18 June 2004

Children's Publications

In June, I was contacted by Highlights magazine, and asked to take part in a redesign of a pair of this magazine's long running characters, who, they felt were in need of a makeover. This was the first time I'd been contacted by this magazine, one that I have read when I was a kid, in doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms. In fact, I used to have a pair of gerbils, one black and one white, that I named after these very characters that they wanted revamped (Goofus and Gallant). I was one of many illustrators that they contacted for this purpose, and they would decide what direction they wanted to go in after seeing everyone's samples. Needless to say, I wasn't one of the chosen. Probably just as well. I would've enjoyed the steady gig, but after a while, I think I would have started to really dislike these two guys (especially that goody two shoes Gallant). Probably wouldn't have been healthy for the young readers.

This month would mark the last major project that I would work on for Cobblestone Publishing that I had been contributing to since '93 (although, one of the pubs, Oddysey, their science publication, I would continue to do the 'puzzle page' for a year or so afterwards). The pay scale for these periodicals remained stagnant for the 10 or so years that I worked for them, and I was unhappy with the contract, so when I tried to raise these issues with the management, the work promptly stopped. The map above was for one of the 'history' themed publications.

I had been noticing over the past few years, that the designers were subtly sneaking more and more work into the 'single page rate' - multiple spot illustrations per page, extra map 'vignettes' that could be pulled out and used elsewhere in the publication - one designer for a 'geography' publication under the same parent company, who used to assign me a map in nearly every issue, asked me at one point, if I couldn't just draw one huge map of the middle east (since that would be the focus of the magazine that year), they could just pay me once, and then pull out each individual country to use when they needed it.

These spot illustrations of different Babylonian gods were for another of their publications, and since three of these spots fit on a single page, I was only compensated for 2 pages for the 6 spots, each of which was complicated enough both in research and rendering to have been a page worth of work each. (these are reduced in size here to fit, the originals were about 3x4 each)

I have to say, that I miss the work, it was frequently interesting and challenging, and the designers that I worked for were friendly and easy to work with. Some of the projects were more interesting than others though. The maps I enjoyed, though I never liked the ones like above where I was expected to collage in a few pertinent 'scenes'. I enjoyed doing these 'faux relief' Babylonian artifacts, although the attention to detail was a bit daunting.

I don't particularly miss the 'collage' assignments I was given, where I was asked to draw a series of overlapping scenes around a historical event. Crowds of people in period dress and architecture that all needed to be researched. I don't miss the usage contracts, and I barely even noticed a change in income after this client left, though my working hours dropped considerably.

About a year or so previously, a company merger occurred between this client, and another of my children's publication clients. I still continue to work occasionally for the other client, although not nearly at the same rate and volume that I worked for this one.

I continued to work on a semi-regular 'puzzle page' feature for Oddysey, for another year or so. Sometimes the drawings contained the puzzles themselves, and other times (like this one), I was merely to illustrate a sort of story problem.

10 June 2004

Educational Spots

The Chronicle of Higher Education assigned me a series of spot illustrations this month for a special supplement edition on school finances. I came up with the idea of tying them all together with a 'price tag' theme, and worked variations on it depending on the particular article or topic that each would accompany.

In addition to the series of spots, I also had a few other assignments for the same publication that month. The one to the left was something to do with incoming freshmen, who tend to 'stick with their pals' instead of venturing forth into the education community, and thus end up sort of isolated and insular. (I don't remember why I stuck them all in 'where's waldo' outfits).

I also had another spot assignment, although I don't quite remember what the focus of this one was (individual attention perhaps? standing out from the crowd?). Looking back on it now, I doubt if I would have chosen these overbright and garish colors, especially the hot red/orange in the background. It is very distracting.

Interesting choice of background treatment on these spots. Something I've not done before, or since (although I think I did something similar for a children's magazine series of spot illustrations before). It is a little looser and more playful than I usually allow myself to do.
It seems to make a nice contrast with the simplified scratchboard approach I'm using here. Also I like the choice of colors, the white of the 'tag' popping out of the background, and the simpler color choices within the scenes.
I'm not sure about the choice I made with the 'shark' illustration though. The swirling water melding with the background gives this a little different feel than the rest. Also, I'm not sure I would choose this particular typestyle for the dollar sign if I had these to do again. Perhaps something more 'traditional' would have worked better.

I'm also noticing that I seem to have used a single background and then cloned it for each illustration. I probably should have done a couple of them and mixed them up a bit (even perhaps rotating them 90 degrees each time to hide the fact that they were the same).

25 May 2004

Children's Publishing Projects

In May, I had another multi illustration workbook project for Carson Dellosa. There were three of these booklets in the early half of 2004, entitled 'Teamwork Test Prep', and were for grades 3, 4 and 5 (not to be confused with identically named projects in the fall of 2004). I think these were perhaps 'teacher's editions', and these contained approximately 40 illustrations each as opposed to the 25 illustrations in each of the TTP books in the fall of the year.

I was usually given a lot of freedom on these spots (a few of them posted here as examples), and was encouraged to keep them light and fun. I enjoyed these projects, and they gave me good practice at simplicity, economy of line and getting a message across with a minimum of detail. Further samples from this book can be found in another posting this month. (link here

In addition to the above workbook project, I also had a few spots for another book publisher, Adventure House, in a similar capacity. These were a couple of black and white and grey wash spots to go with a couple of story problems.

One of them involved a complicated map and getting around on the public transportation system in a foreign country, and another of them had to do with a robbery at a jewelry store. I never quite figured out what book these were for, and I got the impression I was only one of several illustrators hired for this project. These trickled in to me over the course of the year in bundles of 3-10 every couple of months.

At a different time of the month, but for the same client, I also had another spot illustration, this time in color, about a visit to a produce stand. This was an odd shaped one, and needed to wrap around a body of text.

Then, for my regular 'puzzle page' assignment for Oddysey (Cobblestone), I had a maze illustration. I don't remember the story problem exactly, but it seems to me you were supposed to determine if the caterpillar in the middle was on the inside or the outside of the coiled rubber band that snakes across the page. Around this time I was doing less and less work for Cobblestone, with the exception of this one regular feature for their science publication, which ran for another year or so.

10 May 2004

Misc Assignments

The above illustration was for America magazine, but I dont quite remember what the topic was. It gave me some good 'shoe practice'. Another piece for the same client is pictured below, this one had something to do with the enviroment, I believe. The nice thing about this client, is their willingness to let me try different techniques. Sometimes they turn out quite nice, and other times I fall on my face. I'm not sure where the one below fits in.

Then, for US Catholic magazine, I had the illustration below, on whether priests should be allowed to marry.

The illustration below was for Newsday. I'm pretty sure the guy behind the wheelbarrow was supposed to be a likeness of somebody, but I don't remember who (somebody from NJ politics no doubt). I'm not too crazy about how this one turned out. The body and face look very awkward to me, like I was spending most of my time and effort on the wheelbarrow and its contents and approached the guy's anatomy as only an afterthought. Sometimes I stumble across an illustration of mine like this, and wonder how I manage to stay in business. I can't believe I let something like this go out the door. I imagine I'm going to find more than a few ugly ones like this the further back in the archives I dig.

05 May 2004

Newspaper Work

The above illustration was a piece on funding for the Chronicle of Higher Education. I like the action on this one, and the simple technique that I used. Scratchboard can have a bad habit of looking 'overworked' if you're not careful.

This illustration above was for the Wall Street Journal. It appears to be one of those cases where I'm given a concept from the editors, and my job is to 'bring it to life'. I don't normally like to put in labels or logos or words into the illustrations if I can help it, but sometimes it is not my choice.

Then I have my usual allotment of 'health care' spot illustrations for a weekly column for the same client, that I've been doing for a couple years. The one at the top left, about the spring shoes, prompted a call from the manufacturer of the shoes who wanted a signed print of the illustration. The other topics were: 'fertility drugs', 'grapefruit', 'scar medications', and something to do with vitamins either for your teeth or your breath, I'm not sure which.
I also had another tiny spot for the same publication. I don't quite remember what this was for. Obviously someone is getting sworn in down by the Capitol building, but why and who? Dunno.

Workbook Project

These are more sample illustrations from the 'Teamwork Test Prep Grade 5' book that I illustrated for Carson Dellosa in the spring of 2004. This was the third in this series that I did this year, 'grade 3' in January and 'grade 4' in February. This was a 'teacher's guide' with approximately 40 illustrations, and I also worked on a series of 'student editions' in the fall of the year with similar titles. Still available on Amazon (link here).