Monday, November 30, 2009

Downhill

This used to be me. O.K., minus the downhill suit, but otherwise it's me. I didn't ski a downhill more than a few times and it scared the hell out of me. Slalom scared me enough. But there was a mystique about the racing scene. It lost something when the skiers switched to toy-sized skis. Am I revealing a prejudice? Am I old-fashioned? Anyway, this time of year, I do think about it. I remember being a ski racer. I remember being a coach of ski racers, which was less cool than plain freezing. So any opportunity I get to illustrate the sport is a treat. I wrote lengthy, fairly glamorous travel features for Skiing magazine for many years, and all of that seems like a different life now. This illustration appeared in a recent issue of Snow magazine which also featured an article I wrote about ski fashion.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving, the Revised Standard Version

One of my favorite memories from kindergarten and first grade is of the day we spent cutting and coloring paper pilgrims and turkeys and Indians and log cabins for the classroom Thanksgiving mural. The resulting tableau was a mixture of scales and artistic abilities. It didn't matter if it was wrong in its details; this unevenness was what gave it its charm and energy.

Our modern picture of the historic holiday is similarly uneven, and almost entirely wrong. But we tend to love our traditions even––maybe especially––when they are mistaken. We wrap holidays in sentiment and it's hard to correct people's sentimental attachments. It's hard for some people to be reminded that the Pilgrims were incompetent at pioneering or that the founding fathers––Washington, Jefferson and that lot––were a bunch of agnostics and (worse) Unitarians.

I did this illustration for designer Patrick J B Flynn. The article was about the modern revisionist picture of Thanksgiving, so I used iconic toy figures as a starting point. Despite knowing better, I got the same nostalgic Thanksgiving thrill drawing them. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What's For Dinner

I have never shot a pheasant, in anger or otherwise. But I have eaten it and love it. If we had a smaller family we might have pheasant for Thanksgiving. The first time I remember was when my father came home with one from his Saturday golf game. It had been hit by a car and he finished it off mercifully with a golf club, probably a nine iron. It was delicious, and no buckshot. I did this interesting cutaway for an ad agency. The art director loved it so much that he forgot to return the original. Has this ever happened to you? It's theft, but flattering in a way. I enjoyed giving the fowl a diagrammatic treatment. I borrowed liberally from some of those pork and beef ones done for Armour & Co and hung up behind butchers' counters. With jokes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eat Your Veg

I did this for ELDR, a magazine for seniors. Why is it so easy to avoid fruits and vegetables even when they taste good? A relic of teenage rebelliousness? I put healthy things into their own category, and because I'm not a Calvinist I tend to avoid them. When the doctor asks I lie: "Yes, I eat vegetables every day." I categorize chocolate as a vegetable.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Amateur Video

On this day in 1963, Abraham Zapruder used his 8 mm. Bell and Howell movie camera to film the arrival of President John F. Kennedy at the plaza opposite the Texas Book Depository. He filmed for 26 seconds, 486 frames, a little over six feet of film. He sold it to Life magazine for $150,000, and later testified to the Warren Commission, but he was a bystander, as are most of us in the great events of history, and knew very little about what happened. He was 58. Abraham Zapruder appears once in A Book of Ages.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ginger

In a previous century I was asked to illustrate a cookbook for Chronicle. The title was Ginger, and all the recipes were very gingery. I did not cook/mix/prepare everything in the book, but I did go rather overboard illustrating it, to the point where the art directors told me to stop or there wouldn't be room for text at all. I did a whole set of illustrations playing with the word Ginger. This one appeared on the half-title.

Q.E.II and Frida Kahlo

Queen Elizabeth married Prince Philip on this day in 1947. She was 21 and had been in love with him since she was 13. Theirs is an odd and oddly charming relationship. Look at it from his point of view: he's been walking two paces behind this woman for 62 years, waiting for her to talk, minding his manners as best he can. She pays him an allowance. He appears twice in A Book of Ages, she seven times, and several more times in other people's anecdotes. The royal wedding was celebrated in a film starring Fred Astaire, in which the 51 year-old Astaire danced with dumbbells, a hat rack, a framed photograph, a chandelier and Jane Powell (page 194).

The Mexican Revolution began on this day in 1910, not with gunfire but paperwork, a document called the Plan de San Luis Potosi which denounced the president. Painter Frida Kahlo's earliest childhood memory was of gunfire. Her mother served tea to revolutionaries hiding in their garden, details to be found on page 7 in A Book of Ages. (The book is full of revolutionaries, left, right and center.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Noodles

This pair are obviously suspicious of unfamiliar foods. I did this for the Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine for an article about adventurous eating.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pastry Chef & Tarts

For a time I did a lot of illustrations in this pencil style. It had a narrow application and the limitations were hard to explain to art directors. The subject needed to be easy for the eye to comprehend. The handling of color was key. The colors defined the outline of the figure. Done this way, small things like foodstuffs could engage the eye differently without the fuss of a black line. I found if I painted the figure as a Staffordshire ceramic it had sufficient "thingness", almost as if such a frail figure needed a platform to stand on. Anyway, another food illustration; I don't remember where it appeared.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Food Art

I used to do quite a lot of food illustration and I miss it. Makes me a little hungry just thinking about it. I don't know when it tapered off exactly. Maybe I didn't promote myself enough in the category. Do I eat less adventurously than I used to? Probably that too. Here's something from ten years ago. My style hasn't changed much. I still need to remind the rational side of the brain to ignore proportion and common sense. This would be much less interesting if he were frying a normal-sized fish in that little pan. An illustrator's job is to create things you don't see everyday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grown-Ups (Redux)

Illustration for adult readers tends to call for attractive and classically proportioned people––evenly distributed among the usual races and genders. Children's books, meanwhile, are a chance to paint them odd, exaggerated, ugly, scary and funny-looking. Kids think adults are to laugh at, especially when they are depicted as monsters. Illustrating this book I found myself setting the figures at the edge of the frame, off-center, peering in or out. There's probably a deep psychological reason for this.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Terrible Truth About Grown-Ups

This is another alarming but accurate image from my explosive exposé of the menaces and follies of adulthood. It's amazing a civilized society allows grown-ups to vote, much less drive cars and look after children.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Targeting the Globe

Here's a recent image from my sketchbook. Sometimes when I'm doodling I don't know what the drawing is about until I'm done. I can imagine several topics this image could be attached to. The "globe as a plaything" idea turns a bit sinister when you put a gun in the man's hand.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Performance Art

My wife, Faith (the impresario) put this show together to help fund the theatre program at Minneapolis Southwest High School (where our son Evan is in nearly every show, it seems). It was on Sunday night, right on the heels of the Vikings Packer game––which luckily didn't go into overtime. We raised some serious money. I did the art for the posters and the tickets, which Kristi Anderson designed. As always, it was the design that made the art look cool. The show was pretty fabulous, by the way.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Earth As Metaphor

A metaphor for what, you ask. What could Earth be a metaphor for. Earth is more metaphored against than metaphoring, if I can put it that way. It turns up in my drawings a lot. A person, serviceable enough in his or her own right, but standing there to no extended purpose; put a globe in her hand and she is worldly or he is Atlas, or vice versa. I can draw a circle and loop a few shapes inside it, and voila! they are continents and it is Earth. Here is one I did for the Christian Science Monitor and always liked. Especially the fish. I should try to find some other globe images from my files and put them up.