Robert Hunt
November 2009
Trial by Fire: Obama for the New Republic
Last week I was asked to make a dramatic portrait of Barack Obama for the cover of the current issue of The New Republic magazine. The idea was to depict the president as he emerges to face the trials by fire that lie ahead for his administration.

More and more I find it easier and faster to make color paintings as sketches, as opposed to detailed pencil sketches. In this case, where the painting technique  would be an intergral part of the illustration, it seemed essential. I showed a number of ideas as I sketched them over a day and a half to art directors Christine Car and Joe Heroun.

My first sketch, I liked it but it was too literal and more frontal than was correct for the article...
My sketches.
After discussion, we decided on a variation on one of the sketches, (version 8.1 above).

Detail of final painting, at about original scale.
I want to thank Christine Car and Joe Heroun for giving me this opportunity- this was the first time I have had an assignment to paint President Obama.

Jade Man's Skin
I was asked to make a cover illustration for The Jade Man’s Skin by Daniel Fox, a fantasy novel  set in an alternative,  re-imagined feudal China. It is the second book in a trilogy, the first being  last years’ Dragon in Chains, for which I also created the cover art. The art director was Dave Stevenson at Random House.

The green “Jade tigers” that stand like sentinels in this alternative world were to be the focus of this cover. I spent a fair amount of time studying and photographing tigers for reference.  I started to build a reference sculpture, but since tigers are real-world animals, it seemed that getting real tigers to pose would be easier...well, maybe...

I spent an afternoon at the Vienna zoo with these two...
Unlike their American counterparts, these tigers were being fed beautiful fluffy bunnies! It's the law of the jungle!
Taxidermied tigers like this one at the Field Museum in Chicago are also helpful...
A preliminary sketch, this didnt work because it wouldnt work with the typography, and was generally just plain dull....
after many sketches, this one seemed to start to have the right feel...
starting the painting
working my way towards finishing...
detail of the finished face

This needed to have a distinctly Asian vibe, but at the same time it had to feel set in a fantasy world. Hopefully I have achieved this goal. It might seem like a lot of work and hassle to make a painting like this, but it's pure pleasure for me.

I like having an original artifact of the work I do. This is the final art hanging at the CCA faculty/alumni show earlier this month. Also pictured, students Dean Stuart, Alyssa DeVille, and illustrator Owen Smith.

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