22 June 2007

Ain't No Cure for the Summertime Blues

A rather nice piece for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Been working for them since '89, and while the pay is on the lower end of the scale, the assignments are always challenging and fun. I enjoy trying to take a straightforward scene from the story and give it a sense of mystery or suspense with little more than lighting and layout. This is one of the better ones I've done in a while for this client, I thought. I suspect that their budgets have shrunk quite a bit from the days when I first started working for them, because the early issues that I've appeared in contain 8-10 illustrations, and these days you are lucky to see 2-3. I'd love to do a cover for them sometime, but in the nearly 19 years that I've been working for them, I've never been asked.

Had a touchy same day assignment around this time from Newsday, regarding rape and investigations thereof (pictured left). Also during this time period, I received a couple spot assignments from Barrons, one involving 'risk' (the man fishing, about to land a bigger catch than he expects) (below right), and another one regarding George Bush's stewardship of our shaky economy (below left).

By this time of the year, it is becoming more and more clear that business has definitely slowed down quite a bit from the pace set by the year before. I've been studying the numbers, and while it is heartening to see a buildup in certain client's workload and a steady addition of new clients to the mix, it is also distressing to see that numbers across the board are down as far as frequency of assignments, from all of my clients. Don't know whether to blame the stagnant economy, or my own stagnation as far as advertising or work quality goes. I've definitely been experiencing much more 'down time' this year than I have seen since the mid 90s.

Although I'm not going to miss his policies or administration, I'm certainly going to miss the ease with which I am able to caricature this guy. Something I never would have guessed years ago when he first came upon the scene. I never did get good at Clinton until years after he left office, and I suspect his wife is going to be difficult to capture as well.

The illustration below was for Newsday, for one of the designers that I get infrequent assignments from. I remember a lot of back and forth on the sketches and layouts, with a lot of editorial opinions weighing in on what type of 'scale' it needed to be and the weights and the angles at which the two sides were to appear. I don't even remember what the story was about (something about balancing your investments I assume). The final product of this 'committee think' project turned out remarkably dull, considering how much debate went into its construction:

Also had a small but complex spot for the Chronicle of Higher Education, something about differening financial paths that are taken by students to eventually reach their degree goals, as opposed to the more conventional basis on which financial aid is assessed.

And of course, the usual 'health care' column for the Wall Street Journal, of which I am endlessly grateful to have, especially when times are slow (a piece on knee replacement pictured above in the first paragraph).

07 June 2007

Direction and Lack Of

The above assignment for the American Bar Association that I completed in early June is a good example of a type of project where I'm given a lot of direction by the editor/designer. The illustration below, from an assignment for the Chronicle of Higher Education, is another example, although a little less so (in the illustration above, I was given an actual sketch of the idea, laying out each of the individual characters right down to their sex and racial characteristics, while in the illustration below, I was just given a verbal description of what the editors wanted to see). The remainder of the illustrations for this period of time that I am writing about in this blog entry are the other extreme end of the spectrum, where I was given little other than the text of the article and given total freedom to come up with whatever I felt would best fit the story. I prefer somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, a hint of an idea that I can improve upon, but not so much as to chain me to a certain image. But that is not a tried and true rule of thumb for all situations. Sometimes I can come up with a great idea from almost nothing, and other times I flounder and scratch my head and come up empty. Sometimes an over-directed project ends up stale and lifeless, and other times it turns out wonderful, where I'm able to completely free up my mind from conceptualizing and concentrate on a good image. The variety is probably what keeps me going.

The above illustration was a book review assignment for the Washington Post, in which I was given the book review, which included a brief synopsis of the mystery novel (set in Australia, involving terrorists, the media, and a certain amount of voyeurism). It was a fun project and although I don't think the rendering was nearly as good as the design, I was fairly pleased with how it turned out. Not a client I do a lot of work for (maybe 3 assignments total over the past 10 years), but one I would like to do more work for.

The above piece was for Newsday, and I don't remember what the story was about (prisons obviously), but I enjoyed doing something a little more esoteric than my usual fare. Another piece for the same newspaper appears below, and is a little more straightforward in approach, involving a story that takes place on a metropolitan train. The fun of this one came from playing around with the different lighting and shading effects, with reflections in the window glass distorting and stylizing the characters to where only a hint of the facial structure is revealed.

And then, finally, the total freedom to conceptualize that I am given every other week for my regular 'health column' gig for the WSJ. Sometimes the editors choose one of my more 'outre' ideas, and sometimes they go for the more 'conservative' approach, but it is fun to try and come up with both sides of the spectrum each time out of the gate.