Monday, September 06, 2021

Books, bikes and back to college

Happy Labor Day! A day off for me, (hopefully for you as well) and a chance to catch up a bit here. It's hard to believe summer is nearly over.

This past month brought some fun writing and illustrating projects, and I'll share one that was a unique biography. The subject is a prominent businessman, investor (and as I found out while illustrating the book, also a friend of Warren Buffet). It was commissioned by the author, via my agent.

To begin, the editor and author provided me with a manuscript, photos of the gentleman, and written material regarding his investment strategies.



 
 

 
I wrote concepts for the interior illustrations based upon investment strategies in the book and submitted them to the author prior to drawing anything. After approval, I created illustration and cartoons.
 

 
The book cover (below) was purely illustration. I constructed the scene at the subject's lake house from photos of the interior but they did not have a photo of him seated in the scene, (or his requisite three devices and stacks of "read" and "unread" Wall Street Journals, and Vernor's Ginger Ale) so I had to work from imagination.   
 

The book is being published in October.

 

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A advertising illustration piece created last month.

 

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This is a political cartoon for a media outlet and magazine in Atlanta. I was asked to create two versions of this cartoon, one featuring Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden another featuring Nancy with Andrew Cuomo.  The latter was published due to the timing of
Cuomo resigning from office after his scandal. I was given the concept to draw by the publication editor, and I wasn't sure how many people would remember Jim And Tammy Faye Baker simply from their likenesses...but it is an interesting analogy.

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A blast from the past. I was recently contacted by the folks at Ted Talks, requesting permission to use an image for their marketing. (This is a scene from a Ted Talk being presented by bestselling author Daniel Pink, featuring an illustration I created for one of his books, below).



 

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We took a family trip two weeks ago, a last hurrah to summer, involving mountain bikes & horses.  We biked along the Vail pass, 15 miles past Copper Mountain into Frisco, then on to Breckenridge. Incredible views and wildlife, including a bald eagle and bear.

                                            A vibrantly colored lake near Copper Mountain

                                                                 Bald Eagle's Nest





Then, a few days later, I flew to Nashville with my daughter, taking her back to college and helping her move in. (My wife stayed home with our elderly dog who needs extra care right now.) I flew to Nashville a few months ago and moved most of her dorm items into a storage facility downtown. So, the reverse this time.

 

                                    

Lots of exercise, we got her dorm suite set up. Later I took Julia and her roommates out for dinner, then enjoyed some terrific Nashville music. Sunday, big hugs and goodbyes before flying back to Denver. 

 We all miss her greatly, the dog included.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

On the digital drawing board: What is the proper mix of work and play?

I was recently talking with a college friend, and amidst the usual discussion of family and life's pursuits, we pondered the proper ratio of work and time off. We came up with some algebraic formulas with a little calculus thrown in. 
 
Truthfully, math was my worst subject in school, so there was nothing of the sort. And we both admitted to being at the mercy of outside forces.
 
Our numbers were fuzzy and inexact, but I felt that the Pareto principle ("The 80/20 rule" often used in business) was close. 1/5 of our time spent in absolute joy allows work to flow the other 4/5. 
 
Well, actually, 100% play, 0% work is a really favorable ratio, but few people can pull that off, except for perhaps trust-funders and ex-Hollywood actresses who marry into the British royal family. 
 
Even 80/20 is tough for me, with a daughter at a private college. Weekends off usually have to suffice, but a vacation is always nice. 
 
I have not posted here since February, and that's mainly because I've been swamped. (I know I'm fortunate; many friends, colleagues in my field, and family members, including my wife have had major downturns in business/work since Covid descended.) So, a long gap of no posts. But in keeping with the work/play theme, I'll mention a couple of highlights since last popping in here. 
 
My family and I took a few trips, including one late season ski jaunt, taking advantage of a big snow storm. It was a multi-resort, week-long respite after 4 weeks of intense work. (See, there's that ratio.)
 
I also took a solo trip to Nashville to move my daughter out of her dorm. Carrying belongings, furniture and what they now loosely call "dorm refrigerators" (85 pounds and three times the size of what I had in my dorm) down two flights of stairs, packing and shipping boxes, is not really a vacation. But it's still a break, and terrific exercise. She and I also couldn't pass up the chance to see some live music downtown. We saw some new singers, a good Pearl Jam cover band, and of course, some country, which I tolerate.
 
That was in April and early May. It has been nearly all "play time" writing and drawing. (I call it that so that it remains fun and that I never feel overworked.) Before I go, here are a few glimpses of recent work (or playtime?) from the drawing board:

 
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A A few weeks ago, large oil producer Colonial paid a hefty ransom to the hackers who infiltrated its system and forced the shutdown of a major oil pipeline supplying fuel to the East Coast. 

A long-time Silicon Valley California-based client is a cloud computing pioneer who offers solutions for the increasingly common ransom hacks of corporate websites. I worked in concert with the CEO and the Marketing Director on this one, starting with some sketches and gradually refining the scene to this.
 
 
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This was created for a Disney Channel writer who is transitioning into advertising copy writing. She's with an agency in Los Angeles, and wanted several humorous illustrations to use to pitch to clients. She wrote the concepts and came to me for the art...in this case, the client is Omaha Steaks, with a scene from the movie "Psycho". Fancy a steak grilled by Norman Bates?

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A cartoon for a woman in New York, commissioned as a gift for her husband's birthday. (The concept was an idea he had for a New Yorker cartoon.) It was matted at 8 X 10 and framed at 11X 14.)
 
 
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A character and series of humorous illustrations created for Merck Pharmaceutical & Johnson & Johnson. This was for their corporate website and an interactive area for customers with questions about Covid vaccines and prescriptions.
 
 
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  After a long week of deadlines, I can relate to the guy on the right in the above cartoon.
 
 
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A New Yorker cartoon - about that never-ending fad of "ink".
 
 
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 One of a series of cartoons for a physical therapy business in New Jersey. 
(Referred to me by another long-term client.)


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A book cover illustration from a recently published biography of a American physician who became a mayor and then an elected regional leader in the Congo. The stories cover 60 years, and they are fascinating. (In addition to the cover, I was commissioned to create 18 Pen and ink illustrations.)


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Peter Linquiti is a distinguished professor at George Washington University, and he recently authored a college textbook on philosophy and practical self improvement. As he mentioned to me over the phone, it applies throughout one's life; in school as well as into the work force. He hired me to create a series of humorous B&W illustrations for the book, and later the publisher approved several of them to be prepared in color. One is pictured above.
 
 
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(Clicken to embiggen)
 
 
This was a personal commission for a gentleman in New York City who initially called me to discuss creating a large 18 X 24 high detail cartoon illustration print to give to each of several friends. He wanted a group scene set in a famous casino room, depicting he and his friends seated at a high stakes poker table. 
 
 
I worked from individual photos of everyone, and since they were typical phone snapshots taken with varied lighting, and expression, the trick was giving everyone the same same light source (highlights and shadows), with a similar range of emotion/smiles. etc. I also made the decision to draw everyone in tuxedos to fit the tone and to make it cohesive. After approval of the B&W draft, I added watercolor. After he approved the color art, I  gave the client a high resolution digital file which he easily uploaded to an online specialty printer, to have the canvases printed and framed.
 

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Update: 7/25: As mentioned earlier, we took a trip to Illinois, to see family. 
A few photos from that:

      My daughter, wife and Mom at a Frank Lloyd Wright house in my Mom's neighborhood.            
And in a much more serious pose, my wife relaxing in Chicago, (in yes, that is a unicorn).
                                                                      
 
   Celebrating with my Mom, on her birthday


Wednesday, February 03, 2021

On the drawing board: Planned and Unplanned Travel

After traveling nowhere but to nearby ski areas over the past few months, I suddenly became more mobile...first flying to Florida for business early in January.

It's amazing how open it is there. Most people are being careful and wearing masks, but stores, restaurants, and public facilities are operating normally. Florida has vaccinated 80% of their high risk population, including age 70 and over. Their high risk population is larger than most states...so they are doing things fairly well. The best part is that I was also able to visit a close friend from Boulder who moved to Sarasota last year. (Part of the reason I decided to bite the bullet, and travel to do some hands-on work, on location).

 After heading back home, I holed up in my studio for a couple of weeks to take care of several client illustration and humor writing projects. I was preparing for more of the same, but that quickly changed.


My brother recently learned that he needed heart surgery due to a severe tear in a ventricle valve. Many people have slightly leaky heart valves, producing murmurs. Those are usually graded as 1 or 2 on a scale of 4 in terms of severity. My brother's tear was classified as a 4, leading to some debilitating symptoms.

He consulted with a cardiac surgeon in Chicago, and was informed that would require open heart surgery, and the valve replacement would only last 10 years. Dan also consulted with a surgeon at the esteemed Cleveland clinic, who believed he could repair the valve permanently, using a much less intrusive procedure. That sounded ideal, however, Dan and his wife couldn't logistically bring their kids to Cleveland for 12 days (for tests, surgery and recovery). So, I offered to hang out with them, and flew to Chicago last Saturday. 

I have enjoyed being with my niece and nephew, who are wonderful kids.  I brought my work with me, along with my neophyte cooking skills. Two snowstorms left over a foot of snow, and momentarily I was wishing the snow was under my skis instead of on top of my shovel. It was great fun making snowmen and throwing snowballs with my niece and nephew, one of many memories from the trip that I'll cherish.

Thankfully, Dan's heart surgery went very well. He and his wife return home in a few days, and I will be exiting westward after that.

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On the work front, I just signed contracts this week to illustrate two new books. The first is for an author with whom I have worked several times. This one will be a business book with full color humorous illustrations. The second is a book that will be a memoir of sorts for a gentleman who has had a very adventurous life. I will be doing pen and ink illustrations to go along with stories of events in the Congo, Madagascar, Belgium,  and Ethiopia, covering periods of time over the last 60 years, in various parts of the world. It should be fun.

 Here are a few of the cartoons and illustrations that have been on the board recently.

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A commissioned caricature of the CEO of MGA Entertainment, and creator of Bratz dolls, and LOL Surprise toys. I worked from several photos, refined sketches, and then after approval, sent the finished painting digitally to the client. They sent it to a large fine art printing firm, who then printed it on 18 X 24  canvas with archival ink.




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An illustration from a middle grade fiction book currently in the studio.



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