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Tim OBrien
Drury University
posted:
Recently I received a call from an AD at the magazine for Drury University.  He liked a  portrait I did for the Atlantic Monthly years ago depicting the 'Organizational Kid.'   The Art Director for the job was Mary Parsons who probably came up with the initial idea.  Thank you yet again dear Mary.

I was on the fence about taking the job.  I was busy and had some other work I thought I might like to do instead.  Still, the AD was a nice guy and was going to send over some recent covers.
This works at times to convice me to walk.  The covers can indicate their taste and show me that I might not get the piece I hope for.  I don't remember all the samples, but one was a great cover by Drawger's own, Chris Buzelli http://www.drawger.com/buzelli/.
Oh, okay.  If Chris did one then perhaps I can turn this article into a opportunity to do a piece I like.
The path was already set;  I would do a homage to my own Atlantic cover.  I wanted to get off the phone quickly as to not commit to too much so soon.
First the Atlantic cover...
The Organization Kid, 2001
Thumbnails were easy and I tinkered with the idea of having the model stand up as if typing in a note to herself before heading out.  I decided that this one was not as iconic and might imply a short attention span or that she is hurrying off to a kegger.
The only thing the AD asked was that I add the logo, which he sent over, and add books, a compass and perhaps a plant.
I thought about a compass but thought a globe would better convey a traveler's mind and look better on the cover.  An iPhone instead of the cell and earbuds rather that the headphones of 2001.
There is a hint here of a compass in the background. I thought it would look like a fantasy book cover with that there.
This thumbnail looked too much like the original for my taste and I feared that side by side I could never do it better. I thought again that I might have birds behind her and the clouds seen through her body. I didn't go there either. I think I knew what the AD wanted here.
I did want to try SOMETHING new and really wanted this bright light background behind her. It would read better from a distance while still looking vintage. The AD preferred the sketch with a dark background.
Picking models is a fun but nervous task.  In many cases I purchase reference to use for some of the people I paint or am provided reference.  In some cases however, I have to find a model. 
So it was a Saturday and I was working out at the gym.  On the mat, rehabilitating my sore hip when I looked up and saw a most pleasant face.  This young woman was smiling at some television program as she did her elliptical workout.  I sat and considered her.  She was perfect.
  So I was in full lurker mode; following her around the gym to see her in a better light.  You can't walk up to someone and ask them to model if you suddenly see that they are not right at all.  THAT'S awkward.
So I felt she was right but I lost my nerve.  Suddenly my wife Elizabeth showed up at the gym offering a ride home.  BINGO, a go between.  I could approach this young woman and NOT come off as a creep.  (DID ROCKWELL WORRY ABOUT THIS?  I doubt it.)
With Elizabeth standing next to me I stammered out the offer.  She looked a bit startled but agreed to help out.
Thank you Mia.
A miss-communication meant that I added the crest of the college and the AD didn't want one. He sent me the crest with DRURY type under it and asked that I use different type for Drury. Naturally I thought he therefore WANTED the logo. There's 38 minutes I won't get back! ; )
One of the main ways that this piece is different is how I like to have information in a piece but not light it all equally.  ADs often ask me to make colors bright and not so dark so I am not winning fans everywhere, but if I have the freedom, I enjoy adjusting the lighting to change the visual hierarchy of a painting.
Will I be asked to repaint this again in 10 years?  If so, what will she be listening to?  My hunch is in-ear buds that stream content to her wirelessly and some sort of iPad device.  Hopefully this device will be filled with illustration, even dark, brooding illustration.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here is Chris' cover that helped me decide to do one myself.


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