Friday, July 27, 2012

SALTY assignment

I have worked with Pam Winn, the Associate Art Director at Fine Cooking magazine in the past... (The Art Director of the publication is Don Morris, who is also head of Don Morris Design here in NYC. Don and I graduated from Parsons School of Design together many moons ago, and I have worked on projects with him and his design team many times. ) So when Pam contacted me recently to work with her on another new assignment for Fine Cooking, I was looking forward to it.

This new project was to create an illustration for their Food Science section, on the subject of SALT, one of the five basic tastes we are all hard wired to detect on our palate: bitter, sweet, sour, savory... and salt. Essentially the article describes a bit of historical background on salt, as well as explaining the matter of fact science behind how salt affects our various foods (from meats to vegetables) in the cooking, brining and flavoring processes. Plus it provides a glossary of salt, so the reader can learn all the different types of salts available. In other words, the article I was to illustrate was a mini-encyclopedic spread all about salt. There was no call for having to derive at a conceptual image... but rather (no pun intended), merely arrive at a visual flavor using various iconic images of salt.

The article described the two main ways of extracting salt, the first from salt mines and the other from the seas... so I decided to create vignettes of these two different processes as vignettes in each corner of the required long horizontal space. To romanticize these vignettes, I chose a retro look, by depicting a lone rock salt miner and a lone sea salt harvester in action... rather than depict the modern machinery which does these jobs today. Then I elected to show probably the most iconic symbol of salt for western culture, the salt shaker. Then I threw in a salt molecule and steak, for varietal contrast. 


Posted above is the initial doodle of my sketch idea, which I made as I was reading the article manuscript. At his stage I am really just scribbling... no concern for line quality because the art director will never see this stage. It is just to get the image in my head quickly out onto paper to begin to see how the various visual elements will work together (and relative to the article) as well as to begin to see
how things work within the required limitations of the compositional space.

Posted above is the next stage sketch. It is actually five different sketches (the salt shaker, the salt molecule, the steak, the miner, and the harvester) which are all compiled in Photoshop to construct the formal sketch. I knew that I was probably going to keep the color palette for the final art image limited to mostly blues, so for these sketches I used blue ink pen, blue crayon, and blue pencil.

Posted above is the official final sketch version which I initially showed to Pam Winn at Fine Cooking magazine. In this version I had also dropped in the blue textural background, which was created with brusk strokes of blue gouache on a roughly textured paperboard. The response was mostly favorable... they just felt that the words within the sketch could be taken out. I showed another version which included the hand wording (not shown here), but eventually it was decided that the words would indeed not be used.

Posted above is the final illustration that was submitted for publication. The background was created with brushstrokes of blue gouache on a rough textured paper. The salt shaker was drawn with blue pastel with added digital color. The salt molecule was drawn with black crayon with added digital color. The steak was drawn with red oil crayon with added digital color. The rock salt miner and the sea salt harvester were drawn with blue ink pen on a smooth surface paper. The white color you see inside the salt shaker, the white color of the rock salt and the salt mounds, and the white color seen on the fatty part of the steak -were all created by "erasing" out the blue background, which was the bottom layer of the image during the layered stage in Photoshop.

above: detail of the sea salt harvester

above: detail of the rock salt miner

This SALT illustration falls into the category of the "new" style of images I have been creating thus far in 2012. (see the NEW STUFF portfolio section on my web site.) 

Many art directors know me more for the light, whimsical illustrations that I have created for many years now.... especially for all the children's picture books I have illustrated. This "new" darker, moodier, more realistic style of mine is actually just reviving my own style from when I first started illustrating many years ago. In other words, I am excited to be exploring my own style from the past, and making it new again. (of course, I am indeed still creating the whimsical illustrations too, specifically for my children's picture books. My next illustrated picture book, BOOM! will be released in 2013 by Hyperion Books, which is an imprint of Disney.)

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