That time of year again, and I’ve been working on wiccan illustrations for Llewellyn’s annual ‘Witches Companion’ book. This year they went with 6 full page illustrations instead of the “mix n match” sizes of previous years.
Upon reaching my 30th year in business, I’ve been spending some time over the past month, looking back at my work and how it has evolved over the years. One thing I’ve noticed about the scratchboards, is that they started out rather crude and loose, and when I went digital, I started getting tighter and tighter with the style and the realism to the point where I think I started to lose some of the life and vitality that my earliest samples had. So I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort lately to ‘loosen up’ a bit with my style, and you can see a bit of that working in this set of illustrations.
In addition to the Llewellyn witches this week, I also had some work for GreenPrints (a gardening journal I’ve been doing work for since 2012). These are pictured below.
More work planned this weekend, which I hope to share early next week, and then I’ll be heading downtown for Jury Duty (hard to tell how much time this will eat up).
Seems like just yesterday I was celebrating the my 50th birthday, and now here I am suddenly facing down my 57th. Been a slow start to 2019 so far, but I have a few big projects that I’ll soon be starting on (hopefully next week), and in the meanwhile I have been doing a few quick turnaround pieces (above for Delaware Today, below for Hudson Valley), and I’ve been working through a series of 8 full page scratchboard interiors for Llewellyn’s “Witches Companion” for this year (I’ll share these next week when I’ve got them all completed).
Well, I made it. Officially thirty years now since I began freelancing in 1989. (technically, I didn’t leave my job and start working for home until March or April of 1989, but I had begun sending out cartoon submissions earlier in the year, so close enough). I have no plans to retire anytime soon, so onward to 40 years, or as long as I can keep this up.
2018 was a little better than 2017. The book publishing industry still seems to be where I am finding most of my work these days, and I’m finding myself more comfortable at the pace and working requirements that this sort of work entails. 3 Penguin books (on ‘Area 51′, ‘Hollywood’ and the ‘Vietnam War’), as well as 3 MacMillan projects (the ‘Epic Fails’ series), a children’s adaptation of ‘Peter Cottontail’ for Skyhorse, and one that I was particularly excited about working on – a book on the Watergate Scandal (also for MacMillan). The ‘Western Screen Legends’ book that I was excited about last January, still hasn’t been published, but I expect that to hit the shelves next month. Things move much slower in the Book Publishing World, and I am trying to adjust.
One more big development that I was first approached about in May of 2018, was the possibility of working on my first ‘Graphic Novel’. Doing comics has been an ambition of mine since leaving college back in 1982, and I am super excited by this possibility. I did several pages of ‘samples’ over the summer, and there has been a lot of back and forth with the publisher (and the author, this being an adaptation of an existing work), and I was offered a contract near the end of the year, and will likely be starting work on this project in the very near future. This will be the biggest project I have ever tackled and am looking forward to the challenge. More on this later.
Other big developments in 2018, on the personal front; My son Keenan got married in August to a wonderful girl named Lydia (another artist in the family, which is nice). We sold our boat (which has been a bit of an albatross around our necks for the last few years), but we still have plans to charter sail when our schedules permit. We had a few unexpected hospitalizations earlier in the year, but are feeling better now, thank you. Me and the wife celebrated our 35th anniversary in December, and took a trip to Ireland with a couple friends in October. And thanks to my sister, we have gotten back into hiking, and have made plans to tackle a rather large hiking trip in the summer of 2019 (wish us luck).
Oh, and almost forgot to mention the band. Our 8th year playing together, we had a nice ‘residency’ this past year and a half at a local restaurant, and while having a nice steady monthly gig that paid well, and grew a nice audience of new fans over a period of time, the downside was that we got kind of lazy in seeking out other gigs (since we only play out twice a month). Our hope is to play a few more summer festivals this coming year, and get to work on our 5th album (and perhaps a few EPs as well – thinking of a ‘cover album’ and a ‘christmas album’, as long as we are in the ‘recording mode’).
Anyhow, here’s what I consider my best work of 2018 (not counting images I have not yet shared on this blog, due to books not yet seeing publication):
Approximately 510 illustrations done in 2018, bringing the grand total to 15,830 since I started in 1989.
December has been a quiet month, and thankfully so (I’ve been laid up with a bronchial infection for most of the month, so I’ve been on the couch a lot, and catching up on a lot of reading). Above is an illustration for Hudson Valley Magazine that I finished up this morning, and below is a holiday card illustration that I did for one of my design clients at the start of the month. I’m expecting a rather large project to hit my desk at the start of the year, so I’m getting mentally pumped up for that, plus some more ‘witch’ artwork for Llewellyn. Here’s to my official “30th year in the business” in 2019, and Happy Holidays everyone. Likely over the weekend, I’ll be compiling my annual “best of 2018″ post, so stay tuned.
I received a very nice Christmas surprise in the mail this week. I have been working for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine since my first year in business (1989), but, unfortunately, I have not been very good at saving my original artwork and/or printed samples over the past thirty years. I put out an online ‘appeal’ to anyone who may have back issues of this magazine to try and recover some of these lost illustrations from my early years in the freelance business (some 33 missing pieces to this puzzle when I first made my christmas list). Thanks to a reader in New Jersey, and over the course of the past several months, I have now been able to fill in the blanks in that chronology to the tune of 20 missing illustration assignments from the years 1989-1993 (many of these arriving the day after Christmas).
Of course, most of these early illustrations appear very amateurish to me now, (looking back from a thirty year perspective) but it is interesting to me to look back and see how far I’ve come. Here’s a link to a AHMM checklist of each and every illustration I’ve done for them in the past thirty years.
The illustration above was for a Holiday card design I did for this publisher back in 2007.