Mark Ulriksen
Some private commissions
George Washington's Secrets

This month I have the honor of contributing the cover to Smithsonian magazine's Secrets issue, following up on a similarly themed issue from last year where the great Tim O'Brien did the cover.

Art Director Maria Keehan is wonderful to work with. She told me that after O'Brien did the initial "Washington has a secret" image the editor wanted to have a different artist interpret Washington on the cover each subsequent year, always echoing what Tim did, with Washington holding a finger to his lips, saying "shhh".

Maria and I agreed that it would be more interesting to try and imply that 'ol George has a secret without merely repeating what Tim had done previously. So I submitted more options, with this getting the nod.

When it comes to existing images of POTUS 1 the pickings are few. I used a classic portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart for my version. It's actually pretty cool, following the tradition over the centuries of copying one of the few contemporaneous portraits of the man. It's pretty unique for me to paint a painting of a painting.

The background came from this Charles Peale Polk portrait.

The finished painting, egg tempera on watercolor paper. Another kick for me was painting his dentures. You never see a painting of Washington's teeth, which were in fact not wooden but probably not pretty either.
Street Ball

In early June I began working on a basketball-themed cover for The New Yorker. I love the suspended animation of players leaping in the air. This sketch was accepted and given a "go" to paint.

I re-drew my rough sketch at the size I would eventually paint it.

I did a number of small color studies, this being my favorite.

The blue gouache palette for the background sky. The lightest blue looks a little sickly. I probably adjusted that. At least I hope so.

Started by painting the background first.

For the curious: the orange buildings represent the apartment complexes around playgrounds in the Bronx while the blue skyscrapers represent Midtown Manhattan. Just saying.

I saved painting the shirts until last because I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them color-wise.

The finished painting. Landing a NYer cover is like hitting the winning basket as time expires. It's as big a thrill as it gets.
A Family Trip to St Andrews for Golf Digest
In early March, 2014 I received another life-changing email from Ken DeLago of Golf Digest magazine with this two-word subject line: St Andrews.

Having spent a week at The Masters in 2008 for the magazine they now sent me off as a traveling artist/journalist to golf's birthplace in Scotland, accompanied by my wife, photographer Leslie Flores, with our younger daughter Lily serving as our caddie.

My assignment was to document the town, the course, the people, the pubs, the shops, the ruins and then create a sketchbook as well as color paintings for the magazine's British Open preview package.  Yes, I do pinch myself every now and then at my good fortune. Here's the results, currently published in the July issue.

And here's the gouache paintings:

Here's the family lying on the 18th fairway, when the Old Course is closed to golfers and open to the public.

'Tis a great place to walk the dog.
One of downtown St Andrews' three main streets.

Jo and Katie behind the counter at Fisher & Donaldson Bakery,
a local institution.

The Criterion Pub, where I learned of the sweet tastiness of Auchentoshan, Glenronach and The Balvenie. In Scotland don't call it "scotch", t's whisky!

Golf Digest's international editor John Barton joined Leslie and I for some pints at The Dunvegan. Some great job, eh.

St Andrews caddies Neil Crate, Dave Coyne and Davy Swan.

Putting out on the 18th, probably around 9pm.
Suiting Up for The New Yorker
This week's cover is called "Suiting Up". It's personally noteworthy in that I didn't know it was running (pleasant surprise) and it marks my 50th cover (or half way to Barry Blitt).

I'm a news junkie, always keeping my antennae out for current events that might be ripe for a New Yorker cover. As more and more Republican presidential aspirants were declaring their intention to run I thought how awkward it would be for all of these men to be stuck in an elevator with each other, doing what we all do in elevators; avoiding eye-contact and conversation.

That idea wasn't really a quick enough read to communicate as a cover so I changed the location to a men's locker room, another awkward and confining space that lends itself to individualizing each candidate.
Here's the sketch I submitted.

That's Chris Christie in the lower left, the last to get dressed, tying his Air Jordan. Rand Paul looks peeved as he combs his hair. Marco Rubio is busy on the phone. Jeb Bush has to decide between a red tie or a purple one. Scott Walker pulls up his socks, adorned with the Koch Brothers logo, while Ted Cruz is the first one dressed, admiring himself. Mike Huckabee hangs in back reading his bible and Hillary Clinton peeps in from outside this men's club.

The composition needed some adjusting so I enlarged Cruz and moved his body and reflection to the right. Literally. Made Hillary smaller in stature as well. Much better and more accurate too.

I printed my sketch onto smooth Bristol paper and started this gouache painting. First step was covering the surface with a warm mid-tone, in this case raw sienna.

Sometimes I paint faces first, sometimes last, as in this painting. Here I took on the lockers first.

Everyone wears white shirts and has a bit of red in their wardrobe, naturally.

My goal was to make Rand Paul look prickly and Ted Cruz to look self-satisfied. Didn't quite pull that off.

Jeb Bush wears monogrammed shorts resembling cowboy boots.

Ted Cruz has both the Constitution and Reagan's portrait inside his locker.

The painting (left) is done, save for Hillary Clinton, who I painted last.

"Suiting Up"
And that's Rick Perry in the lower right corner, represented by a pair of empty cowboy boots.
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