27 December 2004

Casualties and New Blood

During this difficult six month period, dealing with Dad's Multiple Myeloma, I took a bit of a hit on the business side of things. Some clients didn't seem to adjust well to my being out of the office, and pretty much stayed away for the second half of the year, but on the bright side, I actually started doing some work for a few new clients during this time, to take up the slack.
The illustrations above and below were for one of these new clients. A girl that once worked with my wife at Gemini Publications (Grand Rapids Magazine, Parent and Business Journal), got a job with Log Home Living out on the east coast, and started calling me with assignments during this time in South Haven. This particular assignment was about 'purchasing vacant land', and it was unusual, in that, I've never really tried a full color 'landscape' in scratchboard, and it was interesting to try and work out all the logistics of it. I'd done a complex landscape illustration earlier in the year for a Lansing ad agency, but that was in black and white. I used myself and my wife for reference photos for the people (and in fact, if you look at the two women in the picture, they look a bit too similar to each other in the face).

One of the clients that didn't adjust so well to my being absent from the office, was Newsday. Probably because they relied more on the phone for communication, and a majority of the work I do for them is rather tight in deadline, they probably just felt more comfortable working with someone a bit more 'available'. Once I got home, near the end of December, though, they did start calling me again with assignments. This piece above was for the lifestyle section, and was a full page piece on 'overseas investing'.

The piece below was a same day assignment for the same client about drafting the Iraq constitution.

One of my favorite black and white same-day assignments from them this month was this piece featuring our old cliche friend 'uncle sam'. I don't quite remember the topic of this illustration, but the little 'flying brains' were fun to draw.

20 December 2004

Queer Eye For the Straight Accountant

Still living in South Haven with my Father in the first half of December, and by this time, he's starting to get a bit more independent, and going through the last few chemo treatments, which he seems to be responding well to, all things considered. Physical therapy was helping him regain some of his mobility and I was starting to think about weaning him off of my constant attention (which wasn't easy). Thankfully, most of my clients have adjusted to the new working relationship (more emails instead of phone calls, and taking into account that sometimes I'm not available for same day work).

The above illustration was for the Wall Street Journal, and I was asked to do a scene along the lines of the then popular cable tv show 'queer eye for the straight guy', but populated with accountants giving a businessman a 'financial makeover'.

Then, above are my monthly contingent of 'health care' spots for the same client. The topics were about 'gyms and exercise machines', 'nose mist', 'acupuncture' and 'new years resolutions'. My favorite one this month was the acupuncture piece, as I was trying out a new technique where I add color to the black scratchboard lines, as a way of softening the illustration. It seems to help a bit on faces, as the scratchboard can sometimes make them look a bit dark and harsh.
I also had a few smaller spots for the same client during December. The piece to the left was about a popular science toy for children this season, a microscope, that was nearly as popular with the adults as it was with the kids they are aimed toward.

Then there was a spot about AOL, but I don't remember quite what the angle was on this story. Perhaps something to do with coaching/training on internet usage? Both these spots seem quite similar in style and approach, probably due to the size and the style that seems to work best when trying to fit a lot into a tight area.

I also had a black and white same day spot for the same client, this one presumably about prescription medicines, or stock related to pharmaceuticals in some way. (These smaller black and white spots are usually for a sunday chart accompaniment)

09 December 2004

December Oddities

Another newer client during this time period, was Highlights magazine, and who approached me earlier in the year to take a stab at updating a few of their venerable recurring characters. The assignment above was a fiction piece about a fireplace ( I think, the details a bit hazy on this one), and required a large opening illustration and a smaller accompanying spot for the second page. Nice change of pace to work in the cartoon style again. The cartoon style seems to be popular with the 'kids publishers', and sometimes for magazine work when they want something a little lighter.

The above piece was another in a continuing series of 'puzzle illustrations' that I've been doing for Oddysey magazine (Cobblestone). These are usually rather odd, and rely heavily on the text to explain what is going on in them - usually a puzzle wrapped within a story problem.
The piece to the left was for a new client, Diversity magazine. The art direction was pretty heavy on this one, I was just required to put the idea to paper. I normally don't like working text into illustrations, but sometimes is unavoidable.

27 November 2004

Book Project Addendum

These are more spot illustrations from the book 'Outdoor Science Classroom' that I did for Carson Dellosa in November. (The rest of the story to be found in another posting this month - link here) There were 32 illustrations total in the project, and these were some of the more interesting ones.

20 November 2004

Kids Workbook Project

Around the turn of the century (hmm, still sounds strange to say that), I did a number of black and white children's workbook projects for a local educational book publisher, Instructional Fair. These usually involved a series of 20-30 small spot illustrations, mostly cartoonish in style, on a variety of subjects, depending on the book title. I mostly worked with one editor, and we did a number of books together, but then after a few years, the company underwent some shake-ups and reorganizing, and the projects started drying up. Occasionally one would trickle in, the company now called 'Carson Dellosa' and with different editors, and this one that I did in the fall of 2004 was the last one that I worked on. I'm only posting a few of the illustrations here, just to give a feel for what the project entailed. These are not available for reprints, due to the contract I signed, but posted for history's sake.

These were usually quite fun to do, for the most part. The pay wasn't all that great, but the sheer volume of illustrations meant a substantial paycheck at the end of the project. They were fairly quick and easy, and gave me a lot of practice in perfecting my 'cartoon line work', and most importantly, kept me busy.

This particular batch of illustrations was for a book on 'outdoor activities for children'. The quantity was somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 illustrations, ranging in size from full page to small spots, and mostly similar to the type of illustrations seen here in this posting (a couple were more involved and difficult, but there were more than enough of the small quick ones to even things out).

There was usually very little in the way of art direction or changes to my sketch ideas, so working with this client was usually pretty painless. Looking back, though, I wish I was a bit more strident in negotiating the contracts, as there were a mountain of illustrations involved.

More illustrations from this book here on another posting. The book is still available on Amazon (link here).

16 November 2004

Christmas Card

These illustrations were for a christmas card for a private law firm in New York. Fun to get a chance to do some caricatures of the Bush gang that I don't normally get a chance to do (and of Spitzer, who would gain notoriety in another way several years later). I particularly liked the Dick Cheney peeking at xmas presents, and as a sidewalk santa in the background of each.

15 November 2004

November Blues

There are times in this job of mine, where you are asked to draw some strange things. Some are a little odd, and you aren't exactly enthused about them, but since this is a business with ups and downs, and it is not always certain when the next phone call will come, you take these projects on, try to put the best face on it, do your best work, then put it in a drawer and hopefully by the next month, you've completely forgotten about it.

In some cases it's just a concept that seems a bit awkward, like the above assignment for Log Home Living. They wanted a 'game show' that had something to do with home decor. Not particularly exciting, but I did my best to make it interesting and look good. The spots of the wagon wheel and chair would be sprinkled throughout the article, and a smaller spot with a 'vanna-like' character would be also used to spice up the layout.

This project wasn't all that difficult, and though I wasn't overly excited about it, it was also something I wasn't likely to pull out of the sample drawer to show anyone as a good example of my creativity. I was, at best, a little blase about the whole project.

In November, after personal trials and tribulations, and sucker punched by depressing election results . . . I was in the worst possible mood to get approached by a local Car Wash magazine for the embarassing illustration eventually arrived at below. I post it only as a healthy reminder to myself never again to take on a project of this sort.

05 November 2004

Basketballs and Elephants

Had a couple of 'basketball' assignments for a couple of different children's publications in the same month, which I thought an odd coincidence. The one above was for Highlights magazine, and was in the form of a 'hidden picture' puzzle (actually this would be the cover to a whole book of 'hidden picture puzzles'. I'd never done one of these puzzles before, and I felt really awkward about the whole concept. I mean, how much hidden is 'hidden enough'? I had no idea of what the expectations were and the directions I was given weren't much help. I did my best to make it look interesting, but I never did feel like I ever 'got' this project. It reminded me of one of my first jobs out of college, where I was working as a security guard, and I would be plopped down in a different location every night, alone, given no instructions, and just be expected to know what was going on.

I also got an assignment from the Chronicle of Higher Education in November to do a series of small spots to illustrate an article about the Republican's educational platforms. These were kind of fun, but I think I still need some work on drawing elephants, I don't feel like I've quite got them figured out just yet.

The 'other' basketball illustration that I did in November was for Cricket magazine, and was to accompany a short poem (which would fit in the blank spot in the middle).

Plus, there were my 'steady gig' assignments. The 'health care' column that I illustrate every monday for the Wall Street Journal. The topics were 'vitamin E', 'osteoperosis medications', 'winter flu season' (which pops up every year), 'organic vegetables' and 'telling the difference between different strengths of pain relievers'.

I also have been doing a monthly 'puzzle page' for Oddysey magazine (Cobblestone), and this one had something to do with a puzzle involving chocolate bars.

Also, somewhat regularly, I do a fiction illustration for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. I don't quite remember the topic on this one. In hindsight, I may have handled the part of the image that is seen through the bottle a little differently, perhaps with a bit of distortion since we are looking through curved glass.

And finally, another small spot for the Journal, having something to do with the results of the latest presidential election, and what impact it may have on stocks.