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).

06 June 2004

And in Financial News...

For the Wall Street Journal, I had a few spots this month in addition to my regular weekly gig. The one above was concerning rising oil prices, and the one to the left was about a firm that was finding its product line becoming more and more obsolete in the computer age, and speculating on what it's future prospects may hold. (this was one of those odd shaped illustrations that formed an inverted letter "L" around a chart, though I have chopped off the continuing cloud pattern that ran along the top portion of the illustration.

I also had a piece on Chinese banks trying to spruce up their image. This was one of those ideas proposed by the editors where I was just there to 'put it to paper'.

5 'health care' spots this month, and most of them in color, which is usual around this time (although I never know for sure if they are printed in color or not - it depends on where it ends up in the paper). The topics were 'poison ivy medication', 'weight loss supplements', 'aching joints in runners', 'castor oil treatments', and a rather tricky one for 'monthly pap smears' which need a subtle approach.

I also had another of my fiction pieces for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. I don't remember the story on this one, other than the fact that it featured an African American sleuth.