One of eight workbooks that I illustrated for Instructional Fair in 2000. This one was “Writers Workshop” for grades 5-6. I’m sharing these illustrations in their entirety for the first time since publication (writing this in 2018).
One thing I have been amazed to discover as I dig deeper in the archives, is how much of my workload was made up of the ‘cartoon’ style back around this time. These days (around ’08 is when I’m writing this) I work almost exclusively in scratchboard, aside from the occasional exception. One positive aspect of this, is that I’ve gotten much better at the scratchboard than I was in 2000, but I wonder if I’ve lost a bit of the spontenaety and fun that I’d picked up from working so much in a lighter style.
The illustration above was for my east coast newspaper client, an illustration on ‘busy working mothers’. The black and white illustration to the left was part of a larger ‘text heavy’ illustration that I did for my agent this month, for a michigan regional parenting magazine (the rest of the illustration covered a lot of space, and was mostly made up of rather dull hand lettering).
Another hand lettering assignment for the same client is pictured below, and was a bit more interesting, trying to make letters out of various ‘school projects’. I don’t do lettering very often, but this one was kind of fun and challenging.
The tutorial on ‘how to use chopsticks’ pictured to the left was for a children’s publication client this month.
Below are a few more cartoon illustrations for my east coast newspaper client. Most of the ‘cartoon assignments’ were for the ‘ladies lifestyle’ section, as the lighter, less serious style seemed to fit the tone of the articles a little better than the heavy handed dark scratchboard technique.
The ‘woman giving flowers to herself’ illustration was for an article about being single on Valentine’s Day, and consequently, being nice to yourself. Below that, was a larger illustration about safety issues for work at home Moms, with an imaginary inspector pointing out what’s wrong (labelled ‘inspector’ on his helmet in case you missed the point).
Above is a ‘puzzle’ assignment for one of my children’s magazine clients (a kids version of a well known consumer advocate magazine, which unfortunately ceased publication the following year). This puzzle had something to do with twins and finding similar shapes hidden through the room.
To the left and below were a few more black and white assignments for my agent (same client as the other two black and white assignments above), both having to do with valentine’s day presumably.
Started out the year with a couple of unusual but time consuming map assignments for one of the children’s publication clients. The map above was of a certain city in California (don’t remember offhand which city) with zoo and various city attractions pointed out. Below was a more dry overhead map of the city of Beijing. Less interesting visually, but a lot more work drawing in all those tiny streets (based off of a large poor reference map that the client sent me, that had to be scanned and pieced together and made sense of with regards to the accompanying article). Besides being a lot of tedious work, it was a nice break from using the other side of my brain.
I had a large poster sized illustration request from a local ad agency this month. Much bigger than I was comfortable working in, especially in scratchboard, and I really don’t like how this one turned out. I would later learn that when working at a much larger scale like this, to simplify the linework a lot more, and use a lot less shading, thinking more in terms of how it will be seen from further away than most of the small spots are.
With most of my ‘map assignments’ from a particular children’s magazine publisher I was asked to provide small ‘locator’ maps, usually with a globe and a smaller version of the map pinpointing the origin of the ‘larger map’. I usually don’t include these here in my blog, as they are rather repetitive and uninteresting. But this one was a little better than most, and thought it might be interesting to include here. This one went with the Beijing map pictued above showing China’s location on the globe, and the city’s location within China.
Pictured below is another illustration for another one of my children’s magazine clients. I dont’ quite remember what this one was about (watching tv, of course, but other than that?). My son’s cat Ripley making another guest appearance.
Another west coast magazine assignment this month. These were usually one larger color piece for the cover, and accompanying smaller black and white spots for the inside on a similar theme. Theme this month on spiders (don’t remember why), but most of the smaller scenes seemed to have an ‘office’ feel to them. For the cover I broke from tradition a little bit, using more of an experimental mixed media approach, using watercolors, scratchboard linework, and airbrush techniques to better portray the spiders, which would have been rather dull in traditional scratchboard.
Besides the ‘spider on a computer’ illustration for the client above, I also had a few other ‘computer related’ pieces for my new national newspaper client this month. I had been gradually getting more and more work from this client, and was starting to enjoy the steady workload, and entertaining thoughts that I might have stumbled onto a pretty good thing, if I could keep them happy (so far so good, 8 years and counting – crossing my fingers).
The illustration to the left was something to do with computers controlling ‘on time delivery’ (if memory serves), and I don’t quite remember the story being the ‘galley slave’ computer boat pictured to the right. The illustration below was for the same client, and had something to do with the tech stock bubble bursting and investors losing money on all those computer start up companies.
The yo-yo illustration to the left was another for the same client this month (stock ups and downs more than likely the topic). Below is an illustration for a jesuit magazine client, probably showing the future of the church in the new millenium.
Below that is a rather strange illustration that I did for my east coast legal newspaper client. I dont’ remember the angle of the story exactly, but I do remember having to dress the little kids up in clothing depicting eras in the past.
Below that is a pair of ‘statue’ illustrations for my educational publication client in January. I don’t remember if they were for the same article or not, but it is likely that they were, based on the fact that I used a similar ‘grey wash’ style background for both of them.
If you are following this narrative backwards as I am doing as I dig deeper into the archives, we are about to enter a period where I had just begun using the computer for my illustration work. The transition was rather quick, actually. One day I was working on paper, and within a week, I had completely given it up and worked exclusively on the computer (including preliminary sketches). For the most part, I stuck to the traditional mediums that I was both known for, and was most familiar with. Many clients didn’t realize a change had taken place, and those that did embraced it whole heartedly, for reasons of turnaround time and ease of file transfer. Not to mention the fact that my work started looking a lot better (don’t underestimate the power of the ‘undo’ button). The only real resistance I’ve ever run across to the idea of computer illustration have been from fellow illustrators, usually those with a preconceived notion of what ‘computer art’ means. Over the previous two years we will notice a lot of experimentation as I try out new and different tools, and different ways of approaching the same old tired techniques.
1999 was a very busy year, workwise, but the average invoice was still fairly low, so it didn’t particularly translate into a big year at the bank. This was the 2nd full year since I made the transition to the digital medium, and, while I was still getting the bugs out in many respects, I was starting to pick up some new and interesting clients because of the change, and some of my regular customers were starting to use me on a more regular basis. The final months of the year would bring a new client, The Wall Street Journal, that would eventually turn out to be one of my biggest in the coming decade, and I had a few color children’s book projects for Instructional Fair in the latter half of the year.
My son was 9-10 years old this year, we joined Little League for the first time, and we were probably still taking backpacking trips in the summer (although it was probably near the tail end of this hobby).
A record breaking year in terms of illustrations completed, 1,656 total, nearly doubling the previous years output (a number of children’s workbook projects helped boost the illustration count during this period). This brings the ten year total up to 5,989.
These are what I felt were the best illustrations of 1999.