Monday, June 29, 2009

Cute Kid

Last year my state fair people were all over the MTC buses, which was a cool thing, although it made my driving a bit erratic whenever I spotted one.

One of my greatest pleasures is simply inventing people: odd, familiar, usually comic but sometimes surreal or sinister. This crowd was pure friendliness. I was watching some 50s Warner Brothers cartoons over the weekend and was reminded of where my line comes from when I'm in this comic/friendly mode. The brisk, bright colors overlapping the lines, the uncompleted textures and jotted in backgrounds. I could imagine living in that world, or creating such a place for an animated film sometime. Anybody got a story that needs visualizing? Anybody know anybody at Pixar?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jacko (1959-2009)

I did these two illustrations for my semi-regular gig in the LA Times Weekend Calendar. The question being asked was "What will Jacko do next to revive his career?" I had several ideas, but the Country Western album and Vienna Choir Boys concert tour were the funniest––and not entirely implausible.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Can You Diagram Creativity?

The question came up while I was working on a project for Xerox, and this was the result. Is a diagram the same thing as a map? Maybe someone could do a Venn Diagram explaining this. The key with this drawing, as with all mobile and changeable things, was to work quickly rather than meticulously. The same logic applies to mapping cities: old cities can be drawn more slowly than modern cities, with baroque details and decorative borders, but modern cities' elaborations are more volatile and hurried. Modern creativity creates experiences and apps rather than permanent things, which isn't necessarily a positive change. Or so I think. What I think about I diagram or write about.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An Old School, A New Map

Well, not exactly new. Newish. I was sorting through some old material and came across this. Maps have always been a specialty of mine. Partly because I insist on having a map whenever I'm reading about a place. If a map isn't provided I'll draw one. This was for a rather deluxe booklet Rutka Weadock did for Miss Porter's School. Tony Rutka did the wonderful color treatment and art directed.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bicycle and Crocodile

This is one of a series of illustrations I did for a corporate client several years ago. Illustration personalizes text in a way photography can't. Illustration is friendlier and more individual. Crocodiles riding bicycles is another thing it's easier to capture with a brush than a camera, though many have tried. The hard part was getting the crocodile to read the manual.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I've spent a lot of time in the past year drawing metaphors for the economy. The word "hedge" often associated with the word "funds" conjures images that have nothing to do with what it is, what they are, other than the trimming that goes on.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The World Game

I'm watching soccer with my son. (He had orthopedic surgery yesterday, and it helps pass the time for him.) I used to play the game, coached it off and on for many years, and met a few of the top internationals when I wrote articles about it. It is a game of sublime patterns and elegant players, as well as high and low drama. I've done sketchbooks of baseball players but should do one of soccer sometime. Its metaphors are universal, but, unfortunately, they are lost on most Americans. I did this illustration for an insurance magazine designed by Ted Lopez and Eason Associates.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Earth hasn't anything to show more fair

This isn't exactly the view Wordsworth was writing about. Westminster Bridge looks on the buildings the other way round. But there is a grandeur here that is fun to draw. The trick is eliminating the extraneous elements and drawing quickly. Sometimes I work directly from the perspective lines, as here. More often I do not, and it is the imperfections that set it apart from photographic reality.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Sometimes a simple flower is best. Words are nice, but a rose is nicer. Is this a rose? It's no botanical drawing. It has a certain "roseness." I gave this to my wife who loves red roses. (She gets real roses sometimes too.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009


One occasionally does a very jolly friendly happy illustration. It's pleasant and I love it, but it does rather undermine my credentials as an ironist. A true sophisticate doesn't draw this way. It's exactly the sort of thing that made Dorothy Parker "frow up" and I hate to disappoint the ghost of Dorothy Parker. Still, it's a fun image, and for the use it was put to it did the trick. The art director was the estimable David Armario, so he should shoulder part of the blame.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


This might be a self portrait. I have a lot of books and when the kids were small they played havoc with them, tearing valuable pages, spilling words and letters all over the floor and refusing to clean up the mess. Two year-olds never do, do they? This drawing appeared in the Atlantic among the book reviews. The art director was the estimable Mary Parsons.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pronouns & Inverted Commas

Punctuation and grammar are two of the mysteries I leave to others so it struck me as ironic when I was asked to illustrate a project about punctuation and grammar. These are two of the images that weren't selected at the sketch phase. A bit Philip Guston-ish, I think. When things perplex or intimidate us it sometimes helps to give them human qualities, faces and personalities. Not always though. (I have surreal dreams in which I am chased by dangling clauses and abused semicolons. They are usually armed.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I Can't Dance

Most people think they can dance, but I know better. I watch dancers with an awe just this side of worship. The way the hand moves, the way the arm balances what's going on with the leg, the tilt of the head, the arch of the back. Watching Gene Kelly always made me want to draw. I remember this flip book of Fred and Ginger that I used to sketch from. Anyway, here are a few from my dance sketchbook of a few years ago. Never published, but fun to draw and still fun to look at.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


The sketchbook has a way of turning up peculiar ideas. I think it's because there is no criterion, no subject. The hand draws what you are daydreaming, and the meaning is accidental.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sportsman's Map of Manhattan

Illustrator John Held Jr. was famous for his 1920s depictions of flappers and their round-headed consorts. Less famously, he was the favorite social geographer of various top American magazines. He invented the mock-heroic phraseology I play with here. The "here there be monsters" legending that Columbus's mapmaker used to decorate the empty portions of the charts is replaced with sly japes. Instead of sea monsters and mermaids, I filled the waters off Manhattan with lox and sturgeon, and the woodlands of Midtown with wayward sporting types and their shooting boxes. There is (or used to be) a flytier's premises in or near Grand Central. All the clubs shown are real. The St. Moritz shown isn't the resort but a hotel. And Saks actually did have a ski school once. Ernie Blake, who founded Taos Ski Valley, worked there as a youth. I got my first (and only) Vanity Fair writing assignment after sending this map to Graydon Carter. I have done maps for the magazine since, as I also did for Spy, which Mr. Carter edited in a bygone decade.