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). The project was commissioned by the authors, via my agent.

To begin, the editor and authors 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. 

It's back to the studio for me, where some book illustrations jobs, a project for Google, and a few political comissions await. Until next time, stay well and enjoy the autumn.


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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Friday, December 04, 2020

Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship for college cartoonists

                                http://cartoonistfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2020jk-768x1024.jpg

 

Every year the National Cartoonists Society awards the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship to one talented college student pursuing a career in cartooning. 

This includes comic strips, political cartoons, comic books, animation, graphic novels, editorial illustration…any cartooning discipline. 

The scholarship award is $5,000 and a trip to the NCS Reuben Awards.

Jay Kennedy was my editor at King Features in New York for several years. He encouraged me with notes and phone calls when I first began submitting comics for syndication. (King Features received over 6,000 submissions per year and chose just one or two of them. In the face of such daunting odds, encouragement and advice was a big deal, and in short supply.) When Jay later offered me my first comic strip syndication contract, I began working with him daily in editing both my written humor and artwork for King Features. 

A few years later l was offered another contract by Tribune Media, and none of it would have been possible without that initial time spent working with Jay. It was essentially hands-on training, particularly in succinct humor writing and editing, something that was unavailable in any college or university. For a cartoonist, or any visual story teller, those skills are as important as drawing ability, (one could argue they are more important, as drawing skill is fairly common.)

Sadly, Jay Kennedy passed away in 2007 while vacationing in Costa Rica. (A little-known fact is that he died a hero, successfully saving his fiance who was caught in a riptide.) 

The annual Jay Kennedy Scholarship was established in his memory, and is funded by an initial $100,000 grant from the Hearst Foundation/King Features Syndicate and additional donations from professional cartoonists. 

Submissions are judged by a panel and an award is given to the best college cartoonist. This memorial scholarship is the sort of thing that can launch a young cartoonist's career. 

If you think that might be you, enter now! Below is the info on submitting.

The winner will receive:

  • $5,000 scholarship
  • Trip to the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Awards Convention.

To enter:

  • 8 samples of your own cartooning artwork (copies only); noting if and where the work has been published — either in print or on the Web.
  • Print out the samples AND copy them to digital media.
  • Files should be no larger than 8.5×11″ and no more than 300 dpi.
  • DO NOT send original artwork.
  • Completed entry form.
  • Download the PDF of the entry form for more details.

 

https://cartoonistfoundation.org/

Saturday, November 28, 2020

On the drawing Board: Book illustrations, turkey and all the trimmings

I'm stopping by after a nice Thanksgiving, though it was a little less crowded than usual. I hope yours was enjoyable also. It has been a long day drawing and writing, my stomach is growling, and we have many turkey day leftovers tempting me to raid the refrigerator, so forgive me if I make this brief.

 I'm in the midst of some fun projects in the studio and thought I would share a few pieces...

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One of 32 cartoons and illustrations currently being created for a business book by an author in Boston who has had four books published previously. This project has been in the studio since September, and I'm working with the author as he completes each chapter. (Perfect for filling in between other projects). It is allowing me to have some fun with humor writing, along with the creation of a narrator character that will featured throughout the book.

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This is one of 15 illustrations created for a book it will be published in December. The layout here is loosely based upon a jail cell scene from the Disney World/Land ride, "Pirates of the Caribbean". The characters are all part of the book.

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A few years ago I was invited to join Cartoon Stock (a London-based firm which is the largest source for cartoons for purchase.) I periodically send them some of my published cartoons, and this one was among the latest group.

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 I was hired to do a series of illustrations for Ball Horticultural in October. The above piece was created for ads in Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The subject matter is a group of new potted plants that allow folks in apartments and condos to grow fresh tomatoes and peppers...also great for those of us with a garden that is in hibernation in the winter months.

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 A personal commission for the Vice President & Head of Marketing of Public Storage Inc. He is also an avid skier, and a fan of one of my favorite Colorado ski towns. This was commissioned to be presented to him as a gift. I created it at 18" X 24" and after the art was approved, it was printed in Giclee on canvas in high resolution, and finally, matted and framed.
 
 
 
 
Of course we had an election, which brought many requests for political cartoons, for media outlets and also some special interest groups.

 


 
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Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Early September illustrations, travel...and snowflakes


The past few months have been a divergent path from what we had imagined for Spring and Summer of 2020. Regardless of your habits, things changed, some of them major, some minor. 
 
I realized recently that I'm very good at inadvertently making my Covid mask bands pull my ears forward so that I look like Jim Carrey in "Dumb & Dumber". 
 
With regard to seeing friends, out of state family members, and continuing work or school, things have not been as much fun for most people. 

Despite all of that, my daughter is physically back at college, in an illustration and animation program run by a group of former Disney and Warner Brothers artists. She is very fortunate, (in my view) to be enrolled at a university with in-class instruction going on now. For the sort of thing she's learning,  (character design, life drawing, illustration and animation techniques) in-person, hands-on instruction is important. After three weeks of classes, her university's Covid cases are extremely low and it seems to be working well. Fingers crossed that it continues.

 
 
We saw the contrast to other universities, like the University of Colorado in our home town of Boulder. While taking our daughter back to college, we made a visit to my alma mater, the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. The campus was much quieter than usual for mid August with Covid concerns. 
 
Prior to that, we carefully planned and celebrated a birthday for my Mom, including my brother and his family. My Mom had not seen anyone in months, except for a few delivery people and neighbors. There was some risk involved but we did our to best mitigate that and as my Mother said, nearly complete isolation is miserable, and this visit revived her spirits.

 
What matters most in life? We spent several magnificent days reminding ourselves of just that, and we agreed that it was much needed for all of us. Several weeks later, we can say we pulled it off...safely.

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With the important stuff covered, I thought I'd share a few of the things from the studio. I am fortunate to have plenty of book illustration projects and advertising work...here are a few recent highlights:

 I had a great deal of fun illustrating and writing humor for the new book Humanocracy, and blogged about it a few months back. It was just published and  released by Harvard Business Review Press
It is currently a Wall Street Journal and Amazon Business bestseller, and I know that
 the two authors are excited to see how it resonates with reader.
 
 



 

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One of over a dozen illustrations for a book written by a Xerox Corp. executive.
 ...illustrating something that has been slowly returning to offices, after being notably missing
 over the past few months of Covid-19: The rush for the door at 5:00.



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A cartoon for a newspaper in Encinitas California. I've always wanted to draw Nancy Pelosi as a
parrot. (I wonder if she's telling Gavin Newsome about a special salon where he can get his big hair shampooed, cut and blown out - despite all California hair salons being closed.)

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I had a chance to work with one of my favorite authors again in August. This was a second book project for a prominent guitarist and guitar instructor, this time encompassing 20 book illustrations. The manuscript is very creative, with several methods for overcoming creative obstacles that  apply to many artistic endeavors. The author is a pleasure to work with, and when it is published I'll share a link here.



     

Friday, June 19, 2020

A few new things

The past couple of weeks have been a blur, with some book illustration jobs on the board, 
as well as corporate work...and some family outings. I thought I'd pop in and share a few things:



A B&W sketch for another Ralph Lauren Polo cartoon. This one was created for them earlier and saved, but since it features Michael Jordan, it is being used to tie into the recent airing of "The Last Dance" on ESPN. It will be used in ads and SM for their New York City Polo restaurant. Michael joins the surprisingly lively Carol Channing and Clark Gable.  
The next step is to add some more contrast and color.

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A political cartoon for a Canadian news magazine,

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Book illustrations and dreams of getting back to normal

Just checking in. I hope you are staying healthy, busy and sane.

An old school friend called last night to catch up, and he brought up the subject of personal passions...so I thought I would lead with one.

Those who know me are aware that I've loved skiing since childhood, usually getting in 20+ days a year, which is less than I once did when I was single. But this season was cut short nation-wide by Covid. (It also caused our week-long family ski trip to Vail Resorts to be cancelled 48 hours before leaving in late March.)

Happily, Arapahoe Basin reopened 14 days ago,  (by lottery-based reservation only.) It was one of only three ski resorts in the U.S. to do so, and my daughter and I were greatly tempted to try to go. But then we considered the Covid rules in effect. I have thought of skiing as the perfect social distancing sport...until one gets to the lift line.

Skiing, coming to a stop in a socially distanced lift line and quickly donning a mask - while juggling gloves, goggles, helmets, poles, etc. - would be a strange experience. Additionally, A-Basin's mid mountain lifts are not like the modern widely spaced areas at the big resorts, and I couldn't imagine how they could physically make it work. Many of those upper lifts are accessed via steep runs, with shortened waiting areas. Asking people to suddenly slow/stop and distance themselves six feet from anyone could be dicey if the "line" is lengthy.

The final straw was looking at webcam shots of the snow near the base area...not great. It looked like a negative photo of a golf green with sand traps, open areas everywhere. A-Basin is the highest altitude ski resort in North America, and I have skied there into May & June, as recently as last year, with surprisingly good conditions. But with warm temps last week, what looked great was now less than serviceable.

It turns out that the snow and the awkwardness of all those Covid rules caused A-Basin to quickly close operations a few days later - nearly a month earlier than usual. Oh well. We will just live on the memories of some grand skiing from Dec-Feb this year.

Onward, to some things in the studio.

In addition to the usual corporate client projects, I'm currently illustrating a few books. I thought I'd share an illustration from one of them; a book with a light-hearted theme about families and schools recovering from the Covid-19 situation.

For this book, I'm pairing with an author with whom I have worked previously.  (That was a humor book, published a few years ago by Pelican Books.)

This will be featuring a pen & brown ink children's book drawing style, with some splashes of watercolor... A great deal of fun so far.




Friday, April 17, 2020

Stopping by for a breather, (through the requisite face diaper, of course)

I hope you and your loved ones are staying well in this science fiction movie-like existence.

Like nearly everyone, I am mostly sticking to one GPS location, (and not chasing the siren songs of the deep snow at A-Basin, as usual this time of year). Being busy drawing and writing prevents most rumination about the no-skiing rules in effect. 


I'm taking breaks by doing things like teaching the dog to point. We're also, shaking hands/paws, as I am out of practice. By the way, the dog is the happiest of anyone in our family...he is thrilled that no one leaves the house for long. So, our relationship is definitely on an upward swing.

Another benefit: All of us can say that our cooking skills have improved, (well, except for the dog.)


The impact of the global pandemic is considerable in its reach. Kids are no longer in school and sadly, many people have lost jobs or have been furloughed. (Let's hope that is short-lived). Many more are working differently, staying put and utilizing video meetings and apps.



So far, I am fortunate to have plenty of work with books and corporate clients, and for now, I'm taking on more projects than usual because I don't know what lies ahead. Most of the people I know in my profession are staying busy. I hope the same is true for you.

Over the past few years, I've become well accustomed to working from home. I leased offices for over a decade, but changed that several years ago, since I rarely physically meet with clients (who are usually in other time zones).

Instead of continually renewing leases, we put an addition on the house, and I have been walking twenty feet to the studio instead of eight blocks, ever since. I miss the social aspects sometimes - and certainly more so now, as friends are not dropping by, and I can't visit them, either. But other things are not missed, like the rent for that first office space on the Pearl Street Mall - which has since increased to being more than our mortgage payment.



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One of a series of  advertising cartoons created this month for a Microsoft affiliate and long 
time client CGNet. Very timely with most of the country working from home.



My wife and I are both used to working this way...just not living this way.

I need to get back to some deadlines, and I don't want to make you snooze, (you can nap anytime these days, right?) so I'll wrap up soon. So before signing off, I thought I'd share some of a current project in the studio.

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I was recently hired to illustrate and write humor for a new book by noted author, Gary Hamel. Gary  is the originator (with C.K. Prahalad) of the concept of core competencies. He is also a visiting professor at both Harvard and the London Business School.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8c/Gary_Hamel_and_Eric_Schmidt_at_MLab_dinner.jpg/300px-Gary_Hamel_and_Eric_Schmidt_at_MLab_dinner.jpg
Gary Hamel interviewing Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

His new book is Humanocracy, written with co-author Michele Zanini, and will be released in August by the Harvard Business Review Press. It has been fun collaborating with him and I'll share an early sample illustration: 




I have written and drawn roughly 20 pieces so far, and I'm doing them all in high resolution, as some of them will also be used by the author in presentations on a book promotion tour.

When time allows, I'll share a story about Gary's unique interview and "tryout" hiring process, as well as some other client work, including two other book illustration projects that will be starting soon.

Meanwhile, stay home, and try to keep your sense of humor...though it's not easy to do both long term.