This summer I was troubled, as were many other Americans, when an unarmed black man, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. This followed the case of Treyvon Martin and was followed by Eric Garner's choking death (recorded) in Staten Island.
No matter what you feel about Michael Brown or other recent deaths of unarmed black men, 2014 was the year it came to a boiling point.
Just prior to the verdict in Ferguson, I was asked to illustrate Michael Brown on the ground. For me, the awful video of his body prone on the pavement, in the hot sun was hard to watch. Imagine the pain of his family seeing him there for almost 4 hours. Writer, John H. Richardson wrote a piece for ESQUIRE about the incident and how it endures through the eyes of his father, Michael Brown Sr.
Rough sketch based on the low quality long distance photograph.
This is the powerful layout in the magazine. Thank you to Christa Guerra and David Curcurito for the faith in illustration.
In order to do this piece I had to shoot reference and it's such a removed process to ask someone you know to pose for a piece like this. In the end I hope it made more real something only seen in grainy quality images.
Years ago I did a similar clarifying piece in responce to Neda being murdered in Iran. It's a foresnic form a portraiture.
Life couldn't have worked out better by the end of 2014. Still, the Irish in me begins to feel wary when things are too satisfying and I often find myself mentally 'testing the floor' to see if it's sturdy. I am learning to trust and enjoy the good parts of life. However, this image is about the way that life can sometimes flip you out of your boat.
My sketchbook is a place where I work out ideas and jot down simple images that suddenly, a while later, become relevant and need to be turned into final art. Sometimes I need a bit of clearance from the actual real-life events that inspired the sketch. This personal work from the fall of 2014 comes from that clearance and a more distant perspective.
I like staring out at the crystal-clear lake in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania in the late summer, when the light gets softer and the clouds become wisps and glow like neon against the falling sun. One particular day this August it all lined up perfectly; wispy clouds, soft ripples and evening light. That was the night I decided to do the piece.
This is an image of a man being tossed from his comfort. I don't imagine him losing his life, but it ended what was a blissful moment.
I look forward to doing more work from the sketchbooks in 2015.
Lean into life, take it all in and trust the good things all around, and no matter what, get back into the boat!
Rough sketch for 'The Boat'.....
I forgot about the wine bottle and the birds but every element is a character in the story and I felt they didn't need time on the stage.
A close-up of the formerly content subject
Here's a toast to all those who made this year such a great one for me. Cheers to all of my friends and family, my e-mail group, my running friends, to anyone who lost someone they love, who fought against some illness, who picked themselves up, to my far away friends, to my friends at the Society of Illustrators, to all my students (most of them) and to my heart, Elizabeth Parisi and Cassius. It was quite a year.
Click below to see a brief slideshow of 2014. Have a great holiday and New Year.
Every now and then an assignment comes along that is just perfect with where your head is. A freelancer should be ready to work with assignments and ideas that may not be right in one’s wheelhouse, thus is the reason it’s called a collaboration. Good illustrators can maintain their look and identity while working with another’s idea. This is the real job of an illustrator.
Recently, when Len Small of Nautilus contacted me about an illusion assignment, I was immediately inspired.
The assignment was to attempt a realistic version of the Duck/Rabbit illusion. Investigating these illusions, I saw that the more simple the artwork the harder it was to see either animal as the definitive choice as the eye goes back and forth trying to determine which is which.
I made several attempts with the illusion in digital comps and then let myself play a bit. I had several solutions and I liked the floating rabbit a lot, but the more direct illusion in the grass fit the article better. Nautilus kindly ran both.
Click to see the article at Nautilus...
What an amazing publication Nautilus is. There are certain places out there in the editorial market that are warm and sunny and have all that we dream of when a client calls. PlanSponsor, Scientific American, Playboy and Smithsonian are just a few examples. We all appreciate when illustration is loved and is used to enhance the writing. In Nautilus, the work is always beautiful and effective so I do hope other publications notice.
'Rabbit on the Pond' 15" X 10" Oil on Board
'Rabbit/Duck at Sunset' close-up.
To make the illusion work I had to find a way to reduce the rabbit's head so that the silhouette still looked like a rabbit while also looking like the back of a duck's head. The ears also had to reduce and hint at yellow. This is why I went with a golden sunset.
'Rabbit on the Pond' close-up
Thinking of this solution, I am reminded of my admiration of paintings by Michael Sowa. Sowa's Ark is a book I would highly recommend.