28 April 2009

Rained in

A lot of rain the past few weeks, and the river has once again spilled out of its banks (third time this spring). It's just as well, because I've been spending a lot of time recently indoors at the drawing board. Below is one of two illustrations for the Far Eastern Economic Review that I completed over the weekend. Below that is another cover illustration for the same client. Another of those that needed to be drawn in two stages and given to the client in pieces so that they could rearrange as needed for their layout purposes.

Last weekend I completed the cover illustration for an upcoming coffee table book on veterinary medicine. I'll also be doing several inside spot illustrations later this spring for this same project.

I also had several illustrations for the Wall Street Journal over the past few weeks. One of my usual 'health care spots' is pictured below (something about acai berry cosmetics - they surprised me this week by choosing one of my more 'goofy' concepts). Also on monday I had a bonus rush assignment for the same publication, something to do with 'stress test' ratings for banks. (I actually preferred my other concept for this one, but maybe I can file away the idea and use it elsewhere). Below that is another assignment for the same newspaper that I completed last week (another one where I preferred one of my other sketches).

Now back to work, a few more deadlines looming later in the week. When it rains, it pours.

26 April 2009

Getting the Bugs Out

At some point during the past two months, I worked on a series of simple 'bug' illustrations for a set of wooden blocks, to be manufactured by a local toy company. The big challenge with these, was in boiling each bug down to its simplest elements to keep the details from overwhelming the design, and despite the various sizes and complexities of each of the bugs, try to keep them all of a similar size, look, and feel, and to make them 'look cute', to quote my client's instructions. (some were more challenging than others, like say, the centipede, or the earwig). They will be printed in two colors (not sure exactly what colors, but I've added some spot color to these samples), and I'm not sure how many of these will actually be used in the set (originally it was going to be a set of 12 bugs, but I ended up doing 16 different designs). As soon as I get word on where these can be purchased, I'll be sure and post a link, they would make nice gifts for young children (I've worked with this company before, and they always turn out a nice high quality product).

24 April 2009

From the Sketchbook

I don't use my sketchbook nearly as often as I should. I was looking through one of them yesterday evening and stumbled upon a series of ink sketches I had done the previous spring. I was amazed at how vividly I remembered the circumstances behind each sketch, even though I was seemingly engrossed in the act of drawing, and seemingly completely detached from my surroundings. Mostly these were images of my dog and my son in typical relaxed household situations, and I also had a few that I had done during a state solo/ensemble competition, of my son's saxophone or of other parents sitting in the auditorium. (we were going to be at this competition for a long stretch of time, and I thought that bringing along the sketchbook would give me something to do during down times).

22 April 2009

More April 'Show'-ers

The above illustration was for a new client this week. Farm Futures Magazine needed a cover having to do with the fertilizer industry. There was a lot of cover copy and a large masthead on this one, so the only real 'live area' of the illustration was concentrated in the center of the illustration, with a lot of color/tone around the top and bottom (I've actually cropped out some of the layout for the sample here). Interesting how more and more of my new clients are coming to me straight through email these days, although sometimes (as with this one), we did have a brief phone conversation after the initial email contact.

I also had another job for Barrons last week, one of several this year I've done for this client regarding the bank bailouts. (below)

I had a few assignments for the Wall Street Journal in the past two weeks. One regarding cutbacks in executive training (the 'film projector' illustration below) for which I turned to my old high school days for inspiration. I remember whenever the teacher was either absent or unprepared for a lesson, how the students would get treated to a 'movie'. For several years back in the 90s I actually collected old 16mm films and had a few projectors like this cluttering up my office.
The other was another series of small spots on free speech and recent misguided ratings for toxic assets. These small spots are actually more work in the 'concept' phase than in actually cranking out the finished product. The topics can sometimes be a little esoteric and tricky, and it is quite challenging to try and boil them down into a simple image that gets the point across.

Also, I had a small logo design project for a fellow in Chicago who makes cast iron crépe pans. Been a while since I've handled a logo design project. It's a little different mindset than straight illustration, and simplification can sometimes be more of a challenge than going hog wild with detail.

I also keep meaning to post all the 'bugs' that I did recently for a local toy manufacturer, but I'm not exactly sure what the current status of that project is, so I've been holding back. Perhaps next month.

10 April 2009

April Showers

April is shaping up to be a fairly steady month, and I've had several interesting projects over the past few weeks. The illustration above is another fiction piece for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. This was an interesting story with a murder victim who operated an old style printing press, and took me back down memory lane. The first job I ever applied for in high school was at a local printer/newspaper who still used these old lead typesetting chunks.

The illustration below was a two page spread for Business North Carolina, and was about Mexican laborers leaving the state due to the poor job market. I tried to emulate a Diego Rivera style, mostly in the color scheme, and worked in oil pastels instead of the usual oil paints to give it a little more texture.

I also had a rush job for the Wall Street Journal this week. 4 spots trying to explain how the 'toxic assets' funds from the government were going to work. Below that, is an illustration for the Chronicle of Higher Education, accompanying an article about the popular grammar textbook that has been in use in college writing classes for the past 50 years (and the author had a rather dubious opinion of its worth and merits).

Also, this week, I did a pair of short presentations at a middle school in Lansing. I showed the kids some samples of my work, gave a demonstration of 'digital drawing', and got the kids involved in some messy charcoal sketches. Not something I do all that often, and it was a fun break from the routine.

02 April 2009

Monkey Business

A couple of small jobs this week, and steeling myself for a rather large crowd scene illustration over the weekend. I'm also working on a series of simple cartoon bugs for a local toy manufacturer, and will probably post some samples of both jobs next week (and likely ruminating on the different challenges presented by simplification and complexity). The illustration above was for Barrons, having to do with Congress and their uproar over executive bonus pay. The illustration below was another health care spot for the Wall Street Journal, on prebiotic foods.

And I just wanted to throw in a free plug for a wonderful magazine that I've been subscribing to for the past four years. The magazine is simply called "Illustration", and can be ordered here. Each month they feature a couple of wonderful illustrators from the past, usually with either an exhaustive and meticulously researched biography, or an interview (or both), and showcase a ton of work samples reproduced beautifully on quality paper stock. I eagerly await each new issue, and return to them again and again when I am in need of inspiration and encouragement. I was feeling kind of burnt out and unmotivated this week, and happened to pick up one of the older issues, and came across a wonderful quote by the illustrator Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) that really struck a chord with me this week:

"An important difference between a fine artist and an illustrator is that the former goes through life painting the things that he sees before him, while the latter is forced to paint something that neither he nor anyone else has ever seen, and make it appear real. The true measure of an illustrator is his ability to take a subject about which he may have neither interest nor information, tackle it with everything he's got, and make the finished picture look like the consummation of his life's ambition."