15 December 1991

blah blah blah


These are a couple more illustrations for the Worldwide Church of God's 'Youth 91' magazine. Both rather strange in concept, and I'm surprised to see so many of these early cartoon illustrations utilizing words and word balloons in various ways. I couldn't find the exact date of either of these drawings, but judging from the style and technique, I'd say that the one above was probably sometime in 1990 and the one below was probably in '91 (the characters seem a bit cruder looking in the above example - the emphasis on big scary looking teeth which I eventually abandoned). Another anthropological indicator that I'm noticing in the evolution of my 'cartoon people', they all seem to lack any sort of hearing apparatus, and over time these develop into tiny 'buds', and then eventually grow into full fledged 'ears'.

03 December 1991

Unpublished Sample


After doing a few book projects for Eerdmans Publishing, a local firm, I was also asked to provide a few 'sample' illustrations for a couple other projects that never got off the ground (at least with me drawing them). The above illustration was for a 'boyhood life of Jesus' book, which was one of these 'sample' pieces.

Another new magazine client in December, Institutional Investor, for which I did a full page scratchboard illustration (unfortunately the art has long since disappeared).

01 December 1991

Xmas Party 1991


Me and my wife hosted an xmas party from approximately 1984 to 1995. For the years prior to my illustration career, the invitation was my big annual chance to let my creative juices flow, and in the years after I started drawing full time, they became a nice break from the routine assignments. This would have been our 7th annual party, and I had previously thought all these invites were lost to the sands of time, until I discovered a stash of them in my father's keepsake drawer when he passed away in 2014. This was the first year we held it at our new house on Briggs Blvd, when Keenan was about 2 years old.

15 October 1991

Pink Lemonade


This book of children's poems, translated from the Dutch, I illustrated for Eerdman's Publishing in late '91. For many of my relatives, this is the one thing they know about my work, even 15 years later. I'm known as the 'children's book illustrator', even though I have only done maybe 5 or 6 children's books over my 20 year career, none of them particularly successful. The interior of this book was all black and white line art, mostly in a crosshatch style that I eventually abandoned, and the cover was a combination of line art and watercolor. The book is still available used for reasonable rates at Amazon (link here).

My one regret, is that at the end of the project, the art director asked me if I wanted all the artwork back, and I, in typical 'who gives a shit' fashion, shrugged it off with a 'no'. Fifteen years later, I got a request from a fan in Holland, who wanted to buy original art, and unfortunately, I only had a single piece available that I had hung on to out of sentimental value. I contacted the publisher to see if maybe the art wasn't still cluttering up some drawer somewhere, but it had long since been tossed. Nothing remains from this project aside from a single 'demo' illustration similar to the giraffe below.

My son was about 2 when this book was completed, so I snuck a few drawings of him into the cover, and into the 'parade' illustration on the inside endpapers.


Another nice project that came my way in October of '91 was a full page caricature illustration of the Supreme Court for an east coast design firm, which appeared in a paid newspaper ad in USA Today. I held on to a nice PMT of this art (since the original was never returned) for several years, but it seems to have eventually disappeared.

12 October 1991

Magnetic


I printed up a smallish order of magnetic business cards and sent them out with a brochure sometime in '91 (judging from the phone number). I don't believe I sent out much more than 250 of these things.

15 September 1991

Follow the bouncing ball


This was another textbook cover for MacMillan's college division, which I did a fair share of during the years '90 and '91. All were in pastels, and I had earlier thought I had lost most of these originals, but they have recently been found. This was a textbook on physical education, and used copies of this particular edition are still available on Amazon (link here).

13 September 1991

Postcard


This piece was drawn especially for the postcard usage, and was meant to promote my scratchboard style, in a color format as opposed to the black and white which I had been pushing heavily the first few years. I also wanted to do an unusual image that might grab attention. Still a bit primitive in technique, but the angel & devil figures turned out quite nice.

02 September 1991

Moving Postcard


In the fall of '91, we moved from our first home on the west side of Grand Rapids, to a riverfront property on the north side (where we still reside as of '08 when this was written). I used the opportunity to send out a 'change of address postcard' to current and future clients.

15 August 1991

Conformity


This piece on conformity was another for the Worldwide Church of God's teen magazine 'Youth 91', who kept me fairly busy in the early years (until they folded sometime in the mid-nineties).

13 July 1991

Another New Client


This was the first assignment I had for Marriage Partnership magazine (Christianity Today). This client would eventually keep me rather busy over the next few years with a regular column gig of small cartoon spots.

12 July 1991

Balls


This was probably one of the last of the 'big pastels' that I did during the period of '88-91. After we moved to the new house (September of '01), I did less and less pastel work that wasn't specifically a client assignment.

Mired in it


These two illustrations were both for Strang Communications in July. The one above was a large horizontal across two pages, and the one below was a full page illustration.

15 June 1991

Mystery Assignments


Another couple of 'mystery illustrations' for which I can find no records. Judging from the illustration style and presentation, I'm guessing they were sometime in the early 90s, perhaps for Legal Times.

07 June 1991

Mystery Job


Another illustration for which I can find no clues as to the client or date. I didn't do too many of these 'colored pencil' illustrations, so that would probably date it from the early 90s. I do remember being specifically directed by the client to do one of those 'big head - hyper forced perspective' images that were popular in stock photography at the time, which didn't do much for my enthusiasm for this particular project.

10 May 1991

Intimidated by Space


These were a couple illustration assignments I had for Strang Communications in the month of May. Both were a bit larger in scope than I was comfortable with, and issues like 'how to fill backgrounds' are still problems that I'm trying to work my way through. The style of the 'hospital bill' illustration above was rather strange, looking like little else I've done before or since (except for the overabundance of crosshatching that I employed in the 'suit'). The scratchboard color illustration below was a bit more successful in that regard, as I'm starting to figure out that scratchboard seems to pop better against a white background. This was a bit larger scratchboard piece than I was used to doing, as this one stretched across a page and half (the pagebreak probably coming between the two characters on the left).

Mystery Job


This is another of those illustrations that I've found in my flat files that I have no idea who I did it for. Judging from the material, style and presentation, I'm guessing that it was from sometime in '90 or '91. It has a vaguely 'evangelical' feel to it, which isn't surprising, as my early years were mired in that sort of work. This was at a time when I was still working on black coated scratchboard stock (which means, that every bit of white has to be scratched away from a black starting point). Later on, I went to white coated stock, and then added black ink on top of it, which cut down on a lot of time and effort, and also made planning a lot easier.

15 April 1991

Mosquito Date


This was another cartoon assignment from The Worldwide Church of God's teen magazine 'Youth 91'. I wish the scan had turned out better on this one, there was some very nice color in the original. The cartoon assignments from this client (and several for a local regional publication) were my experimental breeding ground for what would eventually become my 'cartoon style'. The final refinements would occur around the new millenium, when I started getting a lot of book projects with hundreds of cartoons per batch. But it is interesting to see these early experiments. Crude in many ways, but there were some interesting things going on all the same that I would do well to try and remember and replicate.

15 March 1991

Pastel Assignment


This assignment was another for Strang Publications down in Florida, and was for an article entitled something like 'under the umbrella'. One of the problems with working with pastels, I discovered, was the fact that I had to work on a relatively large scale in order to get any kind of detail into the picture. This one ended up having to be about twice the size of the finished page. This also made shipping a problem, and probably caused a headache on the other end, trying to find a scanner big enough to take a picture of it.

Speaking of Florida, sometime this month we drove down to Florida to visit my Grandmother, which I remember due to the fact that at around the same time, I got a another new client while we were down there. The Weekly Reader called up with a rush job, and I remember having to do the job on my Grandmother's dining room table, and trying to track down a fax machine and fed x drop off box in the area (western Florida, which was still largely undeveloped at this time). Glad I went to the trouble, because they gave me quite a few projects over the coming months.

15 February 1991

Full Page Color Cartoon Assignment


This was a first assignment for The Children's Television Workshop for their magazine 'Kid City', another new client for February. My cartoon style was starting to finally develop a personality of its own, but there were still a lot of growing pains to work through. This was a fun assignment, for which the original artwork has long since vanished, but I did manage to hang on to a color tearsheet, from which this scan is taken.

15 January 1991

Pastel Portrait


This was the very first assignment that I had for Legal Times, a Washington DC newspaper, which would turn out to be one of my more regular clients throughout the nineties (and for several years into the new century). I was asked to do a portrait of David Souter, a new appointee to the supreme court at the time.

I was horrified to see, however, once the 'printed samples' came back my way months later, that apparently the designer felt that his 'five o'clock shadow' was too pronounced, and had tried to touch it up in the pre press (thankfully they didn't try anything on the original). It ended up looking worse , almost as if the guy had a white beard. I was worried that this client would never call back again, but a few months later they gave me another try and I pretty much stuck to scratchboard from then on out, never doing another pastel for them.

Not much else in January aside from another new christian client, The Baptist Brotherhood out of Memphis, for which I apparently did a few pastel pieces.

01 January 1991

1989/1990 Year in Review

Second year in business (and first 'full year'). Still living near downtown on the west side of Grand Rapids. Business still slow enough that we were leaning heavily on my wife's income to make ends meet. There were occasional rays of hope peeking through the clouds though, with some clients calling back with repeat business, and a few new clients that paid more than just a couple bucks and a pile of tearsheets.

My son was 1-2 years old this year, and there were still a lot of diapers to be changed, so I was fine with the workload, and whatever spare time I still had, was spent in sending out promotional mailers and travelling portfolios.

At this point I was still floundering around with regards to style, and my marketing was primitive to say the least. I was still doing quite a bit of pastel work despite the problems with regards to the fragility of the medium and ungainly shipping difficulties. The scratchboard style was still in its infancy, but I was starting to learn that it would be a good style to market towards newspapers and bw format publications due to its ease in reproduction. The big clients during this period were mainly local clients like the department store Steketees, Gemini Publications, Travel Consultants, my old employer Graphic Arts Workshop, Baker Book House, Eerdmans, but I was also starting to get some national clients including Adweek, Dell Publications (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine), Cricket, The Worldwide Church of God, Governing, MacMillan Publishing, US Catholic and Strang Publications.

As near as I can figure (and records are pretty spotty for the first few years in business), I did approximately 105 illustrations in 1989, and 147 illustrations in 1990, for a total of about 262 illustrations in the first two years of business.

These are what I consider the 'best pieces' of 1990: