Above and below are a few assignments for Today Media this past week. A portrait (above) for Delaware Today, and a piece on educational paths to employment (below) for Hudson Valley. The one below ended up having a lot of editorial fingers in the pie (I generally dislike “labelling” in my illustrations, but…), but that’s the nature of the job.
In the meantime, I want to put in a plug for Lynda Barry’s wonderful book “Making Comics”, which I discovered over the holidays, and have since been pushing on everyone I know. The book is influenced by a college course that Ms. Barry teaches, and is full of inspiring activities mostly involving very disposable art materials, like crayons, flair markers and cheap manuscript books. I threw an “Art Jam” party for a number of friends on Friday, and we experimented with a few of the assignments, and since then, I’ve been doing many of the activities on my own, which has helped loosen me up a bit, even on my day to day illustration projects. Below are a few samples from my ‘comics diary’.
Here we are in the third week of January already, and I haven’t posted since the ‘year in review’ near the beginning of the month. Been working on revisions to the “What Unites Us” project mostly for the first few weeks, and in the past week or so I’ve had a few new smaller projects come across my desk. The above illustration is for the Chronicle of Higher Education (one of my older clients, who I first began working for in 1991, but haven’t heard much from in the last few years). I’ve got a few book projects lined up for this month, but so far, I’m still in a holding pattern awaiting information. Meanwhile, below are a few black and white pieces for GreenPrints, and an illustration for the Common Reader that I did near the end of December. Coming up over the next few weeks, an assignment for Hudson Valley and I’ll be starting work on finished art for the Llewellyn Witches Companion interiors. Stay Tuned.
In other news, a new iPod (yes, they still make them) that I got for Christmas has forced me to upgrade my Mac system software, and once installed, has forced me to update much of my existing programs, including Painter (the application I use for most of my drawing). I wanted to wait for this inevitable upgrade until I had finished working on the “What Unites Us” project, because I’m notorious for getting bent out of shape when my drawing program changes, and I didn’t want the headaches that would naturally come with it. I’m happy to announce that, after a few glitches in installation, the new Painter 2020 seems to be operating mostly smoothly.
I’m also excited about a few other ‘art related’ activities I’ll be participating in later this week. I’ll be sitting in on a ‘Life Drawing’ event on Thursday (been many years), and on Friday I’ll be leading a ‘Comics & Creativity’ party at our house with several ‘art enthusiast’ friends. I’ll post some of the results of these exercises later in the week.
And, in music news, my band, the Jukejoint Handmedowns have started work on recording last week. We have an ambitious regimen where we plan on releasing 3 CDs this year, a collection of Originals (our 5th release), a collection of Cover Songs, and a Christmas CD.
It was a year of extraordinary highs and dispiriting lows. For a month in July and August this past year, I took the longest vacation I’ve ever been on. Myself, my wife Terri, my sister Margo and her husband John took a trip to California to hike the John Muir Trail. While we didn’t complete as much of it as we initially planned, it was still an amazing adventure. 100 hiking miles up and down 6 mountains is something I’m not soon going to forget (and stay tuned, I’m thinking of doing a longer hike for my 60th birthday, coming up in a few years). The vacation took its toll on my earnings, however, as I logged my very first ‘zero’ for the month of August in 30 years of freelancing.
I also worked on what ended up being my single biggest illustration assignment of the past 30 years. Taking up nearly 3 solid months of the year (and another month in the preliminary layouts), the graphic novel adaptation of Dan Rather’s book “What Unites Us” was a huge challenge, and one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on. I’m pretty proud with how it turned out, and looking forward to promoting it heavily when it is released (hopefully this coming spring).
But in contrast, there were many dry patches in the year, with long stretches of no work coming in. Many of my former regular magazine and newspaper clients have fallen by the wayside, and I find myself working more and more with book publishers, with deadlines that stretch on for months. It is taking some getting used to.
However, during one slow period in the spring of the year, I found myself getting my oil paints out and doing some paintings (three of which got into a local art festival in the summer, the first time I’ve ever done this, despite having played music in the same festival for the past decade).
In personal news, we lost a dog to old age in the spring, and we adopted a dog near the end of the year as a replacement. My wife Terri continues to work at Witte Travel and volunteers as a programmer for a local community radio station. My son turned 30 years old this November and also celebrated his first year wedding anniversary. My band the “Jukejoint Handmedowns” played a few summer festivals this year, but otherwise it was a pretty slow year for them as well. We’ll be celebrating 10 years together in the coming year and plan on releasing a few new CDs.
Many of my favorite pieces this year have been unpublished works that I have done in the ‘valleys’, while a few pieces stem from a few major projects on the ‘mountain tops’ which kept my head above water at the tail end of this decade. That’s 30 years of freelancing in the books, folks. Here’s hoping I can keep it up until retirement.
Anyhow, here’s my favorite pieces of the past year: