Last week, I had the pleasure of working on an illustration for Prospect magazine for a story that hit very close to home. The piece is a short story titled “Animal, Vegetable” by Kate Clanchy that is about “you” and your slightly higher achieving friend with the perfect life and the seemingly perfect daughter. Without giving too much away about the short story, it really tugs at the heartstrings of anyone with children so the fact that I have a six-month-old at home meant that I felt the pain of this story very intensely. I’m very happy to have had the chance to work on a story that I could connect with so personally.
Below are some process shots of the painting. Thanks to Creative Director, David Killen.
In this instance, painting in the background first was surprisingly satisfying. The figures as just negative space were striking. So much so that the thought crossed my mind that I should leave it this way. And below I briefly considered leaving all the flesh tones white to give it a more stylized look but, ultimately, it looked better completely painted in. It does make me want to try some of these techniques on future illustrations, though.
You may have already seen my recent cover and interior illustrations for The Writer’s Chronicle. Sometimes when you send your art director sketches there is more than one that you want to take all the way to the final. That was the case for this cover assignment. Amongst a very busy season and taking care of a six month old (my adventures in freelancing with a baby are being chronicled here), it took me several months to finally finish off this painting. And it was worth the wait.
I feel I really was able to push my composition with this in a way that paid off. If you didn’t see the original cover, it went along with an essay on Henry James and his craftsmanship on The Portrait of a Lady. As per usual, I made some digital tweaks, but the original painting is not far from this version and is for sale, so please get in touch if you are interested.
I intend to write another baby-related post in the near future, but even my good friends are due emails or visits so I will get to it as soon as I can.
In February, I had the great pleasure to work with The Writer’s Chronicle for a second time. I created a cover illustration for an article titled “The Master Craftsman” which was about Henry James and how he crafted The Portrait of a Lady. As you can see, I chose to depict James as a literal craftsman, carving the novel out of wood.
The second illustration accompanied an article titled “Three Quick Studies of the Image” and discussed the role of the image in poetry. This was particularly challenging given the abstract nature of trying to illustrate “the image.” I decided to explore a concept using ancient stone carvings and hieroglyphs as they related to language and communication.
The folks at The Writer’s Chronicle are always so great to work with and they have typically given me a lot of freedom with the illustrations. And this issue was especially well-timed because it came out during the annual AWP Conference & Book Fair so hopefully a few extra eyes were on the issue.
You can see the cover and interior illustrations I did for them in 2013 here.
For your viewing pleasure today, I am posting my latest editorial illustration. I’m really excited about this piece for a few reasons. I’m quite pleased at how it turned out and I also feel that it marks a discovery for me as far as what works best for my work and concepts. That discovery is thanks to some fellow illustrators over at The Mighty Pencil (if you’re not familiar with this illustration collective, I suggest you check us out).
The piece was created for an article about a woman who leaves the city for a much more affordable small town. It all looked great on paper, but when it came to actually living in a small town where she had no real roots the town just didn’t cut it. After an isolating winter, she made the decision to move back to a large city.
The painting is available as a print here and I have also made cards (and other products) available here – seems like the perfect holiday/winter greeting, yes?
Some of you may have seen me tweeting last week about starting a painting over again and this is it. The illustration is about a woman who fills her empty nest with animals. She then realizes that she has spent her life filling voids with various pets. You can buy a print of this piece here.
I know I’ve talked about this here before, but I really do feel that starting something over is sometimes the best thing you can do. It’s always frustrating and there’s always a small part of me that wants to find a way around the inevitable. The truth is that even if the piece doesn’t come out ten times better because of it (though it likely will) you will learn something about what you did the first time and how you might approach things differently in the future.
More new work today. This is a piece about an extroverted mother and her attempts to draw her introverted, adult son into conversations of more than just a few words. In this story, she uses her broken dishwasher as an excuse to get her son, who is living with her, to help her wash dishes … and to talk.
After working with mostly digital paint on the last few pieces, or a combination of digital and traditional, I’ve gone back to paints on this one. I’ve been working in watercolor a lot but I’ve decided to give acrylics a try. What I love about them is that I can water them down and get them to behave much like watercolor when I want them to, but then I can easily add layers as earlier ones dry without the risk of pulling up the paint I had already laid down.
Never stop learning, right?
Another new illustration this week, this time for an article about the psychology of speeding and what cities like New York can do to help slow people down and prevent speed-related deaths. The last illustration I posted was painted completely with digital brushes but for this piece I wanted to do a combination. There’s a certain roughness that you get with scanning real paint marks that I have trouble achieving digitally. The all-digital stuff I do tends to come out a bit soft, in my opinion.
I love working with scientific subject matter. It really gives my brain a good workout in the concept department because so many of the topics are abstract to begin with and there can often be a lot of obvious solutions that you have to think past to get to something more original.
This new illustration is for an article about how investors can spice up otherwise boring investments. I’m in constant experimentation mode and for this piece I decided to try an all-digital approach. I painted the lines traditionally (with ink and brush) but the rest is all digital paint and texture. I’ve been playing around with various digital brushes, particularly Kyle T. Webster’s brushes, and this was painted almost entirely with his new gouache set. I’m still working out the best way to combine traditional and digital methods and Kyle’s brushes are certainly a big step in that direction.
New piece for an article about teen anxiety and brain development. Turns out that while the part of their brains that causes them to take so many risks is developing quickly, the part that would all them to properly deal with anxiety and trauma is underdeveloped, often leading to a lifetime of anxiety.
New spot illustration for an article about a woman who was forced to leave her two young children in the car for over an hour so that she could attend a job interview. The woman had been unemployed/underemployed for many years and when she couldn’t find child care, she had to make a choice.