Thursday, December 18, 2008

Royal Bank of Canada

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A handful of years ago, through SPUR Communications (in Kansas City) David Svet, Creative Director, I worked on a CD-ROM project for the Royal Bank of Canada's insurance and annuity division. It was an advertisement/tutorial using the story line of a couple making decisions regarding their retirement plans.
I created many vector images of the characters and backgrounds in Adobe Illustrator... then the production designers implemented them into a flash program to minimally animate the images for the CD-ROM. I thought I'd post them here now, just to show examples of images created digitally on my Wacom Tablet in Adobe Illustrator, because my web site portfolios does not show any image samples created in this manner. (Most images I create are drawn & painted, scanned, then compiled in layers in Photoshop with additional digital modifications.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Secret Golf Graphics (Shhhh!)

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Anyone who knows me, is aware that I love to play golf. (Not today, of course: it's 37 degrees and raining!) I grew up playing golf as a kid in New England... and even won my State Golf Association Junior Amateur Championship when I was18 years old at the Equinox CC in Vermont. I then went off to design school in NYC, graduated from Parsons School of Design, and worked as an illustrator for a handful of years in NYC. Then, burnt out from everything, and the city... I ended up living in Connecticut and became an assistant golf professional at The Yale Golf Club (Yale University's golf course in New Haven, CT) and an apprentice in the PGA (Professional Golfers Association of America)... passing their required PAT (playing ability test) and going through their first stage of business school. After a few years in the golf world... I then went back to being an illustrator for my career again. The “golf years” segment of my life seems like a million years ago now... but was so much fun.

A couple of my golf buddies here in NYC are also illustrators: James Yang, and Annette Vasilakis. Annette took a photo of me swinging a club and integrated it into one of her photo/illustration assignments for a sports publication (see first photo posted at the top, which is accompanied by a photo James took of me playing the 18th hole at Bethpage Black Course). Now, I usually play golf once a week... though not nearly as well as I did when I was in younger, but I still love it. When I'm not too busy with my illustration assignment work or children's book projects, sometimes I take a little time and experiment with creating golf related images, just for myself. 

The images posted here are not ones I ever show, because they are not consistent with my “career” illustration style. They are just for my own enjoyment as an expression of my interest in the game, and it's history. The 2nd and 3rd images from the top are details from a national golf architecture design competition I entered a couple years ago. The bottom two images are: a small painting I did of Ben Hogan practicing, and a drawing of Sam Snead entitled ‘Original Smooth.” is a clip of me at the practice range, hitting a 3-metal draw.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Doodle Power


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Doodling, like singing in the shower... is an uninhibited act, because there is no one around to try and impress. The best doodling, I feel, occurs when you are simultaneously talking on the telephone or watching television. Or in a classroom. (I remember my high school chemistry class. At the end of the year I gave my teacher 119 pages of doodles I had executed during his class. I think the gift raised my grade from a C to a B!) The distraction of listening to something while you doodle helps it to be an unselfconscious expression. 

Doodling is different than sketching. Most sketches are executed with forethought, or intention toward developing an idea or image to a more evolved stage either for yourself or for an art director. (eg: having an idea for a painting and conducting a series of sketches to fine tune your image toward the end result) But a doodle, in comparison, is like improvisational just begin making a mark, without quite knowing or caring what it will become in the end, and the brain is so lightning fast that once the pen line starts moving you instantly form an evolving opinion of what you will “draw” and spontaneously direct the form accordingly. Suddenly you have made a face with an expression, or a character in a pose, etc... 

The doodles, shown above, were culled from pads and throw-away scraps of paper (on which I do the bulk of my daily doodling!). Numbers 2. and 5. above (the boy wrapped in green leaves and the other image of the weird looking fellow in pink) were probably done when I happened to be standing at my drawing table, had access to watercolors or colored inks, and this is why they look more “rendered”... but both started out as lines and marks that simply grew into an image without any pre-planning. (it's funny that the character at the top of number 4. kind of looks like a teenage George Bush!) I chose these images because they all depict “people,” just to give this posting a theme... but I should have also shown a pure classic doodle consisting of just odd shapes, objects, swirls, and abstract graphic marks!

Doodles help to clear your head, or expand your creative process... and actually, over time, help move an artist's style into new directions. One certainly cannot be bored while doodling. The doodles I have posted here are rather conservative images (edited for adult content!) ... because of the fact that I write and illustrate children's picture books (which have been translated into four languages). So, I have many young readers visiting my web site (to which my blog is linked), hence I must tone down anything appearing in my blog, too! 

Last word. Everyone should doodle. It's fun and therapeutic!

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Long Way to the Bottom? (aka: caught on the slope)

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Here is one of my recent e-mail promos I sent to AD's at newspapers, magazines and corporations... It is actually an illustration I did a handful of years ago (and subsequently was showcased in a "techniques" section of Step-by-Step magazine, discussing the simple Adobe Photoshop layers technique employed in placing the scanned stock report in the background of the image) and seemed relevant to the current state of our economic situation, wondering how much further all the financial indicators will fall, or if we have already reached the "bottom."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Picture Book... “sketch-to-finish” stages

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Here are five sequential images (from one spread in Pantaloon), briefly showing the stages I must go through when bringing a picture book illustration to life. What is not shown are the multitude of preliminary character sketches of the baker I must go through between steps 1 and 2. 

See previous posts for more information regarding this new picture book, Pantaloon, created for Golden Books, and will be released in 2010. Roberta Ludlow/art director, Diane Muldrow/editor.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My new BLACKBOOK illustration directory ad page...

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Every year, starting from about 1991, I have advertised my illustration work to art directors through national illustration directories which are published once a year and sent to about 18,000 art directors. I must submit the final art file for my ad page(s) about 8 months before the directory is printed and distributed... Usually I place ads in several different directories each year, which gives me the flexibility of presenting several different images reflecting the range of my graphic work... from more stylish, stylized images to more humorous images. 

This year I have promotional ads in Workbook, Picture Book (aimed specifically for the children's book marketplace), and Black Book. These print directory ads are only a part of how I promote each year. In addition to my own web site, I also have "web portfolios" on the web sites of all the illustration directories I advertise in, including additional web portfolios with,,, and I also use snail mail to send postcards and other direct mail promotional items to art directors. With this economic downturn, I will probably cut back to being in just one directory, and maintain presence in all the various on-line illustration web sites... 

Posted here is my current ad page image in the Blackbook illustration directory being distributed to art directors now. (see the sketch for this ad image in an earlier post.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who Doesn't Love Shoes? (sneak peek at book project)

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Currently I am working on a teen guide book for Harper Collins, Matt Adamec art director, consisting of all black & white line drawings...
The images posted here are simple black line drawings of women's high heeled shoes, and a dance scene (both created digitally in Adobe Illustrator using a stylus & Wacom Tablet). Sometimes really simple drawings devoid of any embellishment are the most elegant and strong. A sneak peek of the book project... though the drawings when they appear in the book will be strictly black & white.

BUBBA, 'BAMA... and Beyond

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I enjoy doing caricatures of politicians and celebrities... but since I never promote this capability to industry art directors (none of my illustration advertising, promotions or web site portfolios contain any caricature samples), I receive very few calls from art directors requesting a caricature.
Over the years I remember having created illustrations (for various magazines) of Mr. Rogers, Bette Midler, President Clinton, President Reagan, President Bush (the first one), Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Julia Childs, Pamela Anderson, and others...
Posted here is a past illustration I did of our previous prez, Bill (Bubba) Clinton, and a new caricature I recently created of our prez-elect, Barrack Obama, who I refer to as “Baroque Obama.” (see earlier post)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Excessive Sweating? Twitchy Legs? (sure signs of a recession)

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Posted above are two projects I was involved with at the test stage... neither of which proceeded to a “final”. In other words, in both cases the client decided on a different direction than with what I was hired to create for the preliminary test (comp) stage.
At the top is a photo of my mock test label I created for Unilever Degree antiperspirant, done through red orchestra/branding in Chicago, under the direction of Bernard Mongiardini/Creative Director. Also shown is the full set of four “attitude/scent” test labels I created... Bernie asked me to update the Degree “check mark” logo and include various orbiting icons representing the essence of each attitude/scent. Unfortunately my approach was rejected, and the client chose to go in a different direction for the project...
Next is the grasshopper character I created for UCB Pharma ...the German pharmaceutical's drug advertisement/packaging aimed at restless leg syndrome (RLS) sufferers. It was done through Mc/K Healthcare Advertising in Boston, Breda Kenyon and Erin Murphy/art directors. The advertising agency had already decided on the grasshopper as a character, and needed me to insert my stylish spin. These ad comps were presented to the client... but apparently using a grasshopper concept to represent the drug was scrapped compeletly.
So, if the current troubling national/global economic downward spin is causing you excessive sweating during the day and jumpy legs at night, you will just have to find products without my artwork on the packaging to relieve your symptoms!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Endpapers from my next three picture books...

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When I create the illustrations for a children's picture book, I always complete all the inside illustrations first, then do the cover, title page(s) and endpaper art last. I purposely keep the endpaper image graphic, simple, and use the computer to help generate the pattern effect... which generally means it is an image I can finish in about a day. (compared to how time intensive most of the inside images are.) I find that creating the endpaper art is usually the most “satisfying” and fun, because it feels kind of like finally snapping the lid shut on the entire book project.
Posted here are detail views from the endpapers of my next three picture books coming out: The top image is from PANTALOON, due out by Random in 2010 (see earlier post about this book), in the middle is from HARRY HUNGRY!, due out in 2009 by Harcourt (see earlier post about this book), and at the bottom is from STAMPEDE! The Wild Side of School, due out in 2009 by Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Baroque Obama... man of words, man of action?

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The Baroque period in art, roughly from 1600 to 1750, generally speaking, was a dynamic era... spacious, colorful, an age of expansion and of new science called the "Enlightenment." It signified that the old, dark, mythical way of reading the world had been given up and the light of knowledge had brought a new day.
The word “Baroque” may be of Portuguese origin from “barroco” meaning an irregularly shaped pearl. Maybe Barack Obama is the symbolic "pearl" signifying the dark days of the Bush administration are over and our country (and the world) are at the dawn of a truly new and enlightened period. Maybe 2009 will be the beginning of unprecedented changes in society, so that 50 years from now these ongoing advances in technology and shifts in spirituality will result in a world without pollution, without war and far less poverty.
Posted above is a quick caricature I did this weekend of President-elect Obama as “Baroque Obama.” Hopefully we will all discover very soon he'll begin backing up the powerful and inspiring words of his campaign speeches with powerful action...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

All the Art That's Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn't)

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This week I was invited to the book publication/author signing party here in Manhattan of the new book, “All the Art That's Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn't) -Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Page” published by the Columbia University Press. It is written by Jerelle Kraus, the NY Times Op-Ed Page art director (and image contributor) from 1979 through 1992... I received my invitation to the event due to having been a regular contributor of social & political drawings to the NY Times Op-Ed Page from 1980 through 1985, and then only sporadically after that. 

Back in 1979, when I graduated from Parsons School of Design, one of my instructors was J.C. Suares, the well-known art director, designer, illustrator, and film maker... and who was then the art director of New York magazine, and also had been the art director of the NY Times Op-Ed Page before Jerelle Kraus. Upon my graduation he immediately began commissioning me to create illustrations for New York magazine, and one day at New York magazine he pulled me aside and told me to visit Jerelle Kraus at The New York Times, to show her my portfolio, as she was the new art director of the famed Op-Ed Page. 

Jerelle saw something she liked in the dark, organic, line drawings I was doing at the time, and subsequently she began hiring me to create drawings for the Op-Ed page, as well as for the Letters to the Editor page. I was only 21 years old when I had my first Op-Ed Page drawing appear in The New York Times! When I reflect back, it seems like a lifetime ago... and a fuzzy dream that I had been so lucky to have participated in creating images for that world stage at such a young age. (I think myself, and fellow image-makers Martin Kozlowski (aka KOZ), and Mark Podwal all share the distinction of having been the youngest contributors to The New York Times Op-Ed Page at age 21.) 

At the book signing event, I met with Jerelle, the first time I had seen her in about 23 years, and she graciously signed a copy of the book with a warm inscription to me. I expressed what an honor it is to have been a part of the Op-Ed Page's graphic history. Thus far I have only read parts of the book, but it is a fascinating account of her interactions with the artists and her head-butting with the editors. I remember back in the early 80's when I would deliver my drawings to her office at the Times (remember, this was before the fax, personal computer and internet!), on the wall I always saw a photo of her in the Oval Office with President Richard Nixon... and now, in this book, I finally learned the story behind the photo. 

Posted above is the cover of Jerelle's wonderful new book, and also one of my drawings (from about 1982) included in the book... an image about the Soviet's bloated military budget relative to their meager social program expenditures.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Investing in Heaven or Hell?

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This image (one of about 30 images) was created last year for the Forbes magazine "Richest 400" issue... Upon looking at it again recently, it made me wonder which way some of these investment executives are heading when they leave this earth (considering their creative investment vehicles undermined their own companies, drove our economy over a cliff and pulled a lot of hard working people's life saving along for the plunge, all while they garnered extremely high salaries or bonuses in the process).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Re-growth... It's a Natural Process. (patience required!)

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Have you ever been walking in a city... and spotted a lone, beautiful, little flower popping up from out of a tiny crack in the sea of concrete? It makes you stop a moment and marvel at its effort. When the dust settles a bit from the recent dramatic financial tailspin, we will all see the beginnings of growth again, even in areas where one least might have expected it. If you find yourself feeling beaten down, just look for that tiny crack above your head and keep PUSHING toward the sky!
The image posted above is an illustration I did so long ago, I cannot remember which magazine or client it was initially created for, but it seemed appropriate to show it again now.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

“Tighten Your Belt” (if you even have a belt left to tighten!) -and “Is the Party Over?”

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The top image posted here, of the man contemplating his ample sized pants, was created for Business Week magazine, and the bottom two images are from an illustration I created quite a few years ago for a magazine article about that year's champagne industry's low sales figures... and it seemed also an appropriate metaphor for the current US economy's dramatic negative stock market reversals. (I added the "2008" onto the bottle's label, to make it time appropriate)
My new title for this image should be, "From Cristal Back to Kool-Aid"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

PANTALOON -a view of work in progress...

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Currently I am working on the final illustrations for Random's release of the 1951 classic Golden Book for children, PANTALOON. (see my earlier post regarding this picture book project)
Posted here are a few studio pictures of my table with one individual illustration in progress... showing the multitude of paint cups at hand, and a print out of the sketch taped above the original image being worked on.
process: I work out the sketches for the entire book in a small scale. First with very small thumbnails, then more resolved sketches at about 4" x 5" size. I scan these small sketches into Photoshop where I further modify the sketches and enlarge them. Then I print out these "full size" sketches. Each sketch is then placed on the light table and Arches 260 lb hot press paper is laid on top (that has the book trim size marks and gutter indicated very lightly in pencil). I then copy the sketch image onto the Arches paper, lightly in pencil, but it is not a mere "copying" of the sketch underneath... I make many last second changes, adjustments and refinements to the image as I re-draw it onto the Arches paper.
Now I am ready to start painting. I use Windsor & Newton gouaches and watercolors (mostly gouache, though). And I never create the final images in the same order as they will appear in the book. Usually I will start with an "easy image" to get started, one with just a single character rather than a scene with multiple characters, etc... to ease into the book, sort of like dipping your toe in the tub in case the water is too hot!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Puzzles for MUDPUPPY

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If you have never visited MUDPUPPY, do so! It is a terrific site for purchasing picture books, stationary, puzzles, games, and much more... all expressly for young children. Recently Mudpuppy art director Cynthia Matthews asked me to illustrate some simple animal puzzles for their First Sounds line of puzzles. She had seen some of my illustrated children's picture books and felt my style would be a perfect match for her puzzle project.
Posted above are (details of) their final packaging layouts of the puzzle packaging box, using the four images (and hand lettering) I created for the actual puzzles. (a pig, dog, cat and duck) The final product, I believe, will be available on their retail web site beginning sometime in 2009.