Spots and Squirrels

Barrons, Log Home Living, WSJ

Been kind of busy over the past week. Finished up a quartet of illustrations for AG Edwards (which I’m not including in the blog in deference to the usage nature of the agreement with the client), I also completed a quartet of spots for Barrons, all on different topics – deflation, entrepreneurs from India, hucksterism, and navigation in the digital age. I’ve been doing quite a few spots this year for this particular client, and I’ve usually been quite happy with the results. You’d think I’d be getting burned out from such an immersion in the ‘financial/business’ illustration world for the past 8 years or so, but I seem to be holding up pretty well, idea-wise. It is definitely a more satisfying rut to be stuck in than the religious rut I found myself rooted in back in the mid-90s.

(images) top right: the ‘deflation/interest rates’ illo from the aforementioned series. middle left: another spot from the same series, this one on ‘navigating the digital age’. middle right, below: from the same series, “entrepreneurs from India”. middle left, below: from the same series, “stock hucksterism”.

I’m not sure when these pieces will run, they usually save them up and run them over the course of the following month, sometimes in color and sometimes in black and white depending on whether the page is printed in color that week or not.

Also this week, completed a ‘semi-rush job’ for the Wall Street Journal (two day lead time is actually quite a luxury for this particular client). This piece was on Ethanol and other eco-friendly fuels. I sort of cheated and used a similar solution (corn cob on fuel truck) that I had used before, but this was a bigger illustration, in color, and also utilized a farm scene and pipeline (image to be found further down the page). I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I also finished up a project this week for a London based subsidiary of the same client, but I’m not including those illustrations here, because it doesn’t run for another month or so (perhaps I will include it next month some time nearer to when it runs).

And finally, I also completed a half page illustration Log Home Living. The article was regarding ‘storage solutions’, and the idea was suggested by the client. (while I like a certain amount of freedom in idea generating, I usually feel it is better to get a little bit of input from the client, sometimes, as I tend to work better as a ‘idea bouncer’ than as an ‘idea generator’). (image posted at the bottom of this entry)

Train Wreck

ABA, Cricket, Log Home Living


A number of labor intensive scratchboard projects crossed the desk in early August. The above full page piece was for the American Bar Association, dealing with law education. The piece below was for Log Home Living, and concerned ‘smart houses’.

Continuing with my new reputation for being the ‘go to’ guy for historical and/or water related illustration, this series of drawings for Cricket magazine came my way in late July early August.

The story this time concerned a cub scout troop and their experiences during an infamous train wreck in New Zealand’s history. A volcano had erupted nearby, sending massive amounts of melted snow crashing down the valley, taking out a bridge and resulting in much destruction and loss of life. Told from the viewpoint of one of the scouts, this gave me the opportunity to do one of those ‘Boy’s Life’-type adventure stories that I read as a child while waiting in the doctor’s office.

Crowd scenes and chaos and destruction are never easy to draw, not necessarily from an emotional standpoint, but more from a logistical one. There wasn’t much in the way of research materials for this event, a few grainy old newspaper photos of the wrecked train, and I had to do my best to portray the scout’s uniforms, the train interior and period costumes flying on the seat of my pants, and hiding my complete lack of knowledge in some clever positioning of rocks, debris and portions of surrounding characters.

Most of the drawings were to bleed off the edge of the pages, and fade off into the text, so I frequently end up with odd shaped illustrations from this client. (especially the opening scene, pictured at the bottom of the entry, shaped like a big inverted letter L).

Some of the most enjoyable portions of this assignment were the action scenes, especially the one set in the interior of the coach as one of the boys rescues one of his mates as the cabin fills with muddy and frigid water. I don’t remember if I enlisted the help of my son for posing for these boys or not, but it is entirely likely that I did.


Size Matters

Barrons, Log Home Living, Newsday, WSJ


One of those rare occasions where a similar story topic pops up in two different publications around the same time, and I ended up reusing the same basic idea (although I warned the second client, that I had done something similar elsewhere). Of the two, I think I prefer the small black and white version, a little funnier, and simpler in design. I had given alternate concepts to each of these clients, but they just happened to choose the same thing. Both had something to do with investment groups deciding which stocks to invest in from a ‘christian or moral viewpoint’, although I think one of them was more geared toward individual investors, and the other was pertaining to ‘investment groups’. The color piece was for Barrons and the other was for The Wall Street Journal.


And moving on from the ‘divine architect’, we move down in scale to a couple of tiny house designers that was for Log Home Living magazine, and around the same time, I had a same day black and white illustration for Newsday. This piece was about DNA manipulating (moving on from the tiny to the sub-microscopic).
Another piece for the same newspaper involved the safety of local drinking water, which had me playing around with relative scale in an illustration once again, using extreme perspective on the water tap to heighten the drama and focus in on the drops of water.

And in addition to all these ‘size related concepts’ during this time, I also had a few tiny spots to add to the mix. A piece (pictured left) about females having difficulty climbing the corporate ladder past a certain point (again for the Journal), and I also had another ‘health care column’ piece for the same client, this one being about the health benefits of cherries.

Summer Begins

Barrons, Log Home Living, WSJ


The above illustration was for the Wall Street Journal. I don’t, however remember what the topic was for this one. Airline regulations maybe? (but then why the little golf carts at his feet?) Anyhow, featuring our old cliched friend Uncle Sam (plus I also provided a few tiny ‘airplane & helicopter spots’ that they could use throughout the article (they can be found in the ‘transportation’ morgue).

An assignment from Barrons came across my desk in early June, this one being an illustration of that old phrase “when the other shoe drops”. I normally have a hard time with shoes (ladies shoes especially), but when that’s the job, you knuckle down, do the research, and give it all you’ve got. I’m happy to say that this is without a doubt the best pair of shoes I have ever rendered.


An odd one about ‘home respiration’ for Log Home Living came through around this time. I also had a portrait assignment for the Journal. The president had just appointed a new treasury secretary, and it was requested that I put him on the new ten dollar bill. Dollars are tricky, you don’t want to just ‘copy them’, so you do little tricks with the rendering to make them look fairly accurate, but at the same time unique. I really liked how the portrait came out here, i really felt I captured the dollar bill portraiture style pretty well. The only problem came when I tried to run the illustration through the photoshop program (as it is my routine, to both put it into a recognizable file format and adjust colors when needed). Turns out that photoshop has some sort of built in counterfitting filter and it wouldn’t let me open the file, even though it was only half of a dollar, with the wrong face on it, and rendered all over with my own signature scratchboard marks. Very annoying, I ended up having to break it into 4 pieces, flipping the image and then putting it back together on the other end just to avoid the filter.

Oddball May Assignments

Carus Publishing, Log Home Living

For Cricket magazine, I had a series of illustrations about an African American member of the Louis and Clark expedition. I chose an overall image of the guy (based on what sketchy research I was able to put together) as an opening illustration on the first page, and a scene of action/adventure for one of the inside page headers, and then it was requested that I do a map of the expedition for the final image. I like doing maps, but I don’t care for ‘collages’, and this final illustration had a bit of each.

Rather than use the more routine scratchboard technique, I decided to do this one using a combination watercolor and colored pencil look. It was a challenging story to illustrate, because other than being along for the ride, the main protagonist of the story remains a bit of an enigma, and very little ‘action’ takes place in the story.

An illustration for Cobblestone (their science publication Oddysey), a ‘puzzle’ illustration regarding an overhead view of an orchard, which I also used the same wash and colored pencil technique. This was the last of the Cobblestone assignments, which had been gradually trickling away ever since I broached the subject of stagnant rates and making adjustments to their contracts. (I began working for them in the early 90s).

And finally, Log Home Living requested an illustration showing the whole family involved in designing their dream house. This gave me the chance to work on my ‘cartoon’ style, or a slightly more realistic version of it. Thanks to the wife for posing as the female in the picture.