Thursday, May 24, 2018

Who's on trial here?

This illustration of mine ran in The New Yorker this past week. It's for a Jill Lepore article on the Victim's Rights Movement- a marriage of feminism and conservatism- and how it has affected the justice system in the U.S.

The movement was started in the 1960s by conservatives trying to combat the "soft on crime" notions of civil liberties, like needing a warrant to obtain evidence to be presented against a defendant, and reading Miranda rights. It attempts to give victims of crimes (usually murder, but also rape) and their loved ones a voice in court- a noble cause to be sure- with a "victim-impact statement": often presenting the life story of the victim, showing pictures or videos during trial, as a way of proving the value of the person whose life has been cut short (in the case of murder). But it has ended up leading to "tough on crime" bills with mandatory minimums, and exacerbates the same kind of racial bias present in so many criminal trials, but toward the victim instead, with jurors less likely to be compelled by victim-impact statements from black victims than from white victims. There's also the issue of examining the worth of the victims. If the victim isn't considered as "valuable" by the community, is the crime less serious? Here's the full page:

It's a very intriguing, in-depth look at how a movement with some good intentions contributed to our system of mass incarceration. Check out the story. Thank you to Chris and Nicholas!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Do you solemnly swear?

I did this illustration for the front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Opinion section last Sunday. It's for a great essay on human organizations and loyalty.

The essay singled out our two political parties here in the U.S., and why it's so problematic to pledge our loyalty to them. It made sense to show the red and blue color separations coming apart as the image of the hand taking an oath warps and melts, breaking down. Thank you to Kim, AD on this!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Aztecs, Amphibians and Transferred Consciousness

So if you've been checking out this blog for a while, or even if you just scroll through my posts over the last few years, you'll know that I like to work on personal projects centered around short stories and books I enjoy. There was this, and this, and oh yeah this. But it had been some time since I'd done any personal projects like that. Close to a couple years. With assignments, the move out to the East Coast, along with other things, it just wasn't in the cards. So I wanted to take some time recently to work on another series, and chose some Julio Cortázar stories from the collection Blow-Up. My descriptions of the stories below definitely contain spoilers. So if you haven't read the stories and want to, just look at the pretty pictures, ignore the words, and then go out and read them.

This story is probably my favorite in the collection. It centers around a young, French bachelor named Pierre and his relationship with a young woman named Michéle. As the story unfolds, we see that something is going on with Pierre: he starts experiencing brief personality changes, and having strange memories: details of a house he's never been in, dry leaves, and songs like Im wunderschönen Monat Mai. Michéle sees some of these odd changes, and it reminds her of someone and also terrifies her. The memories become more frequent and disorienting, and the changes become more menacing. Michéle contacts a couple of friends to ask for help, as she's alone with Pierre at her parents' summer home. It's clear that Pierre is not himself, at least sometimes. The story ends with Pierre ascending the stairs to Michéle's room and entering, thinking she looks older for some reason, and Michéle screaming while her grabs her hair, feeling "all the pleasure that rises and drenches him..." Meanwhile, Michéle's friends are on their way to the house, and recall the Nazi soldier who attacked and raped Michéle during the occupation when she was a child, and was subsequently caught and executed by her friends: "I remember how he fell, his face blasted to bits among the dry leaves."
I wanted to depict Pierre's consciousness warping into the Nazi, and I liked the leaves floating through the composition as a reference to the connection between his random memories and elements that are significant to the Nazi's death. The typography change also alludes to the personality switch, and the color palette hints at the Nazi soldier.

"The Night Face Up" is about a man who gets in a motorcycle accident and is taken to the hospital. Lying in bed, he starts to dream about running for his life from Aztecs pursuing him through the jungle, but wakes to find himself safe in bed again. However, his drowsiness is overpowering and he continues to doze off, each time finding himself in the same dream, continuing, with his pursuers getting closer and closer with each dream, until finally he's captured and hauled off to the temple. In his last dream he's carried to the sacrificial altar, and smells the smoke, and sees the blood dripping down it. As he shuts his eyes and tries to wake up again, he realizes that he can't. The altar is real. The hospital bed was the dream. And a man with a knife approaches him, while he lies face up, between the bonfires on the temple steps.
I wanted to show the tranquil hospital scene being broken up with surreal pieces of an alternate reality revealed behind it. The title continuing through both scenes represents the man experiencing both universes. The typography is also treated with a very hazy, dreamlike movement through the composition. The grayscale of the hospital and color of the temple elements also reinforces the idea of the hospital being the actual dream, with the popular conception (whether correct or not) of dreams being in black and white.

This is the first story in the collection, and it's a great introduction to Cortázar's brilliant, metaphysical storytelling. A man visiting the zoo happens upon an axolotl exhibit. He finds the little salamanders so fascinating that he returns again and again to watch them, seemingly obsessed with "their little pink Aztec faces... The anthropomorphic features of a monkey reveal the reverse of what most people believe, the distance that is traveled from them to us." He begins visiting them every day, and starts to feel that he's "projecting a nonexistent consciousness" on them: "I imagined them aware, slaves of their bodies, condemned infinitely to the silence of the abyss, to a hopeless meditation." He marvels at one, his face pressed up against the glass, peering into the unblinking eyes, staring for so long that he suddenly sees his own face. He's looking into his own face, on the other side of the glass, and realizes he's an axolotl, in the aquarium. His consciousness, his human mind has been transferred to the body of an axolotl. He sees the man return to look at his exhibit, but the visits soon taper off. He thinks that for a while he had a chance at re-entering his human body, when the man was interested in the axolotls, but for now all he can hope for is that the man writes a story about them, thinking he made it all up.
I had the idea of reflecting and morphing the man's face into a weird, symmetrical image, but the end result was just as much the product of experimenting with manipulating the faces. I wanted it to refer to when the man looks into the aquarium glass at the axolotl, and then sees himself as his consciousness transfers to it. The moment of the transposition of his essence, and one of the images ended up resembling a little axolotl face. It came about accidentally, but worked out perfectly.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Mmmmmm, beer!

This little spot was in last Sunday's New York Times' book review of Robert Coover's new short story collection, Going for a Beer.

 The review describes a few of the stories in the collection, including "Invasion of the Martians," and many others suffused with magic and mythology. The title story concerns a man whose life seems little more than a drunken haze, bouncing from one experience to the next, with the next experience happening before the current is even finished. And, of course, a fair share of them transpire at a bar. I wanted to combine the temptation of going down the bar for a cold one with some of the elements from other stories, and a beer bottle cap as a flying saucer ended up a nice way to do it. Go pick up the collection! Thank you to Matt, AD for this one!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Recommended listening for this post: the Surfaris, of course! The Tornadoes, Lively Ones and Dick Dale would also be acceptable. Anyway, this piece is out now, for Institutional Investor, for a story on the firing of the Chief Investment Officer of the Hawaii pension fund. What made the firing so remarkable was the fact that no explanation was given as to why Vijoy Chattergy, the CIO, was let go. This in turn created a situation where people jumped to conclusions and the rumors started, rushing in to fill the vacuum of information. Sort of like when you were in school and someone from the office comes into the classroom to get you with no explanation, so everyone thinks the worst like you set fire to the library or flooded the bathroom with a cherry bomb and does that simultaneous, perfectly synchronized "Oooooooooo" when all that really happened is you forgot your lunch at home and your mom came by the school to drop it off.

There was also a spot:

I had a ton of fun with the collage for these. Read the story here. Thank you to Kim, my AD!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Trump Dump

You may, like many people, understandably have Trump story fatigue. If so I apologize, but here are a few recent pieces concerning Trump, his State of the Union, his border wall, and... actually the third doesn't really concern Trump per se, but is definitely affected by his policies, as well as previous president's policies. This first was a piece for The New Yorker on the State of the Union:

 It's a collage that refers to both party's views on the condition of the country. For Republicans, it's the "American Carnage" they see as a result of the Obama years. For Democrats, the apocalypse happening in real time due to Trump's presidency. Read the piece here.

Next is an Op-Ed by novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, for the New York Times Sunday Review several weeks back, on Trump's glorious border wall. Urrea makes clear that this project is little more than one giant grift that will suck millions of dollars of taxpayer money and provide little in return (due to the fact that the number of immigrants caught crossing the border illegally is already the lowest it's been in decades). Read that one here.

Here's a view of the page:

And most recently, another Op-Ed for The New York Times from last week, on the fact that immigrants being detained and awaiting deportation are being treated like slaves, forced to perform unpaid labor at the for-profit detention sites where they're held. Fortunately, these practices are being met with lawsuits, and the for-profit prisons have been losing. Read the Op-Ed here.

Thank you to all my ADs on these! Hope to get back to posting in a more timely manner. Stay tuned.

Once Bitcoin, twice shy

I worked with AD Josue Evilla for something for Fortune recently. Josue and I go way back to when he was at the Boston Globe. He gave me many assignments over the years, and has always been a pleasure to work with. Anyway, this story concerns the fact that the U.S. government is sitting on millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin, seized after busting smuggling rings and other illegal activities. The problem is that this nest egg is largely hidden from public accounting, and has been mishandled and even stolen from in some cases.

See the article, and a very informative video here. Thank you to Josue!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Better late than never?

Should have posted this- along with several things I plan on updating the blog with soon- months ago. It's been pretty busy around here for a while now, and I've neglected the blog. I try to update my website fairly regularly though, so if you've visited that recently you'll likely have seen some of that work already. Anyway, I received my copy of the American Illustration Annual #36 several months ago. It's a beautiful book, and this year the design is such that you can disassemble it to take sheets out, and rearrange as you please. My piece for an L.A. Times' story on recent film releases was included:

More work to be posted shortly. Stay tuned... same bat time, uh, similar bat channel.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Happy New Year 2018

A little late, but it's still January, so it counts. A note about the end of 2017- I was surprised and happy to learn that a couple of my Op-Ed illustrations from last year made it onto The New York Times' Year in Illustration 2017 list. Compiled every year is a selection of images made for the paper, chosen by the art directors. No surprise that both were for articles on Trump- as were many of the pieces in the selection. In fact, the first piece of mine is included in a group of illustrations specifically geared toward the subject of 'ol Donnie. This one was on his handling of issues in the Middle East:

As art director Nathan Huang explained it: "A year of Trump-related articles requires a year's worth of Trump-related imagery. How do we avoid repeating the same images over and over? Brilliant illustrators to the rescue."

My second illustration was from early on in the Trump presidency, when the calls for an investigation into his ties to Russia were first being made:

 I actually received quite a bit of positive feedback on this one, from art directors and illustrators, as well as regular readers of the paper.

Thank you to all my ADs at The Times, for all the opportunities to contribute. Looking forward to another year!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comfortable

Here's a piece of mine for the Chronicle of Higher Education's Chronicle Review. This issue focused on an important subject:inequality. The article lists the ways that higher education hurts the poor and working class, and helps the elite:

It requires a subscription to read, but you can get to the article here. Thank you to my AD, Scott!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Rove versus Bannon

Here's a recent piece for The New Yorker, exploring the mutual animosity between Karl Rove, and Steve Bannon. Wow, that's like a contest between Jabba the Hutt, and a guy who goes around kicking puppies. Who do you root for?? Either way, like we used to say in school: FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

Thank you to my A.D., Kara.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Can I get a material witness?

Real quick: this piece accompanied a story by Sarah Stillman on The New Yorker website yesterday, about material witnesses (victims, or witnesses of a crime, that are essential to the prosecution of the suspect). It details the way authorities around the country jail innocent victims of crimes in order to secure testimony from them. In some cases, material witnesses have been jailed for years.

It is due to an arcane statute, based on the rational reasoning that criminals should not go free because no one is available to testify against them. However, it is used overwhelmingly against minorities, the poor and homeless, and often times against victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Read the piece here. The sad part is just how many stories nowadays involving the criminal "justice" system in the U.S. can be described as Kafkaesque. From episodes like these, to Guantanamo Bay, to the story of Kalief Browder, to so many others. Thanks to my AD, Kara!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Breakin' up is hard to do

Received a good amount of real estate in  The New York Times over the weekend- on the front page of the Sunday Review section (likely the only kind of real estate I'll ever have in NYC). For a piece on Brexit, and two of the guys that have come to epitomize the two opposing sides: Tony Blair and Nigel Farage:

 This was a ton of fun to do, and a great honor to be on the front of the Sunday Review. Thank you to Jim and Alexandra!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

TV casualty

Real quick, while I have a minute: here's another piece for Variety I did recently. It's for an article on a television studio that was hacked. They didn't have a draft of the story for me, but they had a concept ready to go, which made things easy.

I'll post a pic of the page if I get my hands on it. Thank you to my AD for this, Chuck!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My brain is hanging upside down

For the July/August issue of The Atlantic: having power, being in charge, can have the same effects as a traumatic brain injury; causing the person to act "more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people's point of view."

Thank you to my AD on this, Paul!