Hot Flashes

Baker Book House, Cobblestone

Finished up a 4 page project for a children’s magazine publisher this week. This will be for an upcoming story in the October issue, an adaptation of the ‘Minotaur’ story from Greek myth. I went back and forth on this one, with regards to how I should portray the figures on the faux ‘greek urn pieces’. On the one hand, I wanted to emulate the style of Grecian figures that you would normally see on pottery of this type, but at the same time, I also wanted to stay in keeping with my normal ‘scratchboard style’. So I ended up sort of doing a cross between the two.
These ‘broken pottery shards’ actually spread themselves across a two page spread, and in and around the type, but in order to show it on the blog, I’ve done a little editing and rearranging.

Also this week, I had a fast turnaround book cover assignment from a local publisher. This is for a humorous book on female menopause, and is a rare chance to work in a cartoon style. A fun little assignment.

ADDENDUM: This, in fact, ended up being the very last time I would do any work for Carus Publishing, after a nearly twenty year relationship. I had grown frustrated with their policy of taking over a year to pay for work. A shame, because I often enjoyed the assignments.

December Oddities

Carus Publishing, Cobblestone, Diversity, Highlights

Another newer client during this time period, was Highlights magazine, and who approached me earlier in the year to take a stab at updating a few of their venerable recurring characters. The assignment above was a fiction piece about a fireplace ( I think, the details a bit hazy on this one), and required a large opening illustration and a smaller accompanying spot for the second page. Nice change of pace to work in the cartoon style again. The cartoon style seems to be popular with the ‘kids publishers’, and sometimes for magazine work when they want something a little lighter.

The above piece was another in a continuing series of ‘puzzle illustrations’ that I’ve been doing for Oddysey magazine (Cobblestone). These are usually rather odd, and rely heavily on the text to explain what is going on in them – usually a puzzle wrapped within a story problem.
The piece to the left was for a new client, Diversity magazine. The art direction was pretty heavy on this one, I was just required to put the idea to paper. I normally don’t like working text into illustrations, but sometimes is unavoidable.

South Haven

Carus Publishing, Cobblestone, CRC

After a fretful summer taking my Father back and forth to the doctor and in and out of the hospital trying to figure out what this ‘mystery illness’ was that he was afflicted with, we finally found the culprit and began a plan of action. He had a rare blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma, and we decided that the best thing for him would be to live down in South Haven at my sister’s summer home (a ranch, all on one floor, quiet and not too far from a hospital), and since I had the job that was the most flexible, I would move down there for the duration of the chemo treatments, and to nurse him back into some semblance of mobility and self reliance. This would last approximately from mid August until December of 04.

In the meantime, I still had work to do. Another of my long running ‘bible stories’ assignments were coming due in August – about 25 or so odd drawings depicting various bible scenes and activities for the Christian Reformed Church’s school curriculum. I’ll be posting samples of these in a separate entry.

Also, around this time, I had another of my semi-regular ‘puzzle’ illustrations for Oddysey magazine (Cobblestone). I don’t remember the topic of this one, but it appears to be more in the line of a ‘story puzzle’ in which I was just asked to illustrate the main characters of the story.

Children’s Publications

Carus Publishing, Cobblestone, Highlights

In June, I was contacted by Highlights magazine, and asked to take part in a redesign of a pair of this magazine’s long running characters, who, they felt were in need of a makeover. This was the first time I’d been contacted by this magazine, one that I have read when I was a kid, in doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms. In fact, I used to have a pair of gerbils, one black and one white, that I named after these very characters that they wanted revamped (Goofus and Gallant). I was one of many illustrators that they contacted for this purpose, and they would decide what direction they wanted to go in after seeing everyone’s samples. Needless to say, I wasn’t one of the chosen. Probably just as well. I would’ve enjoyed the steady gig, but after a while, I think I would have started to really dislike these two guys (especially that goody two shoes Gallant). Probably wouldn’t have been healthy for the young readers.

This month would mark the last major project that I would work on for Cobblestone Publishing that I had been contributing to since ’93 (although, one of the pubs, Oddysey, their science publication, I would continue to do the ‘puzzle page’ for a year or so afterwards). The pay scale for these periodicals remained stagnant for the 10 or so years that I worked for them, and I was unhappy with the contract, so when I tried to raise these issues with the management, the work promptly stopped. The map above was for one of the ‘history’ themed publications.

I had been noticing over the past few years, that the designers were subtly sneaking more and more work into the ‘single page rate’ – multiple spot illustrations per page, extra map ‘vignettes’ that could be pulled out and used elsewhere in the publication – one designer for a ‘geography’ publication under the same parent company, who used to assign me a map in nearly every issue, asked me at one point, if I couldn’t just draw one huge map of the middle east (since that would be the focus of the magazine that year), they could just pay me once, and then pull out each individual country to use when they needed it.

These spot illustrations of different Babylonian gods were for another of their publications, and since three of these spots fit on a single page, I was only compensated for 2 pages for the 6 spots, each of which was complicated enough both in research and rendering to have been a page worth of work each. (these are reduced in size here to fit, the originals were about 3×4 each)

I have to say, that I miss the work, it was frequently interesting and challenging, and the designers that I worked for were friendly and easy to work with. Some of the projects were more interesting than others though. The maps I enjoyed, though I never liked the ones like above where I was expected to collage in a few pertinent ‘scenes’. I enjoyed doing these ‘faux relief’ Babylonian artifacts, although the attention to detail was a bit daunting.

I don’t particularly miss the ‘collage’ assignments I was given, where I was asked to draw a series of overlapping scenes around a historical event. Crowds of people in period dress and architecture that all needed to be researched. I don’t miss the usage contracts, and I barely even noticed a change in income after this client left, though my working hours dropped considerably.

About a year or so previously, a company merger occurred between this client, and another of my children’s publication clients. I still continue to work occasionally for the other client, although not nearly at the same rate and volume that I worked for this one.

I continued to work on a semi-regular ‘puzzle page’ feature for Oddysey, for another year or so. Sometimes the drawings contained the puzzles themselves, and other times (like this one), I was merely to illustrate a sort of story problem.

Children’s Publishing Projects

Adventure House, Carus Publishing, Cobblestone, Instructional Fair

In May, I had another multi illustration workbook project for Carson Dellosa. There were three of these booklets in the early half of 2004, entitled ‘Teamwork Test Prep’, and were for grades 3, 4 and 5 (not to be confused with identically named projects in the fall of 2004). I think these were perhaps ‘teacher’s editions’, and these contained approximately 40 illustrations each as opposed to the 25 illustrations in each of the TTP books in the fall of the year.

I was usually given a lot of freedom on these spots (a few of them posted here as examples), and was encouraged to keep them light and fun. I enjoyed these projects, and they gave me good practice at simplicity, economy of line and getting a message across with a minimum of detail. Further samples from this book can be found in another posting this month.

In addition to the above workbook project, I also had a few spots for another book publisher, Adventure House, in a similar capacity. These were a couple of black and white and grey wash spots to go with a couple of story problems.

One of them involved a complicated map and getting around on the public transportation system in a foreign country, and another of them had to do with a robbery at a jewelry store. I never quite figured out what book these were for, and I got the impression I was only one of several illustrators hired for this project. These trickled in to me over the course of the year in bundles of 3-10 every couple of months.

At a different time of the month, but for the same client, I also had another spot illustration, this time in color, about a visit to a produce stand. This was an odd shaped one, and needed to wrap around a body of text.

Then, for my regular ‘puzzle page’ assignment for Oddysey (Cobblestone), I had a maze illustration. I don’t remember the story problem exactly, but it seems to me you were supposed to determine if the caterpillar in the middle was on the inside or the outside of the coiled rubber band that snakes across the page. Around this time I was doing less and less work for Cobblestone, with the exception of this one regular feature for their science publication, which ran for another year or so.