Plutocracy Anyone? Keeping Busy- Part 7
MAY 14, 2015
The AMERICAN PROSPECT Magazine has undergone a change in format and publication, its issues now seasonal rather than monthly. Luckily for the magazine and happily for me, Mary Parsons remains the art director. She trusts her artists and when she does offer suggestions they are on point. In an era where editors increasingly seem to make the decisions on visual matters and art directors seem to exist merely as executors of those decisions, it’s a pleasure to work with someone who is willing to push back if necessary and advocate for the illustrator and for the visual solutions. Many times it’s the difference between images that have teeth and images that act as wall paper.
The “Plutocracy Forever?” issue is a great example of why you should never throw your sketches and ideas- in particular good ones- away even if they don’t make the cut for a particular story. This is a concept I have only come to appreciate more in my later years. The ability to store files of rejected ideas in hard drives as opposed to boxes of paper makes it a lot easier to access a sketch that was for any variety of reasons rejected for one story but still a perfect match for another. In this situation Mary asked me to create a number of illustrations for the issue and we had a treasure trove of old ideas done for The Prospect and other magazines that found new life and seemed totally appropriate.
The cover was a mix and match situation taking a singular image, the reclining reinvention of the Monopoly man morphed with a swine, and adding a portion from another illustration. Mary originally had reservations about the size of the cover copy, which the editors seemed to want, but the illustrations fit perfectly and complemented the layout giving the cover a nice sense of openness.
The interior pieces were a combination of revisited old sketches as well as new ideas to fit the essays. Once again the rejects hold up well and remain archived for some later potential usage. After a certain point there are only so many ways one can illustrate the ever returning core of themes- greed, corruption, venality, etc., that are part of political and social commentary publications and a visual that has you chuckling is a keeper. Recycling is not just about plastic.
In this earlier version, done for another publication, the member of the 1% skips exuberantly over people smothered in debt. Mary suggested thinking of an alternative representation of the 99%. People in barrels seemed a perfect metaphor.
Used inside as well the lower portion of the finish became the bottom of the cover.
I did a variation of this image many years ago of sports team owners and regulators. I suspect you can guess who held the short leash.
Addressing the disparity of the fortunate few vs the majority of senior citizens in the current environment of growing inequality. Comfortable retirement vs working till the grave.
Depending on your economic status the housing collapse had a different impact. A couple of approaches, one which leaned on a favorite Winslow Homer painting with some adjustments, the other looking at a washed away coastline and a mansion resting on high solid ground.
For THE NATION- Received a call from art director, Robert Best, for an illustration on a piece by Don Guttenplan prior to the recent elections in Britain. The article didn't present a pretty picture of the current Labour Party and its party leader, Ed Milliband, and its very uncomfortable relationship with the Scottish National Party represented by Nicola Sturgeon. I don't really follow British politics. US politics provides enough of a headache. But Milliband and Sturgeon presented a potential for some good comedy. This was my initial idea. The rose symbol of the Labour Party loses its petals and the loop of the SNP I used as a noose around Sturgeon. While he loved my caricature of Milliband, Don felt the noose off the mark. Back to the drawing board.
My second approach struck the right chord and got a good round of laughs. The challenge was repeating the vitality of the sketch for the finish. Several attempts were made.
The finish looked so good in black and white that I didn't want to screw with it and suggested just adding color to the SNP symbol employed as a type of engagement ring. Robert concurred.
Seriously, how can you go wrong? Ed Milliband, Labour Party leader.
The most recent cover of The Nation. Robert Best, AD. "Not Your Grandmother's Librarian". A cover feature on how librarians are on the front lines of pushing back against government surveillance of what people read in libraries. Interestingly, an updated Rosie the Riveter was suggested except that Robert's image of Rosie and mine were different. I referred to Norman Rockwell's iconic figure and Robert was thinking of the We Can Do It woman from the other iconic poster but misidentified on Google as Rosie. Either version would work. I preferred this one because of the dynamic of this new Rosie versus a stymied Uncle Sam.
Finally, a piece for the 150th Anniversary issue of THE NATION, only this time the guest AD was the one and only Steve Brodner who asked me to come up with an image for a Victor Navasky piece on McCarthyism and its consequences to American history. I tried a few approaches, even falling back to a more op-ed-y visual with clouds and little figure on landscape. A return to the 70's for me.
Then there was going for the good old satiric send up of iconic images. J.Edgar Hoover factored into the piece as he in effect laid the groundwork of paranoia that McCarthy was able to cynically capitalize on.
The approved sketch playing off another iconic image of JEH but in the original he was with Shirley Temple.