April Showers

America, Barrons, Far East Economic Review, Newsday, WSJ

Around this time, in addition to the regular bi-monthly ‘health care’ column for the WSJ (pictured right), I received an assignment from America magazine, a jesuit publication I’ve been doing a fair amount of work for over the past few years (although this would end up being one of the very few I would get this calendar year), something to do with communion and breaking bread (the exact topic escapes me). (pictured above) The nice thing about this client has always been the freedom to experiment in different styles, for instance, on this one, I played around with a combination of light washes and colored pencils, and adding different transparent layers over the whole thing to add depth (all digitally of course).

Also in the mix during this time period, were a few spot illustrations for Barrons, a publication I’ve been doing more and more work for this year. The piece on the left was for a story about carbon taxes – my least favorite things to draw, cars and buildings, but in this case I thought they turned out rather nice (a little research goes a long way). And the one below is yet another visit with our old cliche friends the bull and bear. This time ringing bells for some reason, a reason which has now been long forgotten.

A same day black and white assignment from Newsday came through around this time (pictured below). The topic was a story about improper teacher/student romantic relationships.

Another portrait for the Far Eastern Economic Review, a Hong Kong client, also came through around this time. More practice on both portraiture techniques, and on asian faces in general.

Outside the Comfort Zone

AHMM, America, Barrons, Newsday, Niche Media, WSJ

Early in March was a rather busy time for me. I had just come off of a couple of slow months, and was beginning to get a little worried about how the year was shaping up, then a sudden rush of projects all at once calmed me down a bit and put the panic on the back burner (which was probably not a good thing as I should have concentrated more on advertising and looking further down the road).

I took in a quartet of illustrations for my regular quarterly AG Edwards newsletter (which I don’t include samples of here, in deference to our agreement with regards to usage). These are usually scratchboard, on a familiar set of topics, usually retirement, savings, investment and estate planning, one of them fairly large and horizontal and the rest of a medium to small spot size.

I also received a trio of illustrations from America magazine, a jesuit publication client of mine. I had been doing a series of ‘saint portraits’ for a while for them over the previous months, and this assignment was a little less concrete, and a little more challenging. The only direction I was given was to come up with a series of illustrations that would portray the concepts of ‘good’, of ‘evil’ and of ‘lesser evil’. My idea was to use the snake as the symbol for evil, and thought I’d could use a small snake as the ‘lesser’ and a larger more menacing one for the ‘evil’, and then thought of tying them all together with the idea of a ‘candle in the darkness’ as the symbol for ‘good’, which could continue throughout the pieces.

One of the perks of working for this particular client, is the amount of freedom he allows me in experimenting with different mediums, and for this one I chose a combination of rough pastels, washes and colored pencils (all digital, of course), and I was quite happy with the end result, so much so, that I reused one of the illustrations for a mailer that I put out at the end of the month. A fun project overall, in which I got to push myself outside of my comfort zone, draw objects which aren’t easy (hands and snakes), and work in an unfamiliar medium, which gives one a feeling of walking a tightrope without a net sometimes, but gives you a great boost of adrenaline along the way (sort of like what appeals to me about sailing).

Near the beginning of the month, I also received a black and white same day illustration from Newsday. This one being about the bad press the local fire department was getting with regards to ‘response time’ and how they don’t take into account what time the ‘chief’ shows up at the scene, frequently performing heroic acts before the rest of the crew even gets set up. And then another ‘health care’ column piece for the WSJ, something to do with sprains or lasers or something. Both jobs well within the comfort zone, but rewarding in their own ways.

A newer regional publication client, Niche Media, gave me a caricature assignment around this time as well, a spot to accompany an article about the democratic front runners. A chance to take a stab at doing Obama and Clinton, (Mrs. Clinton I’d tried a few times before, but this would be a first time doing Obama for me). Also gave me a chance to work outside the usual scratchboard on a more cartoonish level. I liked how the donkey came out on this one, I usually have trouble with them, but I was a little worried about how this illustration would be perceived by those with a more prurient mindset. But the client didn’t seem to see a problem, so we went ahead with it.

Another of my regular clients, Barrons, who has been giving me more and more work lately, approached me with an assignment to come up with an illustration that would depict the concept of ‘risk’. I was a little worried, because at first I was really drawing a blank, having trouble coming up with even one idea, and I approached my family members for brainstorming nuggets.

My son came up with a great idea about ‘hand buzzers’ which I drew up a sketch for, and then I thought of the idea of a ‘snake in the grass’, but substituting a fancy wrapped package for the ‘snake’ and hid a bear trap around it in the thick grass. The old ‘bucket of water on the top of the door’ trick provided another sketch, and then I had the idea of taking a big bite out of a sandwich, but finding a nasty surprise inside. Sent all these ideas away to the art director with a bit of trepidation, thinking that he wouldn’t find any of them suitable.

The AD called me back up with the surprising news that he wanted me to go ahead and finish all them up, explaining that the topic comes up time and time again in their publication, and he could use them all over the upcoming weeks and months. A nice windfall, which helped push early March into the red.

Of the four, I think my favorite of the finishes is the ‘trap in the grass’, with the hand buzzer a close second. Glad they all found a home though, and I am sure to give plenty of concepts to choose from for this client in the future.

Also around this time, got another fiction assignment from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. This one involving African-American ex-soldiers recognizing a Nazi commander from the war in a restaurant that they work in. I was happy with how the characters in the background turned out, but the foreground could have been a bit more dramatic, perhaps with more solid black areas.

Holiday Shuffle

AHMM, America, Newsday, WSJ

Tis the season, and I had a few holiday themed projects fall onto the workbench this month. It was a hectic month, as we had planned a trip to the Bahamas for an extended weekend for our wedding anniversary, and with Xmas falling on a Monday this year, I had a few regular jobs that needed to be shuffled around, or done ahead of time. The above project was for the Wall Street Journal, a scene of Santa flying down toward the stock exchange. Not being overly familiar with the area and buildings around there, it was tricky finding the right reference materials to help sell the image. I had done something similar as an xmas card for another client the year before, so the whole santa/sleigh/reindeer iconography was something I was sort of familiar with. And, in a similar ‘zooming around’ theme, I had another small black and white spot for the weekend edition of the same newspaper around this time.

Even the semi-regular ‘health column’ gig took on a holiday flavor around this time, with an article about holiday flu season. My pitbull ‘Lady’ made a couple gratuitous appearances on a couple illustrations this month, both in the ‘flu season’ spot, and in a piece on New Year’s resolutions for Newsday. My wife was also good enough to pose for me on this one (and this time I actually ended up making the character look like her). (pictured below)

Another couple pieces for the same newspaper are pictured below. The first one was about investigating family histories, when one half of the family is basically a blank for one reason or another. Then I received another ‘tribute portrait’ around the holidays when President Gerry Ford passed away. I was pretty pleased with how that one turned out.

Another fiction piece for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. This one was about a pair of mysterious ‘hollywood’ millionaires, which had a sex change twist at the end, so I paid homage to a semi-well known photo of a favorite silent film actress to portray the ‘man’ in the story.

And finally, after doing a series of ‘saint portraits’ for America magazine over the past few months, the project culminated in a collage cover, both reusing one of the portraits, and adding a series of ‘present day’ scenarios to the mix. Collages are not a favorite subject of mine. I’m never happy with how things flow together and I’ll avoid them if I can. Not always able to though.

Fiction Immersion

AHMM, America, Barrons, Carus Publishing, Far East Economic Review, Newsday, WSJ

A pair of illustrations to accompany a story about a flooded farm and the rescue of a trapped calf for Cricket magazine was the big highlight of the latter half of a rather slow November. I had a lot of fun working on this pair of illustrations, as I got a chance to draw what for me has always been a very challenging animal, the horse.
I’m not real familiar with horses, from a structural or familiarity standpoint, and they always require a lot of research and planning on my end whenever an assignment requires their portrayal. (another ‘horse’ assignment is to the right, that also came through around this time, this one a small rush job for the Wall Street Journal) The illustration above would be the opening splash illustration, and the one below would be a smaller spot further into the text on the 3rd page of the story.

And another fiction illustration for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, this one had to do with a murder investigation that involved a poisoning by rather obscure art materials, so my solution was a rather detailed and elaborate still life of an artists worktable.

Besides the two ‘fiction’ assignments, I also had the usual ‘health care’ column gig for the Journal that comes along every two weeks. This one on cholesterol screenings. And over the weekend, during this time, I also had a pair of portraits for the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong.
My memory isn’t real good regarding the subject matter of these two portraits. I think one of them was the female ruler of the Philippines President Arroyo (the sinking boat was something to do with keeping the market afloat perhaps?) (right), and I don’t quite remember who the other one portrait was of (pictured further below the ‘dove’ picture)

The ‘dove on a sword’ illustration above was for America magazine, that concerned the middle east peace process, if memory serves. I really liked how this one turned out, the white dove made a nice contrast with the dark blood encrusted sword, and some subtle blood splashes across the illustration kept it from becoming too static.

For a while now, I’ve been getting a series of assignments from time to time from Newsday whenever someone newsworthy passes on. This latest one was a personal essay about someone who considered the late Ed Bradley a good mentor, and rather than the usual straight on head shot portrait, I submitted a sketch of a view from behind of the ‘mentor relationship’, with only a hint of Mr. Bradley’s features as one of my concepts. This ended up being the one that was chosen by the AD. Not really sure I’d categorize it as a ‘portrait’, however it seemed to suit the article well.

And, finally, I had a pair of illustrations for Barrons. The first one was a rather strangely shaped illo that showed a small figure hauling a house up from the edge of a cliff (not pictured, as it doesn’t fit the page well, leaving a lot of white space around it, and not a particularly interesting illustration at that), and the other one regarded the wealthy taking advantage of tax breaks for making donations of personal effects. The AD wanted to make sure we understood how ‘wealthy’ the main character looked, so I sort of took a Thurston Howell the Third approach with the smoking jacket and ascot.

June is Busting Out All Over

AHMM, America, Barrons, Highlights, WSJ

The top half of June brought a wide variety of assignments, and a few strange ones as well. I had a rare ‘western’ fiction piece for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. I got a note from the author a few months later when it ran, thanking me for the nice work. Always nice to get a little feedback, it happens pretty rarely.
Barrons assigned a long vertical piece and requested some sort of ‘runner’ preparing for a long haul as the concept. Turned out pretty nice, and fit the space well.

And had a few small spots for The Wall Street Journal, a same day color piece on ‘standing out at board meetings’ (pictured below), and a few ‘health care’ column spots, one on brain MRIs and another on the health benefits of sugarcane. (pictured below)

For the same client, I also had a spot on the rash of ‘superhero movies’ that would be invading the theaters this summer, and the growing trend of simultaneously releasing them to IMAX venues. (pictured below)

An assignment for Highlights also fell during this time, this one having to do with a children’s board game activity. (pictured right)

An assignment from Honolulu magazine concerned a boisterous dog and his transplanted owner. (pictured below) In addition to these, I also had a pair of illustrations for America magazine. The first one was pretty straightforward. I had done a similar piece for them in the months previous, and they simply wanted another one to match but with a different pose and layout. (the bible illustration below). The other assignment was a little different, and a little troubling in a couple of ways which I will explain.
The article was pretty interesting, and well reasoned. It concerned a major religion that seems to have a problem with getting bent out of joint when someone ridicules them in print. Recent examples include the author of a satirical book who had to live under a death threat for years (and who I heard give a very interesting talk on PBS right around this time on this very same subject), and more recently the riots and deaths that occurred because a cartoon appeared about this religion in a newspaper overseas. The article bravely stated that this religion needs to grow up and get a sense of humor, and that the rest of us, as a whole, need to stand up to these thin skinned bullies, and I was proud to find myself in the position to provide an image for this essay. I supplied what I thought was a subtle, but powerful image.

Ironically, the publication didn’t want to offend anyone, and had me soften the image by removing the item on the end of the gentleman’s nose. I saved a version of both, just because I liked the original version better. (the “I heart NY” button was an editor’s suggestion, one that I didn’t quite understand, but included anyway)