Friday, February 26, 2010

Grand Dames

A couple of blue-blooded dowagers as seen in the tabloids and Marx Brothers movies.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Begs For Animation

Something about the ephemeral line, the little smudge of fingerprint (or is it sweat?) around the edges of the drawing, suggests animation. Drawing is temporary to begin with. It's less permanent than paint. A scrap of paper, a pencil pulled from a pocket, something seen that won't be there in a moment. So why not animate the pencil drawing itself? Of course I didn't see this guy in his running shorts; I made him up. I gave him that serious expression, the average physique, the short socks and shorter shorts. I drew him and as a joke on him I put that chair in his way. He hadn't expected it, believe me. Someone will need to animate him for us to find out if he cleared it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympic Fatigue

Maybe it's the costumes. Or the announcers. The short skis. The kiss and cry. The earth-shaking achievements of athletes on snowboards. Are they athletes? Are bowlers athletes? Was Evel Knievel an athlete? Do I have an opinion?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Man and Horn

There is something about pencil line. It seems to come right out of the imagination, without hesitation or thought or technique.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Metaphor (With Shoe)

Sometimes a little drawing will surprise you. I mean, what is this supposed to mean? Is he downtrodden? Is he a creative director for Kenneth Cole? Is he channeling Philip Guston? Whatever. I drew it on Friday and have felt smug about it all weekend. Not a bad feeling. Anybody who looks at art gets to make up his own mind what it's about. I hope you like it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

An Eager Student

I remember one kid who not only raised his hand and waved it; sometimes he'd start running down the aisle towards the teacher's desk. He didn't always have the answer, but he thought he did. Maybe I should write a story about him. I didn't raise my hand very often. Probably because I was too busy drawing airplanes and battleships. I still do airplanes once in a while, but I haven't been asked to draw a battleship in years.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tailor's Dummy

Fashion furniture like this invites a bit of Joan Miro, a bit of Max Beckman, reducing a thing made of fabric into a piece of machinery. It isn't easy because fashion is so vertical and drapy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Birds in Tree

I'm a student of patterns. How leaves fill a tree's interior space, how vines occupy a fence, how blackbirds organize themselves in flocks, organic and inorganic patterns like brickwork and windows on tall buildings, the way people sprawl across grassy spaces. Knowing the algorithm for such things would ruin it. Everything can be reduced to numbers, but I'd rather paint them. Patterns are reassuring, which is why we put them on wallpaper and fabrics and wine labels and dishes. Pattern is the counter-argument to randomness and disorder. I often insert an element of imperfection, though, to keep it from seeming precious. There are dead branches lopped off here and there and I don't think the birds like each other very much.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day

There are a couple of days a year when you are allowed to be this sentimental.

Friday, February 12, 2010


They say exercise is good for you. I did this illustration for a seniors magazine. The editors might have been visualizing a circle of old people doing something with colorful scarves. But that would be unambitious, the sort of thing you ask a photographer to capture. An illustrator can get a well-toned septuagenarian to lift 500 pounds. Easy. Kind of makes you think.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Life's Merry-Go-Round

Carnivals. Cute children, cotton candy, games, carefree summer nights, singing crickets, carnival barkers advertising rigged games of skill, carnies, sideshow freaks, crime, carnality. This illustration leaves out the darker side, which is what calendar art does. Leave the other side to films like Gun Crazy and Strangers on a Train.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Think Warm Thoughts

It's snowing a foot an hour in New York today, and I'm sending my friends there encouraging thoughts and instructions, like how to sit comfortably atop a steam radiator, how to thaw frozen extremities while eating an elegant lunch. Sometimes it's best to think of warmer places. In this economic climate I don't know how many beach vacations are in my future but I can still draw them when called upon. Unlike a photographer I do not need to be flown to a tropical island to conjure a woman in a swimsuit, but if flown I will conjure her even more convincingly than this. I did this calendar for a Japanese client back when Japanese clients published calendars.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chap in Turtleneck and Goatee

You see the type hanging around gallery openings and book signings, looking more like the artist than the artist himself. I don't think I have the seriousness required to wear a goatee successfully, and my sportcoats only leave my closet for funerals. I wear turtlenecks in the studio––for warmth and comfort only. I envy people who get to put on the full costume and look important in public. Drawing figures like this in my sketchbook is a way of pretending.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Movie Business

I did this for the LA Times a few years ago. The story was about how everybody wanted to be a movie producer. Tell me about it. Bold, simple art like this can really liven up a page of gray newsprint.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gardening Thoughts

It's snowing out today and everything looks like its coated with sugar. It's a kind way to describe transportation hell. Luckily my studio is just upstairs. For those of you who are tired of boots and winter coats, here is a little bit of Spring. I painted this for House & Garden I think. The article was about the civilized crime of stealing cuttings from other people's gardens, which I don't think is a felony in most states. My own backyard is full of blue violets stolen from my grandfather's backyard in Wisconsin forty years ago. Twenty years ago they moved again from my parents backyard in the suburbs to my city lot. The transportation of violets out of Wisconsin actually is a crime because the violet is the state flower. I remember worrying the cops were going to pull us over. They didn't and the statute of limitations is hopefully up by now.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Terrible Horrible Edie, take two

This cover illustration is very different from the one I posted yesterday. Same artist, same brushes, same drawing board, same colors even. Sometimes the line is less smooth, less liquid. It has to do with the brush I pick up, probably one that's been roughed up a bit, but occasionally the paint is simply different, as if it decides "today I'm going to clot and dry quickly on the brush." It might have something to do with the humidity. I've been doing this for thirty years and I can't explain it.

An artist wants predictability and uniformity. But art is better when the artist isn't on auto-pilot. I painted something the other day which came out very differently than I expected. The sky glopped up on me and overlapped the buildings, some of the lines looked like I'd painted them with a stick, some were as fine as a single sable filament. I hurried on, didn't slow down to force the medium to behave, hurried to finish it off as an experiment. The awkwardness infused something special into the picture. Now all I need to do is remember how it happened so I can go there again.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Terrible Horrible Edie, take one

I got a call from New York Review Books last fall. One of my favorite publishers. Not only for lovely intelligent books adults read but the neglected children's classics, like this one. I'd never read it before. Not that I avoided books with girls in them. One of my favorites was (and is) "Mistress Masham's Repose" by T. H. White. Anyway, it was pure pleasure to try to capture Edie. Not as terrible or horrible as you might think, at least not unless provoked. I liked the sketches so much that I painted them all. The book is supposed to appear some time in the fall, with another illustration I painted for it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Book of Ages

When Whitney Cookman was designing the cover of my book in 2007 I showed him several of my dot paintings. He liked this one and used it. It has an apt pointillism; the book is, after all, a 300 page accumulation of pointed anecdotes, unrelated but linked by the accident of being placed next to each other, having taken place in the same year-of-age. What plot the book sustains is invented in the readers mind. The stories are amusing and bite-sized, like the candy the cover art seems to suggest. The paperback edition, published today by Three Rivers Press, has a different cover with a bright orange balloon on it, not painted by me. The balloon is supposed to push the idea that A Book of Ages is a perfect birthday gift, and it is that. Subtlety doesn't usually sell a million copies. But I did like the candy-colored dots.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Palm with a Dry Brush

There is a texture you can only get with a dry brush. It's hell on the brush, but the effect is interesting and delicate. I think this would be an interesting image for the cover of a book. It's a palm tree viewed through parted curtains, at night. One of a series painted for gallery sale.