Friday, October 23, 2009


I was writing a story about a boy who grows suddenly large and the problems he encounters. Problem One is something Clifford (the big red dog) doesn't have to deal with. Clothes. This kid has outgrown everything and is very hard to shop for. The style is more dry brush than most of my work, and a rare excursion into nightscape. Most of my art places figures against a white background, so this was a fun departure. One of a series.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Birds Out of Thin Air

Is he a magician producing doves out of his sleeves? I don't know. The sketchbook functions like a dream sometimes, conjuring odd, hard-to-explain imagery.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Large hand, small shoe

The way I remember it, tying his shoes was like tying on a sparse gray hackle. He is now 6'3". Next week he turns 18. He tells me he is excited about being able to smoke while he votes. (Joking.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Like Fish in a Barrel

Before and during our invasion of Iraq some of the expert commentators on various news programs compared the operation to shooting fish in a barrel. I was more skeptical and did this drawing to describe how it might turn out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Useful Metaphor

Ideas enter the political conversation via radio waves and newsprint, usually shaped by the persons and groups who own the airwaves and the presses. And the rest of us ordinary folks nod our heads in agreement, because opinion shapers are clever. A few years ago the idea of the moment was a flat tax that would have shifted even more of the tax burden off rich people––who already pay at a lower rate than most of us do. I heard working class people applauding the idea. It sounded fair, but if you thought about it for a few minutes it made no sense at all. It required an analogy, a visualization that described why unequal size justifies unequal sharing of a burden, putting more burden on those capable of carrying it. The same could be said about health care. Why do we pile punishing costs and restrictions on people already burdened with illness and physical hardships?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Man in the Rain

This is what October looks like this year in Minneapolis. Another of a series of characters that appeared in The Believer.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Man and umbrella

Another in that series that appeared in the Believer. You hardly ever see people like this outside of New York's Upper East Side. If I saw him walking on a sidewalk in Linden Hills I might phone the police. I especially like how his feet are placed. Drawings like this start at the feet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Palm Beach

Another one of those kitchen table portraits I did for The Believer a few years ago. I know these people exist, but I don't see them in my neighborhood. How does she spend her days? And her money?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

inventing people

I remember drawing this. Interesting how the mind works. I can remember what I was listening to (Bill Evans), and that it was a cold evening. I was working at the kitchen table supervising the kids' homework. I had torn some paper into small squares and had some ivory black on a salad plate, a pencil, a brush. I did eight characters that evening. All of them appeared in the Believer a month or two later. They seem real but they are completely invented. They might have appeared in a story. Maybe I should write one about each of them. I could title it Winesburg, Minnesota.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Gourmet Wine Column

I did a lot of wine columns for Gourmet. Then, when they were republished in Japan, I got to do them again. I always made a point of purchasing the wines being written up. Gerald Asher taught me what I know about wine. I drink a glass with lunch and dinner; it's now cheaper than milk. For this article comparing California and French wines I turned the Eiffel Tower into a scale. Something a photographer has a harder time doing. I love doing the Eiffel Tower. Icons are so familiar you can stretch them, simplify them, stylize them and they're still themselves.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gourmet Took Us To Italy For Lunch

Not literally, of course. But that is the beauty of a food magazine. The pleasure (some of it anyway) without the calories or the expense. Or, for that matter, the effort of cooking. I can't remember the article this illustrated, but I do remember not being sent to Pisa to work up sketches. Photographers are always being flown places and housed and fed. My schedule is more relaxing and my overhead is less onerous, but I doubt photographers envy me much. After working for Gourmet for many years I began to get calls from Bon Appetit, which was nice because the look at Gourmet was shifting away from illustration and Bon Appetit was very hip and West Coast. Both were published by Condé Nast, so I didn't worry about a conflict. Then I got a call from my person at Bon App, shocked and hurt that I'd done an illustration for Gourmet. Which reminds me of an anecdote about Anais Nin. In her fifties she had husbands on both coasts, who didn't know about each other. Life is full of innocent complications.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gourmet Magazine

I just found out Gourmet magazine is being closed down. Gourmet was my first national magazine client. I remember being in New York one rainy day in 1989. I always traveled with a portfolio. In those days it was mostly original art, no xeroxes, and my art is watercolor. I had to keep the book dry. I phoned their offices from a phone booth on Madison, asking if I could drop by. Irwin Glusker got on the line and assigned me a feature illustration over the phone. I never did visit their offices, when they were on Lex or later when they moved. But that's typical. Most of my clients have never met me. But I did dozens of illustrations for them in the years following, mostly maps of wine regions, also maps of cities visited by their writers. I learned a lot about food in the process. I also made a point of drinking the wines from the regions and vineyards I was mapping. Gourmet was always wonderfully written, wonderfully evocative. Delicious.