Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Primrose Hill, London

When I was illustrating the covers for NYRB's Kingsley Amis titles I drew a lot more than what ended up being used. This, I believe, was for the collection of stories, but it might just as well have been meant for his novel Ending Up, because this is where Amis ended up: writing in the back garden of the house where he lived in Primrose Hill, London. A house belonging to his ex-wife (Elizabeth Jane Howard) and her new husband, a surprisingly congenial ending for a somewhat irascible character. Note the gin bottle and siphon placed next to his chair. Sara Kramer art directed this series.

This is the sort of drawing which I could imagine working very nicely as a print. I wouldn't mind having it on my own wall (if my own walls weren't so filled with bookcases.) I wouldn't mind writing my late novels in such a setting.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Art For The NYTimes-Nomadic Twentysomethings

I got a call from an old friend (an email, actually) who was designing a page for the New York Times. I'd last worked for Audrey Razgaitis on a spread for Condé Nast Traveler. This was the cover of the Real Estate section of the Times. The story was about twentysomethings living like nomads in the expensive NY real estate market. The picture that popped into my head was of city hipsters wandering with all their worldly goods on their heads. It worked out beautifully I think.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

More Green Things

There was a time in my youth when I enjoyed spending an afternoon in the woods identifying plant life. A sure sign of a pathetic, boring childhood. I was a Nature Boy. So I had to get back in touch with that part of me when the LATimes phoned for this story about garden plants and their uses. Here is where a person asks me if domestic plants are easier to draw than wild plants. Yes, they are better at sitting still so I can draw them.

The next question is Do I pronounce them "herbs" or "erbs"? Yes, I do. This page was art directed by Wesley Bausmith.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Green Metaphors

I did some art a few years ago for a new think tank based in Chicago. The name was Greenhouse, so I set to work thinking of every green metaphor and every way I could incorporate greenness into illustrations of other things. Simplicity of line helps a lot. The simpler the drawing the more metaphor it can convey, because concrete art emphasizes the object and its qualities. Simpler art gets the viewers or readers to ask themselves: what else does this mean? Simple, unelaborated line can also suggest other things, other topics, other meanings. Is this simple to do?  Not really. A simple drawing often reaches that nice evocative simplicity after pages and pages of other versions have wound up on the floor.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Hill Town In Italy

 Architecture is a complex enough puzzle when it's looked at straight on, but that complexity increases when you are looking down a hill or along a street. This explains why those views are the most interesting to look at. Capturing that complexity as simply as possible is the trick. Using fewer colors is a start.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Political Ephemera

I am a close observer of events and politics and often go to bed with the latest outrage in my head. Sometimes I wake up in the night with an idea. Sometimes that idea doesn't take shape until I put pencil to paper the next day. But however quick my response is, the lifespan of a political metaphor can be very short. I send new drawings to my usual clients as soon as I draw them because the topic won't be relevant for long. Each outrage seems to be superseded by a new and greater outrage. I drew a lot of political art from 2000  to 2008, then No-Drama Obama calmed things for eight years, except as outrages were hurled at him by the Republicans. Now a strange outrage factory has moved into the White House and Congress. Here is a drawing I did as information emerged about Attorney General Jefferson Davis Beauregard Sessions and his flirtations with the Russians. New outrages have fallen like hard rain in the days since, making this drawing old news. The quote is adapted from an angry disavowal from the late 90s.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ravel's Birthday

I listen to music while I draw. A lot of Bill Evans and quieter, subtler jazz music like that, but also classical music. Among my favorite classical composers I put Maurice Ravel very near the top. Art requires nuance and Ravel is all nuance, subtle variations, nothing obvious or insistent or clichéd or overly sentimental. I've spent years removing these things from my art and listening to Ravel and others like him has helped. Here is a drawing I did from a photograph of Ravel.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

City Landscape

Views like this appeal to me. The receding perspective isn't carried by handsome fronts of houses and boulevard elms, it's garages and garbage cans and telephone poles. This time of year there isn't any softening texture of foliage, it's all lines and planes and fissures.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Leap Into 2017

I drew this for Tilka Design, art directed by Ingrid Noble.
Having been a ski writer for 20 years I thought this was a perfect metaphor for what they wanted to say. (Be bold and don't look down.)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Drawing of a Fiddler

I did this drawing from an old photograph, adding the pipe. Sometimes I add a pipe, sometimes a bird perched on the top of the person's head.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

New Year's Card

I did this New Year's card for Thebe&Co, a local design firm run by Beth Desnick and Thea Nelson. They are a pleasure to work with by the way.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Money Metaphor

The client for this was the Milken Institute, an investment think tank. The article was about managing funds in a balanced way so they don't become topheavy, and the risks of removing pieces from a complex structure.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Eeny Meeny

I did this drawing a couple years ago for Macalester College. 

Art directed by Julie Underdahl.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pet Sounds

Maybe that's what I ought to listen to when I do these occasional assignments for Family Circle. I am getting pretty  good at dogs and cats. Pigs are easy. I still have difficulty with horses. This feature was about service pets, which is pets who are helpful and kind to humans because they are paid to be. Art directed by Dana Einsidler and Lisa Kelsey.

I Drew My Way Through School

This is a drawing I did for an education magazine a year or two ago, and looking at it again reminded me how I experienced school. I did not take to it at first. Finally a teacher found she could get me to sit still and shut up by letting me draw. She asked me to draw portraits of the presidents while she taught the other students.* My parents were dubious about this but I accepted the deal with huge relief. We were all relieved. I was the kind of student that made teachers look like this teacher in the drawing. (By the way, I am working on a book about the presidents now. It was fated.)

*By the way, by focusing on drawing I actually listened better. My test scores improved. My grades climbed up into the A and B range. I suspect everybody's grades improved. I think it may have restored a few years to Mrs. Maggard's life.