New Client

ABA, Barrons, National Auctioneer, Newsday, US Catholic

Got a first trio of assignments in June from a new client that would become a nice source of steady work over the next few years. Barrons, who is affiliated with the Wall Street Journal (at least as far as parent company goes, I’m not sure how closely the two organizations are affiliated, but the checks come from the same place). The first assignment was to show an investor ‘in a slump’. The client requested the ‘park bench’ image, but all the little touches were mine (slumping trees, squirrel flat on the ground). The fun part about working for this client, is that frequently one job will lead to another. Sometimes I’ll come up with a series of concepts, and a single assignment can turn into two or three finals. Or a spot illustration (as in the case of the ‘black hole’ illustration below) can grow into a cover illustration the following month. The people are friendly to work with, and the assignments are frequently challenging and fun.

I also got another of my ‘dead guy memorial’ illustration assignments from Newsday. This time Billy Graham was the recently deceased. And from the same client, I had a ‘jigsaw puzzle’ portrait of the Supreme Court, since Renquist was stepping down. Tricky to capture the likenesses on such a small scale, but after working for Legal Times for years back in the 90s, I was quite practiced at drawing these judges.

Then in addition to all the fun I was having with the above illustrations, I also had a few chores. Some of my least favorite things to draw are cars and buildings. The cartoony ‘houses’ above wasn’t too bad. These were for US Catholic magazine, and I dont’ quite remember the topic, but the anthromorphization of the buildings, and the fact that they didn’t have to be quite so ‘perfect’ helped make this one more fun than it could’ve been.

In contrast, the illustration below, for National Auctioneer, wasn’t nearly as much fun, and you can tell from the way I rendered it that I had completely the wrong attitude in approaching it.

Below that, I had an assignment from the American Bar Association, that involved cars taking up the lion’s share of the illustration. This one involved servicemen and their financial responsibilities at home while they are overseas serving their country.

From Fun to Tedious

National Auctioneer, Newsday, US Catholic

The examples in this posting run the gamut from the type of illustrations where I jump in with enthusiasm and get totally ‘in the zone’ from start to finish, to the type of illustrations where I’m just going through the motions, barely able to work up the enthusiasm to begin. It really shows in the end product, and really, there’s no telling what it is about one project that may inspire, and another which just feels like drudgery from the get-go. Perhaps it is just a frame of mind, and if so, I’d certainly like to figure out where that frame of mind comes from, so I could tap into it on a daily basis.

The drawing above, was for an assignment for Newsday. The story was for the lifestyle section and discussed the ‘Svengali-type’ personality. I don’t remember if the client asked for this particular style, or if I just came up with it on my own, but my inspiration was to try and emulate the painting style of those old lurid ‘pulp covers’, like those done by HJ Ward. I wanted to work in oils (digital oils of course), but the vast array of brush tools and techniques kind of intimidated me, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with them until a couple years later. I had only worked in ‘real oils’ a few times in my life, and I frequently end up flustered and frustrated with the medium (although I love the end product). I ended up working in ‘oil pastels’, which I was able to manipulate to approximate an ‘oil painting feel’. I don’t know how long this took to complete, because I was totally zoned out while working on it. Probably one of the projects I’ve had the most fun doing in a long time. And still looks as good to me now as it did when I completed it, almost three years later. A great example of being in that ‘magic frame of mind’.

For the same client, a same day black and white illustration is above. This should have given me trouble, a piece that featured an ornate piece of architecture (not my strong suit), but I found myself really enjoying working on this one, and you can see the enthusiasm come out in the work.

The piece above was for US Catholic, and dealt with the homeless and how their situation is usually so precarious, like a deck of cards that could come crashing down any time. Rather than work in my usual rather tight rendering style in scratchboard, I thought I’d work a little rougher this time, to bring out the grunginess. As a result of the change in style, I approached this illustration in a much better frame of mind than I might have, and ended up with a rather nice piece at the end of it.

Then on the other side of the coin, this illustration above was another same day illustration for Newsday, and I just wasn’t enthusiastic about the subject matter, wasn’t sure how I wanted to treat the ‘road’ in the middle of the drawing. I felt myself just going through the motions, pulling old tried and true techniques out of the ‘bag of tricks’ without really thinking about them, and as a result, the final illustration comes out rather lifeless and stale. Not really bad, just not special.

The one above is another example of ‘going through the motions’. Another one for US Catholic, this one about voting (set in a confessional for some reason). Not really enthused about the layout or subject, so I just put it through the ‘cartoonmaster3000’ and churned out a servicable illustration.

And finally this piece for National Auctioneer. A full page color piece (or it may have been a cover, I don’t remember) about online auctions. A lot of specific information needed to be put into a crowded scene. Lots of people from the back, and the need to include some art supplied by the client for the overhead projector image. What should have been a challenge, just ended up being a chore from start to finish, as a result, the end product, despite having a lot of work put into it, just ended up flat and lifeless. It didn’t help, that this was about the third ‘auction’ illustration of this sort that I had done for this client, and I was getting a bit tired of the same old layout.

So, what’s the answer? Perhaps it has something to do with keeping myself on the edge of the cliff. The thrill of trying something new and dangerous where I might fall flat on my face, rather than the safe and comfortable where you barely even have to pay attention. I’ll try and remember this in the future.

A Couple of Lackluster Efforts

Carus Publishing, Cricket, National Auctioneer

In February I had an assignment from Cricket magazine. This was a story about a childhood friend of Abe Lincoln’s son and a visit to the white house during the dark days of the Civil War. Something about this project just didn’t inspire or motivate me, and I’m afraid the project came out a bit static and dull. Perhaps I chose the wrong style to work in, the scratchboard seems a little overly convoluted and dark and doesn’t suit the children’s faces well. The colors seem sort of muddy and dull, and the compositions are lacking in pizazz.

Another project around this time that I felt didn’t quite work out as well due to my being unenthused about the subject matter was this piece below for National Auctioneer magazine. This was a full page illustration (don’t remember if it was a cover or not) about ‘family auctions’ (where the auction is run by a family of auctioneers), and was another busy crowd scene of the kind I’ve done before for this client (and would do again), and I pretty much went through the motions. Not bad looking exactly, but certainly nothing particularly inspiring about it.

Silhouettes and Shadows

ABA, AHMM, Dever Designs, National Auctioneer, Newsday

The full page illustration above was for the American Bar Association, and had something to do with private corporate jets, and their hidden dangers. Not a comfortable illustration for me. Airplanes are about the hardest thing to draw, and the curved hangar roof wasn’t any picnic either. What saved this one, I think was the rough approach that I applied to everything to keep it dark and sinister, and the color choices, which help cover a lot of the perspective boo-boos.

Another odd assignment this month, was for a design firm on the east coast, who wanted a series of plumbing pipes to snake across a couple pages of their magazine layout, plus a small sillouette of an Amish buggy. I don’t remember what this story was about, and I wasn’t crazy about the concept, but I gave it my best shot, giving the only available rendered elements the best detailing I could give them. (I was remembering a card game we had as kids called ‘pipeworks’ or something, where you had to build an elaborate system of plumbing and add leaks to each other’s ‘pipes’ and then fix them – the drawings of the pipes on those cards always fascinated me)

Another large full page assignment is pictured above. This was I think the second out of 4 auction ‘scenes’ that I would eventually do for this client, National Auctioneers. This one was probably the best one from a ‘crowd’ standpoint, although I didn’t like having to put all that text and extraeneous detail on the signs and podium.

Newsday handed me a strange request in January. They wanted a rather stylized ‘black sheep’ for some reason or another. It turned out a little forced and awkward I thought. I don’t quite remember the story behind this one.

The above illustration was another fiction piece for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. There wasn’t much to go on with this story as I remember. The story centered on a carton of guns, and I tried to focus in on that, while giving a little hint of mystery or menace through the cast shadow on the box.

Shadows of 9/11

America, ChronicleHE, National Auctioneer, Newsday, WSJ

9/11 continues to influence the editorial output, and I had a few Osama-ish illustrations for clients in December. The above illustration had something to do with disarming the Afghanistanis, and I had a ‘whack a mole’ type illustration for my national newspaper client. On the other side of the coin, I had a portrait assignment of our president, who was getting a lot of bad press due to his affiliations with his previous employer. Not a bad likeness on this one, but there’s something goofy looking about his neck.

And from an economic standpoint, 9/11 still seems to be influencing the markets, as we can see from the illustration below. A lot of uncertaintly about the future, whether it will be a bear or bull market, and how we’re ‘not out of the woods yet’.

But elsewhere, time marches on. I had a rather dull ‘computer’ cover illustration for a special interest magazine. Rather poor color choices by me on this one.

Much better color choices in this rather unusual assignment to the left for a new client in December. This was something to do with the idea of ‘harvesting medical talent’, and was one of my better ‘trees’ in a while.

I also had a couple pieces for my educational publication client this month, both black and white, one of them to do with fraternities and the other one (with the crutches and broken bones) I don’t quite remember what the story was about.

I also had an assignment this month for a jesuit magazine. This one was something to do with marketing and demographics.