Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Regarding He-Man and Warren Buffett

Wow! Two posts in one day. That's a record for me. Usually it's outstanding if I post twice a week. So here's my piece in the current Fortune:

The story is on the new social networking site Relationship Science, or RelSci. Interested? Well, do you also have an extra $3,000 to spend? No? Don't feel bad, neither do I. But that's what it costs for a yearly membership. The site is billed as a networking tool for the so-called Masters of the Universe. No, not He-Man and Man-At-Arms, more like Warren Buffett or Jeff Bezos. The super wealthy.

I took a peek at the RelSci website, and used their particular "connection" graphic to relate the piece to the company.

 The editors wanted to make sure we weren't suggesting LinkedIn with the illustration, as they're two completely different companies. Connecting the two tycoons' monocles worked out great. Thank you so much to my old buddy Josue, who ADed.

Work on your putz

I've been really, really busy these last couple weeks, so I wasn't able to post this when it was fresh, but here's a piece for Conde Nast's Golf World:

The article discusses Match Play, and the need to update the rules. Bringing back the stymie is one suggestion. For those of you that don't golf (like me), a stymie is an old rule stipulating that when one player's ball is blocking the hole from another player's ball, it cannot be lifted. The opposing player must slice, chip, or draw the putt around the obstacle ball.

Thank you to Tim, the AD on this, as well as my buddy Pete Ryan, for the referral! I have a piece in the current issue of Fortune, that I'll try to get posted ASAP. Same bat time, same bat channel...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ape on the moon

Any one out there considering themselves an illustration fan, if you aren't aware of Ape On The Moon, give yourself two demerits. It's a blog out of London devoted to showcasing illustration from around the world. As they put it: "Ape on the Moon believes in the value of quality, leading edge illustration, and in supporting and promoting those people that create it." I heard from Philip Dennis, an illustrator himself, and one of the gentlemen that runs the site, that a post about my work is up today.

I'm extremely honored to be included among the many, many talented people that Ape on the Moon has featured. There are tons of great artists to have been included, so search through their posts. Thanks again, Ape on the Moon!

Ape on the Moon believes in the value of quality, leading edge illustration, and in supporting and promotingI learned from Philip at AOTM that a post about my work is up today.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oh the thinks you can't think

This piece for the current edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education illustrates the paradox of teaching critical thinking in a tightly controlled society, like China:

 The story explains the difficulty China is meeting with when venturing to teach people to think creatively and outside of the box, while at the same time limiting just how much they can question. As the article recalls, a recent Time story asked: China makes everything. Why can't it create anything? The government has since begun attempts to rectify the problem, by teaching students to think critically- just not about the Chinese government. You can read it here, with a subscription. Thank you, Ellen!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Don't mess with Texas...

... because they don't have health insurance if they get hurt. Just kiddin', Tejano friends! Anyway, this edition of the Dallas Observer is out in newsstands today. My illustration on the cover is for a story on the uphill battle the new Affordable Care Act- dubbed "Obamacare"- has in front of it in Texas.

As Tea Partiers and conservative Republicans in Texas work to dismantle and defund the new health care law, people with limited or no access to medical treatment, and don't qualify for Medicaid, are being left to fall through the cracks. As the story states: "Texas' decision not to expand Medicaid has left more than 1 million people in the gap, uninsured." Texas already stands as the country's least insured state. From the article: "... Texas boasts the highest rate of uninsured residents (about 23 percent, or 6.2 million) as well as the highest number of uninsured children (some 852,000)." Pretty sad. You can read the whole story here. Thank you, Tracie!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why? Why was I programmed to feel pain?

This piece appears in today's Op-Ed section of the Boston Globe. The article discusses the growing phenomenon that views robots as beings worthy of our empathy. There are citizens waiting for the moment that robots are given artificial intelligence, in order to introduce legislation protecting them, as well as a thriving sexbot industry in some countries.

 People aren't even waiting for robots to become sentient through AI, before forming bonds with them. The story mentions soldiers that served with IED-detecting robots in Afghanistan, that become attached to their mechanical comrades, and a study that shows how reticent people are to "harm" toy robots that they've been given. It's a really interesting article, you can read it here with a subscription.

Thank you to Corinne!
Also, I couldn't help thinking about a Simpsons episode when reading this story:

It's the one where Lisa finds an "angel" on her school archeological dig.

Monday, February 3, 2014

In the dark

This month's Milwaukee Magazine is on newsstands now, and includes an illustration I did for an article on the Prison Rape Elimination Act. The story explains how the law requires states to keep track of sexual abuse and rape allegations. And although numbers of reports have increased, investigators are still in the dark about the issue, because many incidents remain difficult to substantiate.

So how do you illustrate "prison rape?" I knew it was going to be an interesting story and was excited to be on board, but I was a little panicked about how to tastefully convey the concept. I didn't want the image to come off as cheesy or funny, by relying on something akin to "don't drop the soap." Two hands holding cell bars is pretty instantly recognizable as relating to prison, and two more hands on the outside of the first pair worked well to suggest something more going on. Showing only the hands and nothing else inside the cell also helped to reinforce the idea of investigators not knowing what's really going on with regard to the allegations.
Thank you, Krista!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Let's shake on it

This illustration for The Los Angeles Times appeared in yesterday's Envelope section. The story follows the release of several films involving con artists in recent weeks: Blue Jasmine, American Hustle, and of course The Wolf of Wall Street.

Believe it or not, this image did not come easily. What follows is a series of missteps, almost theres, and not quites:

These sketches focused more on the mention in the article of various awards that movies featuring con men have garnered over the years. One and two are attempts at showing that the flashier con men do better than the low key figures, when it comes to critical and audience acclaim.

This round focuses more on the consequences of the con men's actions, and how they ultimately become victims of their own greed (with the exception of the Wall St bull with award laurels for horns), but they still don't capture the main theme running through not only the article but the movies' storylines. Plus, we wanted to include a wolf somehow, since The Wolf of Wall Street was a slightly bigger piece of the story than the other two films. So after pulling out some hair, cursing myself, and pacing back in forth in front of my sketchbook, an idea hit me and I scribbled this pathetic doodle:

I tightened the "sketch" and sent it in. That was it. To quote my AD Wes: "Bingo." Finally.
Thank you to Wes for his always helpful insight, his ability to steer my frantic thinking towards a more coherent direction, and especially, his patience.
Happy New Year to all! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Slavery in Movies

This piece is out in today's L.A. Times, for an article on how slavery has historically been depicted in movies:

The story reviews movies that dealt with the "peculiar institution," going back to Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1903, through 2012's Lincoln, and how the vast majority shy away from showing the true brutality of slavery. Excepting Tarantino's Django or the television classic Roots, the few that did explicitly show the violence and barbarity, such as Amistad, weren't box office draws. Up until now, Hollywood has preferred not to risk putting off audiences with such scenes of depravity. Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave changes all that by putting the reality of the brutality of slavery at the forefront. You can read the article here.

After turning in the sketches, it was a toss up between numbers 1, 3, and 5. We ultimately went with number one, obviously, but I think the other two would have worked out as well. They focused more on the idea of the most offensive aspects of slavery being hidden or cut out of movies.
It was a great assignment to work on. Thank you, Wes!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Monosyllabic Palahniuk Series

As promised, here are the monosyllabic titles of Chuck Palahniuk:

I suppose Doomed and Damned are technically only one syllable too. But they are longer words, and don't go with the four to five letter titles I chose. Plus, I've already read these books, and I haven't read Doomed or Damned. Like my Vonnegut Fortitude and DeLillo White Noise pieces, these are personal projects, not commissioned by anyone. I've been a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk's writing for a long time, and lately I've been having a good time basing personal projects around books and stories. These are strictly for fun, and exercising the creative muscles that tend to atrophy if they're not flexed in new and different ways than they're used to working.

Choke, from the overview: "Victor Mancini, a medical-school dropout, is an antihero for our deranged times. Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be “saved” by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for Victor’s life, go on to send checks to support him. When he’s not pulling this stunt, Victor cruises sexual addiction recovery workshops for action, visits his addled mom, and spends his days working at a colonial theme park."

 My idea for this one came fairly quickly. Using the fork prongs to double as legs, positioned in a very suggestive manner, dawned on me almost immediately.

Rant, from the overview: "A high school rebel who always wins (and a childhood murderer?), Rant Casey escapes from his small hometown of Middleton for the big city. He becomes the leader of an urban demolition derby called Party Crashing. On appointed nights participants recognize one another by such designated car markings as "Just Married" toothpaste graffiti and then stalk and crash into each other. Rant Casey will die a spectacular highway death, after which his friends gather testimony needed to build an oral history of his short, violent life. Their collected anecdotes explore the possibility that his saliva caused a silent urban plague of rabies and that he found a way to escape the prison of linear time..."

This image took a bit longer to get to. I was going back and forth on which themes or bits of the story to reference for a while. I was pretty much stuck on the "biohazard" symbol, and wanted to include it in some way. I finally noticed that it looks a lot like a steering wheel, and made a great vehicle (pun intended) for implying Rant's involvement in Party Crashing- and the fact that he may or may not have used his car as a way to time travel into the past.

Snuff, from the overview: "Cassie Wright, porn priestess, intends to cap her legendary career by breaking the world record for serial fornication. On camera. With six hundred men. Snuff unfolds from the perspectives of Mr. 72, Mr. 137, and Mr. 600, who await their turn on camera in a very crowded green room. This wild, lethally funny, and thoroughly researched novel brings the huge yet underacknowledged presence of pornography in contemporary life into the realm of literary fiction at last."

This idea also came fairly quickly. I was initially toying with images of movie cameras, clapperboards, boom mikes, and beds. Then I started thinking about how the 600 men were waiting in line for their... uh, turn, thought about "take a number" tabs, and how they almost look like the droopy tip of a condom. If you're not familiar with the book, Mr. 600, a former porn star himself, shaves his pubes.

I've heard Chuck Palahniuk's writing described as minimalist. He  has a utilitarian way of constructing his prose. I wanted this series to reflect the simplicity and minimalism of his writing style.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"'Twenty Common Mistakes About the End of the World'"

As I had mentioned in a previous post about a piece based on the Vonnegut short story "Fortitude," lately I've been interested in playing around with illustrations for various written works. I also recently came across the 50 Watts blog, and the Polish book cover contest in particular. I came across it too late to enter the contest, which took place in 2011, but it looks like it would have been a lot of fun. It got me thinking about what book I would have worked on, had I entered. Who's to say what I really would have done two years ago, but I settled on White Noise by Don DeLillo. One of my favorite novels, I could have taken it a hundred different directions, but chose to keep it fairly simple as I addressed the themes of death, and consumer culture and mass media- television in particular:

Are you old enough to remember seeing "off-the-air" screens on t.v.? It really wasn't that long ago. I was thinking about referencing everything from the black cloud of Nyodene D., to the cage of poisonous snakes that Orest Mercator plans to immerse himself in, to the bottle of Dylar, but finally settled on this. Like I said, I wanted it to be simple, and of course fairly conceptual, because dammit I just can't help myself. An off-the-air screen forming the grimace of the Angel of Death, or Grim Reaper if you prefer. I also tried out various title treatments, but I just fell in love with this one. I wasn't necessarily trying to make it look like a Polish book cover, because let's face it, the contest is long over. And entering contests that ended two years ago is a little sad. But I've been influenced by Polish and Czech design for a long time, so it would have come out in my work whether I was in the contest or not. You can see winning entries to the contest here. Check them out, and read White Noise!

Stay tuned for more projects based on literary works. I'll be posting a personal series I recently finished on the monosyllabic titles of Chuck Palahniuk: Choke, Rant and Snuff. Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Turning legalese, I think I'm turning legalese

I recently worked on a couple pieces for Corporate Counsel, which should be out now. One was for an article urging those in legal departments to write in plain English, as opposed to legalese. Even if the person reading the documents is a lawyer, staying clear of the technical jargon will be greatly appreciated.

The second illustration accompanied an article about a recent SEC rule that would have made U.S. mining and petroleum companies disclose if they had given money to foreign governments, but was vacated by a federal judge. The article explains that the rule provided much needed transparency, and followed rules adopted in many European countries. The author further adds that the SEC should re-propose the rule, in order to get back on "the transparency rails."

 As you can see in my sketches above, I was originally focusing on the transparency angle, as well as the fact that it affected mining companies (what with the canary and all). But the editor wanted the image to keep with the metaphor of a train from the article title, and have the focus be more on the U.S. versus the European countries. Since it emphasized how the U.S. is now falling way behind, with regard to transparency, I thought it would work well to show the Euro countries in the form of a high speed train, and the U.S. as a slow pump car. I suppose it would work for a story about our actual train/transportation system as well.
Thank you so much, Paul! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Homepage bound

I meant to post this earlier in the week, but never got the time. I've occasionally done illustrations for banners on the homepage of the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law site. Here are a few of them:

For a celebration of the fifth anniversary of the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights. They wanted it to include something evoking the idea of signing a constitution (like a quill pen). So this came together easily enough.

For a conference on cyber-bullying. Pretty self-explanatory. We've come so far since the days of "kick me" signs. Now we can torment each other in comments sections and Facebook posts!

For a new program on international law and business studies. They wanted the image to include the idea of finance or the stock market, with the financial center of a city.

Here's the homepage, which is at the moment featuring the David Asper Centre banner. The banners are only up temporarily, so if you look and it's no longer up, it would have looked a little something like this:

Thank you, Lucianna!

Monday, July 22, 2013

What we do is secret

This piece for the Boston Globe's Sunday Op-Ed section was a really quick turnaround. Last Wednesday afternoon/evening, basically. The op-ed is about the Senate meeting that took place out of view of the public, behind closed doors, at night. And something was actually accomplished! The GOP agreed to confirm Obama's appointees for various posts, in exchange for the ability to filibuster. The author suggests that transparency in politics may not be such a good thing:

It's an interesting thought, and I was eager to try my hand at representing the idea visually. Here are the other sketches:

I liked the idea of showing the Capitol blurred, obstructing public view. I also tried using the "off the air" screen over the Capitol, since the meeting took place late at night, off camera- although that may have worked better had this piece been in color. The last sketch shows how the politicians' statements being redacted leads to agreement. The point of the article is that our leaders grandstand and ape for the cameras far too much for any compromise to be achieved. SOAPBOX ALERT: While I do agree that playing to the cameras, and offering sound bites instead of solutions can be extremely frustrating (and this was a meeting about confirming nominees and filibuster rules, not drafting some specific legislation), I personally disagree with the premise. It all seems so backwards nowadays. Private citizens' every electronic communication can be collected, stored and analyzed, with barely any oversight, much less a warrant, and we're expected to allow our elected officials- whom we've hired to work on our behalf- to conduct business in the dark?
Thank you to Greg and Dan for the assignment!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back in the USSA

Yes, I know that it's USA, not USSA, but that wouldn't have worked as well to reference the Beatles song. We'll pretend it stands for United Surveillance States of America. But anyway, I'm back in the States after visiting Costa Rica. A few out of the four of you who read this blog already know that I recently got married, and went to Costa Rica for the honeymoon. It's a beautiful place, and the trip was much too short, but I'm back home and ready to post again...

I was able to squeeze in some assignments right before the big day, and here's one of them:

This Village Voice edition came out last Wednesday, as my wife and I were probably enjoying some gallo pinto and eggs, with fresh watermelon and papaya for breakfast in San Jose. The story details a case in Manhattan Surrogate Court involving a wheelchair-bound, severely autistic man who inherited a few million bucks from his mother after she passed. The problem is, he's been stuck in an institution, and had barely seen a penny of his inheritance, all while the managers of his trust fund (which include JP Morgan Chase) collected thousands of dollars in fees. If you're in NYC, the issue should be in stands for a couple more days, otherwise you can read it online here.

I think that showing the fat-cat banker pushing around a wheelchair of cash, instead of the trustee he's supposed to look after works well. Thank you to Tom for the assignment!