Friday, June 19, 2015

Spread 'em!

I finished this multi-page project for USC Dornsife Magazine a few weeks back, for a story on Hollywood breaking into the Chinese movie market:


The image above was the opening spread for the article. In case you can't quite make out the copy, the deck reads:
As domestic box office returns plateau, Hollywood is setting its sights on China- the second largest film market in the world. USC Dornsife professors Stanley Rosen and Brian Bernards explain what it will take for the U.S. film industry to break into China's notoriously complicated movie market.

The assignment also called for a second, full-page illustration for the following spread:


Although there were only two illustrations needed, another one of my sketches was so well received, they decided to feature it as well. Ultimately there wasn't enough room to include the third image in the magazine, however, it is featured on the website. Here's that illustration:


One of the stipulations the Chinese government requires for importing American movies, is that a certain percentage have to be 3D movies. It's one of the reasons the 3D glasses worked so well in the illustrations. Check out the article, it's very interesting. You can download and read a PDF of the whole magazine on the website here. Thank you so much to Dan Knapp, art director on this one!


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

In the joint for a joint

When I was in art school, during my senior year, I would always use articles from Mother Jones magazine for my editorial illustration assignments. From essays on the Crips/Bloods truce in L.A. to Zimbabwean migrants, to child exploitation in Cambodia, I always found great reporting on hard-hitting topics in this publication. Exactly the kind of assignments I was hoping to get once I graduated. I'd been looking forward to a chance to work with Mother Jones since then, and a few weeks ago it finally happened.


 I got the email from Ivy Simones, the AD, while in a pet store looking for a replacement fish, after our daughter's beta, Fang, had passed. The story was on people serving life sentences for marijuana, despite the fact that states around the U.S. are decriminalizing and legalizing it (being in CO, I could even drive over to a nearby shop and buy fresh buds, canabis-candies, wax, and even fruit drinks, all legally, and in quantities far exceeding what many people are serving decades in prison for). I was supremely excited to get the assignment.

At first, one of my sketches using joints in a baggy to begin a lengthy procession of tally marks, signifying years spent in a cell, was chosen for the final illustration. However, it was decided that my sketch with a pot leaf cobweb (or "cobweed," as Ivy termed it) would work even better.

 The final:


Thank you so much to Ivy, a very talented AD I've worked with since soon after graduating, when she was at Miami New Times, and continued to have the pleasure of working with through her subsequent posts at the Village Voice, and New York Observer. Go pick up a copy and check out all the great stories. Coming soon: a multi-page project for USC Dornsife Magazine.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What's in the box?!

This piece I did for our local monthly mag 5280 is out now. The article provides a list of six local companies that deliver goods by box, right to your door: from organic produce, to recipes and necessary ingredients, to healthy snacks for active lifestyles. There's even one that caters to the nerd in you, that delivers boxes filled with t-shirts, figurines, and even Pez dispensers, all based on comics, Star Wars, video games and various other geeky subjects. They basically just wanted a collage of an artisanal type box, with the featured product offerings inside:




Here's my copy, above. Thank you so much to Sean, who art directed this one!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Selected for your pleasure: AI 34

I found out last Friday that a piece I had submitted to the American Illustration show was selected for publication in the book! My mock book cover for Chuck Palahniuk's Choke will be published in the 34th American Illustration annual.


 The last time I submitted, two pieces from my Loteria series were accepted into the permanent online collection, but this will be my first time appearing in the book. I feel extremely lucky and honored to be recognized by American illustration. There were only 376 images selected to be published in the book, out of 9,175 pieces submitted to the competition. Can't wait to see all the great work that made it in!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Society for News Design 2015

I'm pleased to report that I received an Award of Excellence from the Society for News Design, for a recent piece for the Los Angeles Times. My AD Wes notified me last week that my illustration for the article "The NFL's willful ignorance" was given the award:


I'm very honored to be given this recognition by SND. And a big thank you to Wes, who was an immense help while working on this assignment!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ctrl+Alt+Duck and Cover

I was super excited to hear from Scientific American recently, I client I hadn't yet worked for. I've always been really into science, especially biology, anatomy, and paleontology, and enjoy reading periodicals such as Scientific American, and so was thrilled for a chance to contribute to the magazine. The story, titled "How to Survive Cyberwar," was on the ever-present threat of attack in cyberspace. From credit cards and personal info, to government infrastructure, nearly everything is connected to the internet in some way, and therefore at risk, according to the article. While reading the brief, I was reminded of the "ever-present threat of attack" during the Cold War. I decided to gear a few of my sketches toward the idea of paying homage/parodying the old "duck and cover" campaigns from the 50s. The AD liked the idea, and I ended up with this:




Check out the issue, which also includes a cool article on "Extreme Evolution" of cichlid fishes, illustrated by the great Jack Unruh. A big thank you to my AD, Jason!

Monday, February 23, 2015

(Censored) up beyond all recognition

This illustration for The Chronicle of Higher Education is running in the current issue. It accompanies an essay by an associate professor from Virginia Commonwealth University relaying his experience attempting to teach some journalism classes at Northeast Normal University in China. As the professor soon came to realize, it's fairly difficult to teach about press freedom in a country that doesn't have much. Along with the concept of "press freedom," there were several other taboo subjects that he was warned to shy away from: one of them being the Tiananmen Square Massacre.


Many of his students were unaware of the demonstration/massacre, even as they were approaching its 25th anniversary, due to the fact that the Chinese government has made sure to stifle public discussion of the event. I decided to use a heavily redacted text in the shape of a tank, along with an image of the famous "Tank Man" in front of it. It also helped to signify the fact that the professor was standing up to government censorship. He was able to use leaked diplomatic cables made public by Chelsea Manning and Wikileaks to have his students learn about Tiananmen, from U.S. State Dept cables that discuss the issue (apparently using a source that the U.S. government opposes, made it tolerable to Chinese authorities?). I was struck by the irony of a story criticizing China for quashing press freedom, discussing the use of leaked cables provided by Manning, who is now in prison in the U.S. for something that the press in this country has benefited so much from.
Thank you to Janeen, my AD on this one!

Monday, February 2, 2015

In Putin's Russia, stock market crashes YOU

Here's another book review illustration, this time on Bill Browder's Red Notice. It ran in this past weekend's Sunday Globe.


The book is the true story of Browder's experiences in Russia, after renouncing his American citizenship and traveling to Eastern Europe and Russia after the Berlin Wall fell, and once public (state-owned) services, infrastructure, and resources were being gobbled up by oligarchs, creating a huge windfall of moolah for a select few. Luckily for Browder, he was able to take advantage of some of this free-market frenzy, and after starting Hermitage Capital, rode the tumultuous wave of the stock market in Moscow, starting with $25 million, climbing to $1 billion, crashing a couple times, and ending back on top with $4.5 billion. But so this is where the story gets interesting, as Browder is detained, expelled from Russia, and basically stripped of his own company, apparently at the behest of Vladimir Putin himself. He's even convicted in absentia of tax evasion. When he tries to fight back, his tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky is arrested, and later found beaten to death in his cell. The book is billed as a high-drama story of the ruthless corruption present in Putin's Russia, as well as Browder's crusade for justice- not only for the financial persecution he suffered, but for Magnitsky's murder as well. 


My sketches started off with fairly straight forward portraits of Putin, but I tried playing with a fever chart, and noticed how a couple crashes in the market could easily become bloody fangs on the ex-KGB man. Thank you to my AD, Kim! Here's the review.

Cupid, upload your bow

With apologies to Sam Cooke. This piece for the LA Times was actually finished up a couple weeks ago, but it just ran in the Sunday LA Affairs section yesterday. It's for an essay describing the relationship a man had with a woman he met through Twitter. They exchanged various communiques via social networks online, and grew fairly close. However, after they met in person and went on a few dates, the relationship soon fizzled out.


I've heard hundreds of anecdotes about people meeting online, and falling in love, but I thought this essay was really interesting in that it gave an example of when love over the internet doesn't work out. I thought of this concept of a digital cupid sheepishly picking up his cursor/arrows that failed to hit their mark. I also had another sketch that I think would have worked well:


A bouquet of wilted thumbs-up flowers, showing that a relationship based solely on "likes" and whatnot will eventually fade and wither. Thank you to Wes, my AD on this!

My friend Jake, who I went to art school with and now resides in L.A.,  sent me a pic of my piece in the Sunday paper. Thanks, Buddy!




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Long-distance runaround

I received a copy of Fast Company that I did a little piece for, from my AD Alice. The article was about telecommuting- working anywhere from down the street from your employer, to the other side of the world. Something that most of us illustrators are fairly familiar with.




The piece consists of advice to both employers and workers. Like most relationships, communication is key. Instead of trying to focus on one or more of the tips, I wanted to show the general idea of communicating across long distances. I thought of those setups in offices that shows multiple time zones on clocks. How about the clocks are talking to each other? Here's a shot from my copy:


Thank you to Alice for this one!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Train Dreams

I recently worked on a book review for The Laughing Monsters, by Denis Johnson. The description of the book sounded so interesting, I decided to look for the novel to read for myself. I couldn't find it while I was at the bookstore, but did find some more of Denis Johnson's work: Train Dreams. Spoiler alert: The following contains detailed descriptions that may spoil certain portions of the book. I'd recommend reading it first, and then proceeding... Anyway, it's a novella, not even 120 pages long, and so was a quick, but extremely pleasurable read. It follows the life of Robert Granier, a simple laborer in the Pacific Northwest, living through the first sixty-something years of the 20th century. The story doesn't progress in chronological order, it skips around to various times in Robert's life, from his thirties, to the end of his life, to his childhood, back to his thirties, and so on. He experiences his share of hardship and tragedy (he loses his wife and baby daughter to a forest fire), but also the events that shaped the country- the invention of the automobile, the development of flight, television, Elvis Presley, etc.


So after reading the book, I decided to try my hand at a mock cover for it. Although the story is about not only Robert Granier, but America in general, and how the rugged, pioneering spirit of this country entered the 20th century, it's constructed like a portrait of this one man. I decided to feature a profile of a man that could be Granier, but combined it with an impression of a cross section of a tree. There were a couple reasons for doing this. First: Granier is a laborer working on various jobs around the forests of the Idaho panhandle, clearing timber for a railroad company for a time. Some time after the death of his family in the fire, he rebuilds his cabin, secluded in the woods, and spends the remainder of his life in that cabin, essentially a hermit. The setting is a very important part of the story, and trees in particular caught my attention. They are anthropomorphized in a few instances: "the trees themselves were killers," or "It was only when you left it alone that a tree might treat you as a friend. After the blade bit in, you had yourself a war." Though not explicitly compared to a tree, Granier is described at one point "amid a crowd of people pretty much like himself-his people, the hard people of the northwestern mountains..."  I thought using the analogy was apt. The second reason: I was reminded of cross sections of trees where various events in history are marked on the tree rings when they occurred. There's a giant cross section of, I believe, a redwood in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, that lists various historical events on its rings, going back hundreds of years. This story unfolds almost like someone skipping around on a timeline, and explaining what happened to Robert at that particular point, not to mention a virtual history of America itself, during a period of intense transformation. The rings in the profile of Granier could represent memories from his life, specific events that could be pointed out, as the book does.

I enjoyed Train Dreams so much, I later bought Jesus' Son, a collection of stories, and Tree of Smoke, for which Johnson won a National Book Award. I loved each of these stories immensely, and I'm looking forward to the next work of Johnson's I get the chance to read.

Walk this way

Here are a couple spots I did for the New York Times, the Jane Brody column in particular. The first was for the column that ran about a week back, and focused on warning older pedestrians of the dangers of crossing the street, especially in a busy city like NYC. Senior citizens make up a disproportionate number of those hit by cars while crossing the street.


The second column, for this week, focuses on how we can all make streets safer for pedestrians. And it's not just pedestrians and drivers that bear responsibility, but the people that design our streets too.


 Many thanks to Peter, my AD on these!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves

I usually try (unsuccessfully) to come up with a clever title for my blog posts, but I've done a couple book reviews recently for novels with such cool titles that I decided to feature the book titles instead. Case in point: Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves, by Carolyn Chute. What a sweet title!


This was another review in the Boston Globe, in this past Sunday's paper. As with my post for The Laughing Monsters, I'd advise you to read the review, or better yet, the actual book, but I'll try to give a short description. The book takes place in rural Maine, in the fictional town of Egypt. Ivy Morelli, a reporter for the local paper, is investigating a strange and secretive compound called the Settlement. "It’s a cult, the residents whisper. There are pregnant child brides and child abuse, and even worse, a violent militia is stockpiling weapons, and who knows to what end? But are the stories true?" The group maintains that their aim is to provide an alternative community to the poor and outcast, away from the greed and lust for power in greater society. The charismatic leader Gordon St. Onge seems to convince Ivy that all is well, and she joins the Settlement. But a 15-year-old girl named Bree joins the group as well, and as the review explains, "It’s Bree who will cause a tsunami among the Settlement and the outsiders, one that will change just about everything for just about everyone — and not always in the best of all possible ways."


With my original set of sketches, I wanted to reference the stockpiling of weapons, but also the antagonistic stance of the Settlement toward the greed of society. In #1 and #3 I was trying to show Gordon's relationship with the women in the group- he apparently had twenty-odd wives constantly following him around.


 The editor felt it was too geared toward the "militia" themes, but also wanted the texture of the setting to come through in the illustration. Dirt roads, old wood, etc. I thought it might be a good solution to show the texture as planks of wood for a fence or wall around the compound, leaving peepholes exposing themes from the story: stockpiling weapons, Gordon's apparent stance toward society, and the red-haired Bree. It allows for multiple elements of the novel to be shown, without getting too complex, and implies the secrecy and enigmatic nature of the Settlement. The varying styles of collage also helped to connect to the novel, because it's constructed through multiple narrators, including not only the human characters, but Television, Mammon, and even aliens. Based on this review, and others, it sounds like a great book. Thank you to Kim for the assignment!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Laughing Monsters

I was commissioned last week to do an illustration for the book review of The Laughing Monsters, by Denis Johnson. The piece appeared in the Boston Globe over the weekend. I only got a few lines from the review, so I had to find other reviews and synopses of the novel to get a clearer picture of what the book was really about. I won't go too far in depth (better to read the actual review, or better yet, read the book), but basically the main character, Roland Nair, works for NATO and is sent into West Africa to locate an old anti-terrorism buddy of his, Michael Adriko. The review describes Adriko thusly: "A native of Congo who has ended up affiliated with the US Army by way of Ghana, Michael is a figure cloaked in so many lies, mysteries, and identities that the novel makes little effort to render him 'believably...'" From what I could gather reading as many reviews as I could find, the main themes of the novel seemed to be ever-changing loyalties, enigmatic identities, and the relationship between these two characters- one driven by greed and power, the other seemingly nothing more than a thirst for chaos. I had one firm idea hit me early on, and turned in only one sketch, however I was pretty confident it would work. Luckily it was well received and I was able to proceed with the final:


Following along with the themes I could surmise, I wanted the identity of the figure to be obscured- it also worked out that scribbling over the face with a black pen looked like a ski mask/balaclava. The characters make their money in this world of rebels and terrorists, not always in opposition to them. The Boston Globe review can be found here.




(I did not make the cover illustration above) It seems like a really intense and intriguing novel, and the illustration was a lot of fun to work on. Thank you to Kim, the AD on this!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Where we're from, the birds sing a pretty song

Amid news that Showtime has ordered 9 episodes of a new Twin Peaks series, to be written by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and directed by Lynch, I'm posting this series I started several weeks ago. I was a little too young to watch the show- and especially the movie- when it was on the air, but my wife and I watched it on Netflix recently. I fell in love with the show- from the characters, to the mood, to Angelo Badalamenti's jazzy, noirish soundtrack. I started this series with no particular function in mind. Whether they were mock book covers, or posters, or DVD sleeve covers, I never really decided. It was mostly just a project for me to have some fun, and reference a series and film I really enjoyed watching.


For the Season 1 piece, I included the heart-shaped "Best Friends" necklace, which doubles as the rope Laura Palmer's wrists are bound with at the time of her murder (don't worry, her murder is not a spoiler- the show opens with her body being discovered), as well as events prior. Upon a closer look, the half-heart shape doubles as a silhouette of Bob.


The Season 2 piece features a reference to Windom Earle's chess game (which in turn references the White and Black Lodges, which is probably one of the reasons a chess game was part of the story), as well as the giant's cryptic message of "the owls are not what they seem," and the bird's prominence in this storyline.


The final piece, for the feature film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, combines the "Best Friends" necklace, with a reference to a line in the film, spoken by Laura. When Donna asks her: if she were falling in space, does she think she would "slow down after a while, or go faster and faster?" In one of the most forceful and striking lines of the movie, Laura replies, "Faster and faster. And for a long time you wouldn't feel anything... and then you would burst into fire... forever. And the angels wouldn't help you... because they've all gone away." It also has to do with the ending of the film, which I won't spoil.

For the title treatment in all of these, I wanted to reference the cut-out letters that are placed under the finger nail of each of the killer's victims. I also wanted the composition to be fairly minimal and subdued, and for the typography not to take away from the illustration. For the designations of which part of the story these pieces were for (ie. Season 1, 2, or FWWM), I wanted it to hint at a file, or folder tab, as the designation moves down the side of the piece in progression of the series. I didn't want the appearance of an actual file, but to be more reminiscent of something that might be catalogued in a file-if that makes sense- in order to reference the FBI's involvement in the case.

These descriptions probably sound fairly confusing and weird if you haven't seen the series and film. Well the series and film are fairly confusing and weird, but I highly recommend you watch them. And look out for the 9 episode Showtime series, supposedly coming in 2016. I told you that gum you like was going to come back in style!