Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An Old Map of a New City

Well, new-ish. People don't realize that L.A. was a few orange groves and unpaved streets a hundred years ago. Fewer realize the discovery of oil made it into a city. Movies were incidental. I did this map years ago when I was doing regular maps for Rolling Stone. I've come back around to this kind of linework, but now do it in pencil, mostly. There is something wonderful about pictorial shorthand. It's almost hieroglyphic.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Portrait of a Crowd

People in an elevator? It looks like that. Actually it's a thumbnail from a drawing I did depicting America's suspicion of otherness. Our suspicion of immigrants and other ethnicities and other religions. When it comes right down to it, we are not very tolerant here, despite being a nation made up of others and immigrants, a nation founded by free thinkers, founded to welcome other religions. Divide and conquer is an ugly strategy, except it works very well. Especially when there is money behind it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Eccentric Architecture

I posted the pencil drawing of this old mansion a few months ago and just recently added color. Like a Ben Shahn drawing of an old man or David Stone Martin's jazz musicians, or jazz itself, the trick is in the slight distortions, the imperfect details, the odd angles. An interesting drawing isn't necessarily a direct quotation from life. Same with the color. Picking orange gave the image more life. Leaving the other colors in more subdued hues make the orange brighter. There is a "thingness" about architecture, about individual buildings, that's harder to capture with a camera. Painted portraits are looking for something the lens doesn't see.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mr. Park Ranger

When I think of park rangers I think of Yogi Bear and a song starts going through my head. It's going through my head now and will continue to for most of the afternoon. Cartoons are a constant influence. Mostly Bullwinkle, but also Quickdraw and Yogi and Babalooey. I've always worked with brush on paper. Adding digital color to a brushed line, as I did in this piece for the Sunday LA Times, brings me closer to the look of flat paint on cartoon cels. It's a bright, interesting look, and a new variation for me. I've always admired people like Seymour Chwast and Steve Guarnaccia for their pure colors, without drying lines. This brings me closer to that too. But I still use a brush and a pencil.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's Inside Our Heads

There are things we can only understand by comparing them to something else, something different but similar in some way. We understand by analogy and metaphor. Science couldn't understand the mechanics of the human heart until the steam engine was invented. The mind is a persistent puzzle because its workings are invisible, but we understand it a bit better because we've created artificial intelligence. The brain works a bit like the internet, with all its imperfections and unreliability. Firing off thoughts, collating them, making judgments, balancing belief and disbelief. I guess that's what this drawing is about. It's a sketch of a floating metaphor. The guy contemplating it from above makes me think of Rembrandt's painting of Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer. I always think of that painting when I pull down our Julia Child cookbook with its photograph of Julia contemplating a lump of bread dough.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Method and Simplicity

Marshall McCluhan said something about media and messages which sounded simple, but it took him a whole book to explain it. Here is a picture that does it more simply. McCluhan's book wasn't really a set of instructions anyway.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Birdy with a yellow bill

I was reading a piece Roy Blount wrote for the Times about E. B. White. He was remembering an essay White wrote about robins, which made me think of this painting I did a few years ago, thinking it would look nice on a magazine cover in April. I associate robins with the New Yorker. Abe Birnbaum did a perfect cover painting of a robin once. Maira Kalman did a wonderful robin too. There is something about the orange and the dark gray just lighter than black, the yellow bill, the spindly yellow legs. I identify with them, apart from the bill, and the orange and dark gray. The way they listen by cocking their heads. The spindly legs I do have.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


If there is a brand icon for public education it would be the yellow schoolbus. Funny they never sued the private and charter schools for brand infringement. Anyway, this is a drawing I did for the New York Times op-ed page (ably art directed by Aviva Michaelov). Sometimes when they choose another drawing from the assortment I present I go back and finish the ones not picked, just for my files, and for my own pleasure. The op-ed pages are black and white, after all, and what is a schoolbus not painted yellow?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fish Photography

I got a call from the New Yorker a few years ago. They wanted a spot illustration on the subject of fish photography. I bet you visualized fish with cameras just as I did.