December 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
Sometimes the simplest of ideas drive through some bumpy roads before emerging triumphantly. Other times, whatever comes out of the tunnel bears only a vague resemblance to the original scribble in your sketchbook—which can be a drag or a boost, depending on your intentions. A bit of both happened with this particular assignment.
This illustration is appearing in the January issue of Reader’s Digest UK, due in newsstands across the pond sometime this month (still not sure if it’s available here in the US or elsewhere). The article it accompanies delves into British news media’s current preference for the viewpoints of non-experts on any given topic, and questions how this focus could influence the way we perceive information.
I had the pleasure of working once again with the Digest‘s design director Martin Colyer, who vastly improved my original idea by suggesting that the opinionated fellow in the drawing should grow angrier with each speech balloon. Initial (admittedly undercooked) sketch posted below…
The article reawakened the cartoonist in me. This proved to be a golden opportunity to have fun with characterization (as seen in the finished piece): enriching the idea with descriptive visual details about the “leading man”, while being careful to not overpower the image with superfluous information. It was tempting to render the whole thing with pen & ink and lush watercolors, but I realized right away that such a direct, catchy pun demanded a more, um… full-throated approach.
And so, Photoshop came to the rescue to put it all together: I drew our spot-lit spokesman with wax crayon (a medium I’m scarcely comfortable with) to emphasize his gruff street-wise roots; rendering each increasing frown and widening mouth separately, then composing them together digitally. Textures and patterns such as the houndstooth print on his cap (“sampled” from one of my wife’s vintage dresses) and the table he leans on (an unused shelf from my bookcase that I placed directly into my scanner) were also collaged in via Photoshop to add some visual interest. Even though I’ve used Photoshop to compose images before, I’m very glad I went with my instincts, tried some new variations on the usual methods, and ultimately avoided going down some of the more familiar routes.
The image then went through some minor aesthetic revisions, mostly to avoid dropping our flustered hero into the unavoidable page gutter (the narrow space in the binding between two pages) over which the printed article would spread. Indirectly, this was probably the biggest challenge proposed by the assignment, and one I always look forward to: how to balance all pictorial elements in the composition and pack the required punch, while working with specific page layout and print format restraints.
It’s difficult to take chances with commissioned work when a deadline is looming, but once we settled on the right idea, the art director gave me carte blanche to try whatever I pleased, approach-wise. Many thanks to Martin for trusting me enough to get on with it, and to the somewhat unpredictable wonders of digital technology for giving me enough guts to temporarily forget that failure is always an option.
November 1, 2013 § 1 Comment
Halloween aftermath/welcome to November: For the past two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with long-time friend Jesse Paris Smith and her fantastic New York-via-Michigan band Belle Ghoul. They specialize in spectral, lush, sugary pop, having recently released an EP of their own compositions through Elefant Records, as well as a smattering of singles, self-released tracks, and covers.
Jesse asked me to come up with artwork to accompany and promote their online-only/free-downloadable take on the Zombies classic Care of Cell 44—she said they were looking for a visual that was “sweet but spooky”. In case you’re not familiar with this little gem of 1960s British pop, Care of Cell 44 is written as a tender letter from a narrator who’s anxious to see his lover, after she’s completed an extended jail sentence for an unspecified crime. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’m thrilled to announce that the self-initiated comics adaptation of Kafka’s A Fratricide that I worked on earlier this year has found a happy home in the pages of Varoom!, a magazine devoted to contemporary illustration published by the Association of Illustrators (AOI) in the UK. It came out this past June in issue #22, dedicated to experimentation.
Not only they’ve published the eight-page comic in its entirety, I also got to fill out a fun behind-the-scenes questionnaire. Just got hold of my copy of the magazine, so here’s the article’s text in its entirety. Many thanks to Martin Colyer for the kind words and for making this happen.
July 23, 2013 § 1 Comment
July 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
These are some of the cover designs I worked on recently for a series of science fiction novels by Irish author Ian McDonald. These novels have just being released today, in e-book form, from Open Road Integrated Media (for whom I also did other cover designs, blogged here a few weeks ago).
Most of these books appeared originally in printed form sometime between the late ’80s and early ’90s. Going by the detailed briefs the art director sent me, I got the sense that these are imaginative, unsettling novels with layered narratives that deal with political and moral issues; as much as they are time-warped fables populated by improbable, somewhat tormented characters.
June 18, 2013 § 4 Comments
A few months ago, I was contacted by Open Road Integrated Media—a New York-based digital publisher and multimedia content company—to design and illustrate some covers for e-books by two well-established fantasy and science fiction authors.
Four of these books, which were originally published in printed form in the 1980s, were written by Jane Yolen; a prolific wordsmith with scores of eclectic narratives and multiple accolades to her credit, including the Nebula and World Fantasy awards, as well as the Caldecott Medal.
It was a refreshing challenge to work on these covers, since I knew very little about science fiction and fantasy before this assignment came along. Being an avid comics reader while I was growing up, I became familiar with the work of some esteemed illustrators of the sword & sorcery genre like Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo, and I even had some exposure to the spaceships and Martians of Frank Kelly Freas (who I knew through his terrific covers and ad parodies for some 1960s issues of MAD Magazine that my dad had). However, these fleeting acquaintances came only through the casual overlapping of these artists with the world of word bubbles and leaping superheroes. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
Reports of the death of print have been wildly exaggerated…
I’ve been saving this little nugget, waiting for the right time to put a leash on it and take it out for a spin. It’s a snazzy page spread from the 75th anniversary issue of the British edition of Reader’s Digest, featuring an illustration by yours truly for a brisk, acute article examining the pros and cons of Kindles vs. printed books. (If you’re curious about how this assignment came to be, I invite you to read a post I wrote back in late January.) Feel free to click on the spread to see it bigger.
Not entirely sure if you can even come across this edition here in the US, but a few weeks ago I was delighted to find three copies of this issue in my mailbox; which had made the trek across the pond, courtesy of the Royal Mail and art director Martin Colyer. (Many thanks once again, Martin.)
The entire issue is a joy to look at, with a compact but smartly designed format and terrific production values. It once again proves that print is alive and kicking; and it demonstrates how it still has plenty to offer when talented graphic designers and art directors make the most out of the tactile attributes and visual dimensions of the medium.