For the current issue of Rolling Stone I was asked to do a Record Review piece for the comeback release by Whitney Houston.
About to leave for vacation, I had a tiny window to fit it in and they were more than happy to receive it early. The review was not in yet and but I had to start. These are never thumbs up or thumbs down illustrations, just an artist's take on the musician at this given moment. For me, this moment was about a major reintroduction for Whitney. Who fell further than Whitney? She went from being the Diva of Divas and ended up tired, lost in drugs and drama with Bobby Brown.
I thought initially about doing a piece with her arm creating a frame for her face. I knew that she was still lovely to look at and I could make this just about beauty.
However, I wanted Rolling Stone to think of me as more than just a portrait artists. I love doing portraits, but cover portraits come up so infrequently at any given publication, it would be smart to improve my profile. The trouble was that a concept meant more work. Damn you fellow Drawgers! Some of you make me want to be a better artist.
I immediately thought of the campaign that must go on to re-launch a star like Houston. I imagine the meeting, the Ari Gold-type guy pointing to people, "You buy the ads in the trades, you get some billboards in prominent locations, I want guest spots on safe shows, no questions!"
The billboard idea is one I've always liked. When I was hired by Time Magazine in the last days of 1999 to paint FDR, I used it to show the rebuilding of the American dream. I also did a piece for Ken Smith at Time about the end of tobacco advertising. Ken modeled for the Marlboro Man but I can't locate it. Ken might find it...Ken?
The odd thing about this illustration was the given dimensions. A long vertical! So, I needed to change the dimensions of an average billboard and still make it look real.
In the end the piece worked. I might have liked a different review. A few months earlier I had to turn down a Bob Dylan! Kicking myself still.
In any event, since I've done this illustration, I'm wishing Whitney Houston well. America loves a comeback.
This page is so indicative of my studio. Note the wrinkle on it and the chair wheel roll over marks. I laughed when I picked this up. When the call came it I was thrilled. I love working for Rolling Stone. I imagined in a split second, "Hi Tim, we are reviewing the new Beatles Albums coming out in September..." No it was Whitney. I sketched as he talked and as I thought of my options I drew her as a one eyed alien. The rough below was my initial thought.
Here is the final art. I sent it in, they liked it, and I left town for California. While I was there and in Monterey, they asked that I change her earrings to a pair unlike the ones she wears on her album cover. The image is from the same shoot and they didn't want a mirror clone on the same page. Understandable but it was kind of tough to do.
In the hotel, La Portola, internet costs 10 bucks for 10 minutes and 100 for a day. I read it 5 times not believing the audacity. IT was true. If I were going to change it with my laptop it would have to be at a Starbucks. So, I threw a rock and found a Starbucks and did the change with trackpad there.