Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Flight of Reference

Note: This flight - and the included photos - were taken several weeks ago. I've been saving them, as I did not have time to post it until now.

When most cartoonists draw cartoons, they draw images from their imaginations, often without much regard for realism. You never know what it might look like, or how distorted it might be. That's usually the best path to humor. 

I also illustrate books, so some of my work (attempts to) lean toward realism. Like most book illustrators, I sometimes use photos as references

Unfortunately with things that involve depth perception, photos don't always work well; especially larger things, like mountains, buildings and expansive views of terrain or ocean.

Over the next month I'll be illustrating a children's book that features aerial views of mountains and ranges like those found here in Colorado. So, I decided to charter a tour flight to get some actual glimpses of exactly what I need. 

I was able to find a flight that took a path North over Rocky Mountain National Park, South to Red Rocks, and then further West over the Continental Divide. We had several days with 70 degree temperatures in November, along with clear skies, so it was a perfect time to do it.

My wife does not like to fly in small planes any more than necessary. So, my daughter Julia came along with me, and we had a great afternoon of fun. Even though this was a Cessna and not a speedy jet, we both found it truly amazing as to how much ground you can cover "as the crow flies", rather than sticking to roads...especially ground that varies greatly in height and topographical detail. It would have taken two days to drive a car along this flight path that took less than two hours.

We had music going in the plane, which was perfect until some lowlight efforts of Bob Dylan came on. (Post/pre-born again period?) So, we shut off the music and listened to the wind buffeting the fuselage.

A good thing, too, because soon afterward the only part of the flight that wasn't fun came...we momentarily had wide eyes and bubbly stomachs after we hit some turbulence near the Divide. Our pilot said that it's common to have big changes in air temperature and pressure there this time of the year. Indeed. It's a good thing we were well between lunch and dinner (and sans stomach-churning crooning.)

Combining what I have in my mind's eye, several sketches, and the photos Julia and I took, I was able to get some terrific views. I'm hoping to have plenty for some interesting things to wander out on the page and drawing board.

A special thank you to Ben and Cam at Bluebird Aviation, for making it an incredibly enjoyable and successful day!

Boulder's "Flatirons" rock formations and Chautauqua

                                           The Continental Divide viewed from the Front Range side

A note about growth: When I moved here over 30 years ago, the population of the Front Range of Colorado was roughly half of what it is now. A stunning sign of that increase was visible from altitude in the sleepy mountain town of Nederland, (a half hour up the canyon from Boulder, and the inspiration for Dan Fogelberg's "Netherlands" album). 

After 30 years of staying nearly the same size, the past two years have have had buildings popping up like prairie dogs on a warm day, stretching into the forests in every direction. As Thomas Wolfe said, "you can't go home again"...nor can you see previously small mountain towns like Nederland from 5,000 ft.

Red Rocks Amphitheater, above

The Digital Drawing Board; A Respite from my Respite

I've been absent here, taking a seven-month break from this journal - as well as most social media. So, Happy Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Holidays and New Year - and likely, happy birthday.

This unplanned hiatus started with being too busy with other things; family, clients, etc., and then extended itself...with me wanting to spend more time with family, friends and some personal projects.

Last year I overheard my daughter talking with two neighbor friends about social media. One girl announced that she had over a thousand friends on Instagram and that in comparison, the other two girls were not nearly as popular. The other neighbor asked how many of this girl's followers were real friends, and suggested that they could feed her graduation party attendees with a couple of sub sandwiches. Ouch.

I realized that described my feelings. No offense to social media fans, but I questioned spending time with social media "friends" from various platforms, many of whom I will never even converse with...and decided to focus more energy and time on people closer to the heart.

During this vacation from the smart phone and tablet I was contacted by some out-of-state clients and friends whom I had not talked with recently, to see if I was okay. So, in a clumsy way, even that part of my silence worked out - I got to talk with them, instead of simply seeing a "like" on a photo or post.

The social media vacation continues. But I'm temporarily breaking the streak here just in case anyone else is wondering where I went.

I thought I'd also quickly rummage through the recent art bin to share a small sampling of enjoyable client projects that have graced my drawing board:


First, a poster created for the latest theatrical production of  Hexagon, "Washington DC's only original political, satirical, musical, comedy revue."

From their website: Since 1955, Hexagon has produced an annual show that parodies local, national and international political issues. The new production is set in the future and is titled "Romp in the Swamp"...

(click to enlarge)


Below is an editorial illustration created for the White Marlin Open, the world's largest ocean game fish tournament, located every year in Ocean City, Maryland.

It was filled with controversy in its 45th year, for the use of polygraph tests for fishermen. This year the winner took home a prize of $2.5 million...but had t undergo a polygraph test to ensure he did not cheat.

Also included is a small drawing of Ernest Hemingway, one of the best-known bill fisherman.

(Click to enlarge)


I was recently hired by an AP History society to create political cartoons to accompany articles for high school AP History students. The first cartoon was paired with an article on the Truman Doctrine
and the most recent editorial cartoons covered The Dawes Severalty Act, (affecting native Americans), and Roosevelt's Square Deal...


In October I was commissioned to create a series of humorous promotional postcards and posters over the next 8 months for WESTAF (Western States Arts Federation), a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to strengthening the infrastructure of the arts in the West. 

WESTAF is located in Denver and governed by a 22-member board of trustees comprised of arts leaders in the West.  They serve the largest constituent territory of the U.S. regional arts organizations and includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The first few are intended to point out the benefits of working with WESTAF vs other grants organizations.

Reverse side of the third card, with printer cut lines and postal safe zones.


Some more illustrations for Erickson Air Crane, the maker of helicopters used in large scale construction and forest fire fighting throughout the world.


An early rough rendering of a map for a new large scale dog amusement park in Northern California. This is a large park (and drawing), and I'm zooming in on the right half of it for now...more later. 


One of several illustrations commissioned for Muscogee Nation Casinos,  a group of nine Native American tribal casinos in Oklahoma.


I enjoy creating a regular cartoon for cloud computing pioneer CGNet and their advertising and marketing. Here are a few recent pieces:


A Keynote presentation illustration for a for Five Point Energy, an energy investment firm in Houston, and their annual stockholder meeting. These cartoons help depict the volatility in the energy futures market, and possible unseen dangers ahead.


A character comp for Action Avatar https:// a virtual reality gaming company in North Carolina,  Their proprietary software and camera system allows you create an accurate, lifelike avatar of yourself to be inserted into many games. B&W version shown, it was finished in several color versions. (This illustration is 6 feet tall, and is being used in their booth at Comic Cons.)

 I regularly draw cartoons to accompany editorials and articles for a magazine covering the Boston Police department...below are two recent samples:


Two illustrations for a magazine article on artificial intelligence,
authored by Pedro Alves, founder of leading AI firm, Ople Inc.

Several book illustration projects graced my studio over the last few months, but I thought I'd share one that was truly fun. Here are two of a dozen illustrations for a terrific guitar instruction book authored by Eric Stone. Eric is already working on his second book and he's contacted me about illustrating that soon.


One of several pieces that involved writing and art, for Maryland wealth management firm, WMS Partners. The financial theme cartoons are being featured in a publication and their advertising efforts.

I have been working on concepts since June with their new publication editor Malcolm Fitch, the former Editor-in-chief of Standard & Poor.


In October I was commissioned to co-write a humorous presentation for Cloud Sliver, Inc., a new client in Austin, Texas. Their specialty is moving large scale corporate data to the cloud, applications like Oracle, Microsoft with storage for tens of thousands of employees. 

Their proprietary software has saved companies like AT&T and Citibank millions of dollars and years of work. The process is hard to explain in a typical PowerPoint sales presentation to executives, so I was asked to write some funny metaphors and draw a few cartoons to get the theme across. 


Lastly, something not for clients: the family Christmas card. 

Today, after a great afternoon out hiking with my wife daughter, I'm working on a 'New Yorker style' cartoon for a new client, a Boston-based risk management firm. I have the sketch rendered and some watercolor ready and waiting, so I'll wrap up soon.

It felt good to take some time away from the blog, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. No pressure to update, or to read the latest fake news and noise.

We have taken two ski trips, spent time with my Mom and brother in Chicago, and with in laws here - in the past month alone. I'd gladly make that trade every time. With that said, after my next post, (which I had written a while back), I may disappear again for a while. Until that respite ends, adieu. I hope your new year is off to a wonderful start.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On the Drawing Board: Mucho Libros

This may be the longest stretch of dead air here since starting this journal nearly twelve years ago. My apologies. Simply put, the studio has been stirring, while life in general has been hopping along at a brisk pace...leaving little time to ruminate or blog about it.

One of those things - and the most significant - has been my daughter's high school graduation! We hosted a big party here at the house, and visits from family and friends, (including my Mom, flying in from Illinois.) I can't my little girl is a graduate...nor can I believe how fast the past 18 years have gone by. (She's starting college in the fall, studying illustration and animation.)

For those who came here to see some recent scribblings/drawings/cartoons, (or even those who just stumbled in after a Google image search), I'll share a few book illustration commissions and advertising projects. If you're already bored, I'll understand if you hightail it out of here, but I'll try to spruce up the verbage.

I recently wrapped up illustrating four books, and all of them have been engaging, with diverse subject matter and fascinating concepts from each author.

Two books basically unleashed me to splash a bit of ink and watercolor around...the other two required me to write funny stuff as well as draw.

The first book: "Would You Do That To Your Mother?by business author, Jeanne Bliss and released by Penguin/Random House this week.

Jeanne Bliss pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, holding the first ever CCO role for over 20 years at Lands' End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations.  This is Jeanne's fourth published book.                 

This commission consisted of 46 color cartoons, starting with roughly 65 ideas with dialogue written to get to that number - and that is a healthy amount of work.

The work was fascinating, as the book is filled with insights about the inner workings of many Fortune 100 companies, as well as what crazy things such companies unwittingly do that lose customers.

The cartoons are available as downloads, and also added to videos, which are available through the publisher's website.

The book has received reviews from some noteworthy journalists and CEOs, and it seems that it's message is resonating with people.

Update: 5/21: Jeanne called me while on her book's promotional tour and said that the book sold 15,000 copies in the first week, and is currently #1 in Amazon's business books.

The next is a recently illustrated book is by Wendy Wood, the Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at the University of Southern California. 

Wendy initially hired to create an illustrations to humorously explain and depict concepts.

After doing one for her and being fortunate enough to make her laugh, I signed a contract to do the rest. After getting to read several chapters, I realized I was getting an extremely interesting course in habit building. (Who doesn't want to develop top-notch habitual abilities?)

Here's one of several cartoons written and drawn for her book"Habits and Rewards" which is being published later this year by Macmillan books.

The third new book is by Memphis-based author, Mark Grissom. He has written a children's book that deals with safety. Though it is intended to be understood by kids, it is aimed at being good advice for all ages. (Well, at least it made good sense to a serial risk-taker.)

It's filled with all sorts of clever metaphors that get across the wisdom of actively avoiding pitfalls.

Being a children's book, every page was illustrated...and that entailed nearly 70 ink and watercolor illustrations. I worked on this with the author gradually, over a span going back to December.

The fourth book dealt with a guitar instruction. Yes, you read that right. (I told you this is a diverse group.)

Originally from Philadelphia, Eric Stone is a contemporary guitar player, music educator, and arranger. He earned a certificate in guitar performance from the world-renowned Los Angeles Music Academy College of Music in Pasadena. 

Eric hired me to illustrate his instruction book this past winter and I had a terrific time working with him in communicating his ideas and concepts.

An admission...I took guitar lessons, once informally and briefly from an old girlfriend, and later from a fairly well known guitarist. The whole thing pretty much escaped me, and I picked up zippo. (I don't have any musical talent). But I wish I had Eric as a teacher back then.

All totaled, these four books required nearly 150 illustrations and written humor ideas. Combined with the usual corporate and advertising client work, it made for for a quite busy first few months of 2018.

In the midst of a few of those late nights, I momentarily lost sight of how incredibly blessed I am to be able to write and draw for a living. But only momentarily.


Lastly, we'll throw in a few recent commissions and advertising pieces:

Illustrations created for Intel Corporation to publicize their "Intelligent Systems" technology.

One of several cartoons created for a government agency in Dubai.

An advertising piece for a cosmetics company in Beverly Hills, California, addressing a feeling that some women over 50 have, that they disappear from the view of the opposite sex. (Though it is an effective way to market cosmetics, I don't agree.)
An update for a piece created for the University of Toronto.

Finally, a cartoon for a long-time client in New York.

Next up on the drawing board...a new business book, some cartoons for a Silicon Valley tech company, and a San Diego Real Estate firm, as well as an ongoing series of investment cartoons for a New York-based wealth management firm.

Oh, and most important of all, I need to get my rump in gear on Mother's Day celebrating - for two moms, mine and my wife.