Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Suburbia: Winter

This time of year I cast my mind back over places like this. The places where I grew up. When I was living in those suburbias of low-slung ranch and split level houses I wished I lived in better surroundings. I preferred elm-lined streets of alternating colonial and Georgian and Tudor houses. Usually these neighborhoods were adjacent to country clubs. We were not country club people. Now I look at the suburban cul-de-sac aesthetic with more nostalgia. It is, after all, the world inhabited by Charlie Brown, who is about my own age. Charles Schulz created the Peanuts characters about a mile from here, in a Spanish Colonial along Minnehaha Parkway.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Real Toys

I'm tired of PlayStation 3s and BMWs being called toys. This is a toy. We need to get back to the tradition of buying and giving toys for Christmas. Enough of my soapbox, I need to address some Christmas cards.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mele Kalikimaka

I did this Santa on a surfboard for Town & Country. Apparently this is how Polynesian Santas arrive on Christmas morning.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Another Christmas Fairy

This is one of a whole slew of holiday sprites I did for Barney's a couple years ago.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Snowy Street in Minneapolis

Funny, I can remember what I was listening to on the radio when I was drawing this. Thirty years ago I was in the Christmas card business, drawing, publishing, packaging and selling my own card line via department stores and gift shops. I can't remember where this street is though. Someplace in Kenwood, I think. Near Lake of the Isles. My parents still prefer my art from this period. I was a completely different artist then.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Tin-Toy Santa

I've said that I like to paint toys, tin-toys especially. Usually the toys are completely invented, but I think this one might be real. Maybe a hybrid of more than one toy item. It's hard to make Santa interesting. It helps if you can transform him in some way, changing the color of his suit, or putting him in a different mode of transportation, a goat for instance. I sent this one out as a Christmas card one year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Reindeer Shopping

I did this reindeer as a holiday card for Graphique de France some years ago. Except for the antlers this is a self-portrait.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Geography of Christmas

I did this as a black and white map first. I published a black and white card line for several years, and still like doing plain, unelaborated line art. But Graphique de France asked me to do some cards for them and this was one that I thought would look good in color. I also did maps of London, Paris, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles for them. The geography of Christmas required some invention. I especially like the town of Yes, Virginia. As in "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." If any one is mystefied by anything I included, please ask. All details relate to something specific in the popular culture.

Toys Toys Toys

When I can't think what to ask for for Christmas I ask for toys. Tintoys, Dinky Cars, cast metal toy soldiers. Somewhere, in a drawer probably, I have a set of elastolin zoo animals I found at an estate sale years ago; I should find them and put them out. It's a toy time of year. I did this motorcyclist for a designer friend who likes motorcycles. I should maybe offer my services as a toy portraitist. Is there such a thing?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Carolers, Zebras, Thompson Gazelles

Another spot from that holiday issue of Town & Country. The story was about caroling at the zoo. (A hard thing to photograph.) I suppose exotic animals enjoy traditional carols as much as anyone.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I did this for Town & Country several years ago, and I can't remember if they used it or not. It may have been one of those sketches that didn't get picked but I liked enough to paint anyway.

I used to treat our living room manger scene like a toy theatre, arranging and rearranging the figures, enacting family dramas: "Why didn't the shepherds bring a gift?" "Why didn't you check ahead for a hotel room?" Etc. A godlike propensity I have shaken since.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ginger Cookies, etc.

I spent the weekend eating ginger cookies and watching some favorite old movies. I did this for Chronicle Books. Note the line is done with pen; that dates it to the early/mid '90s. I like brushed line better. I love doing title cartouches. I also collect books with illustrated title pages like this.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Heroic Bust

The Orientalist is an obsolete idea. Picture a dilettante collecting bits of the mysterious East and putting them around his house, under glass and on shelves, bound in books. It's easier to contemplate people when you convert them into objects first. Which, I guess, is the process I used here. I've never thought of myself as a realist illustrator. It's been useful to come up with devices for getting around life drawing, drawing from life. One of my favorites is to imagine the person or persons in a scenario as toys or bits of Staffordshire pottery. This justifies the stiffness of the pose and the unreality of the situation I've put them into, and lets me get on with the metaphor or the meaning. Is this any different than Hitchcock treating actors as cattle? I can't remember whose portrait I drew this from, but it may have been Horace Walpole. The turban makes me think of Oliver Goldsmith.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Bit Whimsical

It's not a bad description of this kind of illustration. I don't know why, but I sometimes felt it was a bit of a slur. Whimsical. Made me sound less serious. Not that I am serious, but you know what I mean. If I remember, this was drawn for a Japanese client. Used to get lots of calls for character illustration from Japan. I called this character Mr. Leaf. The thing about this pencil technique, it suggests more than it explains. Sometimes it's hard to suggest something implausible with a concrete line, if you follow me. But the eye takes a pencil line on faith. I guess that's what makes it whimsical.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Another Skier

This is what is known as a "kick turn." A basic maneuver nobody does anymore. Again, the pencil and watercolor style, which I love but hardly ever get to use.