2021 Year in Review

personal, self portrait

A slight improvement upon 2020, but not by much. Approaching my 60th birthday, so took the opportunity to do a self portrait.

“What Unites Us” was finally released this spring to generally good reviews, but doesn’t appear to be selling all that briskly. I was glad of the experience, and it certainly whetted my appetite for more ‘comics’ assignments. (see last year’s ‘year in review’ for a sample from this book). The Covid years have taken their toll on my business, but I seem to still have a fair amount of ‘book projects’ of various sorts keeping me somewhat busy (an illustrated edition of the public domain ‘The Sun Also Rises’ pictured below). A few ‘Who Was’ books this year, plus the usual ‘Witches Companion’ illustrations.

Above is a book cover I did for John Griswold’s new book (I’ve been doing several spot illustration pieces for him for the ‘Common Reader’ over the past few years), and I also had a rather involved ‘Fantasy Recipe book’ for another publisher in the early part of the year (sample pictured below).

2016 Year in Review

music, self portrait, Year In Review

Aside from the dark cloud that started growing halfway through the year, and culminated in that nightmare on November 9, 2016 was not a complete disaster, with more highlights than downsides. As I start the new year, it is with more trepidation, uncertainty and fear than I’ve ever felt after any election year in my entire life. I’ve survived Republican presidents in the past (5 of them in fact), but never before have I had this feeling of riding on an out of control train barreling towards a cliff with a raving madman at the controls. Hopefully I am over-reacting.

Musically, it was probably my best year. My band, the Jukejoint Handmedowns, won their first WYCE ‘Jammie Award’ in February, winning the ‘Traditions’ award for their 2015 CD ‘Jukejoint Handmedowns Sing Songs of Death, Murder & the Afterlife’. The band feels tighter than it ever has, with several memorable performances this year, including our very first summer music festival appearance at the Buttermilk Jamboree. We signed on with a booking agent in September and are hoping that the coming year will see some interesting new opportunities come of this new relationship. We are also starting the recording process for our 4th CD, a collection of Michigan themed songs that we hope to release early summer of 2017. I continue to also play bass with the Kent Philharmonic Orchestra, challenging myself with classical music that is often way over my head, as well as playing bass with a few other groups. I’ve been finding this musical side of my life to be the most fulfilling, and I only wish it paid nearly as well as illustration. My friend Ted Bergin took a nice photo of me playing at our New Year’s Eve show, that I’m sharing here, and am hoping to get a signed and framed copy of this for my office.

My wife continues to work at a local travel agency as a graphic artist, and her job there offers her many opportunities for travel discounts, so we had several interesting vacations this past year. We shared a house on St. Croix with my Son and his girlfriend, my Brother, his wife, sister in law and a family friend for a week in January, and liked it so much that we are returning again (staying in a different part of the island) this coming January. We also went to Mexico in November with my Brother, his wife, sister in law and family friend, plus my Sister and her husband, and my wife took a trip to Ireland with a co-worker in February. My wife and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary this past December.

My son surprised us with some good news in October, with the announcement that he and his girlfriend have gotten engaged to be married, and we look forward to wedding bells sometime in 2018. He currently works as an Apartment Leasing Agent in Chicago, and still plays with his jazz combo ‘Bonzo Terks’ around the Chicago area.

Meanwhile, I continue to plug away at this illustration business. Still undergoing major changes in the industry. Magazine and Newspaper work has dried up to a mere trickle as compared to 5-6 years ago, and I find myself doing a lot more book publishing work. This was in fact a record year for me as far as ‘books published’. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 9-10 books where my work is either featured or appears on the cover were published this year alone, and I’ve got several titles already lined up for the coming year, that I’ve either just finished or are in the works. I’ve also tried something new with regards to my ‘self promotion’, signing up for a page in the Directory of Illustration last year, which will be coming out in January of this year, and I’m hoping will result in some new clients over the coming year. I’ve never tried advertising with the Directory before, so I’ll let you know next year how that worked out. I always dread this next task of picking out my ‘best work’ of the year, as I usually forget most of the work that has come over my desk in the last 12 months, and worry that I didn’t do anything worth revisiting. But here we go, looking back over the past year, here’s what I’m most proud of:


Approximately 410 illustrations done in 2016, bringing the grand total up to 14,787 illustrations since I started in 1989.

1991 Calendar Self Promotional Mailer

self portrait, Self Promotion

My First attempt at a ‘calendar mailer’ probably sent out late in 1990. I had previously thought these lost, but discovered a stash of samples of my early self promo pieces in a keepsake drawer of my Father’s when he passed away in 2014. The styles are still pretty slapdash and all over the board, but you can see early versions of my scratchboard technique, and the cartoon style, and quite a few pastels, which, at the time I still thought of as my ‘biggest potential seller’. Looking back at these early mailers, it amazes me that I was able to get this business off the ground at all. Chalk it up to sheer dogged determination, which sometimes beats skill and talent in the right situations.

These are not the greatest scans, just photos taken off my cell phone, but I’ve included every page of the calendar, which includes some interesting pieces I had completely forgotten about. The cover is a photo reproduction of a rather large pastel that I eventually gave away to some friends in the early 2000’s (and a better scan of this is found elsewhere on this blog). January, I have a picture of a ‘Ballerina Bear’, which I believe was a sample drawing for a children’s book that my brother had written and we had hoped to sell (but never got off the ground floor). February was a small scratchboard doodle I did especially for the calendar layout (trying to market towards the newspaper editorial market). March was an early cartoon ‘city scene’ of which I’ve done several variations of over the years (for example, see my ‘creature double feature’ postcard from around 2009). Another bw cartoon follows in April (these were similar to the sorts of things I was selling to Gemini Publications around this time). May was another reproduction of a large pastel piece (pictured elsewhere in the blog if I remember correctly). June and July another scratchboard created especially for the calendar. August and September were examples of my caricature skills, one in colored pencils and the other pen & ink (I think the Gustave Corbet caricature is my favorite from the calendar). October and November are a couple more pastels. December another crowded Xmas cartoon scene (similar to the sort of thing I was selling to the Worldwide Church of God around this time).

Most of my self promotion in these early years was pretty scattergun in approach. Any and all styles were up for grabs, and I only mailed out a limited amount of any one postcard or brochure. Below are several more samples of various mailings that confused potential clients in 1989-1990.

(the drum corps line drawing on this brochure was one of the only surviving pieces of art from my college years)
An early scratchboard style postcard.
A early ‘cartoon style’ postcard.