Black and White Scratchboards (mostly)

Carus Publishing, ChronicleHE, Cobblestone, Innovision, Newsday, WSJ


Another series of illustrations for my west coast magazine client. This wasn’t one of my stronger efforts for this regular assignment. These regularly consisted of a single larger color image, with 3 or 4 smaller black and white accompanying pieces along a similar theme. The concept this month was in ‘giving a helping hand’, and I chose to portray a ‘helping hand’ given in what are usually solitary artistic pursuits (I know, the ‘ballet’ one was a stretch, and even the ‘singing’ one isn’t particularly apt). I was taking adult cello lessons at the time, which probably nudged me towards the opening image (but I really should have used better reference in the hands).

One of the better black and white scratchboard efforts I had this month, was for a children’s magazine client of mine. This was for one of their ‘teen’ poetry/prose digest magazines, and concerned a story about a stray dog and worker at an animal shelter that befriends him. (above and below) I thought the layouts on each of these spots was particularly good, and I used a nice mixture of solid blacks and white space, along with a mixture of tight rendering and loose expressiveness.

For my east coast newspaper client, I had this rather strange illustration depicting Leonard Nimoy in a pose reminiscent of one of the Laugh-In characters portrayed by Lilly Tomlin. Don’t ask me, I’m just the illustrator.

Below and to the right is one of three illustrations I did this month for my educational publication client this month (no, make that four, I had a color piece in another entry this month). This was something to do with an imaginary debate between the article’s author and Hobbes.

Additionally, I had a pair of ‘beaver’ illustrations for the same client. This was a mascot of a particular school mentioned in the article, and I don’t quite remember why he is taking a bite out of a mortarboard cap, or hitchhiking down the road.

In addition to these illustrations, I also had a series of 40 or so small black and white spots for another children’s workbook for a local book publisher. As a departure from my usual ‘cartoon’ approach to these projects (which I’ve done quite a few of in the past few years), I decided to try and do all these in scratchboard. It wasn’t quite as successful as the cartoon spots, and I wasn’t really happy with how a lot of them turned out, and consequently went back to the cartoon style for later books. One of these illustrations is pictured below by way of example (the tropic fish illustration)


And then I had the usual smattering of black and white spots for my national newspaper client. The above ‘snake oil salesman’ illustration was an unusual shape that had to wrap around a chart, and the illustration below was a piece on the ‘small bond market’. (ha ha get it? small bonds? the bond is small – get it?)

The illustration to the left probably had to do with ‘forecasting’ in some way or another (looking down the road ahead, etc), and I also had a slightly larger spot this month about the microsoft operating system, portraying the two systems as an old jalopy and a souped up sports car, with users crowding aboard the new version. Definitely not my best ‘cars’.
Below that, was another for the same client, something to do with talent going overseas. I’d been working for this newspaper client now for a little over six months, and they’ve been keeping me pretty busy with steady work, but looking back at some of these early assignments, I’m amazed at how primitive they look to me now, and am very grateful that this client stuck with me long enough for me to work the kinks out of my drawing style.

Scratchboards in May

AHMM, America, ChronicleHE, Innovision, Legal Times, WSJ


Another in a series of assignments that I had from a west coast magazine client. These usually consisted of a single larger color illustration with 3 or 4 small accompanying black and white spots, on a common theme. The concept this month was on ‘Sir Walter Raleigh’ and concerned chivarly in various forms. Not one of my favorites from this series of projects, but then again, not the worst one either. I suppose I have a hard time working up enthusiasm for an idea that just doesn’t grab me from the starting gate. You can usually tell which projects they are. I usually try just as hard as I do with every project, but there just seems to be a certain magic missing from the drawings.

Below is another fiction piece for my long time ‘mystery digest’ client. This was one of the better ones for this year. I don’t quite remember the story exactly, but it seems to me that there was some sort of ‘cross dressing’ and mixed up genders situations going on in this murder mystery.



I had a rather straightforward ‘handshake’ illustration assignment from my educational publication client this month (pictured right).

Below are a few illustrations I had this month for my national newspaper client. The usual Bulls and Bears in a rather crowded ‘presentation’ scene (pictured below), and below that, an illustration regarding ‘funds’ for which I came up with a rather weak idea.

Below are a couple more illustrations for the same client. Stuck for an idea? A frequent method is to play around with size and scale when I’m having trouble conceptualizing. ‘Sniffing out’ your co-workers – voila, a big nose. Something to do with ‘listening’ – voila, a big ear. (or make the people next to ear real tiny to really bring the point home).

I also had a color piece for this client in May (rather rare to do color for this client at this time). A long horizontal regarding online global investing (I think I’ve recycled this idea more than once too, now that I think of it).

This illustration to the left was another for the same client, and had to do with investors taking a break for the summer. This was originally a strangely shaped inverted ‘L’ design to wrap around a chart in the weekend edition, but I’ve chopped off the bottom portion to make it fit here better without all the white space.

Below is a portrait of Fidel Castro for an east coast legal newspaper. Oddly enough, the first time I’ve been asked to draw this guy, considering he’s been in power since before I was born.

This illustration to the left was for a jesuit publication in May. An article about ‘religion in the office’, and I came up with a rather clever solution I thought.

April Newspaper Showers

ChronicleHE, Innovision, Legal Times, Newsday


About six months since the changeover to digital at this point. My goal when I made the switch was to keep my biggest selling styles largely unchanged, so as not to scare away long established clients. It quickly became apparent that clients were preferring the new direction for reasons completely unrelated to style. The fact that art was able to be sent as email attachments, eliminating the costly and time consuming step of ‘scanning’ the original art was one of these reasons. Sending rough sketches was streamlined as well, eliminating the fax machine almost overnight. Faster turnaround, and cleaner looking artwork. I could also do things like the illustration above, including actual cover images to the three magazines in the article and incorporate them seamlessly into the image (if done a year previously, I would have had to either include pasted on photocopies, or hand draw the covers and lettering, or left them blank for the art director to drop in). The above illustration was for the Chronicle of Higher Education in April, for a story about ‘small magazines’. Below is another for the same client, this one regarding SAT scores and judge’s rulings (another one where I was able to incorporate found imagery into the illustration).

Legal Times was another long time user of my traditional scratchboards for many years, who in fact went months without realizing I had changed the way I was working (they thought I had bought a scanner and was somehow ‘digitizing’ the artwork for ease of shipment. This ‘polygraph’ illustration to the left was one of the assignments I had for this client in April.

For me, the benefits of this new method of working were obvious and almost immediate. The simple fact of the ‘undo’ button changed my work immensely. No longer was I tied to goofs and errors or a ‘bad line’. No longer did I have that tedious step of transferring sketches to the scratchboard in order to render them. No more clouds of scratchboard dust clogging my office and lungs. I had so many more options now for adding color to my scratchboard drawings, eliminating the problem I had been struggling with for years of adding watercolor dyes to the scratchboard, only to have the colors muddy up thanks to the everpresent scratchboard dust (or bleed into board that has been ‘scratched too vigorously’. I felt my images had improved by a factor of 10 almost overnight, and there was no turning back. The only resistance I ever encountered was from fellow illustrators who bemoaned the ‘loss of the tactile’, or that I was somehow ‘going over to the dark side’. Most of them were ill informed and had a pre-conceived notion of ‘computer art’ as something resembling airbrushed looking video game characters, and they would shake their head and turn away like the religious encountering one who has ‘fallen from the faith’.


Above and below are a few more illustrations for Legal Times. Most of the caricatures of Bill Clinton that I had were for this client, but they are hard to classify as ‘caricatures’ per se. They usually involved a smaller figure like the one above, involved in some sort of activity, so there really wasn’t much room for capturing a detailed likeness. I tended to simplify him into a recognizable symbolic representation. The ‘gun control’ illustration below was another assignment from this same client.


The above illustration was a first assignment from Critical Care Nurse magazine (Innovision) who would eventually keep me pretty busy over the next few years.

I also had another assignment for the National Business Employment Weekly this month (pictured below).


I had a few assignments this month from another long time client who actually started using me a lot more since I made the switch to working digitally. Newsday used to have me send photocopies via the fax machine for their finished printable art (I tried to photocopy it much larger than the finished size so that it reproduced as good as possible under those conditions, but even so, I shudder to think what the repro quality looked like for years). The ease and speed of this new method made working on their ‘same day’ assignments much more expedient and painless. The above ‘smoking/children’ illustration was one of those ‘same day’ jobs during April, as well as the ‘drunk driving test’ illustration pictured below.

Below is another assignment this month for Legal Times. I don’t remember the story behind this one, other than it features that old cliche standby the “fat cat tycoon”.