In addition to all the rest of the work for the month of December, I also had due another of my 'bible study' curriculum projects for the Christian Reformed Church. This batch contained about 25 illustrations, mostly large poster sized images (11x17 or larger) of particular bibles scenes or activities related to this period's topics. I've chosen some samples to give a feel for the project. A lot of crowds of bearded individuals wearing robes. I do believe I have a pictoral representation of nearly every scene in the bible somewhere in my archives, once you add together all the projects I've done for this client and a few others.
06 December 2003
The above illustration, while not for a 'children's publication', featured a kid in a classroom setting. One of two 'blackboard' illustrations I had this month (funny how these things frequently come in groups), this one for US Catholic magazine (I don't remember the slant of the story).
The other 'blackboard' illo was actually a portion of a logo for a NY designer, something to do with some sort of medicine or supplement for a corporate client.
02 December 2003
One of the charming aspects of encroaching old age, is the memory problems that creep up. I pulled the above illustration out of my archives yesterday, but now I can't remember which client it was for, whether it was for US Catholic or America magazine. Anyhow, this was one of my favorites for the month, accompanying an article about 'rebuilding the priesthood' in the aftermath of all the scandals. A nice elegant simple concept, and the rendering makes nice use of solid blacks and whites.
Then, the above 5 illustrations were for my weekly 'health care' column gig for the Wall Street Journal. Oddly enough, the priest in the top illustration looks a bit like my young neighbor Scott, and the gal in the 'lip balm' spot looks a little like his wife Sarah. I wonder what year they moved in next door? I don't think it was deliberate. Anyhow, the topics this month were; 'high tech headache relief gizmos', 'carb blocker medication', 'nasal sprays', 'lip balm' and 'health benefits of nuts'.
The same client also handed me a few other assignments this month, pictured below. A piece on Argentina's export economy, a piece on a 'tuxedo rental service' and a rather complex narrative on 'fund management' (combining my favorite illustration elements, buildings and lots of explanatory text).
Newsday handed me a few same day black and white assignments in December, one on the 'Iraq Exit Strategy', and another one about planning and designing the '9/11 monument'.
18 November 2003
Above was another of my 'puzzle page' assignments for Oddysey magazine (Cobblestone). This looks quite complex, but it was actually a lot of fun to put together; an arial view of a bunch of city buildings and streets, numbered for some reason that had to do with the accompanying story problem.
It sort of reminds me of a computer game I designed for my son to play back in the early nineties where you had to drive a little yellow vw bug around town, making stops at various locations in order to 'do your errands'. It was called 'Bugsy Goes to Town' and I'm not sure if you can still find it in the freeware libraries of AOL, but it was a very crude attempt on my part to learn the 'C' programming language.
The spots sprinkled around are from a series of 20 or so spots that I was asked to do for Adventure House Publishers to go in a textbook of some sort. Most were quite small (the examples here are actually increased in size from the originals), and had to do with various activities and story problems.
Also this month, I had a small illustration for Footsteps magazine (Cobblestone). This magazine specialized in African American history, and this was a story about a slave who would go around spreading news to farm workers through coded songs and verse.
12 November 2003
06 November 2003
These were a series of illustrations for AG Edwards, for their quarterly newsletter. These generally had to do with investing and savings, with only slight variations from quarter to quarter depending on the current financial situation. I have been saving illustrations from this particular client to post until a 5 year window has passed, due to usage arrangments I made at the time these were contracted.
15 October 2003
Every once in a while I get the urge to play around with the animation tools in the Painter software that I use for my daily work, when I get a little free time. This was an unfinished project I was working on in October of 2003 (it is very short, so I've looped it a couple times). I'm still new to this 'movie posting', so hopefully in the future I can figure out how to post larger more detailed samples.
Music: A portion of 'Under Pewter Skies' copyright 2007 Tim Foley
I had another package of 'bible stories' due in October, this was a group of about 20 pieces for the Christian Reformed Church's school curriculum. I was finding myself drawing a lot of crowd scenes in October. Something I don't particularly mind doing, but is very time consuming, and I really should start charging more for these sort of projects. Just the seemingly simple task of picking different colors for every single element on the page, faces, shirts, pants, hands etc etc, turns into a long session at the drawing board.
I don't know why the illustration above is lacking color in a few of the outfits, perhaps I saved an 'in progress' file and didn't realize it at the time. One thing this one points out to me though, is how rarely I ever left any 'white areas' in any of these cartoon illustrations, and how much it helps to 'pop' the area out of the background mire. I should remember this in the future.
More samples from this month's bundle of 'bible stories' can be found in another posting this month. (link here).
Another 'crowd scene' pictured above. This one was for the Chronicle of Higher Education. I don't remember the topic, but the woman in the middle is somehow 'out of the loop' for some reason or other.
Another crowd scene, this one for Newsday. I notice I stuck another self portrait in here, wearing my 'hiking' vest and bandanna. I don't remember the gist of this one either, but it seems to me that the 'asterix' symbol on the occasional tee shirt had some significance.
In October of '03, I was asked by the Cricket magazine art director to illustrate a couple stories for their older 'teen fiction' digest, Cicada. The first one was a fantasy/sci-fi piece about a future/alternative reality world in which various 'human/animal' races coexist, and a young 'bird man' is put in charge of a special 'egg' that somehow has great hope and promise for the future of his kind. I remember being very frustrated by this job, especially in the sketch stage. I kept thinking that it is rather easy for an author to simply say 'bird man' or 'lizard man' and leave it at that, but that taking that simple idea and fleshing it out was another thing entirely. I wasn't sure how I wanted to portray costumes or architecture, since there weren't many clues in the text, and I was uncomfortable with how my 'bird man' was turning out visually.
I finally hit upon an idea that seemed to work. Since the descriptions were so 'sketchy', I decided to plan out the illustrations in a similar 'sketchy' manner, doing a lot more implying than laying it all out in concrete form, using a lot of shadows to leave some of the anatomy problems to the mind of the viewer. I used a rare departure for myself stylistically, by doing the finish similar to how I do my rough sketches, very quick and rough (but with a certain controlled quality that I usually forgo in the sketch stage), and lots of chiarascuro technique with regards to positive and negative tonal areas.
What started out being a job that I wasn't looking forward to, ended up being a lot of fun once I got going on it, and was a welcome change of pace from my usual editorial work. Looking back at these now, after almost 4 years, I am struck by how fresh and interesting they still look, while my scratchboards are still trying to find their way out of their straightjacket of comformity. I need to find this source of creativity and vigor so I can tap into it again when I need it.
Another fiction piece for the same issue of the same fiction digest was the illustration pictured below. This was a Kafka-esque mood piece about a lonely office drone in a filing labyrinth who gets mysterious faxed messages that he has trouble finding a home for (somewhat reminiscent of that scene in Orwell's '1984' where Winston Smith is handed a simple three word note from the mysterious female character). The editor wanted a style somewhat different from the style of the other story, so I chose to do this one in scratchboard, however trying to make it a little less 'rigid' than I usually do.
12 October 2003
Looking back at October '03's output, I am struck by how many nice pieces there are that I did in this 30 day period. This piece above for US Catholic magazine, was one of my favorite pieces of the year. I was asked to do a portrait of Mel Gibson to go with an article about his new film 'The Passion of the Christ', and I chose to do a homage to a famous rennaisance painting of one of the saints being inspired to write the gospels. Mel wasn't an easy likeness to capture, but once I found the right angle it seemed to fall into place. I love doing these 'aping another artist's style' projects, as it is a good exercise in learning how other artist's think. Taking apart their color schemes, and layouts, yet interjecting a little of yourself into them. I contemplated doing a little faux 'crackelature' into the image, to emulate an old painting, but it sort of took away from the image, so I abandoned the idea. I did this one in digital watercolors, since I wasn't yet familiar with the 'oil paints' tools in my software program.
Another fun project I had this month, for Newsday, also involving portraiture, was this piece on George Bush and his 'leakage' problems, in which he is compared to Dick Nixon. I had the idea of a reflection in the pool of basement water where George sees his reflection as Nixon. Only the second time I've had to draw Nixon, at least in my professional career. He was my artistic inspiration as a boy during the Watergate mess, and I cut my drawing teeth doing caricatures of the man.
A 'puzzle page' illustration for Oddysey magazine (Cobblestone) offered me a chance to do another fun piece, this time for other reasons. During the summer of '03 and the previous year, we had started to become interested in sailing and had taken lessons and chartered a boat in northern Michigan the summer before. We were starting to get 'boat fever' and one of the boats we had our eye on made it into this illustration (it had a very ornate nameplate on the back and an exposed rudder). We didn't end up buying that boat, but a different one the following summer, but I still remember this one quite vividly as the 'one that got away'.
05 October 2003
I also had the usual cadre of illustrations for The Wall Street Journal. The above piece was for an article about 'casual fridays'. Below is another spot illustration for the same client, this one about China's economy.
Above are my monthly allotment of 'health care' spots for the same client. The topics were 'rosecrucea (sp?)', 'medical specialization', and 'hairspray', and a rather delicate one about 'circumcision', in which I ended up drawing a rather alarmed looking baby. (probably my cutest baby drawing ever)
Then another 'bull' for the same client, this one in black and white.
20 September 2003
Above are the monthly quota of 'health care' spots for the Wall Street Journal, a weekly gig that I've been doing for the past few years. The topics were 'cellulite removal', 'bowel pain', 'bad breath' and 'wart removal' (a pleasant assortment this month, to be sure). Plus I had the usual assortment of small black and white spots, usually a weekend chart accompaniment illustration, like the piece on 'building a portfolio', and the 'keeping a lid on interest rates' piece both pictured below.
And for the same client, I also had a few larger spot illustrations, like the piece below on regulating the 'fat cats', and the piece below that, which had something to do with the Chinese economy.
For the Chronicle of Higher Education, I had a pair of illustrations that would bookend an article about 'internet miscommunications'. I don't normally relish drawing computers and electronic devices, but I try to have fun with them whenever the situation arises, putting in a plug for macs when possible (looks like my old imac that the fellah is using). These two turned out quite fun, both from a simplicity standpoint, and in the colors I chose to use.
Also, for the same client I had another spot illustration in September. This one also featured a computer, a laptop this time, probably a story about 'ebooks' or something. I used a technique for the first time here (which I used again on another project this month), where I use a subtle 'yellow glow' around the outside of an illustration that has a plain white background. This serves to help 'pop' the black linework a little bit against the background. I've used it subsequently a few other times since, but not to the point where I've overused the effect.