Monday, October 31, 2011

Werewolf. There Wolf. There Castle.

I do a regular back page illustration for the Macalester College magazine, art directed by Brian Donahue. This essay by a Mac grad was about the author's penchant for writing werewolf novels. There was no other way I could possibly illustrate this, other than, perhaps, having the author turning into a wolf herself. But, in reality, it's always the husbands of authors who turn into werewolves at the full moon. Here's the preliminary sketch I did, which I also like a lot. Horror can be funny. Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I remember painting these several years ago. I was experimenting with negative imagery, painting the dark around a lit object, around a lit face or figure, landscapes at night, using a brush loaded up with Ivory Black. The subject inevitably came around to ghosts. Cutting the eyes out of a photograph does the same thing; we are suddenly looking at a dead thing.

I can remember films using this simple idea to arresting effect, no commentary needed. When the eyes are gone, the person isn't there anymore, or that is the intent, as if the eyes are the repository of the soul. (I wrote a short story around this idea recently. I love ghost stories.) These images and several others were published in The Believer a couple of years ago. The story hasn't been published yet, although half of my published stories do have ghosts of one kind or another in them. Mostly the ones I've had published in Australia for some reason. Happy Halloween. Enjoy your parties.

Friday, October 28, 2011


I find myself asking a recurring question these days: Where are our intellectuals? Where is the Einstein of economics, someone who could speak to people in the streets one night and influence Congress the next? Joseph Stiglitz has shown up at Zucotti Park, and Paul Krugman has been right about this economy for years in the New York Times, but nobody acts on what they say. I guess Nobel Prizes don't bring the influence they used to. Or maybe we just lack the critical mass. When Einstein said "time is curved!" millions of Americans didn't pray him down. I think our problem with economic science is that so many economists are wholly owned subsidiaries of hedge funds in Greenwich, Connecticut. Too many of our financial experts live in the large, nicely furnished pockets of the expensive suits worn by market billionaires. That, I think, is what I was illustrating here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Little Place in the Country

One of Winston Churchill's ancestors built this house to reward himself for winning a battle at a place called Blenheim. This was at a time when being a general could make you very rich. If you look at Eisenhower's modest house near Gettysburg you see that generaling has gotten less remunerative.

Blenheim Palace is larger than the house the Queen lives in. We visited Blenheim some years ago. The thing I remember is Winston's toy soldier collection which is displayed in a glass case in the hall. He was born there because his mother happened to be visiting at the time. Winston's people were poor relations. He wrote bestsellers for a living. He wasn't given huge sums or a palace for saving democracy. When he was P.M. he lived in a poky little house in a side street in Whitehall.

I classify people into two categories: cabin rich and cabin poor, depending on whether they have a place in the country. We do not have one, but I've been known to draw pictures in exchange for weekends. The Duke of Marlborough hasn't called to invite us yet.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bang Bang!

I suppose this image is about causality. The trigger is pulled, the talking head comes out and says Bang! What's so hard to understand? I drew this at a moment when Americans were confused about why triggers get pulled when they really should have wondered why so many guns were loaded and carried to begin with. But again the talking heads got themselves on TV and explained why our rights were more important than life itself. Why do we listen? Who pays them to talk? What would Abraham Lincoln have to say about the right to conceal and carry?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Irish Spirits

This my the latest "Untranslatable" illustration for, art directed and edited by Lucy Sisman and Tamara Glenny. There is a lot of the ineffable about these untranslatable expressions, which makes the drawing more fun. The topic was the Irish penchant for the no longer living but never really dead, "Neamhbeo." I won't even attempt the pronunciation. I tried first to think of some Irish iconography that didn't involve leprechauns or shamrocks. Guinness came to mind, not the strongest of Irish drinks, not really a spirit, but instantly evocative. The clay pipe offered a playful source for a voice balloon containing the ghostly eyes spoken of in the text. Allusiveness works better than concrete detail when describing the ineffable, the intangible, the spiritual. I added the crescent moon as a last touch, a bit of moonshine which is what the whole conversation is about. Sláinte! (pr. "slan-jah)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Every Day

"He that has and a little tiny wit--
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,--
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
For the rain it raineth every day."

This song from Shakespeare was running through my head while I was doing this bit of lettering and decorating it with leaves and flowers. It's from Lear (although I remember it better from the Richard Eyre film version of Twelfth Night.) Whatever: it will almost suffice for a present day that has very little philosophy in it. Do your work, every day, rain or fair weather. And enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I did this map for the contents page of the special Istanbul issue of Das Magazin in Zurich. The art direction was by Christian Haas at Raffinerie. It's interesting to do a map of a place I've never been to in a language I've never been able to read. But it turned out rather well, I think. I especially like the letterforms I created, and the varied size and heft of them. I'd still love to visit sometime. I've read about the place enough, I think I'd know my way around.