Color Scratchboards in June

Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine, Recorder

The ‘godzilla’ illustration above was for The Recorder, concerning japanese takeover court decisions that were in danger of undermining the US Constitution. For the time, and my relative inexperience at full page illustrations in Scratchboard, and in using ‘collage’ techniques (for the constitution image which was lifted from the internet), this wasn’t half bad. The buildings are a little crude, the Constitution image left a bit to be desired, but you can really tell I was having a lot of fun with this image. I grew up on a steady diet of Japanese monster movies, and I loved the chance to pay homage to those icons.

For Mary Higgins Clark’s Mystery Magazine this month, I had a second series of ‘character portraits’. The trick with these, was to show the character, without focusing too much on a face, but to show a lot of the environment, and situations that these famous recurring mystery lit characters dressed themselves in. I believe I did another portrait of this ‘taxi/guitar’ character above the following year, at least based on the visual clues (I’m not overly familiar with this character). I was, however, pretty familiar with a couple of the characters this month (Rumpole and Dortmunder below), which was a fun treat. This magazine didn’t last long on the newsstand, which was a pity, because I really enjoyed these assignments while they lasted.

June Grab Bag

Carus Publishing, Cobblestone, Gemini Publications

The illustration above, for Grand Rapids Magazine’s humor column is a pretty good example of the theme of this posting. A little bit of everything thrown into the mix. I don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to combine UFOs, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Yanni, the Taco Bell dog and Steve Urkel into the same illustration before, and I doubt if the opportunity will ever arise again.

But that’s the way things were during this crazy mixed up first full year in transition from tradional to digital mediums. I would try just about anything, if only to learn unfamiliar new techniques. I would sometimes mix various styles in the same assignment, like I did with this Cambodia map/spot art project for Cobblestone in June. (pictured above and to the right)

The illustration below was for Zillions magazine (Consumer Reports) this month, and was a ‘puzzle’ illustration where you had to try and match up the kids based on their school uniforms (which were all slightly different). This one combined a cartoon style for the children, but with a different technique for the brick background. (below)

Also for Cobblestone, I was asked to come up with a series of character designs for a new magazine geared towards younger children, Appleseeds. This ‘apple head guy’ would be used to accompany regularly running features, and sprinkled throughout the magazine whereever they needed some sort of ‘brand identity’. These were used for quite some time (who knows, they might still be in use today), and I wasn’t too bright in negotiating a price for them. I’m pretty sure I just got their usual assignment rates. I would do more of these little ‘apple guys’ the following year for the same arrangment. This was one of those assignments that got me starting to pay attention to the contracts that I’ve been signing without a passing glance for the previous 9 years.

Below is another assignment for the same client (different magazine). This was a three page assignment on the ‘puritans’, and I experimented with laying down a base color and building a scratchboard look out of those colors and overlaying watercolor over that. Interesting, but not a technique I stuck with for long, both due to the time involved and an unhappiness with how the end product looked.

The illustration below was another cartoon for Gemini Publications (Grand Rapids Magazine). Most of the assignments around this time were black and white like the drawing below, with color assignments like the one above being a rarity.

Newspaper Clippings

ChronicleHE, Legal Times, National Business Employment Weekly, Sign of the Times, Writers Digest

Most of the black and white scratchboard work around this time was for newspapers, usually with a short deadline. Bill, Ken Starr and Monica were in the news a lot this month, and I had my share of editorial work along that line. The illustration above and the two below were all for Legal Times.

The illustration to the left was for the Chronicle of Higher Education, and dealt with choices of career paths to follow for professors, with regards to salary or tenure. The illustration below was for National Business Employment Weekly and had something to do with job interviews.

I also had the occasional odd magazine illustration. This street scene to the left was for Writer’s Digest, and the one below was for Sign of the Times magazine (Pacific Press).

World Religion Project


This month I also had a rather large project from the Christian Reformed Church here in Grand Rapids. This was to be a series of illustrations on ‘world religions’, of which I’ve chosen a representative selection of images to post here. Most were depictions of various godheads, although there were also technical illustrations depicting other concepts and rituals.

Temptations vs Traditions

Christian Home & School

The above illustration was for Christian Home and School, a local publication who I had been working for since the early 90s. One of the big temptations of working digitally, I found, especially in that first year, was in the utilization of imagery found off the internet. Either as a time saving device, like the ‘periodic table’ poster or ‘world map’ poster that I used in the classroom, or as part of a visual joke like the ‘mona lisa’ that I used on the kid’s easel out in the courtyard. Of the three collage elements, the only one that works well is the ‘mona lisa’, but even that, if I had done this today (’08), I would only use it as reference material, and recreate the painting using the materials that would match the rest of the page. I think the found materials just stick out like a sore thumb on this illustration, and I’m glad to say that I rarely ever did it again (except in the case of depictions of ‘money’, which took me more than a couple years to figure out a good solution to).