Out Like a Lamb (well, almost)

LA Times, WSJ

The illustration above was a bit of spec work that I took on over the last couple weeks, written by the authors of the ‘Dick Cheney’ book (which will be hitting the shelves on Tuesday). They shopped it around to several newspapers as a way of getting a ‘plug’ for the book, and it eventually got picked up by the LA Times. It appears today as the top half of their op-ed page, and is also going out over their wire service, so it should be interesting to see where else it pops up. If you click on the image, you will be taken to a larger sized version, where you can actually read the type.

The last couple weeks have been kind of quiet. I had little more to do other than the usual Wall Street Journal gigs. The ‘health care’ spot to the left was about ‘kettlebells’, a new type of exercise fad from Russia. I also had a black and white weekend edition spot, that was a bit more rushed than usual, so I took a chance and jumped the gun on the finish before the sketch was actually approved, and ended up choosing the wrong one (which is why I now have two versions of this illustration). This one was about divergent viewpoints on the current ‘economic crunch’ (they went with the ‘glass half full’ illustration).

Just about the time I was starting to get worried again about how slow it was getting (you’d think I’d be used to this rollercoaster after almost twenty years of it) — then work started coming in again. I got a big project for the Christian Reformed Church, which should be keeping me very busy over the next month or so, and a couple illustrations from Hong Kong, a full page illo for the ABA, another mystery fiction assignment for AHMM, and a cover for a magazine client I hadn’t heard from in a while for Tuesday. So things are looking up. Going to be pretty busy over the coming week, as we will be getting ready to take a short spring break vacation down to Arizona starting Thursday, see my Dad, catch a Diamondbacks game, and do a little disc golfin’.

Oscar Poster 2008

Oscar Poster

Got a late start to this year’s Oscar Poster, and I had barely done a rough sketch before the Academy Awards came and went. Each year since ’05 I’ve drawn a large caricature poster for my brother, who hosts an Oscar Party in Chicago. It looks as if he didn’t have one this year (he was out of town), but I went ahead and did the poster anyway. I enjoy the challenge of fitting the twenty or so nominees (plus the occasional documentary and animation nod) into the layout, and capturing a wide variety of likenesses, both familiar, and the not-quite-so familiar (like a lot of them were this year).

You can click on the image above to see a larger sized sample (and take in the details). The poster (and the previous year’s editions) is available for purchase, contact me for details (the size is somewhere in the neighborhood of 18×20 inches).

We didn’t see many of the movies this year (we saw Juno, No Country for Old Men, Once, Into the Wild, Ratatouie – and then after the awards we’ve seen Eastern Promises and Michael Clayton), but this year I felt there were quite a few fine films that got overlooked (Waitress, Lars and the Real Girl, Into the Wild, 3:10 to Yuma)

The other posters in this series can be found on a link under ‘Portfolio’ under the masthead.

Ides of March

Barrons, ChronicleHE, Far East Economic Review, Newsday

Spring is starting to make a tentative appearance around here. This ‘blustery’ illustration above was for Barrons last week.

Over the weekend I had a small ‘online blog’ illustration for the Far Eastern Economic Review’s new website. This would be an ongoing usage icon (and larger usage on a linked page) for the upcoming Taiwan elections, featuring a caricature of the two rival candidates (link to blog).

Had some bad news from a long time client late last week. Newsday, the long island newspaper who I had been working for since 1994, gave their art director an early retirement. There’s been a lot of attrition in my customer list over the past year, which is making me a little bit nervous for the future.

Meanwhile, the Chronicle of Higher Education, after warning me of a possibility of slow down in ’08, have been keeping me quite busy over the past few months.

I had another series of small ‘election topic’ spots for a series of roundtable articles in the last issue. These all dealt with immigration from various angles. I also had a color illustration for the same client early this week for an article about ‘searching for university presidents’.

I’ve also been working on this years’ ‘oscar poster’, which I got a real late start on this season, due to the workload. Hopefully I’ll have it done in the next week or so. Also starting to work on a few postcard ideas to try and drum up some new business.

Let the Games Begin

Sorsamo Games

With the kind permission of the game designer, I’m going to post a number of samples from a large project that has been occupying me for the past few months. This is a board game for a designer in Helsinki based on the idea of a roman chariot race. I decided that the painterly style that I used on a recent book cover would be the best way to convey the drama and scope of this project, although, by the time I was finished, I would be pretty much using every trick in the book on all the various elements required (and some tricks I didn’t even know I had). These past two big projects (the Dick Cheney book and this one) have had me using photoshop more than I have at any time in the past, and I’ve learned a great deal in a short period of time.

The above illustration was the original painting for the cover (although certain elements would change over the course of the box design). The final box layout is pictured below (along with the side panels and lettering). I also did a similar layout for the back cover with a different smaller painting, but I haven’t included that one here.

The other large part of this project was the game board illustration. It is rather big, so I’ve selected a few areas to enlarge to better show detail. This entailed an overhead view of the stadium and chariot track, and certain parts of the track have to fit with various tiles and cards included in the game (and samples of which are found further down the posting).

In addition to the box and board illustrations, I also had several card, tile and coin designs (of which I’ve selected a sampling to post below). There were six different color cards, with 6 different numbers for each (plus a back design), five of the small green tiles with different ‘prizes’, two coin designs front and back, with 6 values each (Augustus got changed to Julius later, but I’ve chosen the original to post here), and five different of the larger cards depicting various team configurations.

Easily one of the most interesting assignments I’ve had in my career, and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product when it hits the shelves in Finland sometime around xmas.

Sketches to Final


I thought it might be interesting, for a change of pace, to post both a finished illustration and the sketches that led up to it for a typical assignment. I usually treat my rough sketches in a very offhand manner, most of them getting tossed in the trash bin after the job is completed. Sometimes, if I’m particularly fond of a sketch that didn’t get chosen, I’ll tuck it away in a file folder and go back to it later on my own.

This particular assignment for the Wall Street Journal came in on Friday around noon, and I sent off a trio of ideas an hour or so later. This was a story about bond fund investors who have managed to ‘hide’ from the bad markets over the past few months. I personally liked the sketch with the two fellows cowering behind a stump while a giant ‘beast’ passes by (I had ‘bear’ sort of in mind, but didn’t want to commit in case the symbolism didn’t quite apply), and my least favorite was the guy with the umbrella (he looks like he’s taking a dump, now that I look at it more closely). I usually use a ‘pencil’ tool when doing my sketches, and this is a fairly recent change (6 months or so) from ‘scratchboard tool’ sketches that I’d done since ’97. I can get a little more subtlety with this tool than I was before, but the drawback, is that sometimes I have a harder time translating the effects I get with the pencil into the more hard edged ‘scratchboard style’ for the finish. (the tops of the pillars are a good example, if you compare the sketch to the finish).

I heard back from the client just before 2. He like the ‘guys hiding behind the pillars’, but he also liked the ‘big bear’ in the other sketch, so he wanted to see a couple more sketches before I went to finish, adding ‘bears’ to the ‘pillar’ sketch, and another idea he had with investors hiding in a ‘bear’s shadow’. I had a ‘cello play date’ at 2, so I told him I’d get those to him when I got back around 3.

I got the ok on the revised ‘pillars’ sketch around 3:30, and finished up the illustration by around 4:30. I believe this illustration appears in the weekend edition of the paper (they usually accompany a chart of some sort).