It’s been a relentlessly busy January, but there have been some exciting projects cooking all month. The cream of the crop of so much creative activity has been my first overseas commission from none other than the British edition of Reader’s Digest.
Art Director Martin Colyer assigned me to illustrate a witty, no-holds-barred article/love letter to printed literatures by novelist A. L. Kennedy, titled Kindles Will Never Beat Proper Books, to be published in the March 2013 issue of the Digest. Here’s the visual solution by yours truly…
The setting/environment in the image became almost as important as the idea behind the illustration itself, so I spent a long time trying to get all the details to look right. I drew a guy in the original sketch, but I was happy to change it after the art director politely pointed out that women happen to be the largest buying public of Kindles in the UK, and that, after all, the author of the article is indeed female.
Other than coming up with the right idea for the assignment, the best part for me was getting to paint a Saarinen “womb” chair, which I had wanted to work into an image for quite some time; and the living room of this rather cultured, discerning lady seemed to call for one.
I had about three full days to come up with some sketches/rough ideas, and almost an entire week to deliver the finished illustration. Avoiding “writer’s block” is one of the most concerning and dreaded aspects of any creative professional’s career, and luckily for me the images started taking shape after having read the article a handful of times for it to “settle in”. These are some of the ideas that I sent to the Digest but that didn’t make the cut…
Martin was very fond of Dracula and the vortex, but I agreed with him that e-readers seemed to overwhelm the concepts, rather than focusing on the advantages of printed books over digital ones, which was at the core of the article. So it was back to the drawing board for me — far from a daunting proposition, since at this stage I was just itching to hit the nail in the head and come up with the perfect visual to accompany the text.
As happy as I am with the finished piece, if I had to pick one other idea to develop as a full-color painting I’d probably choose the e-reader being enclosed by a coffin-shaped book (which, looking at the sketch now, I guess it kinda looks like a bible?). I think it would be quite a challenge to make a book properly work visually as a coffin, not to mention to try to add a degree of warmth to an otherwise somber image without human presence in it.
All in all, this was a great assignment, made all the more enjoyable by the art-directing savvy of Martin Colyer, who is thoughtful, easygoing, and a fellow blogger with at least two excellent pages to his credit which you can read here and here.
Digital screens are windows into our modern world, and direct portals to fast-paced layers of highly stimulating sensorial information. They help us shorten geographical distances and to become instantly available to those out of reach. They are visually appealing, practical, compact, and smooth. Still, the many undeniable virtues of the digital age can’t detract from the many pleasures of reading from a printed page.
So take some time off from this screen (without stepping on it), momentarily sign out of Facebook, postpone that Wikipedia article you were so engrossed into earlier, and go rediscover the wonderfully inviting warmth of a book!