25 September 2007


A busy couple of weeks followed by a period of relative quiet. My son just started his senior year in high school, a couple weeks into it anyways, and the rest of us were settling into our fall groove. Had a fun assignment for Barrons, who needed a portrait of W for an article about his troubled economic legacy. One of my more successful color pieces of the year.

Over one of the weekends during this period, I did a trio of illustrations for the Far Eastern Economic Review out of Hong Kong, a portrait of the Taiwanese leader changing flag designs, a tourism 'overview' piece targeting air travel (below), and one of a soldier to accompany an article about crackdowns on dissidents during the upcoming festivities (below, right). These assignments usually arrive sometime Friday, and I need to get them finished by Monday, my time. The AD is easy to work with, gives me a good variety of subject matter to illustrate, and good opportunities to practice my 'asian faces' and portraiture skills.

Also did a number of pieces over the past few weeks for the Wall Street Journal. The usual bi-monthly 'health column' gig, one on a new brand of toothbrush, and another tricky one on hemorrhoid treatments (both pictured below)

For the same newspaper, did a black and white chart accompaniment spot on consumer staples stocks, and another color same day illustration (don't quite remember what the topic was, something to do with bad situations having unexpected benefits...but it was a fun one, involving thorns and dramatic lighting) (both pictured below)

And in addition to all these, I also had a small spot project for Niche Media for one of their regional pubs, to accompany an editorial about the 'war on xmas' (pictured below). The idea came much quicker than the time the finish ended up taking. I had a lot of false starts on it, trying to get the tree to look realistic, and ended up doing a lot of research on the various parts of the illustration (tree branches, anti aircraft guns etc).

Earlier in the week, had a job from the Chronicle of Higher Education. These usually arrive late in the week, and are due early the next week. This particular one was about 'saving our institutions', and the sketches were both received well, and I was fortunate to be able to pick whichever one I wanted to finish up (pictured below). A nice perk, unlike the assignment that follows...

Around this time, I also had a full page illustration for the American Bar Association, something to do with contracts and disputes. I was given a fairly concrete layout on this one, and not much creative license. Rather time consuming, and as usual with full page scratchboard assignments, I'm less than happy with the end result. I need to find a better way to approach the 'full page' assignment. The scratchboard just doesn't seem to be the best solution, at least the way that I'm doing it. Too busy, and the colors tend to diffuse the impact of the medium. This one also required a lot of research into foreign currencies (which I took from online sources, manipulating them with 'scratchboard filters' before placing them, so that they better fit in with the rest of the illustration), which needed to make up the 'mountain' below the characters and torn contract. (pictured below)

10 September 2007

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

An interesting couple of weeks, where I did one of the illustrations that I've been the most pleased with in a long time, another illustration that has to be one of the oddest that I've done in a long time, and another one that started out nice, but ended up being one in which I was extremely disappointed with myself for letting slip through the cracks.

Aside from the usual bi-monthly WSJ gig for the health column (left), I also picked up a new client, Barnes and Noble Publishing. The assignment was an interesting subject matter, and came about through one of my mailers that I had sent out a couple years ago portraying a sailing vessel set upon by a giant squid. Another nice aspect was the time frame, which was tight by some standards, but when you are used to same day or next day work, like I've grown accustomed to, a couple weeks feels like the lap of luxury. Enough time to really devote to a good layout, and the time to really spend making sure the finish is just the way you want it, fix problems that crop up, experiment with different colors. I liked how it turned out, and the client seemed quite happy with it, as it resulted in another assignment a month or so later. One thing I would change, looking at it now a couple months later, is the 'plume' on the pirate's hat, I don't like how it is flowing up and away, and interferes with the lightning bolt.

Around this time, I also took in a trio of assignments for Barrons. Been doing a lot of work for them this year, and they are always fun and challenging. Got to play around with some new 'cloud ideas' I'd been toying with on the illustration above, a piece on ex-pat citizens. The illustration below had something to do with bloated budgets (I think), and below that a piece on federal bailouts. They don't always appear in the magazine in color, but I usually provide them with both a color and greyscale version depending on whether the story appears on a 'color page' that particular issue.

Also during these few weeks, I received an assignment from the Miami Herald, a large full page assignment, with a very short deadline. I'd done a few assignments for this client before, but this was a little tighter than the previous time windows I was provided. The story was about US citizens going abroad to Cuba to get medical attention. It took a couple rounds of sketches to eventually find a suitable idea, and then it was a mad rush to get the thing finished. I spent a lot of time making sure the main thrust of the illustration looked good (the patients in the boat, the outboard motor, the water), but was rushing through the background elements (the trees, island and hospital). I was very disappointed in myself for how the hospital in the background turned out. Perspective was all screwed up, trees were copied and pasted in a rushed fashion. Not incredibly proud of this one. (pictured below).

And then there was this illustration. Got an email out of the blue from a fellow who runs a 'Kilt' website who wanted me to do an illustration 'of a kilt'. Whatever I wanted just based on the theme. I'm never much good at 'anything I want to do', I work much better given at least a little bit of direction. Also gave me a pretty open deadline, which is always a mistake. Well, when I eventually got it done (kept putting it off for more pressing assignments), the client seemed happy with it. I think he may be selling it on tee shirts. (link to site)

03 September 2007


One of my least favorite things to draw is either automobiles or buildings, but this week I had a number of 'architecture heavy' assignments that I'm rather pleased with how they turned out.

The one above was for a long time client of mine, a small mystery fiction digest that I've been working for off and on since my first year in business (back in '89). The pay isn't great, but the assignments are usually interesting, and give me a chance to imagine myself a pulp artist from the 40s, and the chance to illustrate fiction comes along much too rarely these days. Also, they are always in black and white, which is an enjoyable medium to work in for me, and I frequently get some nice pieces out of the deal. This one was set in quasi-medieval times, which is sort of unusual for this publication, as the stories usually involve something a bit more noir-ish.

Over the weekend, I had a couple illustrations to do for my Hong Kong client, both involving architecture in one way or another. The one above having to do with historical buildings (the symbol on the wall being some sort of 'historical designation mark' I believe). The illustration below was more of an 'overview article' about power and industrialization, and the layout and idea were left pretty open to me, the only stipulation being that it needed to have a certain 'asian/chinese' flavor to it.

Another long time client who I hadn't heard much from the past year contacted me with a project during this week. A religion magazine who I've been working with since about 1990 needed a cartoonish scene of college students decked out in their 'catholic college colors'. Involved a bit of research on the school designs and logos. A cartoonish style that I use more and more rarely these days. Nice to get a chance to dabble in it again.

And then, finally, another quick same day illustration for my national newspaper client. Something to do with group dynamics or committee idea generating. I don't usually like to involve greyscale with the scratchboard style (unless it is unavoidable, as it usually is when I'm supposed to provide both a color and black and white version to the client), but in this case I wanted to play around with the clouds and lightning which wouldn't have worked as well as line art.

Also, around this time, I had a piece for an east coast newspaper client on the anniversary of the constitution. Rather simple design, and incorporated a bit of 'collage' technique, but turned out rather nice.