this winter i was asked by Irene Gallo of TOR books to illustrate a gritty short story by Christopher Rowe called Jack of Coins.
when Irene described the story like this, i was hooked:
The story has a great atmosphere. (The writing is just odd enough to feel unfamiliar but not so much to be distracting or overly self conscious.) A urban dystopian setting. A group of young men without enough to do…And then an oddly dressed stranger comes in to give them some direction.
After illustrating for over 18 years i am pleased to announce that my work has landed into the NewYorker!
On the stands this week the Journey’s Issue of the NewYorker. If you happen to pick one up, get your postage stamp magnifying glass and see if you can find the series of Red Nose Studio images sprinkled throughout the issue.
Needless to say this is my first appearance in the NewYorker and i am beside myself. the scale of the images created a challenge compared to the vast real estate of a full page illustration, so i felt i needed to find a way to reduce the information so it could read at a postage stamp scale.
here are the sketches and initial tests i presented to the art director, looking for a way to capture the sense of adventure, exploration and an all around good time.
i was glad to hear that the Senior Designer Kathryn Long was as excited about this new approach as i was.
While sitting next to the bar inside the Society of Illustrators in New York, (i still get humbled and awed by the history of that place) i happened to be chatting with Greg Manchess, yeah, the Greg Manchess. The fella i have looked up to since i first met him in Ohio when i was an awkward student. The only difference now is that i am older but still just as awkward. Greg is involved with a fundraiser for the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship. its a benefit auction called MicroVisions. When Greg asked if i would consider participating in it again (i had a piece in the 2007 MicroVisions) i said yes before i considered how busy the schedule was. But being in that place (the Society) makes you feel like you have to step it up if you want to stay in the game for any length of time.
when digging through my sketchbooks looking for a character to build for the auction i stumbled across a crusty post-it note, at least 4 years old, that simply said SHACKLETON CREW – dark figures on white.
the Shackleton story has many layers and mysteries, but one thing that is clear to me is the stunning imagery of the adventure captured by Frank Hurley. Specifically the figures of the crew whose clothing and features had turned black because of the seal oil that they burned for heat.
after spending a weekend revisiting all the sites and references i had bookmarked for years i had my subject:
i will be sure to post a link to the auction when it is announced.
I am about as far removed as one can be from video games, but when i watched some of the walk throughs of the game on youtube i was instantly drawn in by the visuals and the concept of the game. A game that is described as peaceful to play, what a unique concept…
The game speaks for itself, if you can, give it a go. I look forward to playing it one of these days.
here is a bit on the process:
the nondescript character’s eyes have a mysterious glow to them that i wanted to capture. I notched the back of the head and inserted two led lights, and wired them to a button and circut board from a discarded superhero greeting card.
the cloak was fashioned after the character in the game, trying to remain as faithful to the design as possible yet keeping a handmade feel to it.
20 pounds of sand on the set.
the swirling light that wraps the characer was created by drawing with a little light bulb on a wire while the camera took a 3 second exposer. it only took about 300 shots to get the light steakes to look right.
I was delighted to get the opportunity to work with the always cheerful and positive Art Director April Montgomery at Computerworld. This piece dealt with technological issues that travel eons beyond my technological limitation, so it was a good challenge to find a way to illustrate Holistic Virtualization. Keywords from the creative brief included meditation, manipulating virtual technology, all-inclusive, organizing and streamlining.
here are the roughs:
and being that the cover was going to run again on the interior, we thought it would be nice have the spectrum flow across the gutter and above the text.
these were April’s initial rough layouts with the sketches
here is a progress shot of the figure
and my attempts at inking the spectrum lines…
there is something very meditative about the simplicity of pigment, water, bristles and paper.
the sound of the brush drawing over the paper, wonderful.
once the final shot was taken on set, the ink work was scanned in and then layered over the photo.
the backdrops were the backsides of an old roll of bathroom wallpaper, it had a beautiful, soft, off-white color.
and here is where April worked her magic and made everything ‘flow’.
I have never considered myself having the chops for teaching. Over the years I have done a lecture or a talk or a 3 hour workshop here and there, but that has always been the extent of my ability. Last year the fine folks at MiMaster asked if I would consider leading a week long workshop at their facility In Milan, Italy. The MiMaster is a project of a group of Italian illustrators, to extend an idea of international specialization in the illustration’s culture. It’s a project focused to professionals, especially in editorial illustration, with interest in meetings with other international illustrators and authors.
here is Anita spinning on the bull in the Galleria.
Although it was clear to me that I was out of my league I decided to take a chance, give it a go, and maybe talk my wife into a jaunt to Milan, which would be a first for the both of us.
I would be remiss if I didn’t post a couple photos from the infamous Duomo. Minus the tourists, it is a time machine.
a 5 inch detail hidden in a corner…
One thing I didn’t want to do was lead a workshop based strictly on my process, firstly it is god-awfully complicated and secondly I know there are better ways of doing what I do and for me to tell them this is the way to do something would be a disaster.
So I concocted a project that would touch on all of the aspects of what I deal with daily, while creating the images I make.
Students were instructed to amass at least a shoebox full of found objects prior to the workshop along with a list of materials ranging from paints, glues, wire and a chunk of wood.
The goal of the workshop was to assemble an object (i.e fighter, skeleton, pear, bull etc) with the found objects the students had collected. Once assembled the object, when rotated 90 degrees, had to reveal the letterform of the first letter in the name of the object. To add one more layer of difficulty to the project, it wasn’t the sculpture/assemblage that was used in the end but the shadow of the sculpture/assemblage was what had to read as the object and letterform.
The first day was focused on one exercise that I had seen practiced by the great illustrator Bill Mayer. He calls it Stay Sharp. Where you take an ordinary object and draw sketches integrating the object. I humbly asked Mr Mayer if I could use his exercise to kick off the workshop, he kindly agreed and it was a hit. It was a perfect way to get the students to start to think with found objects and see how the object can be seen in different ways and imply different concepts.
The rest of the workshop was me doing my best to share with each student that the sculpture/assemblage they were slaving over was not going to be the final, but that it was all about how the shadow looked and how the letterform would be revealed.
Needing found object material for my demonstration, my patient and understanding wife accompanied me for an evening stroll around Turro while I scavenged for junk in the back alleys.
This was the bounty.
Based on the junk, the word I picked was Libulella which is Italian for Dragonfly.
The students were forced to constantly stop and test how their piece was working with the shadow, showing them that revision and flexibility is crucial to creating images.
This reinforced that no matter what the technique, the end result (with illustration) was how the image would look and work in context. especially with 3D illustration, it is not about how the sculpture looks in front of you but how it looks to the camera, in the photo and especially in the final layout.
Here are a few of the final animations from the students.
I was able to visit a few illustrators that I have known of their work but never had a chance to meet in person.
This is Marco Ventura on the left along with Elena and Anna Balbusso, in the Balbusso twin’s sweet little studio. It was an evening filed with shop talk, tales of growth, good snacks, drink and skilled translation by Marco.
We also had a chance to meet with Alessandro Gottardo AKA Shout for a delightful dinner, including an amazing artichoke heart dish that he is surely to be famous for.
I was honored to be introduced to a pioneering 3D illustrator by the name of Libero Gozzini. Here he is with a figure from a 3D illustration he did in 1973!!
We also had a chance to have dinner, conversation and an evening drive with Emiliano Ponzi. His navigational skills are unique.
The good folks at MiMaster were kind enough to arrange a visit to Teatro Laboratorio Mangiafuoco a puppet studio that has been run by Paola Bassani for over 30years. Paola graciously shared her vast array of puppets, she dug out crates from every nook in her studio. I was overwhelmed and practically brought to tears by her passion and breadth of work.
I had one puppet that I had brought with me to share with her.. It is not often that I feel a kinship with another maker of objects, but this visit was amazing. One of her students broke out an accordion to top off the evening.
To Giacomo for making us feel right at home in the big city.
To Piera for all of her graceful translations.
To Stefan for taking care of all things I.T. including camera, lights and tools.
Especially to Ivan for trusting me enough to invite me to lead the workshop.
I look forward to hopefully getting a chance to return to Milano down the road…
I have been asked to create the website mastheads for Deliver Magazine for 2012. All in all, there will be four total.
This is the process for the current masthead. the goal of the project is to create a header image that embodies what Deliver can facilitate in the relationship between marketers and consumers. In this case, Deliver is the machine that utilizes many aspects of communication to help you best reach your customers.
Here is the thumbnail and refined sketch for the piece.
These are the junk boxes that I begin to source my materials from.
roughing out heads and sorting gears over a ‘actual size’ print out of sketch
machine starts to take shape. including everything from typewriter parts to dishwasher parts
the receiving end of the machine
assembling the heart of the machine with the deliver masthead
washing in the type
refining the heads and sourcing fabric
adding color to the type, late friday…. feeling good.
the weekend leads to waking up in night with cold sweat about how the masthead is too disjointed from the machine and doubting all my decisions up to this point…
this is my monday morning rush to redesign the masthead section of the machine to give it more of a unified look and create a better ‘heart’ to the machine.
here is how the final illustration works in the website setting. Follow this link to see it live Deliver Magazine .
I am looking forward to continuing on this series.
anyone who has dared to ascend the 13 creaky steps into the studio knows how unorganized and dusty this place is. i am not saying that its a bad thing, its just i am not the neatest illustrator out there. When i received a call from the organized and meticulous Creative Director SooJin Buzelli of Asset International to create an illustration for an upcoming survey on how Plan Advisers run their practices, i was a little stumped at first on how to best visually solve this one.
here are the four sketches i submitted, based on the theme of sorting complicated data:
we decided that the librarian on stilts was the best choice.
(honesty, looking back, i am not sure why i thought the basketball players would have worked very well…)
with this piece it came down to the light. getting that light to stream in at the right density and angle almost drove me nuts, but it finally worked out. it is the little things like that, that keep me fired up about what i get to do everyday.
Working for the formidable Creative Director SooJin Chun Buzelli of PlanSponsor magazine is always a pleasure. She has an amazing way of cutting through the muck and putting the heart of the content into a one or two line synopsis and asking the illustrator to do what they to best.
this particular article is about asking retirement industry professionals to look at “10 things your are (probably) doing wrong”
the piece was running on the cover and also being used on an interior spread, so i wanted to see if there was a way to do a bit of a reveal, where the spread unveils a bit more information then the covers allows.
here were the initial concepts:
these fellas are just plain wrong, my intention was that they made the number 10 but SooJin thought it best that these ‘gentlemen’ not be on the cover, completely understandable.
i know the empty pool concept isnt original, but i was drawn to the composition along with the confident and relaxed expression on the diver’s face.
this guy needs no explanation. this was the concept that was picked, but he looked to be skipping instead of running which of course is a bit more dangerous, so these sketches came next.
the 3″ scissors were custom built out of copper scrap:
Being one of the widest circulated publications in Europe, Der Spiegel, has been on my radar even before I saw the art director Stefan Kiefer speak at ICON2 over 10 years ago. Needless to say, getting a call to do the October 17th cover for them was an honor.
The cover story is about over-scheduled kids. Being a father of 3 I am aware of this and sometimes catch slack and odd glances from parents when they find out that my kids aren’t in 5 afterschool activities. I am a firm believer in kids having time to be kids. Some folks see downtime as wasted time, but for me when I see what the kids can do when their imaginations are allowed to roam, I dont see it as wasted time at all.
Stefan was upfront with me that the editors are tough to please, and he was right. I love a good challenge and am delighted to add this cover to my resume.
here are a few of the sketches and progress shots of the piece:
the initial concept sent from Mr Kiefer
these are my versions of the concept:
the girl with the backpack turned out to be very close to a cover on the same subject 10 years ago, only that time it was a boy.
so I proposed that we illustrate the piece without all the stuff and focus on what the kid doesn’t have time to do:
they liked the concept, but felt it too sophisticated for the cover, understandable.
so the girl with her face down was the one we decided to run with.
once the final was complete, the girl appeared too injured, which was the wrong message, so I was asked to revise her face and head so as to look burdened but not hurt and to make her slightly more ‘realistic’
so here is a revised sketch to show the girl not hurt, but burdened.
and after a couple more revisions, and the fact that the cover was bumped a week because of a timely news story… the piece ran earlier this week.
thanks to Barbara and Stefan for a memorable project.