November Scratchboards

Ball Advertising, ChronicleHE, Newsday

Two months since switching over to digital illustration, and with a few exceptions, I’ve been sticking mainly with black and white work, and mostly in a style that is very close to what I was doing prior to the switch. Almost all of the clients this month have been clients that I’ve been working with for many years, and all of them so far seem to like the change. The work is transported easier, I’ve eliminated a step for them (scanning the art), and so far, the work hasn’t changed drastically.

The illustration above was for Newsday. A same day assignment that just 4 months prior would have involved a trip to the copy shop to enlarge the artwork and then faxing the illustration for the client to use as finished art (which the client would then have to scan).

The illustration to the left was for the Chronicle of Higher Education (if I’m remembering correctly), and another one for the same client is pictured below. In this one I was able to use the cloning feature to repeat the ‘face’ in the flag.

One of the rare ‘new’ clients that I had this month was a midwest advertising agency who wanted a long horizontal farm scene. I don’t quite remember the client or usage on this. This was rather large, measuring about 15 inches wide, and I discovered one of the problems with working on a ‘computer screen’: the difficulty in seeing a large illustration ‘as a whole’. You can reduce the illustration in size to see the ‘big picture’, but it isn’t quite the same as ‘stepping away’ from a work on your drawing board, and you have to be careful that you aren’t compartmentalizing yourself as you work on it. I frequently will find myself, when working on a large piece, really getting jazzed about little details, and then finding that the illustration as a whole doesn’t work together. A larger screen is one solution (which I switched to on later computers), but awareness of the problem seems to help the most. I still haven’t completely got a grip on the problem, but I am getting better I think.

I’ve included a few ‘detail images’ below since the long horizontal has to be reprinted so small here.

I also had a few other ‘same day’ assignments from Newsday. I wasn’t crazy about how either of these turned out. One of them was my first attempt at a caricature image since going digital, of a couple of NY politicians (don’t remember the names), and the other was a ‘sand castle’ scene in which I had to draw some kids at the beach, and both came out rather awkward looking. On the ‘sand castle’ one, I experimented a little bit using a digital spatter airbrush technique in order to try and emulate ‘sand’ to mixed results.

All work and no play

personal, self portrait

During these first few months since making the switch from traditional to digital illustration, I was doing a lot of ‘playtime’. It was ‘play’ in the sense that these drawings were all unassigned, and I was enjoying playing around with my new ‘paintbox’, but it all served the purpose of getting me familiar with what this software could do, and I was also playing around with the idea of sending out a promotional postcard or two in order to promote this new innovation. One of the better efforts of this time was a portrait of Franz Kafka that I did sometime in the fall of ’97 (dates are a little spotty for these illustrations). I decided not to send it out as a postcard ultimately, because I didn’t really feel it represented my style very accurately. So this one has sat in a file folder for ten years, briefly being posted as a sample on my website, but other than that, never publicly shown until now.
I did a couple quickie portraits of Louise Brooks around this time, as a way of practicing a couple new techniques I was interested in learning. The illustration to the left was from a scene early in “Pandora’s Box” which I rendered using oil pastels. The illustration below was another stab at trying scratchboard techniques but with color instead of white as the ‘pen default’, similar to the Kafka picture above. I wasn’t as impressed with how this one turned out, and after several false starts, I eventually abandoned the idea of working in this manner.

The ‘gorilla’ picture below is another one that I did around this time, using the ‘scratchboard as color’ idea. I did eventually end up talking one of my clients into this technique for a while, but it proved unpractical both as a workable style and in the time it took to work in this manner.

Below are a couple other unpublished pieces from around this time that I considered for promotional purposes, but ultimately shelved in favor of something else. The ‘holiday lighthouse’ picture below was to be a christmas postcard. It was an interesting oil paint technique that rarely ever tried again. The illustration below that was another postcard idea that never took off either, using a similar but slightly different approach to oils.

This was an exciting time, and it was fun to take a break from the routine of work and assignments and simply ‘play with my paintbox’, turning off my ‘inner critic’ and drawing whatever came to mind. Of course, the ‘inner critic’ eventually showed up, as he always does, which is why all these pieces ended up in a forgotten file folder on my computer for ten years.

Cartoons and Such

Carus Publishing, Cobblestone, Consumer Reports, Gemini Publications, Strang Publications, Zillions

I had my first ‘digital’ assignments from Cobblestone Publishing this month. The above Civil War map/lettering was for one of the ‘history’ publications and the Quebec map below was for one of their ‘geography’ titles.

The mini portraits to the left were for Zillions magazine (the ‘kids version’ of Consumer Reports). This was for a ‘puzzle’ page and I don’t quite remember the gist of it, but it was interesting to mix caricatures of famous people like Tim Allen and Courteney Cox (who I had no idea who she was), but also mythical figures like Paul Bunyan and cartoon characters like Dilbert. (actually, I kind of like my Dilbert design better than the original)

I also had a first digital color assignment this month from Strang Communications (another long time client since around ’92). This one was a two page spread involving ‘cleaning out your closets’, and included all sorts of evangelical ‘no-nos’ like ouija boards, adult magazines, rock n roll posters etc etc. Kind of a stylistic mess, as I tried to use way too many bells and whistles without regard to whether they looked good together or not.

I also had a trio of black and white illustrations for Gemini Publications (Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Parent & Business Journal). These were all very similar in style to what I was doing befor the digital switchover, and look fairly crude to my eyes now, over ten years later.