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Change I can Believe In

DECEMBER 20, 2008
The final art
Is there an editorial art director working today on fire as much as SooJin Buzelli?
We've all seen it displayed here, free ideas allowed to flourish in an environment where normally editors use their extensive art backgrounds to clip and prune even the best talent.  SooJin  must have the best gig and the only annoying part has to be dealing with the truckload of illustrators' mailers that arrive every day.

Recently I was asked to do a cover for her magazine, PlanSponsor.  The request, which I read over and over for wiggle room, was to illustrate this; 'Now What? What the new president/congress/senate means for the health care issues.'

The next request was for Obama and other's in his team to be around the operating table.  It couldn't be Obama alone. 
I read that over and over and wondered how to compete with the coolness of the sample covers she sent.   It made me think of how art directors view me and what I do.  I see the full spectrum of what I can do and like to do, but not all art directors share that vision.  I was reminded that it was my job to show that spectrum even if it's not requested.

So, I did a few sketches that referred to the initial request.  I have a fear sometimes of offering literal, realistic, situational illustrations.  This is what I call most Rockwell pieces, characters cast for roles and acting them out.  In my style this can look too stiff and awkward unless it's done in a comic way.  I imagined my sketch coming in, going to finish then coming out and saw that next to all those cool covers.  I decided to offer another thing I can do, more of a conceptual and iconic solution.  I thought of the 'caduceus' or medical symbol and how ripe that was for this assignment.  I did a quick sketch of that new idea but thought again that I had to offer another along the lines of my first sketch.  I did an Obama as doctor looking at an X-ray.
I sent them all in and SooJin chose the caduceus symbol.  Of course she would!
I told her I was relieved to not have another Obama assignment for the 13th time (not kidding) and we both agreed that this was the best solution for a great cover and to relieve me of the long string of Obama illustrations I've done this fall.  Since then I've done 2 more to bring my total to 15.  Amazing.
This sketch reminded me of what I always tell my students, that the idea is there but do we need everything else?
Can I make it cool?
Here is another idea peeling away the other characters in the piece. I like this one and maybe I'll use it again, but I applied the scalpel to this again...
...considered this crop to show the state of health care in the US. I thought it was mixing symbols though and the flag was too broad a symbol.
So, I went back to my first sketch and performed a symbolectomy. The operation was successful and it also allowed for a clean, white cover.
Here is the cover with a bit of a zoom and crop to add to an uneasy feeling. Thanks SooJin.
The lesson leaned, or relearned was that I have to decide how I'm used but it's a lot easier over at PlanSponsor.