small portfolio of recent children's book illustrations. Below is an interactive issuu pdf.

Pointy People Portfolio by Rob Dunlavey

 

 
For Patrick
posted:
The final image. Reviewing it now, I'd tweak a few things: the position of the slide or those chains on the swings for example...
Below is the progression of sketches for this half-page editorial illustration for "Rethinking Schools" magazine which is designed by Patrick Flynn in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a bit of a toss-up but we agreed that the last sketch would work best.
The article was written by a middle school teacher who believes that the pressures of standardized testing not only cause a stultifying "teach to the test" mentality in schools and students and that, in her case, teachers that protest are sometimes punished for advocating for their students. In her case, elective classes were removed in favor of remedial reading classes.
Ashes, Dust & Ephemera
posted:
There's a design company not far from my house. It's a kind of sleepy, well-tended place. I don't know who pays their bills nowadays; I think they used to do pretty well by annual reports for pharmaceutical companies. The other day I noticed a dumpster out back. Dumpsters always get my attention (a habit acquired back in art school). Maybe they were doing a remodel and it would be filled with demolition debris.
On closer inspection I saw that like so many people around here, the incessant rains had flooded their basement forcing them to toss out a small snapshot of the recent history of our beloved profession. Do you see yourself in any of these photos? The dumpster is filled with a jumble of old printers, a few G3 Macs, computer mice, dozens of sourcebooks, stacks of cd's and books with sleeves filled with application floppies. There were a few chairs and filing cabinets too. Actually, the filing cabinets were gone this morning. A metal filing cabinet that can dry out trumps a decade of obsolete (and expensive) Photoshop upgrades!
Right here, observe closely. I saw Photoshop 3.0 installation discs on floppies as well as cds. How many hundreds of times have you stared at those Adobe splash screens while the whales booted up? Thousands! Maybe I should send this whole dumpster to The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies!
Adobe Type Manager… remember that? It's hard to keep up with it all. I still have books and boxes of application discs in all formats floating around. Archives too! In media I can no longer open. It's all just a little odd. I am the caretaker of all these senile little technologies. These cords with their unique ends but nothing corresponding to plug them into anymore. And then I feel guilty throwing the heavy sinewy cords with their brass and copper and silicon elements into the waste stream. And so, it piles up until Nature reclaims her own.
Aldus Freehand! It's downright Biblical (like Cain and Abel, the twins who fought). I think Adobe won that battle.
Bye bye!
James Yang stock art (from a SIS catalog I think)
Quilts of Gee's Bend, Paul Rand, Quicktime, Quark
Ideas, concepts, communication, and, yes hands, never get obsolete so I will try not be too depressed for too long with this display of the ephemeral heart of our enterprise.
Urban Sprawl
posted:
Last week (or was it the week before?) I received a package from France. The contents, when fussed over, checked-in and curated lay scattered all over the studio floor like so many Christmas mornings led by children hopped up on too many sugar plums. Like all binges though this one had its attendant hangover. So this weekend when the sun came out I finally tidied up a bit and my mood (...le vin, la cuisine, l'art, mes nouveaux amis, mon cœur ... quoi d'autre ai-je laisser à Paris?) started to lift too. And lo! A city had sprung up!

I showed these sculptures in Paris in December (some photos here). The presentation was a little less jumbled! To keep transportation costs low, I designed everything so it could fit in a box or two. It was NICE to be reunited with my little creations.
Many thanks to the staff of the American Library in Paris and other friends for many thoughtful favors.

More of this sort of thing is posted on my flickr site.
City in the snow
posted:
Meet Smokey. He's a big bruiser who's come to live with us.
When I feel the need to procrastinate or just have fun, I draw these buildings. Some, like this one, are cut, scored and folded. "Toys for grown-up children!" as one of my Parisian contacts enthusiastically described them. The possibilities are endless: just add trees, streets, monuments, towers, rushing people, hungry wolves, a Little Match Girl perhaps…

Or a large gray cat (for scale)!

More images of this sort of thing here

Studio Peek
posted:
The beginnings of a picture book dummy: Meet Phineas Foghorn, an impulsive cat.
clutter central
No ping pong table. No large collectors edition posters. No extensive library full of awards and expensive design compendiums. No first editions. No fancy guitars or expensive workstations. No swimming pool. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Things are jerry-rigged. I'd love to move out and move back in and fill up a dumpster but that would take a very long time. Kind of a swamp really. But it's home. And despite everything sour going on in the world and in the economy, this studio been good to me this past year. So here's to 2010 and to creative workspaces everywhere and their denizens. You know who you are. Be it a palace or a suitcase, a magic silicon wand or a can of spray paint, studios start in the mind and only then move out into the real world. But they start in your noggin --so now I'd better get back to work!

it works for me…
vertical and horizontal stackage. Everything in its place and a place for everything.
Annuals make good paperweights. This recent model on top of a late model Epson scanner.
inspiration: "The Poet" by Leo Espinosa & "The Seven Deadly Sins" by Posada
For all you night owls: above my cantankerous monitor, the equally cantankerous Sonnet 27 by Shakespeare.
Note the carefully cultivated fine coating of dust.
Voyage à Paris
posted:
This map shows the arrondissements highlighted in various colors. Children's book publishers I hope to visit are shown as yellow markers.
I've wanted to see Paris for a very long time (ever since French lessons in 3rd grade!). Various factors have finally conspired to make this trip a reality. I fly to France a few days before Thanksgiving. But does one need excuses to visit Paris? (Non!) I did and here are two of them (there are more):
The Salon du livre de la presse jeunesse:
In it's 25th year, this is the largest of the French book fairs and it rivals Bolonge in the number of children's book publishers that take part and opportunities for teachers, parents, children, authors, illustrators to wallow in the world of children's literature. There will be truckloads of books to see, publishers and illustrators to meet. My appointment calendar is starting to fill up. The Salon is very organized and the various resources they offer has made it possible to research and contact French publishers and learn much about the state of French children's book illustration.
There are many trade fairs and conferences that illustrators can benefit from attending. But I needed something more to justify the time and expense of going to the book fair in Montreuil (Paris). So while I'm in Paris, I was able to arrange a small exhibit of my work at The American Library in Paris. This is a private library that was founded in the aftermath of WWI. It's a bit of a home to expatriate American writers when they are in Paris. The show runs from Dec.1 - Jan. 2 with a presentation and vernissage on Dec. 3rd at 7:30 pm.

This is the exhibit space: a series of glass cabinets near the main entrance to the library. Since everything is under glass, there's no need to frame the paintings which will enable me to take the entire exhibit as carry-on baggage. Sculptures included!
I created this poster as a gift to the library for it's donors. It doubles as a 2010 calendar; if you'd like one drop me a line.
Sculptures de papier
posted:
It's a ragtag crowd for sure: saints, sinners, soldiers home from war.
My Crystal Cities have gone 3-d and now squatters have moved in. The guess the secret's getting out.

I'll be exhibiting three or four of these sculptures and paintings in Paris this December when I attend the Salon du Livre de la presse jeunesse in Montreuil. The children's book fair has high level representatives from all the French publishers of picture books, juvenile books and bandes dessinées. It's huge. Luckily, the "guest list" is online and I've been doing nose-to-the-grindstone research for the least few months and have begun contacting directeures artistiques. I can't wait to go!

2010 poster/calendar advertising the exhibit just came back from the printer and awaits shipment to France. The show will be at The American Library in Paris which is near the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondisement (Merci le fact-checking dept!). All the sculptures will fit inside this nifty carry-on size crate that I built. Not a centimeter to spare! Don't forget the Christmas lights!

Eccentrics are very much at home in this place!
A glittering metropolis awaits…
Need some cabbages? Oh my, it's gotten late!
Thief! Opportunist! An inch-high knave of hearts!
You try painting when a stag and his harem wander onto your palette!
(Un)Limited too
posted:
on press with our fearless leader, Ms. Julia Talcott!
Julia has a vision for her studio as a collaborative space where she can teach a relief printmaking and share creative time with other creative people.
I made three prints that tell the little cautionary tale of Mr. Machinegun, a very greedy person.
Here he is in his baby carriage with his eye on this sweet little bird…
As soon as he is able, he chops the tree down to get the bird.
And he ends up in prison. Bad quality photo and End. Of. Story.
This little project was spearheaded by Julia Talcott.

The artists who participated are:
A mild case of schizophrenia
posted:
This was done last week for Patrick Flynn. It's a cover illustration for Rethinking Schools.
This was done last week as well. One of my entries for the Galician winery Bodega Terras Gauda poster competition. A votre santè!
Another contest entry from last weekend: A book fair in Rouen, France
Throughout all these delectable gyrations, the merry flow of doodles continues unabated. It's my world, welcome to it.
Where I want to be!
Joy Ride
posted:
The other morning my chair was occupied by the night watchman so I had to set up operation on the floor. No problem. It gave me an opportunity to spread out and admire a recent package from a friend enticing me to show my new work in Paris. I'm so "there" but in reality am actually still here and not quite ready. So I work on in my sketchbooks and stories and build a foundation, painting by painting and word by word, dummy by dummy.
The predominant story theme involves a pair of birds who contend with a bear that winds its way through their lives. Today, they will turn the tables and pester the creature until he gives them a ride on his back. Take that Mr. Bear! You're not so scary and we think you're kind of cute … and even cuddly!
 
First I laid down some pink pastel and on top of that, yellow gouache and light blue latex. The bear's form is painted in this sludgy old red fabric paint. It has a vinyl component so bits and rubbery chunks are part of the process. I try to give my materials room to breath and express themselves. Even the clunky ones.
I guess I bought this material to do some fabric stencils and it slowly migrated over to Sketchbook Land.
Next I roughed in the birds.
My Russian mentor, the great Olaf, has instructed me in the esoteric techniques of the "dot of life". Spasiba Olaf!
More dots of Life!
The completed painting. Perhaps one day, some text will go in the sky area. I'm sure by then that the tables will have turned several times and this trio will be on some new adventure.
The final scanned piece. (03-28-09a)
robd interview
posted:
Julien Chung
For those of you who care (Hi Mom!!), Julien Chung, illustrator extraordinaire, has concluded a three-part (but mercifiully brief) interview with yours truly. The focus of Julien's licensed images and his blog is the depiction and use of animals in contemporary illustration and design.
part 1 | part 2 | part 3
Crystal Cities Portfolio
posted:
see the issuu-powered pdf viewer below
Here's a portfolio (give it a minute to load) of thirty images selected from a current series: "Crystal Cities" (more may be seen here)
THINK small
posted:
Over the past few weeks my studio has become infested with these small & insane bits of paper; each one with bicycle-like things scrawled on them. Did you know that the bicycle was one of the first technologies to be adopted and spread the fastest globally! Faster than the paper clip, zipper or the even the insanely great iPod. Things with wheels (wheels that go on the ground; wheels that include spokes), easily understood, engineered re-engineered are an entrpreneurial engine the world over. Bicycles are the common denominator that binds city and country, rich and poor, young and old, oppressed and oppressor, dreamer and drug dealer.
Maybe this is why I've been thinking about bicycles lately… Then again, maybe not.
Things WIth Wheels
Doodles make church much more interesting. Helps me concentrate.
These pebbles are from Long Island somewhere. If you're over there, could you pick me up a few more? I'm running low.
pen & ink, brush & ink 3.5" x 3.5"
Essence du monocycle
Night Studio
posted:
Mr. Owl Eyes
I'm usually up and in my studio well before the sun makes its way to this side of the Atlantic Ocean. This gives me one to two hours before I have to get my kids ready for school. So it's just right for extremely concentrated personal studio time. I make a conscious effort to leave the computer off and avoid any commissioned work during this period. I work in my sketchbooks exclusively. The effort has paid off: in January and February (2009) alone, I've been able to post about 130 drawings, painting, and doodles to my flickr pages.
Stimulants are essential
This diligent compulsion feeds on itself and I'm never stuck in my practice. I have enough varied materials and ways of using and abusing them that they have become my trusted accomplices as I search my memory with pen and brush in hand.  I'm just working through things as I engage in a dialogue with the materials and what ideas and themes have been predominating. Right now, it's an ongoing series of "postcards from a love story" and it involves an owl and a tern and the emotional spaces between them. The pictures are never planned beforehand. So far at least, this is not a picture book (although I will try to bend it to that purpose eventually). Here are a few postcards from my nocturnal studio while the house is sleeping.
the current book I'm working in. It's part journal so there's often some writing that accompanies whatever ends up on the page.
Meet some of my friends
Whatever works
Yes, that's a set of expensive, archival Crayola watercolors. Other materials include: ballpoint pen, different dip pens, inks, gouache, watercolor, fabric paint, water-based Speedball inks, oil pastels, crayons, markers, collage, leftover latex paint and acrylic paint. The kitchen sink basically.
I first dampened the absorbent page and dragged some yellow and red ink into it. Then I added this pale aqua latex blending it in with a big mop.
Then a NEED for trees expressed itself and, lo! these bushes appeared.
a blurry photo of a tree that got into the act and made the composition a bit more interesting for me.
The completed painting ("02-25-09a"). The birds are collage and ink.
With that tree finally in place, I knew I had created a meaningless, empty world. So I snapped my fingers and my two characters deigned to inspect and (briefly) inhabit this snowy postcard. Thank you for reading to the end here. It's 6:00 am and the birds are starting to sing ouside. Before I can join them, I just need to scan in today's catch!
Not Valentines Day
posted:
the final (digital)
This was for a piece that ran in the New York Times last weekend. It was  for an essay by a man marvelling at how the woman he's been married to for decades and raised a family with, really have very little in common. Except that they happen to be happily married. What a concept! Here are some sketches and the final. Thanks to AD Richard Weigand and his team for insightful and relaxed art direction!
sketch 2 (pencil or pen)
I sent in about ten sketches (including a few variations). I was only asked to not emphasize the potential Valentine's Day angle to the article.
sketch 3a (pencil, ink)
sketch 4 (the one they chose)
sketch 5 (a fishing expedition). I included it because there were some good ideas in it that might have sparked discussion.
sketch 7 (cardboard collage, pen): just trying to stay loose and let the ideas flow. That's the hardest part of this job kids.
Under the influence
posted:
Mr. Tern and Mrs. Owl on a late night errand to get special ingredients for a cake they are making.
I told a friend this morning that I had stumbled into a "delirious detour" from the work represented in my previous post ("January"). This "detour" is a story that is gradually accumulating as I explore the misadventures of a pair of birds: Mrs. Owl and Mr. Tern.
Somehow, I believe the names were suggested by Adam McCauley in a facebook comment a couple of weeks ago. There have been a few other secret ingredients that propell the series but I just wanted to show it, in it's nascent form, to my colleagues and the wider world. Enjoy.
The cake they made but the bow is missing from the top. Where could it be?
Oh, there it is. Mrs. Owl has used it for a nest. I hope Aretha Franklin isn't mad!
While he stands guard, Mr. Tern listen to the stars which sing to him.
A nice small storm overtakes Mr. Tern in his little boat.
Later on, the pair were joined by a third. The bear was an old acquaintance and Mr. Tern spoke in animated terms about the positive qualities of the creature. Mrs. Owl appreciated the bear's soft fur and countenance but was worried that if he became playful, the boat might capsize.
Once on land, at an island they all agreed was worthy of exploration, they made quick progress in their survey of the island's riches. After a picnic, the bear ambled away and could be seen contentedly snoozing in the shade attended by a few irritated honey bees.
Gradually, a pleasant solitude overtook Mr. Tern and Mrs. Owl and they talked then and hardly noticed that the sun had set.
Mr. Tern flew for a long time in an attempt to measure the girth of the fantastic tree. Tiring inevitably, he folded his wings and tumbled to safety in an uncertain yet somehow welcoming place.
And one last dramatic image (there are more on flickr):
January
posted:
castles, cathedrals, churches, bicycles, birds, factories, ironwork, stars, etc.
In Sketchbookland: January's haul was good. I started doing these decorative architectural doodles and the torrent show no signs of abating. This grid of thumbnails is from my Sketchbook: January 2009 flickr set.
What's going on then? Dare I say, that doodling is one of the higher forms of artistic expression. These are, however, very ornate and disciplined doodles. I aim to create finished works of art in an ongoing flow utilizing limited graphic strategies to give the effort coherence yet invite variation. It's all direct and there is no sketching beforehand. I love solving mistakes in focus and execution. And I'm ALWAYS standing when I zoom past the finish line at the end of the day's run.
This has led to some glitches however. I've recently done a few illustrations for the New York Times. Richard Weigand, the art director, praised my sketchbooks and paintings and wanted to commission something. I did a couple versions of the illustration in my sketchbook attempting to bridge the divide between my personal working methods ("doodling") and my digital-centric editorial style. At the last minute, I realized that the personal "style" was dreadful and created a new piece on the spot that I knew would work. Richard agreed. Pretty insane having all these self-created hoops to negotiate.
In the meantime, I'm making pastries from unicycle wheels and cathedrals from string while listening to the phone ring.
accepted New York Times sketch (collage, paint)
the dreadful finish (first draft)
The better (and accepted) final. Is see hints of James O'Brien in this one. Don't you? The illustration was for an article about a woman re-reading letters sent to her by her grandfather in Texas. When I finished it, I saw the profile of my own father in the grandfather. My father passed away two years ago. Makes me smile. Hi Dad!
Kneejerk
posted:
the final artwork. Art Director: SooJin Buzelli | PLANSPONSOR
This was about a guy who sued his employer for firing him while he was recovering from knee surgery and on a medical leave. Unfortunately for this man, the judge agreed with the employer because the reason for the termination was that the jerk had also embezzled the company. Embezzlement trumps FMLA (Family & Medical Leave Act) claims. So there!
I liked this darker version
The approved sketch
unused sketch
another unused sketch
and even more unused sketches!
New Website
posted:
It's really not that different than the old one but...
I've revised my website. Have a look and tell me what you think: www.robd.com
Editorial portfolio: It's basic: thumbnails and detail views. No javascript or Flash and each image gets it own address.
from the section on character design
Fine art section
The biggest problem for me (lately, it's been more of a crisis!) is how to present my diverse catalog. Some friends suggested using a pseudonym or keeping multiple websites backed by very targeted promotions.
These are all well-tested approaches but they seem unnatural for me. So once again, I present to you, gentle reader, a kaleidoscopic iceberg of imagery and approaches. The normally visible part is my commissioned illustration for magazines, books, etc. Lurking below the surface are my sketchbooks, paintings, character designs, sequential dabblings, poster designs, and more. It's crazy. Of course, it all coheres for me as I'm the only inmate in the asylum! But for you, an art buyer with 5 minutes to get acquainted and decide, I have faith that your perceptive eye will get it (whatever you're looking for) in less than 3 minutes.
Thanks for visiting.
Integrated Building Systems
posted:
"Integrated Building Systems" for NFPA Journal | digital | AD: Dave Yount
pen, charcoal, Photoshop
The process of making an illustration is often like the subject of this spread I recently completed for NFPA Journal. NFPA is an excellent editorial client and I always look forward to working with the talented and sympathetic art director Dave Yount.

The article was about the evolving state of building design that anticipates the integration of various mechanical, climate control and fire safety systems. My immediate thought was to show cranes assembling mismatched modules that represent different systems.
Like the real-world issues described in the article, this illustration for me, resulted in a hard-to-reconcile combination of abstract concepts and realistic rendering that ultimately undermined my original artistic concept. The illustration is pretty and was fun to paint but I think that once I went down the 3-d road and incorporated the letterforms (I, B and S), we lost the streamlined communicative and graphic power that was in the sketches. I'm not going to lose any sleep over this but I'll be more attentive as I sketch in the future. Also, mind your step as you exit the concept phase of an assignment and enter the rendering phase. In the best jobs, they are somehow magically integrated.
sketches: watercolor, collage, pen, digital color
Dave's reaction to the first round of sketches was lukewarm and I decided to suggest an intricate puzzle rather than an abstract solution that clearly couldn't fit together. I created a 3-d wooden puzzle and started to disassemble it and create an interesting composition.
Flashbacks anyone? This is Adobe Dimensions 3.0 running in Classic. I render the shapes in postscript and copy them into Freehand where I do the bulk of my work.
left: hybrid sketch with abstract shapes and 3-d puzzle. right: Hmmm second thoughts: maybe the article is really about miscommunication between different engineering disciplines.
The job started out as a single page illustration. Below are some details:
echoes of Doug Fraser!
Credit Default Swaps
posted:
The art ran as a spread that bled off the right and bottom.
Newsweek Magazine Senior Art Director Dan Revitte asked me to draw him a picture of these financial "weapons of mass destruction".  I gladly obliged. Here's the illo and a few outtakes.
detail
detail
The CDS monster was inspired by an illustration I did for the BC Law Magazine that Dan saw in my illoz portfolio.
Dan wanted texture so I piled it on and got some nifty effects going.
My sketches were done in pen, washes and charcoal. The wash helped me stay focused on the mass of the monster figure and qualities of lighting that we had discussed. The final illustration was a hybrid of a few of sketches.
early and unused sketches
Animals
posted:
some assorted images (all vector) left: The Red Sea right t-b: PLANSPONSOR Magazine, End of an Era, Adirondack Life Magazine
Julien Chung, a fabulous and prolific illustrator from Montreal has posted parts 1 and 2 of a 3-part interview with me on the subject of animals in my art. The third installment will be posted sometime in September.
Part 1
Part 2
Here's one of Julien's illustration that wraps around a limited edition Coca Cola glass by Ritzenhoff.
Character Design Portfolio
posted:
 
Please click on the booklet above to go to a full-size viewer.
The Flash back end for this effect is designed and hosted by issuu. These things are pretty easy to do: create a pdf file of your publication and upload it to your issuu account. Swipe the embed code and paste where you want the booklet to appear. Easy. There is a page by page print function but issuu is not  in the short-run printing business. Try Lulu or Blurb for that service.
Thanks to Christoph Hitz for telling me about it.
Recent Paintings
posted:
"Particular" latex on panel 15 x 17"
Here's a new gallery of recent paintings done since January 2008. They're on plywood panels or canvas and are generally painted with latex or acrylic paint. They started out very geometric and are slowly branching out to include animals and such. Not sure where they are headed (just the way I prefer it!) but each one is a small voyage of discovery for me. Many of them (and hopefully a lot more) will be included in an exhibit this December in Wellesley, MA. I'll be sharing the bill with fellow Bostonian and Drawgerite John S. Dykes.
Sketches - Finals 3
posted:
Jumping through hoops. It's what we do!
Some of you may know Tim Davin, the art director at Canadian Business Magazine in Toronto. We hadn't  worked together for a long time so it was a pleasant surprise to get his call a few weeks ago for a new assignment. The job involved about ten icons, several spots,  five or six 1/2 page illustrations and a full page image. I had to cram most of the job into a brief flurry of activity before a family trip. The plan would be to tie up any loose ends when I returned.
The magazine publishes an annual stock market rating called the I500. Previous illustrators for this job include Federico Jordan, Philip Anderson and Keith Negely. Big shoes to fill!
These were sketches for the Small Cap illustration.
The job was fun and challenging for the usual reasons:
- how to interpret staid business graphics in a new way?
- I got to draw animals (cows mostly)
- the art direction was precise, demanding and subtle (while working under the conceptual constraints of business, money, finance, and possibly a "male" aesthetic of sorts)
At first, I tried a narrative approach to a series of illustrations for the sections about Small, Mid and Large Cap Fund rankings. After a few tries we decided that "businessmen dealing somehow with variously sized bulls" would have to be the strategy. This is the "male aesthetic" I alluded to. No cute picture book concepts here!
the final illustration
The Mid-Cap illustration. The bull is bigger and pretty well tamed.
The Large Cap image. All were done digitally.
The intro illustration
Here are a few of the icons
icon for Best Growth funds
Painting in Progress
posted:
A current effort. I was given this easel in high school and I've carted it around all this time. It's cheap but it makes it easier to keep multiple things going.
I imagine that there are many ways to go about a dedicated and disciplined painting regimen. For several years I desired and imagined getting back into painting. I had a show in 2005 and I treated it like a commission: I painted for the show. Tick-tock!
I'm doing a similar thing now in preparation for a show next December. It's a low-profile affair but it has given me the impetus to get off my rear end and move some of my sketchbook-centric art-making into more public and saleable formats.

I started out with all these odd plywood panels and a bunch of cans of left-over house paint. No sketching; just dive in and see what develops. So far, I've been pleased with the process: I've done about 25 paintings and the original set of graphic ideas is starting to branch out and get very nourishing.
This really horizontal canvas suggested a wolf or something, so there she is. I'm using some cut outs to figure out what's going on underneath. Maybe that's trash or broken glass. Lots of questions to ponder.
There are a ton of influences coming out as I finish them: Morris Graves, Jerome Snyder, Paul Klee, Bill Traylor… I'm sure you'll detect others. They started out just being geometric. Now there are animals and, probably, figures later on starting to get into situations in my compositions.
three early geometric ones
I think I've just completed this one. The forms, as they suggest themselves and are generated generally dictate what will happen next. In this case, the geometric kryptonite stuff was in place first. Will it be a mountain? A cave? Near the ocean? Even though it's very static, can I suggest movement? Maybe these fragile little birds can impede its progress long enough for it to come to a stop. I guess this is about sticking up for the little guy who's here one day and gone the next.

Stay tuned!
Sketches - Finals 2
posted:
left: the sketch - right: final
This full page illustration was done recently for a college law journal article about a steel industry merger that involved many players in many countries.
When I was first contacted by the art director she suggested some sort of a rampant monster or robot sucking everything in concept. She referred to her favorite works in my portfolio in an attempt to help guide my painting decisions.These initial sketches were done in Painter.
This one was my favorite from the first round.
pencil on blue colored paper. Shading added in Painter.
After seeing these ideas, the concept was changed slightly to more of a clash between equals rather than one monster getting out of control. So I did a few figure studies; basic comic book, wrestling or boxing compositions would be fun to do.
a more complete second round sketch with some color added to help clarify the scene.
The final was done in Freehand
detail
detail
detail
Sketches - Finals 1
posted:
The sketching phase of an assignment requires curiosity and discipline. Getting stuck is not an option. Being original yet using familiar signs and symbols is part of the game.
The transition from a sketch to a final illustration is where illustrators define  themselves. The sketch stage is all about seeking, questioning, analyzing, intuition and being open to the nuances of your own concepting process, the sometimes vague or misunderstood comments of the art director or editor, and nothing less than the history of the discipline of editorial illustration.

I am often impatient when I sketch. I have an idea and I know my sketch is an imperfect guide to the glorious finished art  I see in my mind. Often, the sketch bears little resemblance to the final. Depending on my mood, I will sketch in pencil, charcoal,  ink, digital or some combination. Old clients understand this but new clients? It's a knife's edge walk sometimes! Trust and patience and one's true colors get developed in the walk together to the final deadline.
the finish (digital)
The opening full-page illustration (the sketch: pencil, marker, digital paint. The final: vector) Later, it was decided that I would do the title type.
The final is the result of all the external and internal back and forth conversations.
This full page illustration is about somebody's campfire getting out of control. (pencil, digital paint). The final is all vector with a few added bitmaps.
The final: I like this one because it's just straight comic effect, light and color. Much more direct than other more conceptual work. Toasty and soft in the middle -just like this guy's marshmallow!
a few new Kryptonite paintings
posted:
This started off as a portrait of Mugabe but it seemed too forced so I retreated to something more enigmatic-- a work in progress.
I've added a few new images to my Kryptonite gallery. I'm working larger (away from my sketchbooks) in preparation for a show next December.
Spot Illustration: Arc Flashes
posted:
digital
I'm back doing some things for Dave Yount AD of the NFPA Journal. This one was about changes to warning labels used on electrical components.  Nasty dangerous stuff.  So I make it look cute!
one of my sketches: labels are either orange or red.
another sketch: lightning bolt is some sort of electrical cabinet.
the approved sketch
Snowboard Graphics
posted:
Salomon has run a competition for wild and crazy snowboard designs for the past couple of years. I've been meaning to enter some things and this year I actually got around to it. I've never liked the standard-issue graffiti style that permeates most sports that involve boards of one sort or another so… put up or shut up.

The designs come in pairs; art is printed on the top and base of the board. Actually my designs, quickie vector collage thingies, are influenced somewhat by a graffiti aesthetic of some sort. But you will note and sleep well tonight knowing that there are no oversized Fraktur typefaces, deer antlers or paint drips or Rat Fink imagery. (Actually, I like Rat Fink and Big Daddy Don Garlits!  Hmm… I have a few more days until the contest closes!)
The deadline is Feb. 29 if you're interested in entering something.
The Golden Chickie
posted:
"eggs" for an article about incentives for savings and retirement.
Everyman chickie is very happy
Many thanks to PLANSPONSOR for this fun 1/2 page commission I was privileged to create last week. The AD was stern in her direction: "I'm okay with eggs and maybe squirrels and acorns but, NO PIGGYBANKS!" Well, duh?! That metaphor was drummed out of this illustrator's noggin a long time ago. So minor league! I did mess with the squirrel idea a little though as I've experienced some success with that particular metaphor.
Do you have any favorite animals that work for you AND your clients? We're not talking seeing eye dogs, Huskies, or various draft animals. They're working stiffs like us!
a few sketches
Just to throw folks off, I slipped in a squirrel.
The golden eggs. Yes!
FYI: no animals were harmed int he making of this illustration and I do believe it conveys something quite positive (but naturally impossible of course) that most fowl might find agreeable. This is a virtual chickie created completely with digital magic. The eggs, sadly, are virtual as well.
Envelope Paintings
posted:
a collage from March 13, 1993
In 1992, after admiring a painting by Friedensreich Hundertwasser done on a folded out envelope, I started a similar project. For the next year, I set aside an hour or two early in the morning to make a completed painting on the inside of an envelope. I subsequently folded and sealed up the paper and mailed them to my wife Stephanie. It was fun to surprise her and she looked forward to getting them. I didn't include any text really, just a date, a title perhaps, and a signature. The goal was to come up with an finished image that I could live with in a set amount of time. I used all kinds of media: ink, pencil, watercolor, gouache, collage, stencil and they were done on all sorts of paper. For a while, I was preparing paper beforehand and cutting out the envelope shapes from templates.
MY ENVELOPE PAINTING GALLERY
June 30, 1993
Early on, the images are affectionate, whimsical and painfully cute. Later, I hit my stride by incorporating a more confident approach to painting. Letting concepts emerge during the painting processes made for more interesting abstract work which later, tapped my need for consistent types of imagery. After about 200 paintings, the process ran its course and by late 1993, the envelope paintings got increasingly ornate and labored. They had stopped surprising me. Periodically, I'd do another one but the fire was not self-sustaining.

In any event, I can't recommend this type of exercise highly enough for any visual artist. It forces one to work through roadblocks and see limitations as a potentially powerful creative asset. Now, I channel a similar energy into and get similar delight from my sketchbooks.
Is it Art? Is it Illustration? Who knows. Is it necessary? Absolutely!
painting from July 17, 1993
Under the Influence
posted:
Lately, I've been hauling these big fat coffee table books about Hungarian and Russian Folk Art home from the library and poring over the astonishing and varied crafts of these countries that I know so little about. The items in this small snapshot caught my eye: they are "Gable ornaments for peasant houses" from Moldavia which at the time that the book was published was part of the Soviet Union.
cut paper (approx 14 in. tall)
I got a bee in my bonnet and scrounged up some black paper, folded it and started cutting these things. I love them! They are part of this cut-paper activity that I do from time to time like this: "Halloween Heads".

They are fun, funky totems. Mysterious but not too threatening. Decorative but vaguely significant too. I'd like to see them about 20-40 feet tall in steel in a city plaza somewhere. Maybe a bunch in a forest-like clumping... Graffiti encrusted with couples kissing in the shadows, drunk Red Sox fans climbing on and getting impaled on the sharp points! Yikes! Okay, let's do a fountain instead!
ink, collage, tempera paint
Any artist knows that her scraps are sometimes better than the the intended product. The shackles loosen and the creativity kicks up a notch or two. Same as a kid looking at the clouds in the sky, the leftover black paper got used as stencils for some paintings I'm messing with. I think they're part of this "bird idea" that's banging around inside my skull. We shall see!
Trash Day
posted:
"It Came From The Town Dump" cover illustration for Sanctuary Magazine, Massachusetts Audubon Society | 1990 (?) pen & ink, wash | John H. Mitchell, editor
It's trash day right?? Hope I'm not the only one! Here's my contribution: a cover illustration from the vault regarding the problem of solid waste and how it had become a defining issue for many communities (I know, I'm being too literal). Nowadays, I guess we ship a lot of our trash, as  a nation, to China, Hollywood or Washington, D.C.

What goes 'round, comes 'round!
Mixed Messages
posted:
The final illustration will run across the top of the page. It's about how the US government sometimes sends conflicting advice to people about investing in their retirement accounts.
Here's a job I recently completed. I'll share a little of the process that went into it. It was for Plansponsor Magazine which is art directed by SooJin Buzelli.
I made five sketches in Corel Painter over a layered file of SooJin's layout. Here are a few of the better ones. No paper was harmed in the making of this illustration!
Is it time to harvest, OR NOT? Strange fruit!
The approved sketch. It started out as the rapid orange digital airbrush then a few details added in pen or pencil.
I created vectors for all the shapes in Freehand MX (still Macromedia) and a grabbed a few colors from the sketch that I liked.  I've used Freehand since the 1980's and am proficient in it's use. As I've said before however, the end is clearly in sight and I have started to make the begrudging switch to Adobe Illustrator. I love the terse and efficient nature of vectors as a basic conceptual underpinning of working digitally.
Texture has become an addictive thing lately though and the added bitmaps bulk up the files more than I generally like. But, the addition of 1-bit textures also allows for striking color combinations and reminds me of silk-screen or other printmaking processes which I love.
Over a rasterized gray scale copy of a draft of the image (150 dpi), I started painting textures with Painter's Liquid Ink tools. Liquid Ink is great for making dirty, scratched scrawls. I work in solid black. I then flatten the image back in Photoshop and drag the resulting 1-bit tiffs into Freehand, make the white transparent and assign various colors to the black pixels.
Here's a close up view of the textures created with Painter's Liquid Ink tool. These Uncle Sam characters reminded me of Randy Enos A LOT. I kept dancing around this fact and tried to make it my own yet acknowledge in some way the energy and signature quality Randy gets in all his illustrations.
Here are some details of the final piece. I go back and forth trying out different color strategies.
As usual, Plansponsor was a dream to work for. Thanks!
Have you paid your quarterly taxes??
Often times, I feel like this guy!
CMEE SEGD award winner
posted:
Photo by Rossa Cole
Two years ago I completed work on a large commission for CMEE (the Children's Museum of the East End, Bridgehampton, NY). The work consisted of scores of illustrations and several mural-size compositions for the interior of a truly delightful children's museum located on Long Island. The project was designed and managed by the Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership. Scott Briggs was the project manager and design lead. I also worked with Christine Lyons and Maja Gilberg.

This year, The Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD) has recognized the museum and the team that created it with a merit award.

Left: One of the first spaces you enter in the museum is a child's bedroom. The bed floats above us below a star-strewn sky (mural by me). More images can be found here.
Photo by Rossa Cole The mural above is approx. 15 x 7 feet. I created it in Freehand. It visualizes many famous port cities from around the globe (detail)
< More about this mural here.

The SGED jury went on to say:

"Oftentimes, children's museums create expected design solutions, such as the fire engine, the local grocer, and role-playing environments to introduce occupations. In this way, we deprive our youngest museum visitors of unexpected design solutions and whimsical environments. When it comes to designs for children (who are most apt to appreciate the unusual or enchanted), we fall short in our role as designers. The jurors commended this entry because it did not fall prey to its design genre. It uses the themes of discovery and exploration and follows through in consistency of design mission and environmental presence. Its design reflects that children deserve and thrive in well-interpreted environments that challenge imaginations and offer new ways of learning. The graphic interpretations are distinct and reminiscent of children's book illustrations. The integration of media, collections, and interactives is in keeping with the overall whimsical yet well executed approach."
Time Flies
posted:
The theme for the calendar is "Time Flies" so I did a bunch of colorful birds yacking away
This seems to be the summer to contribute to different artistic causes. This one is just a bit of efficient self-promotion that promises excellent printing and good distribution plus I got the chance to finally work with Peter Cusack's friend David Leonard of Hybrid Studios.
The final art is about 10 x 14".  A short bio and portrait photo accompanies it. The calendar is for a printing company which will distribute it to potential clients in the Eastern US generally.
Here we are cropped in a little tighter. I created most of the elements in Freehand. The textures are 1-bit tiffs generated in Photoshop or scanned, dragged in and colored in Freehand.
The same basic idea but with a more restricted palette.
I did several versions of the bird image. I liked this one because it was different from that rainbow of geometric color passages. But it didn't seem right. Actually, this darker image is closer to what I originally kept editing the image down to: basic dark shapes against a colored ground. I felt however that the printing company wanted something that might showcase their printing capabilities more so I went with the original version.
Detail of a birds in the alternate image. I like the Maori thing with the parallel lines.
Astrid Lindgren Exhibit
posted:
After taking her tame little friends Annika and Tommy to the circus, Pippi proves that she is even stronger than The Mighty Adolph!
A month ago I received some SPAM from Illustrakids to submit an illustration for an exhibit about Astrid Lindgren the Swedish author and creator of "Pippi Longstocking". Maybe some of you got the email too. Anyway, it seemed legitimate and I was intrigued and took it on a challenge to create an illustration based on the iconic Pippi.
The exhibit will be held in Cagliari, Sardegna, Italy in August 8-22 and is part of a broader  celebration of Lindgren's 100th birthday observation.
My illustration is 20 x 20 cm  and was created with Freehand and Photoshop. The type used is Hoefler Champion (various weights).
detail of Pippi and her marvelous braids.
Pippi's full name is Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking (Swedish: Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump) --Wikipedia
Saturday Morning
posted:
Creative chaos!
collage in progress "House of Fish" Soundtrack: "Rise Up" by Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited Art is everywhere!
Optimized Popeye
posted:
Here's a view of a final bit of cover art I did last week. The concept started as  a doodle along with a few more straightforward ideas for an issue of Network World devoted to what engineers can do to optimize existing computer networks.
Sketching is a funny process: I see-saw between ideas that seem like good concepts that will sell the idea and those that will work in with my personal artistic agenda du jour. I was surprised when Brian Gaidry, the art director chose the Popeye idea.
Here are some of the sketches ganged up. Since it was  a cover I had to work around the title, cover copy and place for the address label. Network World contacted King Features Syndicate and was given the green light to use Popeye.
I found it challenging to turn the Popeye icon into something I could call my own. I kept thinking of Richard McGuire's "P+O" book of Popeye and Olive Oyl silhouettes.

I tried keeping my approach  primitive and simple while still clearly existing as a digital concept. I even made a 3-d computer model of Popeye. I ended up scrapping all that as too much distraction or trickery and just drew the darn thing and tried to make it as pretty as possible.
This was created in Adobe Dimensions. I thought it would  give the image a primitive yet "cyber" quality. It just didn't seem right for the concept or, more importantly, for me. I was very conscious of one of my illustration heroes: John Hersey. I kept thinking, how can I do this assignment and have it clearly be my own (even though working with an graphic icon like Popeye) and still acknowledg my debt to people like Hersey and McGuire. Hopefully I've found a little stylistic toehold to call my own. A place to continue the evolutionary process of articulating my own voice.
Squirrillustration
posted:
The final illustration for the LA Times Sunday Magazine
Last week I worked on a full page illustration for Liz Hale at the Los Angeles Times. I thought I'd share a bit of the process with you because I thought it turned out well.
It was for a humorous editorial article about obnoxious squirrels invading the fruit and nut groves and other, more domestic, suburban environs. What's a homeowner to do when squirrels begin chewing into his cable, telephone and electrical connections?
a variety of sketches. Lately, I've been doing sketches for jobs in my sketchbook so the pressure is on.
The approved sketch (right) started out a bit simpler (left).
The approved sketch. I adjusted it a lot in Photoshop and added value and more details.
When seeing my final draft, Liz Hale, the art director wrote "LOve that BadAsssSquiRrel. don't change a thing!"
I began tracing the basic shapes in Freehand and started adding color and texture. The cross hatching in the tail are strokes sprayed in with nozzle. The actual lines are thousands of separate vector objects.
The drawing on the body and face was done with a custom brush made up of parallel lines of varying thickness..
Layers of blends and colored 1-bit files bound up in an EPS wrapper! Bon gusto!
Lately, I've gotten on the texture bandwagon (it'll run its course I'm sure!). I have created and scanned decalcomania and inked brayer textures and converted them to 1-bit tiffs that I can drop into Freehand and assign colors to. I also create original textures in Painter and Photoshop and use those as well. The half-tone textures are the same basic process: create the gradiant in Photoshop or Freehand,  convert to grayscale and then convert it again as a 1-bit bitmap with a dot pattern. It's fun to layer it all up and mess around. I'm trying to replicate my painting process (or lack thereof!) with a set of digital tools. Not to recreate the paint look but rather to be truthful to the digital tools I'm using. Just use them in a "painterly" way.
New Galleries
posted:
from a series of collage doodles. No doubt I'm channelling the one and only David Goldin. Hope you don't mind sir!
When you have minute, view two new galleries of mine:
Collage Sketches
Sketchbook: March-April 2007

When commissions are slow, I've been creating more finished vector versions of many of these. Those are currently getting posted on my illoz portfolios. I'll put together some side-by-side comparisons together here i sometime soon.
Seeing Green
posted:
"Northwoods" for AMC Outdoors Magazine. Ed Winchester, editor/creative director. Artwork was created in Freehand MX and Photoshop. The earth image is from NASA.
Here's a recent illustration concerning "green" businesses. The editor wanted a "vibe" rather than specific illustration of things in the text. Perfect! This is an editorial client who I've worked with for about a decade. The staff has changed a lot over the years and the budgets are low but I've had a lot of freedom and I like the subject matter (environment, nature and recreation).
My sketch process: I feel tremendous tension between working for myself in my sketchbook and sketching for clients. The pre-meditated art just seems flat and forced. So I tried to sketch in manner that was as close as possible to what I'd do on my own. It's not perfect but I'm evolving along a pretty good trajectory I think.
the approved sketch
two more sketches
I wasn't sure how literal the editor was going to be. I'd did a few sketches that were less-decorative and a bit more conceptual. I'm glad they chose the decorative one!
This magazine generally uses photography but they had space for a full page image and nothing was working so they went with an illustrative solution.
Good client
posted:
The final illustration. Created in Freehand. Textures made in Photoshop, exported as 1-bit TIFFs to Freehand and color dropped in.
Here are some sketches and finishes for a recent illo for PLANSPONSOR Magazine. SooJin Buzelli, A.D.
The sketches came easily. Looks a bit familiar eh, Edel?
For a story about a widow who applied to receive her deceased husband's benefits and discovered that someone claiming to be the man's wife was already getting them.
About a guy who complains that he never heard about something and has to be reminded to check his mail. Silly.
The approved sketch. This story was about a stockbroker who meets a co-worker and client early in the morning. The co-worker thanks him for good advice not yet realizing that overnight, the Dow has taken a 400+ point downward "correction"!
I did several color drafts for the final. Total fun!
I like this one a lot because of the dotted strokes on the figures. Made with a custom brush (Freehand MX).
What are you drawing today?
posted:
I'm drawing underperforming students. How exciting!
another sleepy fellow
No way! I studied like crazy!&*%#@
Explaining the Explanation
posted:
a draft of the final illustration. I created it in Freehand and added 1-bit textures I developed in Painter and Photoshop.
PLANSPONSOR Magazine art director SooJin Buzelli contacted me through illoz.com a week or two ago to do a 1/3 page illustration for the April issue. The subject was interesting and SooJin's direction was compelling:

"Explaining the New Statement Explainations". Basically the "How to guide" for another "How to guide". I hope you can come up with some fun solution for this. What I DON'T want to see is any hint in the illustration that the article is about finance. So, no business man, briefcase, $ signs, etc.! Please create something you'd want in your portfolio. I'm attaching some of my favorites from you sites."

Within an hour or two, I had posted a few rough sketches in a newly created illoz Workspace and emailed her that the process was underway.
a first rejected rough concept. I started out with this complicated abstract background and added a book and this figurative element poking through the thicket.
My second sketch in ballpoint pen and colored digitally
I knew the second sketch would work the best but later, I further explored the  concept she had given me: "Explaining the Explanation" to see if I could come up with something better or different. Sometimes the solution just happens and other times it's a frustrating fishing expedition. This additional research was just for fun mostly: what other fish were in the pond?
Nope, not this one although I'd like to render it someday. It reminds me of Mark Fisher; he does stuff kind of like this.
Maybe this one. It was closest to the original sketch I liked.
Nahhh maybe?
Try a Dal or Saul Steinberg approach?
PLANSPONSOR was  a new client after all and I figured I would try to offer them a variety of approaches. Luckily, SooJIn was certain of her original instinct and we agreed on the sketch we both new could succeed.
the final flipped art.
After I sent the final (above), she wondered if it could be flipped because of the page it was appearing on. That was an easy one. From Freehand I exported the EPS file. I then rasterized it in Photoshop (350 dpi TIFF, CMYK) and uploaded the hi-res files to the Workspace at illoz. End of story!
Recent sketchbook pages
posted:
It's been a while since I posted any sketches. Here's a smattering of recent efforts from two books (November-December 2006).
drawger gallery
2007 Calendar: Get 'em now!
posted:
I'm mailing out my self-promo 2007 calendar. Let me know where I can send your copy.
They are 18 x 24" and mailed folded in a 10 x 13 envelope.
Vector work: Rocket Park
posted:
Rocket Park
This project won't be public for a year or so but I can share a few draft images now. These are illustrations that will appear on information panels at a new exhibit at The New York Hall of Science in Queens near the World's Fair site. The staff is cooking up a mini-golf park  that teaches physics-related concepts of space flight. I've worked with this architecture firm (Skolnick) on museums in Miami and Bridgehampton, Long Island.

LEFT: "Breaking the bonds of gravity: This one went through many revisions during the sketch phase. The client was searching. It's amazing, and difficult to convey to clients, that often the job comes into focus only when the artist is given license to render the final. They loved it.
In addition to the illustration type above, each panel will have a "diagram" that shows the basic concept of each hole. We settled on this Scottish astronaut golfer as a "mascot".

RIGHT: The ball has to be hit with the right amount of force (but not too much) to land in the hidden trench. This will trigger  the rocket to move up the gantry platform on the right.

BELOW: This illustration exists in that slippery ground between the top-down intellectual committee approach to hashing things out and the solitary artistic fishing trip turned desperate "give me the wheel" moment. We were all on the same page about the feeling we wanted the illustration to convey but it only came together when it had to. That's my job: I make the ideal, real!
The gravitational field of Mars gives the speeding ship a slingshot, jai-alai boost sending it on its way to Jupiter.
I deliberately use as few gradients as possible in my work these days. Much of my museum work is output on vinyl or other odd substrates and the colors are all spot PMS colors. The gradients and blends just get strange. Ditto for lense effects and transparency; they seem to causes unpredictable problems when we go to production. So to achieve "shading, I've been using blends between lines with different stroke widths and dashes. I like the effect.

 BELOW: Space junk. Yeah, this was fun; just a bunch of junk. Some of these bits were created with Dimensions and pasted into Freehand MX. I love Freehand, I hate that it is going down the tubes and appears to be unsupported by Adobe. Gee, why is that?
At the end of the Space Junk hole is a rotating disk with obstacles attached to it. You have to time and steer your ball through them.

BELOW: This hole was difficult to visualize. I started out with a written description. Then I had access to plan and elevation drawings provided by the architect. That was better. I think I finally figured out how the paths criss-cross. Looks fun to play at least.
Playboy again
posted:
Some piece about conquesting females.
I also have done one illustration in my life for Playboy (back in 1991). And here it is.
Lucky you!

Following the thread from José's post:
I did get the original art back. The check however had unacceptable contract language on the back so if I countersigned it I would grant my rights to Playboy. I needed the money and they haven't sued me. Maybe I should charge them for storage of "their" property?

I was so excited to be in a big national publication back then and I had to see the printed piece. We were headed off on vacation somewhere; the station wagon filled with gear, two little girls and my ever supportive wife. We couldn't head out of town until she'd run into the a well-stocked newstand and bought several copies of the desired issue of Playboy. I think Janet Jackson was on the cover. That's a funny memory: Mommy and Daddy surreptitiously looking at Playboy while two Barbie-enthralled kids in the back seat wondered why we had stopped.
Adirondack Life
posted:
I've been working hard today getting a batch of illustrations done for a small magazine in upstate New York: Adirondack Life. They commission spots frequently but every now and then a larger assignment comes through. This article is about various bits of "local lore". One full page image and three spots (one to go).
Careful there you mischievious little squirrels!
As an animal-obsessed 10 year old (I wanted to be a veterinarian or a zookeeper), I used to be fascinated with wolverines (and badgers). These members of the Mink family are unique and have a reputation for visciousness that borders on the inventive and probably tells more about the humans who study them rather than their actual habits.
This hairy fellow is obviously Mr. Bigfoot. What's odd about him is that he's competing in the Lake Placid (?) Iron Man Competition. One of the bits of "local lore" is the concern that when the 2000+ competitors complete the swimming portion of the race, they tend to urinate in the lake; hence the yellow slick. Biologists have measured a perceptible increase in the lake's acid level but it's uncertain if this is due to human waste elimination. It goes back down right away. The local Chamber of Commerce says it's okay to swim. 'Nuff said!
I like the "Soap Lady". The story I heard is that a woman drowned in one of these really deep and really weird lakes in the region and years later when they recovered her body, it had turned to soap. Okay then
Thanks for catching the typo Nancy! (It was past midnight when I typed "ELIXER")
This spot is about the French Dauphin Prince (above) who's been rumored to be everywhere including upstate New York. I've depicted a dotty old man holding court with the skeptical but polite squirrels. According to Wikipedia, "The Dauphin was the heir apparent to the throne of France under the Valois and Bourbon dynasties." The Prince that the legends of the "Lost Dauphin" is Louis-Charles XVII was the eldest son of King Louis XVI an Marie Antoinette. The Royal family was captured in 1793 and imprisoned. Research indicates the the Dauphin probably dies of tuberculosis in prison. The rumor was that he escaped and fled to North America. That's one rumor at least. More details here. Hitting The Bottle: I like to do this sort of thing from time to time: render, render, render. Not  a whole lot of concept going on here.
The bottle was templated in Freehand and then I made a quickie 3-d model in an old version of Adobe Dimensions. I then designed the label in Freehand and pasted it into Dimensions so I could map it to the body of the bottle. Then I do a ridiculously huge amount of cleanup after pasting the Dimensions postscript code back into my Freehand file.
But, like I said, this nerdy stuff is just the ticket sometimes. I was able to catch the World Series game while completing it.
My Little Monkey
posted:
Just like me, he's reading the early edition.
Leo Espinosa's post about the Hawaiian Hula Monkey doll made me consider posting a gallery of monkey doodles. What is it about monkeys?!

This little fellow has roosted in my sketchbook this past week. He's kinda cute and quick and interesting to draw. My current sketchbook is good and small and I'd just get bogged down in a bigger book right now because time has been super scarce.

I like the limited shapes and color. The small confines of the white rectangle are challenging to design within. It's straight-ahead, no Command-Z fun. I love the "brushiness" of my black paint (Speedball water soluable printing ink) and I'm reminded of Dick Bruna's Miffy and Russel Hoban's "Francis" books illustrated by Garth Williams. It's wonderful to come up with something that reminds me of my heroes but is my own.      More images: My Little Monkey
Let's Dump Pluto!
posted:
some items from my sketchbooks that the art director responded to.
Fellow Drawgerite, Edel Rodriguez, commissioned a spot illustration last week for the back page of TIME. He said he wanted it in my "sketchbook" style. But wait, doen't the concept of "sketchbook" transcend  "style"? A sketchbook is all about concept, personal limitations, exploring, freedom and (Holy God smite me if I dare utter the term) Art.

Ooookey, whatever. Just please, make it be fun and pleasurable and we'll pick up the pieces later good sir. And it's just a spot; a bauble, a trifle. The mantra is: speedy, speedy, speedy, no parachute just go for it in the straightest line possible like Bode Miller.

The text (smells like an illustration assignment to me!) was a wide-ranging, sarcastic and humorous exploration of the recent deliberations to keep Pluto as part of the planetary club or ditch the little poseur. It also included "President "Whack-a-Mole" (Grover Cleveland), the vowel (?) "Y" and the aforementioned icy orb. Lots to work with here.

Like the good art director he is and the great one he will become (if his timid forays into illustration don't work out --cue the laugh track please; this is  supposed to be an ironic reference to Edel's blisteringly beautiful illustrative trajectory), Edel had complete faith faith in me and probably, his ability to "pick 'em".
So here's Grover Cleveland 1 and 2 and Pluto all mixed up together with an easy to read bail-me-out-please graphic pose gesture. But what on earth does it mean? Okay, it's 6:00 in the morning, give me a break! :-p
I gave a myself a few hours to sketch first thing the following morning. The usual process: sleepwalk to studio, push button and wait for coffee aroma to clear cobwebs away. Sharpen ball point pen and draw on scraps of  respectable paper. The sketch would be the final art as much as possible. I scanned the drawings and added color with watercolor, gouache, linocut ink and Photoshop.
President Cleveland altered (Liquify is so much fun!) and colored in this Photoshop comp.
Never hurts to rip off the masters: Hamlet and Rodin in this case.
I liked this one a bit better.
They're not wanted anymore: beat it guys!
another sketch showing how the other planets might feel about the ingratiating wimp.
Now they're getting violent! Color and texture added with Photoshop. This is the one they chose. No fuss, no muss.
All told, I generally like this image. Mostly because it was direct and fast and for a well-respected client. My sketchbook "Style" worked well.
Here is the final file I sent to Edel.
Using the comp as a guide, I painted the sketch, scanned it again and started to punch up the color, increase contrast, darken lines, add a torn paper edge and drop shadow ---- PRETTY ARTIFICIAL STUFF FOLKS! (Smells like "style" to me).

So Rob, what did you learn from this little exercise?
  1. Keep the drawing as economical as possible
  2. it's okay to start drawing with a pretty blank mind
  3. Leave the mistakes in as much as possible
  4.  Photoshop can be a great time-waster (BEWARE) and usually will dilute the "urgency" an image may have.
  5. Illustration comes down to "Style" and that's alright. I can live with it because "style" helps solve a client's problem and that's of great value to me as a professional illutrator.
Thanks Edel!!
Sorry, more sketches
posted:
Cute meets King Lear!
My current sketchbook:
Where is all this activity headed?
Is there any commercial potential?
See more in the new gallery.
Sunday Magazine, Durban, South Africa
posted:
The subject is about "searching for a soulmate"
I just made this little tidbit for a newspaper in Durban, South Africa.
• Pretty cool design studio (disturbance.za)
• miniature budget R500 South African
• speedy speedy speedy!
Musical Animals
posted:
Bugs, bugs, and more bugs playing some strange form of music that incorporates the winsome melodies of the bagpipes, triangle, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, drums, violin, rattles, congas, and kazoos. Top that Elwood!
Did I hear someone say "musical animals"?
I just finished this insane little pastry for a First Grade reader from Harcourt. The design studio is Debra McCloskey in Seattle. This was created in Freehand MX.
a fly playing the drums of course he's too loud!
Kazoo playing inchworms, uh-huh!
The Praying Mantis religiously sawing away.
These kind of pictures are a blast to do. Just fun, wacky stuff and nothing too deep: just a love of nature, gentle humor, color, light and composition. Good stuff for 6-7 year olds.

Adam: can't wait to see your contribution to the genre!
Edel: The dewdrops, the dewdrops rule! Man you haven't lived until you've painted a spider playing the bagpipes. What'd they teach you in school anyway Mr. Fancypants-Cover -of-Time-Magazine?! … ;-)
Computer Game backgrounds
posted:
The opening screen for "The Adventures of Link: The Faces of Evil"
I recently got some fan mail regarding background paintings I'd made back in the early 1990's for several computer games. This work is terrifically different from my current mix of more-or-less recognizable illustration/design styles. I still really love this work so I thought I'd share it with you.  [gallery]
This summer
posted:
possible mascot concept
July will be a KILLER month: there are 4-5 fairly large jobs and a few smaller ones all with looming sketch deadlines. You know what comes after that: looming final deadlines. Then you get a few extra days to work on that really precious assignment and it totally screws up your vacation plans (something your spouse reminds you of from time to time).

Anyway, TODAY I have to conjure about 20 sketches for  a very cool science museum: The New York Hall of Science. I think it's in Queens somewhere. They are building a 9 hole mini-golf course that attempts to make learning elementary astrospace physics fun. It's bound to be a blast. The illustrations willl be on free-standing retro-shaped panels at each hole. I've worked with this museum exhibit architecture firm on two previous interior jobs.

I'll post some images as the project moves forward.
sketch illustrating "Space Junk"
Here are a few of the first draft sketches for this project. The final illustrations will liven up interpretive panels that go with each hole on the course. There will be an image like this one and then a smaller image that tries to explain or make light of the particular golfing challenge of the hole.
Here's my little golfer. Naturally, he's a Scot with a tam and knickers. Maybe he's too cute for the museum people?
New Work: New Client end of the road
posted:
A still from the finished commercial. As this guy is typing away the colored shapes start fluttering off screen right. Some stair steps appear and we wipe into the next clip to some narration: "your brilliant plan, your staggering proposal."
Well, all good things must come to an end. The Hewlett-Packard "Anthem" commercial I contributed designs for debuted the other night: I just reviewed it on-line  and it's interesting now comparing my original work that went into it and the actual final production. I had been warned by the creative directors at Motion Theory who produced the piece. They said that the client "made a few changes".

Oh well, Motion Theory was inspired by my contribution and say they want to work together again. At some point they plan to produce their own version of the commercial for their demo reel. I can't wait to see it!
My original sketch before I was too aware of the flow or content of the project.
An early painting based on very minimal (I think intentional) art direction: go for suggestive shapes, movement, limited color and textures.
Jesus de Francisco was a marvelous creative director to work with. He suggested that I begin to create very ambiguous shapes (somewhere he mentioned "cut paper") and this sketch was one of the results:
Here is a sample from the film. Some of the shapes look sort of recognizable but the texture and mood is gone and the palette has been changed. In all fairness, I've only seen the commercial in a tiny QuickTime window so I may be missing a lot of the subtler aspects of the animation.
There were some windmill shapes percolating through the process and these would get emphasized at the end of the commercial. Here's my sketch where I tried to suggest a different space and leave room for circular animation of the wind vanes.
Here's the final version in the commercial.
With all the money I received for this job I was going to buy that wide format HP printer. Now I'm having second thoughts!

Just kidding!
New Work: New Client the Journey continues
posted:
The art director suggested that I start working on machines. But keep it abstract.
This project has entered a new phase where all the bits and pieces are supposed to organize themselves into something intelligent and maybe even "brilliant!"
So the research continues and it's great fun: The gun goes off and I just take an idea and run with it (run after it is more apropos!). At the end of the day I send a 10-page pdf and have a chat at 10:00 P.M. with the team in L.A.
New Work: New Client
posted:
There are some basic things at work here: growing forms, organic forms, some texture and atmospherics. Just testing the water and trying to have fun.
I'm doing a bunch of "graphic research" for a LA based film studio. Elements from this series of images will be animated and find their way into a commercial for a familiar brand of computers. Very interesting and frenetic process so far.
The creative directors have asked me to investigate a number of basic concepts and develop a series of "iconic" visuals. This particular sketch didn't fare so well but the feedback has provided invaluable direction for the next round which is due… SOON!
Work on this commercial has taken an interesting turn: We've determined  a groove for the shapes component of the animation. I created random shapes in cut paper, scanned them and redrew them in Freehand and randomly sprayed them from an image hose. After more noodling, some recognizable combinations of shapes start to get established. Today I push this idea further into more distinctive and rendered shapes utilizing a minimum of color and  line.

This job is competing with another job. It's no fun: when I work on one, the other suffers. C'est la vie!
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