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!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The NFL's domestic abuse problem

This illustration of mine ran yesterday in the L.A. Times Sunday Op-Ed, for a story on the recent case of violence involving Ray Rice and his then-fiancee, as well as the many cases of domestic abuse among NFL players, and the league's refusal to do much about it.

Wes, my AD on this, contacted me Wednesday night with a story on a tight deadline- he needed final artwork on Friday. Although I don't really follow football, I'd heard about the Ray Rice incident along with lots of other people who don't otherwise pay much attention to the NFL. Despite the rush on the job, I thought it was a very important story, and wanted to take it on.

After sending the above sketches in the next day, Wes picked #3, but also mentioned that he had an idea of using a pair of eyes, one of them being a football. He still preferred #3 of my original sketches, but I liked the potential of his suggestion, and quickly sketched out a rough in Photoshop. He liked it, and that sealed the deal. We had our solution.

You can read the op-ed here. Thank you, Wes!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Hoo-ray for Hollywood!, wait

I did this really quick piece for, which is up on the site now, and is for a piece on Hollywood's lackluster blockbusters this past summer. Titled "Hollywood's Horrid Summer," it details the poor performance of the summer movies, due in large part to the industry's reliance on sequels, spinoffs, and remakes. Such as "Horror 3: The Re-Horroring," my favorite tongue-in-cheek example from the article.

I received the email late Tuesday night: "I'm looking for a 1024x576 illustration that shows the famous Hollywood sign in decay. What do you think?" I think I can do that. I didn't even know the story was focused on the summer's box office performances, but luckily by coincidence I chose to combine the sign with a cow's bones, in a sun-scorched, desert wasteland. It turned out kinda summery. You can read the article here. Thank you to my AD on this, Juliet!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

In love with a roadie

This piece for the L.A. Affairs section of the L.A. Times ran this past Saturday, and follows the story of a woman in a relationship with a roadie, who's currently working with a band out on a world tour. The author explains the difficulty in not seeing her significant other for months at a time while he's working. But, as she expresses: "There are some things in this life that are completely worth it, and he’s one of them."

I had the idea of using a concert tour t-shirt as a calendar, with her crossing off the tour dates until she sees him again (In the rough draft of the story, she mentions that they'll meet up in Japan). You can read the story here. Thank you so much to the awesome Wes!

Monday, August 25, 2014

How many hedgehogs does it take to change a lightbulb?

This spot for the Mind & Matter column of the Wall Street Journal was in last weekend's edition:

The column focused on an old Greek adage, about why hedgehogs and foxes think differently. "Hedgehogs have a single grand idea that they apply to everything, while foxes come up with a new idea for every situation." It basically boils down to how the babies grow up. Foxes spend more time in childhood, where their parents even bring home live prey for them to play with. In contrast, hedgehogs grow up twice as fast, and receive much less attention from their parents, especially the father, who's gone after mating.

One of my sketches focused on the fact that hedgehogs grow up so much faster and don't have time to develop the way foxes do, rolling up into a stopwatch. You can read it here. Thank you to the always great Keith!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Replacements (not the cool Paul Westerberg kind)

I have a piece in the current issue of Newsweek. I believe it should be on stands until Friday, at least that's when I picked up my copy last week (it's the one with the cool Nigel Buchanan illustration of a saluting Marine on the cover). The piece is for the weekly Two Numbers column, which contrasts two different numbers, on things like the median wealth of the average American family in 2007, vs. 2013, or sales of kale in the U.S., vs. sales of corn chips, and has featured such artists as Serge Bloch, and Edel Rodriguez recently. I was excited to get the email from Mike, the A.D., as this is one of those big national publications I've been looking forward to working with since I was in art school. Anyway, this week the column compared the price of a knee or hip replacement, at two different hospitals:

At St. Josephs Medical Center in Yonkers, you can expect to pay the princely sum of $17,068. Ouch. But wait- at Christ Hospital in Jersey City, look forward to a bill of $139,072! The article makes the case that, love it or hate it, Obamacare has made medical costs more transparent, which is a good thing.

You can get to the article here, but you may need a subscription to read it. Thank you to Mike, for the great opportunity! Here's a pic of my copy:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Computational justice

I did this little spot for Wired Magazine's UK edition a while back. It appears in the July issue, for an article about recent developments in computational justice. Can computers be given a sense of fairness?

It was a tiny little spot, so the image had to be very simple, and easy to read. A cursor as part of some scales of justice worked out well. Here are some of the other sketches:

Ben, my AD mentioned that I could use a different shape for the composition, other than the usual square or circle. It being a story on computers, it seemed only natural to pixelate it.

You can read the article here. Thanks again, Ben!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Serving a life sequence- updated

I did an illustration for MIT Technology Review last week, that is up on the site. It follows the story of a man that was able to sequence his son's complete genome, before the baby was even born.

 Many parents have this done on babies that they know are unhealthy, as a way to determine a possible cause of the health problems. The man in the article admitted that this was more for fun than for any practical health reasons. Which raised the question among some, of whether it's unethical to do this on a fetus when it's medically unnecessary. As one person interviewed for the story explained, "discovery of a bad mutation could lead parents to an 'irrevocable action.'" A baby enclosed in a playpen seemed like a good way of conveying the idea that genome sequencing can help babies when there's some medical problem, but it can also hinder the child if it's used to predict hypothetical conditions that don't yet exist.

The magazine is out now, where the piece is featured as well. I also did a small spot for the story, a few pages later, which you can see above. Here's a link to it. Thank you to Colin, the AD on this!

I know that dude

This little spot was in the Wall Street Journal weekend edition a week or so back. It was for the "Mind and Matter" column, on a recent finding that reveals that a certain region of the brain is responsible for facial recognition. Ever walk into a room, see someone a few yards away and think to yourself "I know that dude." Apparently that's the CA2, a subfield of your hippocampus. It's when your CA2 isn't working properly that things can get embarrassing.

Spots can be more challenging than half or full pages sometimes, trying to convey a complex subject in such a tiny space. I prefer to go pretty graphic with them. Here's what the page looked like:

You can read it here. I've had a few of these spots in the WSJ over the last several months, for both the "Mind and Matter" and "Ask Ariely" columns. Here are some of them:

About transgenic "glow-in-the-dark" mice that were injected with cocaine in order to study it's effect on their brains. Article here.

For an "Ask Ariely" column on why the letter writer found it acceptable for birds to eat from his bird feeder, but not squirrels. Article here.

Another "Ask Ariely" column, about how to keep people from dropping garbage on the ground, instead of using the receptacle a few feet away. Article here.

And for another "Mind and Matter" column, on a study that found that a person's environment (such as living in poverty) can have a greater effect on their intelligence than their DNA. Article here.
Thank you to Kelly, AD on the Hippocampus piece, and to Keith, AD on all the others!

Jeff Spicoli demonstrates the usefulness of the CA2 subfield of the hippocampus.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Drop and give me 20/20

I had an illustration in last Tuesday's New York Times, for an article in the Science section, on training your eyes as you would the muscles in your body.

People who play sports in particular need strong eyes, and many universities have developed programs over the years to help improve school athletes' vision. As the article explains, it's more about training your brain's responses to what you see, than it is actually changing your vision. Here's how the page looked (it's printed in black and white):

You can read the story here. Thank you to Peter, who ADed this one!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Reading between the foul lines

This illustration of mine for went up on the site last week, but I haven't gotten a chance to post about it until now:

The story is about the multitude of baseball books out. No matter your team, or the decade, there seems to be a book out there for you. Whether it's the 1948 Cleveland Indians, or the history of the Expos, you're bound to find something. That Dodger pennant looks a lot like the one I had on my wall as a kid. I wonder if I could find a book on my favorite players growing up: Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela. Here's the link for the story. Thank you to my AD, Juliet!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

For your eyes only

My mission, should I have chosen to accept it, was to illustrate for a story in the Envelope section of the L.A. Times. The article was about the plethora of spy shows on television at the moment. You've got "The Americans," "Homeland," "Turn," "Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond." Even the animated "Archer," albeit that's more of a spoof. Our t.v. sets are filled with spies and secret agents. Hey, that might work out pretty well for the illustration...

Thank you to the great Wes Bausmith, my AD on this. You can read the article here. This message will self-destruct...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ace of Database

Remember that band? They were the bees knees in '93. My sister had their cassette tape. Anyway, here's a quick piece I did for The Chronicle of Higher Education, for an article on the prospect of a nationwide database on all college students:

 The author is largely wary of the advent of such a database, which is understandable. There's a lot of debate about privacy, and the security of our personal information as of late. It's an interesting article to read, and you can find it here. Thank you to Janeen, the AD on this!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cop a feel

This cover of mine for the Village Voice is out now. It follows the story of Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street protestor who allegedly elbowed a police officer- what she maintains was a reaction to being forcefully groped from behind. Following the trial, she was found guilty of assaulting an officer and faces up to seven years in prison at her sentencing on May 19.

I'd encourage you to read the full article. It always amazes me (although by now it shouldn't), the things people are put in prison for, while police officers that beat, or kick, or sometimes shoot people to death are often given little more than paid suspension. Thank you to Tom Carlson, the AD on this. To give credit where credit is due, Tom's the one that came up with the idea of Lady Justice being felt up, I just fleshed it out.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Fox Is Black post

I just saw a post on my work on the excellent site, The Fox Is Black. Run by Bobby Solomon, out of Los Angeles, they post on everything from music, to fine art, to photography, to illustration and graphic design. I've been a big fan of the site, and a regular visitor for a while now. It's one of those blogs that you could spend all day going through. I've seen posts on a ton of great artists, so I'm very honored to be included among them. Check out the site, but make sure you're not on a tight deadline, because you might lose a few hours.
Thanks, guys!

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.