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Scott Bakal
Best Life
posted:
So I got this email from Dena Verdesca over at what will used to be called Best Life Magazine about a month or two ago.  It read:
“How do you feel about serpents and vipers?”
Being an old Dungeons & Dragons dork, I quietly responded:
“I think they’re kinda cool.”  As I was making the sign of the devil with my hand and jumping around and playing air guitar listening to Ronnie James Dio in my apartment excited about the prospect of painting something so freakin’ cool!
Some quick thumbnails that were scanned and emailed as we were discussing possible directions to take the image.
Here is the text I was given:
Although it's far from the best book I've ever read, Philip Wylie's Generation of Vipers, which I encountered at age 18, woke me up, turned my brain inside out, and launched me on the trajectory of reverent irreverence that I've travelled ever since.
Up to that point, the values -- social, political, and religious -- instilled in me by my Southern heritage, had never been seriously challenged. Wylie's philosophical rant pulled the rug out from under those belief systems in such a way as to fracture them, yet leave me feeling better than ever about being alive.
Having been been both shaken and exhilarated by Wylie, I was somehow inspired to weave this newfound liberating skepticism into the wild and wooly fabric of my innate literary imagination (I had begun writing at age five) and my evolving world-view. I don't know if I would have been any less open to Zen, French avant-gardism, psychedelic drugs, etc. had it not been for Generation of Vipers, but I can say for certain that it was the lobster claw (succulent and dangerous) in the tuna casserole of my pupilage.
-- Tom Robbins

More thumbnails. I had about 20 or so thumbnails that I did during our 'idea' phase...these are just a couple. The snake swirling around the hat was Dena's favorite but the Masters Above liked the snake.
Now, Dena and I have been friends for a good part of a year or so and I we had talked about her art directing style and my art direction getting style and I initially felt that it may have been a tough time if we ever worked together.  I didn’t think too hard about it until I got the email to do a job for Best Life and then I got a bit worried.
It was all for nothing and that feeling escaped me in mere minutes.  I think this may have been one of the best art director/illustrator collaborations I’ve had.  Within a couple of hours and a flurry of emails, scanned thumbnails, and learning about all the books Tom Robbins wrote (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Frog Pajamas, Skinny Legs, etc.) we had something that we both were really proud to go forward with.  Easy as pie.  I think it was the fact that we were friends for a while that really helped this job because we were able to play off each other’s ‘work personalities’ without a hitch.
 
The final sketch prior to painting.
Thanks Dena!
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Bakal is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!