The Sketch Process


A somewhat busy week, but working on projects with long lead times, and doing sketches for upcoming projects, so I’ve only a few finished illustrations to post. The illustration above was one of two that I did for the Wall Street Journal this week, and I thought I’d also share the rough pencil sketches that led up to this particular assignment. The other two sketches played off the text that mentioned something about “the wake of two recent bear markets”, but I’m sure that the client has seen more than its share of ‘bear illustrations’ in the past year. (click on the sketches to view them at a larger size)

I didn’t actually have my usual ‘health care column’ assignment this week, but the designer approached me with another project which resulted in the illustration to the right, regarding hospitals sending patients home sooner than they have in the past, and problems arising out of this practice. I’m not sure if the ‘health care column’ gig has reached its end after 8 years, but I certainly hope not, they were a lot of fun.

I’ve also been doing some extracurricular portraits this week, in an effort to promote that side of the business and hopefully generate some reprint traffic, but it all depends on my current workload whether or not I’ll be able to keep it up on a daily basis. The latest portrait and a link to the library can be found in the column on the right of the blog.

Off and Running

ChronicleHE, Far East Economic Review, LA Times

The portrait of Obama that I did as a self promotional piece last fall found a home this week in the Los Angeles Times. It’s nice to see a spec illustration like that see some action. I’ve often thought that I perhaps ought to choose a ‘newsmaker’ once a day to do a portrait of, on the off chance that a client somewhere may have a use for it as a form of ‘home grown syndication’. It would also give me a chance to experiment with some different styles in a low pressure situation.

This week has been busy, but with ongoing projects that may not see the light of day until later this month or next. I had a few assignments this past weekend for the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong, and they are pictured below. One was a cover, and another dealt with Mixed Martial Arts.

I also had a rush assignment on Tuesday for the Chronicle of Higher Education. The founder of the ‘Pell Grants’ had died over the weekend, and this was a tribute article. I also had a quick turnaround assignment for Barrons, a similar idea to one that I had done the week before, sort of a ‘banks who survived the mess’ portrayal. Any excuse to draw some boats.

2008 into 2009

Barrons, ChronicleHE, Miami Herald, WSJ

Kept fairly busy over the holiday season, most illustrations still having something to do with the current economic mess in one way or another. The above ‘wrestling bear and bull’ illustration being for the Miami Herald (another of my newspaper clients who have been in the news recently, as one of the prime examples of the ‘struggling newspaper industry’), earlier this week. I also had a few ‘new years’ themed illustrations for the Wall Street Journal, which are pictured below.

This was probably an assignment that had thousands of brethren throughout the printed world this past week, and would be interesting to see them all collected somewhere.

For Barrons this week, I had an illustration regarding ‘hedge funds’, and the thrust of the article was that even though these funds have gotten a bad name, there might actually be a few stable ones that have survived the recent melee that might be worth taking a look at. (pictured below)

Below that, are a few illustrations I had for the Chronicle of Higher Education this week. These were concerning the economic meltdown’s effects on the education world, and since the two articles were trying to be an optimistic ‘call to action’, I thought that a faux ‘propaganda poster style’ might be interesting. A little different approach than I usually try, and the second one definitely turned out better than the first (once I had worked out the bugs).

Well, 2009 is finally here, and this marks my twentieth year in the freelance illustration business. I’ll be going over the previous year’s output and putting together a ‘best of 2008’ collection (and perhaps a ‘best of the 2nd decade’ might also be in order – that is, if I can stand looking back that far).

2008 Year in Review

Year In Review

2008 was a strange year. While it was a better year than the previous two, there were still several dry patches in between rush periods, and the economic meltdown coming to a head near the end of the year portends worse things to come. I lost one of my longtime clients near the start of the year, and another warned that they would be using less illustration in the future (although, oddly enough, it ended up being my biggest volume year for them). Newspapers continue to struggle, and I worry quite a bit about it, considering how many of my eggs are in that particular basket.

New clients included a ‘game designer’ in Finland, and several regional magazines, but for the most part, the year was devoted to hanging on to my steady regular clients.

Personally, it was a year of big changes. My son graduated from high school and is now attending college at Columbia in Chicago (for the moment, a music major), and my wife and I recently celebrated our 25th anniversary by chartering a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands. Getting used to the empty nest, and after twenty years in this business, still striving to keep my illustration career alive and kicking into the next decade.

So below, I’ve selected what I consider my best work over the past year. (click on the thumbnails to see a larger version)

334 illustrations this year, bringing the grand career total to 11,532 since 1989.