02 October 2006
I had a piece for one of Niche Media's regional publications around this time, on a subject that I would revisit the very next month, to a certain amount of controversy. The topic was Universities pulling the plug on speakers (in this case criticizing US foreign policies).
During this period of early October, we were hosting a German Exchange student in our home. She was interested in drawing and art, and so would come out to watch what I was doing from time to time. During the time she was here, I received an assignment from a book publisher (Barrons Educational Series, no relation to the magazine client of the same name) who needed a picture of a 'student studying', but the clincher was this; they wanted it to be of indeterminate race and sex (I suppose that's one way to please everyone). I had our exchange student pose for a couple sketches, and I also had my son pose for a couple. They ended up choosing the one of my son, but after the exchange student left, I emailed her the sketches that I had done of her as a sort of souvenir. (My son would take a trip to Germany in the spring, staying with the same student and her family).
One of the designers at the Wall Street Journal approached me around this time to do a series of spot illustrations featuring different occupations. But focusing on the occupation rather than the 'person', but still showing a 'person' doing this particular job. This was definitely turning out to be the month of tricky assignments, but I think I came up with a pretty clever way of treating this one.
My idea was to show the 'person with the occupation' in either a side view or from behind, slightly below eye level so it gave them a very subtle 'heroic' proportion, and to further make them the 'center of attention', I portrayed them in full color, and made all the backgrounds in a pastel shade, and the surrounding characters and environments in a darker shade of the same color. Each of the occupations would have a different pastel background color but similar in saturation.
My wife and I posed for all the characters, changing costumes so that I could better render the clothing folds more realistically than I usually slap together. I managed to avoid using type labels on most of them, and the ones I did use, were on request from the editors, as a way of differentiating between a 'doctor's office' and a 'health clinic' in one of them, and making sure that I was portraying a 'book fair' as opposed to a guy walking around a 'book store'.
It was tricky making them all look like different people, since they were all the same two people in the reference photos, either putting on weight in some cases, or losing weight in others, changing hair colors, race, height, baldness in order to give each a separate look. I kept one of them looking like my wife, just for fun (the teacher).
It was nice having the opportunity to do a job for this particular client with more time than I'm usually given for assignments. It gave me a chance to really take the time to do something a little extra special. I was quite pleased with the end results on this one and I hope it was well received on the other end.
Also around this time I had another spot illustration for my regular gig of 'dubious health care' columns for the same client. This one, if I remember correctly was about nose surgery of some sort. (pictured further down the page)
During this time period I also received an assignment from US Catholic magazine, who needed an illustration of a family presenting a check to a charitable organization, but one of those oversized checks that are used for presentation purposes. (pictured further down the page) I usually get assignments from this particular client with a bit more direction than most, often times with a handy little sketch of what he is looking for. Where with the series of spots for the 'occupations' job, I was given little else other than a list of the occupations they wanted portrayed. I'm happy with either method, I only get a little panicky when I'm given too much freedom- i.e. "do whatever you want" is usually something I don't like to hear.
And finally, I had a sort of 'spec' illustration for the American Bar Association. They were thinking of changing the headers to a series of long established 'departments' in their magazine, and wanted me to take a stab at a couple of them. It looked as if they were simply using old woodcut clip art materials in the past, and they wanted something not too much different, but slightly more up-to-date. I would get paid for the illustrations, but it wasn't sure if they would actually accept or use them. If they were accepted, I would have a few more to do, and we could work out a price for multiple usage over time. I don't think either one of them got accepted, as the topic never came up again. (one of them is pictured below, the other one is included in the post for late September).
It was a hectic couple of weeks, with all this work, and the exchange student to entertain in the afternoons, evenings and weekends, and in addition to the all the above mentioned work, I also had a piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education. I don't quite remember the topic, but I'm sure it had something to do with percentages, streching the numbers, something like that. I don't usually do these sort of 'forced perspective' type of drawings, they always come out feeling very awkward for me for some reason, but in this case, it seemed to help fit all the information into the proscribed available space. I didn't particularly want to cut the character off at the waist, but also wanted to make the pie chart central and large to the illustration since it was the focus of the story. (pictured at bottom)
The above illustration was for Newsday. A same day black and white editorial piece about the Long Island bus system.