Before And After the Flood

Illustrations, Wall Street Journal

This pen & ink and watercolor drawing just came out in yesterday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal. Always great to work with Mark Tyner, the Art Director of the Sunday page.

The article by Carolyn T. Geer (which you can read in its entirety by clicking here) deals with how to protect financial records from a natural disaster, focusing  on the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy here in New York and along the East Coast. Really worth a read, even more so considering we could all benefit from this information next time Mother Nature decides to throw a temper tantrum.

I really tried to treat the topic tactfully and with respect, but without getting too somber or downplaying the effects that a natural catastrophe might (and did) have. I submitted ten thumbnail roughs of possible ideas to illustrate the assignment. In the original sketch for the chosen idea that you see above, the man and woman were wearing swimming gear. I agreed with Mark’s assessment that they looked too much like they were on vacation. Plus, the setting was unclear, since nothing surrounded the characters except water. I dressed the characters in everyday wear to suggest they were not prepared for flooding, and added the New York-style lamppost with a “one way” sign to place the scene in an urban setting.

Every time I receive a commission to illustrate an article, I follow the same approach: I read the brief several times, and I let my pencil do all the thinking. Then I switch my brain on, and start chopping and shaping what I drew by doing even more drawing and thinking. For this assignment, I put down on paper at least a dozen ideas that were either too obvious, too weak, or that simply didn’t make any sense (of course I didn’t submit these).

When generating problem-solving ideas, there is a wide gap between the obvious and the outlandish, since it’s very easy (even natural) to start with clichés or more literal solutions and gradually let the imagination take flight. The tricky part (the goal) is to close the gap between those two poles: to arrive at an accessible, engaging image that enhances the article or story while adding a personal, thoughtful point of view.

2 thoughts on “Before And After the Flood

  1. I love the fact that you explain the way you think and the process you follow to present the picture. Nice picture Gabriel!

  2. Excellent rendition! As always, your illustrations are effective and bear palpable visual impact. The file cabinet and colorful flotation devices…along with the simple, and again, startling clear city lamp post, really highlight the theme of the article. Very impressive.

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