Tim OBrien
August 2010
'Mockingjay' by Suzanne Collins

I've been illustrating since the late 80's and in that time, I've had some noteworthy assignments that venture into popular culture and are the kinds of jobs I might mention to a lay person to describe what I do.
In the past few years I've been doing the cover art for Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series. The first book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 100 weeks and Hunger Games second book 'Catching Fire' has been on it for more than one year.

On August 24th the final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, Titled "Mockingjay" was released to  the public.  The tale of survival of the heroine Katniss in a post-apocalyptic world has enthralled readers for a few years now.  The anticipation of this final chapter was huge and like Harry Potter, book stores had lines of people waiting for the doors to open.  The initial printing is 1.2 million copies.

The cover was designed by Scholastic's Creative Director for Hard Covers, Elizabeth Parisi.
I take pride in working out a concept for an illustration but must say that the idea behind this series is all Elizabeth.  She reads every book she designs and works hard to find just the right look for all her covers.  
I met Elizabeth 20 years ago August 8th and we've been working together ever since.  Doing work with someone you live with can sometimes feel like sailing into uncharted waters.  It's great to know that after all these years we still enjoy working on covers together.  Now if we could just finish our kitchen.
So, as most people know I'm a traditional painter.  I work with sketches and photoshop all the time but finals are painted on a panel, photographed and sent to clients.  For this series I decided to do the art digitally.
As it turns out, this was a good decision as the series became so popular.  The artwork had to be a large enough file to enlarge into huge posters. 
The final cover

Here are some shots from a book launch event for booksellers several weeks ago. From the upper left clockwise; The three books, Tim O'Brien and Suzanne Collins, Suzanne's introduction before the breathless booksellers, There were many little gifts and a handsome bag for all in attendance, my cover and finally Suzanne seemed to speak to everyone in attendance.

BP Oil Spill, The Aftermath

Will it fade in importance as the leaves turn this fall?   Months of oil gushing into the gulf as our summer just started made us all feel fragile. 
Just as fast as it started and our anxiety mounted, the news of the capped well allowed the American people to exhale once again.  We knew that this oil would be in our water for a long time but when it was announced that it was hard to find, I think we all feel a sense of skepticism.
Mother Jones in it's September issue tackles the story and gets down there to look for the truth.
While we watched the well plume gush, overhead planes were dumping dispersants over the vast slicks of oil that were the size of states.  The dispersant is toxic as well.  BP seems to have spent much time controlling information and the measurement of actual oil.  Did you know that BP rented virtually all the available hotel rooms on the shores or Louisiana to keep the press from moving in?  They've bought scientists off, chartered every boat they could. 
The cover story by Julia Whitty is thourough and thought provoking.
Read this story
Tim Luddy the Creative Director called and asked me to do the cover.  The idea was the sea floor.  Death and decay.  The light from above would TRY to filter down, perhaps as a metaphor for shedding light on the situation.
The deadline was tight so I went to a serious sketch right away. I love drawing out a rough sketch and sending that to an AD but in this case the image was pretty much settled on and what we had to work out was the color and value and bone situation.

This was an image that I thought would serve the type well. Less going on behind the type. Tim asked me to combine the two and for the final I did just that.

One request was to add some pipes behind or IN the scene. I was in Pasadena at the time and at the Langham hotel, at the end of the covered bridge was a nice collection of gas pipes. I tried them out but Tim suggested I be more accurate so they found me some authentic images of oil pipes to work from. When I see what a plumber can do I see them as artists with a sense of humor.

This is the pipe head I created to use as my reference.  The reference I had was fair but I needed to make some sense of it.  This is like sculpting it to understand it.
Almost the last sketch. I was working fast.

The final art of the leaking connection. I know light can't go down that far as to create shimmers on the pipe but it is a metaphor, remember?

The bones on the top are from a porpoise and the long beak is from a pelican. The others are various fish. A ton of work to paint when you eventually hide them in darkness but all worth it in the end.

I was glad to have an opportunity to add my illustration to the great work being done out there pertaining to the oil spill.  Thank you to Tim Luddy who again filled Mother Jones with great illustration throughout;  Sam Weber, Matt Mahurin, Tim Bower, and Steve Brodner among others.
Finally, buy electric!
Nisson Leaf
Chevy Volt
Ford Fusion
Maybe one day
The Tesla S
Oh, and this
My WORX Lawnmower
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