20 December 1999

Imagine That


In November and December of 1999 I had the second of two full color book assignments for a local children's book publisher. I had been doing mostly black and white cartoon work for this client for a couple years, and these two books were a chance to really stretch out and try something a bit more ambitious. A lot of my relatives seem to be under the impression that I specialize in 'children's book illustration', based on the fact that most of them are only dimly aware of what I do based on a single children's book project that I did back in 1991, when in reality, I very rarely ever do projects of this sort, none of which have been particularly successful.

This particular book (1 used copy still available at Amazon here - must've been a rather dismal failure, it dropped out of sight pretty quickly), contained two completely disconnected stories told in rhyme. The first was a story about a fellow with a magical sack that contains a number of improbable items. I've included a few sample images from this first half of the book. Frankly, the first half was rather uninspiring, and the items that Jack produces from his sack may have been handy rhymes in prose, but made for some rather awkward pictures (a railroad track, a clothes rack, etc). I tried my best to make it interesting, but I don't think I quite made it. The second half of the book, however, really fired up my engines, and you can tell I was having a lot more fun with the images in that story.



The second half of the book was about a bunch of imaginary creatures that lived in the pipes underneath the kitchen sink. I had a lot of fun with these little blobby guys (although the color choice was unfortunate - and I seem to remember being hamstrung by another rhyme in the text), and even tried to tie the two disparate sections of the book together by including them in the design of the waterfountain in the first story. I'm much more comfortable when I am able to overpopulate my cartoon illustrations and to hide a lot of little details throughout the picture. I've included more samples of this second half of the book mainly because I was much more proud of the illustrations for this section.

I've also included an enlargement of part of the above illustration to better show the details (below).




I think one of the reasons that the second half of the book was more successful (from an illustration stand point anyway - the book as a whole seems to have been a dud), was that the text was more vague and open to interpretation, while in the first half everything was very spelled out and set in stone. Like the difference between having an art director who gives you a lot of specific instructions right from the starting gate, to one who leaves the ideas and concepts open to a wider range of thought.

Interesting experience, but I must say I much prefer smaller jobs with tighter deadlines. I really don't think of myself as a 'children's book illustrator'.

19 December 1999

2 book projects


For the same local children's publisher for which I did 'Imagine That' (samples of which are found in another posting for this month), I had a pair of workbook projects that each contained about 300 black and white spot illustrations. A sampling of some of the more involved illustrations are pictured here in this post. They were both 'fun and activities' books, the first of which was geared towards kindergarten age children, and the second of which was geared towards first graders.

Compared to the labored color illustrations for the other book project this month, I seem to be having a lot more fun with these drawings. (I just got a chuckle out of noticing the titles on the film cans that the librarian is dropping in the lower left corner of the above illustration) Funny how I barely remember doing most of these, which isn't really surprising considering how many of them I must've churned out in a short period of time.


The top illustration seems to be of the 'find things wrong in this picture' variety, the second one seems to be about 'things making noise in a library', the third one seems to just be a scene at a grocery store, and the one above looks like it had something to do with 'outdoor things that shouldn't be in the house' (personally, I'm not sure I have that much of a problem with the 'log footrest'). The illustration below seemed to be just a 'pet shop' scene, and the one at the bottom seemed to be something about opposites (heavy/light, fat/thin, old/young, etc).

I love the fact that I was able to hide little subversive details into these crowded illustrations (like the pet store owner swatting the fly, or the cat reading the paper on the cover of the kitty litter bag). I had a wonderful art director working with me on most of these projects, and her infectious laughter at my cartoons was always a big boost to my ego whenever I'd bring in sketches or finishes for her to approve.

12 December 1999

Legal Publication Work


The above large illustration was for a midwest legal magazine. I'm still sort of struggling with how to handle the scratchboard style when faced with a larger sized project. Interesting layout, but I'm not too happy with the end product. Unfortunate color choices, and the foreground figure is way too busy and overworked.

I had a trio of assignments this month for my east coast legal newspaper client. The first one was something to do with former 'attorney generals', and I'm not very pleased with how it turned out. The likenesses aren't very good and the layout is a bit dull.


Another illustration above for the same client. A bit better use of scratchboard techniques on this one, and the layout was fairly simple and direct.

Below is another for the same client this month. Another very awkward layout and concept (handed me by the editors in this case), and the likenesses are very hit or miss. (I also never much care for illustrations that include 'text labels' to help explain what is going on).

11 December 1999

Cartoon Assignments for December


The above illustration regarding 'online beauty sites' was one of my better concepts around this time. The idea of a tiny little computer the size of a woman's makeup compact was rather far fetched back in '99, but only ten years later and we may very well end up seeing computer laptops shrunk down to this size.

Also this month, for a midwest evangelical client, I had a series of small spots having to do with 'where your donations go'.

I also had a series of small black and white illustrations for my agent, for a michigan regional parenting magazine (one of which I've included here by way of example).

10 December 1999

Newspaper clippings


I had three assignments this month for my east coast newspaper client. The color piece above was for a New Year's feature (probably 'food resolutions' as the topic). The piece to the left was a same day assignment having to do with China as an emerging economic power in the east.

The piece below had something to do with 'blended families' and the problems they face during the holiday season. This was the second illustration this month in which I experimented with coloring a foreground character all in a single monotone color as a way of separating it from the background for dramatic effect. This one was more successful than the 'classroom piece' (pictured in another posting this month), but I'm still not too happy with how I treated the 'couch' on the right side.

Also, this month, for a jesuit publication, I had the following assignment. (don't quite remember what it was about).

04 December 1999

Busy month from a new client


I was just starting to get a lot of regular work from my new national newspaper client starting around this time. Most of the assignments were rather small in size, but I was more than happy with that, as this was the ideal format for this particular style, especially at this stage in my skills. The above was my first 'bear and bull' for this financial publication (and wouldn't be the last), and I had a few more in rapid succession (the crystal ball illustration below, and the 'party bulls' below that).

The 'newspaper scandal' illustration to the right was one of two small spots (the other being the 'chalkboard' illustration below) for the same client this month.
Most of the work for this client was on a 'same day' basis (with an occasional two day lead time, but it was rare), where I would be called sometime in the mid morning with an assignment, I would have sketches sent over in an hour or so, and then once okayed, the final to be delivered by late afternoon. I have no problem with that schedule, and in fact prefer to work this way, instead of large involved projects that hang over my head for weeks (and generally pay far less). Over the years I've learned to anticipate when jobs are likely come in, and in later years would even start working remotely via cell phone and laptop from whereever I happen to be.

The 'egg' illustration below to the right was one of my favorites of these early illustrations for this client, and I would recycle it as business card art for myself during the next year. I think what I like best about it is the simplicity. I have an unfortunate tendency to overwork my illustrations, and it is a revelation when I see what can be done with much less.

The 'acorn' illustration to the left was another for the same client in December.

Sometimes I would get some odd shaped illustration requests, usually when the art has to work around a pre-existing chart or graphic. The illustration below was one of these 'oddball' shapes and portrays an investor taking the 'hard way' towards a destination.

Below that is a piece for the same client on the 'computer industry', and this is one of the earliest examples of my using a 'scratchboard rake' tool to add a tone to the background of an illustration (and not very carefully, I might add).

02 December 1999

Children's Magazine Work


I stumbled across some additional work for December of '99. I had a series of spot illustrations for one of my children's magazine clients this month, having to do with Mexican culture. These spots were arranged in such a way so that they could make some sort of 'numerical game' out of them. (1 plate of nachos, 2 boats, 3 cups of guacamole, etc) and so they could also throw a few spanish names into the lesson.


I also had a large two page spread of a crowded mexican festival, but I've not bothered to include it here, because it wasn't particularly nice looking, and had a very strange shape to make room for some text blocks.

For the same client, I had a story about the industrial revolution, for which I've chosen the better of the two illustrations to include here (below), and below that a map of California for another publication for the same client.