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Ascent of Man

JULY 29, 2010

Recently I was asked by Discover Magazine to work on a cover illustration.  They were to publish a special issue on evolution.
The concept was the ascent of man.  Like mount Rushmore, Lady Justice, Uncle Sam and many other illustration staples, this image is ubiquitous for our profession.
I was basically asked to put my spin on the ascent of man and I knew I could add dimension and light and hopefully some sort of connection to the viewer.
The job actually started with an initial request to illustrate a skull?  I did some sketches but the process froze and after some internal meetings the job changed to the ascent of man.

I knew that I had to represent accurately each step along the way and worked to make the necessary adjustments to size and detail to pass muster.  
After sending in the sketches they picked one but asked that I reduce the number of steps and to create some eye contact with modern man.  
That solved the last issue, connection to the viewer.  

When the art was delivered, the AD Michael Diioia said that someone asked who the last man was.  He joked that it was me.  The truth is that the Neanderthal body is mine (from the late spring, prior to a 25 pound weight loss).  I make a good caveman.  I just shortened my neck and changed my head.

I aspire to modern man but will never be that tall.
First sketch. Simple and clean. You have to start somewhere.

This was my effort to make this cover look more 'scientific'. Omni Magazine circa 1985?

This is a sketch for the next phase...the head with flesh on it.

I like this and think it could have been a powerful cover but it might have come off as his face being eaten off. Probably not what they wanted the cover to suggest.

Marginally skilled super heavyweight boxer Nikilai Valuev, the Primo Carnera of our era looks like no other person I've ever seen.  Why he's not in movies is beyond me.  No make-up required.
He was the model for my early man.
A rough for the new direction, the ascent of man.

The AD asked for a mixture of all these leaning towards cooler tones. I then removed a step and turned modern man's head to make eye contact.

A close-up of one of the stages.

I actually remove belly fat from my reference to look like a fit neanderthal. Perhaps this was the motivation I needed to lose the weight. Go photograph yourself for reference. It's quite a motivation.

The final art.