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!