Thursday, February 26, 2009

I did this for TIME several years ago. The subject was sleepy drivers, so I put the guy in pajamas. I especially like the narrow palette: blue, yellow, white. The eyes look just like mine used to look at about three a.m. on one of those overnight drives to Sun Valley. It's a small painting but kept it in the portfolio for a long time, and it always made me smile. Pulling it out again, it still does.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Once upon a time there was a magazine called House & Garden. Some called it HG. It was very classy and decorative but not without a sense of humor. When an actual line of furniture came out named after Ernest Hemingway I invented several pieces of imaginary furniture named after other famous writers T. S. Eliot, Dorothy Parker, Henry James and Robert Benchley. One writer who could have had a line of furniture named after him was Evelyn Waugh. A few years before he became a novelist he studied cabinet making in London. True story.

The article was about financial measurements. I thought of having a bunch of financial geniuses in suits measuring big numbers, but there is something elegant about the machinery we use to calculate and measure things. In my lifetime I've seen useful tools become more useful as metaphors.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This poster was designed by Dan and Michael at Aesthetic Apparatus. A nice drawing can suddenly become a lovely piece of art in the hands of great designers. It also gave me a hipster credibility I hardly deserved. I plan to fund my retirement with proceeds from selling the handful of posters in my possession. Art is a cushion against the vicissitudes of life.

Note the crop in the original. That isn't so much artful as a case of running out of paper.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I was working on a series of gallery paintings using this graffiti style linework inside a truncated pyramid. Are we still awake? It's more interesting than it sounds. Another idea I had was to do the same linework inside a taped figure, just to see what happened. This is what happened. I added the hat and the sixguns, or whatever that is he's wielding. It seemed to strike a chord in Europe.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Still Life with Revolver

I sometimes think of metaphors while listening to the news. This one is meant to describe how our mission in Iraq made such a mess of things. A revolver, a ceramic pitcher, some flowers in water. That is an image of Baghdad on the pitcher. Bang, the water runs out, flowers dead. The End. The revolver worked very efficiently, but it was the wrong tool.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I developed this pencil and watercolor style by accident, and it made a nice debut in a juried show run by AIGA. But it's a tricky style to pull off. It needs a compact subject with an easily identifiable shape and no complexity or elaboration. It works well for single figures, even better for toy figures. This chef drawing was one of several I did for a food article in Diablo magazine. It was the least ambitious of them. Art director Laura Cirolia was bold enough to surround it with lots of white space and put it on the cover. It won some kind of magazine award for best cover, mostly, I think, because of the art direction.

A lot of my work is invention. I like to remind people, clients, that inventing metaphors is something a photographer can't easily do.

What is the idea about? What is it like? What does it resemble? By reducing something to its basic "thingness" you can manipulate it more easily to resemble something else. This globe became a tree. Breaking off the top of the tree like the top of an egg revealed what? Maybe it's a birdbath, then. Maybe this is about the finite nature of water.

Visual metaphors don't need to be concrete, in fact they work better if the description is vague. Better still if the drawing is somewhat awkward and blunt. The less perfect it is as itself the more the eye looks for what it might be, if there might be a hidden meaning. Absolute photographic realism doesn't suggest as much.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This would be nice, wouldn't it? No financial pages to read at sea.

Monday, February 16, 2009

When I read a travel article I like to have a map. I need to see where the writer is having lunch or looking at a ruin. It doesn't need to have a perfect inch-to-miles ratio, but I like it to have details and flavor. I did this map of Capri and used it as a bookmark while I was reading an article about the island in Vanity Fair. (The article didn't have a map.) Maps are a speciality of mine. I've painted them for Travel & Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair, Gourmet, the New Yorker and SPY. My very first magazine gig was a series of satiric maps I drew for Rolling Stone. This was years ago; the musicians on the covers look barely middle-aged.

Friday, February 13, 2009

St. Valentine and Cupid walk into a bar. I forget the punch line, but situation is half of comedy. I'm forgetting my mythology, was St. Valentine the love child of Zeus and Aphrodite? And what were Cupid's superpowers? Why did he sell the franchise to the biggest gift-buying day after Christmas? You may mail me your answers. Remember to show your work.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hands used to be the hardest thing for me to draw. I'd avoid the difficulty by putting hands in pockets or behind backs. Finally I faced it down by integrating the poorly drawn hand into my style. I would draw the hands as if I didn't care. People knew they were hands because of where they were, at the end of the forearms, so why worry? And I stopped worrying. Suddenly I could draw hands without any problem. It's like carrying a trayful of glasses. Going slowly isn't the answer; it's about not worrying.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A wine column for an alternative magazine that no longer exists. A fun assignment requiring research of wine and wine bars. I don't know what this guy is praying about. Maybe he wants to turn the Merlot into a Cab.

Lisa Catalone designed a cool promotion for Georgetown Prep using my illustrations. The concept was a house of cards. The cards had interesting facts and Q&A. I designed a font she used to typeset everything. (You can see the package at

This is a bit of the school's architecture. By the way, the promo had an amazing response rate. Illustration does get people's attention. Sharp design is the key.

Monday, February 9, 2009

This is one of several wonderful calendar projects I did for a cellphone company in Japan. I did both large and small, desk-sized calendars. I usually liked the smaller ones best because of the way art needed to wrap around the typography. I think there is something of the Japanese print in my flat perspectives, at least I think that's where I learned it.

Once in a while I get a call to "just paint something cool." The deadline is usually around 15 minutes, or seems like it, but I get the chance to try something different, in this case a fat hero in fat lines done with a big fat brush. This bold romantic figure was one of several I painted for City Pages to illustrate the local Fringe Festival.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

It's time for lunch here and I was thinking of building myself a sandwich. Feed the inner Dagwood. I did this illustration for 5280 magazine in Denver.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I am in the metaphor business, really. How to depict something by painting it as something else. The walking fingers are the oldest metaphor in the book. What happens when we've walked ourselves to the top of a ladder? What then?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

This is a portrait of America up until the last few years when the globe fell off our finger. We can get it back again.

My daughter is 14 today so I drew the number 14 for her this way.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This is the illustration that gave me the idea for the picture book When I'm Big. The best illustrations do things photographs can't or show us how to do things we can't. "When I'm Big it will be easier to reach the basket." No kidding. I painted this, and then began thinking of other things that would happen "when I'm Big." Ordinary things, outlandish things, ordinary things visualized outlandishly, things a kid would think of but an adult will have forgotten. Big people forget what it's like to be small, and it's hard for a child to imagine being grown up. And occasionally funny and revealing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Another image from a bedtime story, this one called When I'm Big, imagining how much simpler life will be when one is grown up. But it isn't simple.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I did this for the OpEd page of the New York Times several years ago. The first image I did for them.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Several years ago I did a series of paintings for a gallery show in Florida. Several were subsequently picked by American Illustration and can be seen on the website there. Another wound up on the cover of my book. (See right. Available wherever books are sold. The perfect gift.) But what do they mean? You tell me. That is the gist of fine art, I guess. It gives us something to figure out while it's hung on our walls for years. I paint the dots first and then paint iconography on the dots, freehand, no sketches, no penciling. So the result is entirely improvised, free associated, a fresh invention.