Devil May Care

Strang Publications

I was approached this month by a designer I was acquainted with through Strang Communications. They wanted me to play around with some ideas for a book cover with some ‘demon’ imagery. I don’t remember why he is cowering or covering his ears in all of them, but I’m sure it was part of the specs. The job never actually materialized, but I received a kill fee for the sketches, and since these were some fairly tight sketches, I hung onto them and I decided to post them here. I was experimenting with different techniques and styles, and it was fun to play around with something that wasn’t my usual bread and butter type work. I did end up doing one of them in a scratchboard technique (above), and I think that two of the ones below were actually different stages of the same illustration.

Mysterious Character Studies

Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine

This month saw the first digital assignments from Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine (Family Circle). This publication was geared towards a female mystery fan readership, full size and on glossy paper, unlike the work I was doing for Alfred Hitchcock. I was to provide a series of four ‘character studies’ of well known recurring literary subjects from famous authors. They wanted me to not so much focus on their ‘face’, as on the settings, the props and the flavor of the world the character inhabit. I would do three or four sets of these studies before the magazine eventually folded a couple years later.

Collegial Spots


Another round of ‘factoid’ spots for Oxendine (Student Leader). This client, rather than being nervous about my recent switchover to digital, actually embraced the change, and encouraged me to go hog wild with experimentation. For the past few assignments, I’ve been working in a radically different style, using as many bells and whistles as I could lay my hands on in the digital toolbox. Eventually though, I began to realize that I was devoting way too much time to these little spots for the money involved, and it was a style that I wasn’t completely happy with, didn’t look like any sort of traditional media, and was unlike anything I was doing for any other client. By the end of the year, I had reverted back to a cartoon style that worked much better for these small spots. Below is another larger sized spot illustration for the same client this month (again, in this strange ‘computery’ style).

March Scratchboard Roundup

ABA, ChronicleHE, Legal Times, Newsday

The above illustration was for Newsday. This was another ‘same day’ illustration, and was one of my favorites of the time. Nice and clean, and a simple concept, with good use of solid black areas and solid white areas. In the earlier days of my scratchboard style, I had a bad tendency to overwork my illustrations, and they end up with way too much linework, and an overall they tend to be too monochromatic, which is also a big contributor to why I never seem to like the scratchboards I do for full page assignments.

Full page assignments like the one below for the American Bar Association. Up close, each individual element is nicely rendered, but as a whole, the illustration looks a bit flat and dull.

The above ‘literary shredder’ illustration was another one that I was fond of from this time. This one was for the Chronicle of Higher Education, and is a good example of the benefits of working scratchboards digitally, opposed to how I used to work about six months earlier. In this one I worked a combination of ‘scratchboard’ and ‘line art’, sometimes overlapping and revising, laying black on the image, and then taking it away again. In the traditional medium, I would have had to have been very careful not to scrape away so much to the point of digging a hole through the paper, or risking the ink running into deeply scratched areas of the board. I was also able to lift some ‘text’ from other sources, and to overlay and manipulate them into the illustration as well in a subtle way, where in the old manner of working, I would have had to hand letter all the ‘text’ on the manuscripts.

The illustration to the left was another for the same client in March. The illustration below was for Legal Times, and was another in the series of ‘Ken Starr/Monica Lewinski/Bill Clinton’ illustrations that I was inundated with around this time.

Some Unusual Style Experimentation

Carus Publishing, Cobblestone, CRC, Legal Times, Oxendine

For Cobblestone this month, I had a couple two page spread illustrations and a map regarding the ‘Camino Real’ a often travelled trail in the old west and Northern Mexico. I tried to emulate a ‘painterly’ style in the two spreads above, using oil pastels. The map below was a mixture of different styles and paper textures.

The illustration above was for Legal Times, and was a rare color spot assignment for this client (usually when they ordered a color piece, it was for a large cover illustration). I chose to do this one in a semi painterly style as well, in order to better portray the ‘soap bubbles’ which were an important element in the article.

The rather odd illustration to the left was for Oxendine, and was no doubt something to do with racial issues. It looks a bit odd having the two faces being somewhat out of line, but it looks as if it were more deliberate than a mistake, only I don’t remember why.

Below is another map for Cobblestone, this one a map of Hong Kong, including a small vignette of a Chinese Junk and a Pink Porpoise (apparently a species common to these waters). Below that is another rather strange illustration, this one for the Christian Reformed Church’s month magazine, The Banner (I don’t remember what it was about — Easter apparently).