Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beasts of Burden

I did this illustration for Milwaukee magazine about ten years ago, for a story explaining how upper employee costs are shifted to justify lower wages and benefits further down the pay scale. This described it pretty well, I think. I doubt the practice has gone away.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Aubergine, Tomato and Herbs

I did this art for a Ginger cookbook I illustrated for Chronicle some years ago. A fun project, a lovely book, with illustrations on just about every page. Makes me hungry. You? I used to do a lot more food illustrations. I miss it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

Handmade Covers

When a book I want to read has a cover I dislike I wind up disliking the book, not wanting to read it. Does this make me superficial? Am I fussy? Reading is a sensual experience, which means it's visual too. What are eyes for? When I hate a cover I redo it. I cover it up and do a cover design of my own. The manila envelope is a bit primitive, but I like the feel of the paper, and the color reminds me of all the SASE's that went out and came back with short stories I'd written. I've used some of these. I don't get elaborate. Usually it's simple penmanship––or pencilmanship. This cover obscures an ugly cheap paperback edition from the 1980s. I decided Nancy Mitford deserved better.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Bastille Day

This is one of the many wine column illustrations I did for the late and much-lamented Gourmet magazine. It was a delightful gig over many years. But magazines never send illustrators to France. This column was about the rivalry between French and American wines. Art directed by the suave and avuncular Irwin Glusker.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

3-D Chrome-Plated Lettering

There is a series of paintings in a tin box in my studio (recovered with much effort after the bankruptcy of the gallery that represented me here in Minneapolis), line variations drawn in gouache on 10" square Arches paper. I've shown them here before. It's surprising to me how abstract lines can conjure so many different kinds of complexity, botanical, metallic, fleshy, nubile, kinetic. Two adjacent lines suggest two dimensions, three lines in concert conjure space. The fun is in avoiding what common perspective wants the lines to represent.

By attaching a visible side to both edges of a letterform, which is something more concrete, and giving the whole thing a twist, you are using Picasso's tricks, which are the same tricks Frank Gehry uses with architecture. This may be why this particular lettering exercise makes me think of Bilbao. I was never very good at perfect lettering. Inability makes an artist better at breaking rules. So I like breaking letterforms apart, twisting them, stretching them. Put on your 3D glasses and tell me how this looks. (I'm accepting gallery queries for my tin box of paintings. Suitable for framing.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

POETRY magazine

My bird's eye view of a suburban streetscape was selected for the cover of the July/August issue of POETRY magazine. It was art directed by Alex Knowlton of Winterhouse Design.

I have always loved doing bird's eye views, and having grown up in a leafy suburb of winding drives and midcentury houses I have an affection for the variety of domestic architecture found there. It's funny, because as I was growing up among the ramblers and mock colonials I much preferred the clapboard architecture of small towns. I now live in a city neighborhood that feels like a small town, and my drives into the suburbs are visits into a past that used to feel too modern.

This drawing was the first in a series following a road into the city, each panel beginning where the previous one left off, describing the relation of the houses to the road and each other, with the road creating a continuous ribbon through diverse neighborhoods, rural, suburban and urban residential, retail, business, industrial. I hope to publish them all together as a book some day. But looking at this one on its own, I realize there is a kind of poetry in the way the houses and the lives contained in them attach to the ribbon of traffic, almost like words assembled to a frame, but not quite rhyming, free verse.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sometimes I pick up a pencil differently, with two fingers instead of three opposing the thumb. The hand draws less well without the full group I'm used to using. When you look at the hand it doesn't seem like all the fingers even have a job to do. A couple of them appear to be doing nothing, but if you remove one the line looks odd; interesting but looser, less clear, a bit drunken. The pinky finger never does anything, but I've never considered lopping it off. If all four fingers and thumb are used to write or draw they form a fist and fists have no fluidity of motion.

I like how the line looks close up.

And closer up