Wednesday, December 31, 2008


While working on another one of the Films of posters, I found an image online of actress/singer Kay Francis, and, like how it frequently happens, something in it made an image appear in my head of a very simple, sleek black shape.

Getting that shape together was pretty easy, and I liked the contrast when I dropped in the flowery pattern.

Its simple and sweet and pretty chaste, which was what I was going for.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Films of Spencer Tracy

While working on yesterday's Films of Vincent Price, I thought of other actors (primarily from the Golden Age of Hollywood) who I've always liked, and the late, great Spencer Tracy is definitely on that list.

During the years I toiled away as an assistant manager of a video store, I took advantage of the store's policy of free rentals, and I worked my way through every Spencer Tracy movie I could get my hands on, and some of them--Inherit The Wind, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Bad Day at Black Rock--became some of my all-time favorites.

With rare exceptions, Tracy always played characters of unbendable moral authority, and that's what was only my mind when I was working on this--I tried all kinds of titled angles for the text and the background posters, but it looked unnecessary and too fancy for the straight-arrow Spencer Tracy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Films of Vincent Price

This started out as just a portrait of Vincent Price, since after posting an older portrait of him it occurred to me I didn't really have a "proper" portrait of the actor, someone whom I've always admired.

So I put a nice close-up of Mr. Price's face in a sea of black, but at some point it morphed into this image--I'm not exactly sure what The Films of Vincent Price is--is it a book cover, a movie poster, a DVD insert?

I don't know, I just kind of worked on this until I liked how it looked--the rough edges vaguely remind of the posters for all those Edgar Allen Poe adaptations Price appeared in, and that's good enough for me!

(By the way--among the films listed from Price's filmography are The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Confessions Of An Opium Eater, Edward Scissorhands, Last Man on Earth, The Oblong Box, and Witchfinder General)

Friday, December 26, 2008

From The Vault: Assassin Girl - 2004

This was another one of those pieces that I started on without having any idea in my mind where I was going, I just dabbled with it until I stumbled upon something that looked like...something.

I don't remember when or why I added the target/gun-sight thingy in the background, but as soon as I did, I realized that, along with the woman's grim visage, it made her look like an assassin of some sort, which was good enough for me!

Once I added the rounded corners, it became one of Tracy's favorite pieces of mine, for whatever reason. She's a gentle soul, so I'm not sure why she likes "Assassin Girl" so much...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Time Out New York: John Cleese

It was a real honor to illustrate the legendary John Cleese for this week's Time Out New York "Hot Seat" column--I've been such a huge fan for so long that I was thrilled when I found he was the subject.

Since Mr. Cleese was promoting his role in the The Day The Earth Stood Still remake, and it was a serious role, I didn't feel it was appropriate to try and have anything funny in the image so I went with something dignified and (hopefully) classy, like the man himself.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Baby Penguin

This is a baby penguin, done in the same style as the baby peeps I had previously done as presents for Darlin' Tracy.

Every so often, for a birthday or anniversary or something, I like to do a piece of animal art for her, and they eventually end up framed and hanging on a wall somewhere. The first time I showed her the baby peep done in this sort of abstract style, she got so excited that I kept doing them just for her.

But I thought for Christmas, I'd shake it up a bit a try and different animal, but done in the same cut-paper (pieces of colored paper cut out and glued down) manner.

She's going to get it tonight for Christmas, so shhh! Don't tell her!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Xmas 2008

I wanted to do something Christmassy for the blog, the first time I think I've ever done any holiday-related artwork.

I didn't want to draw Santa or Rudolph because that just sounded boring to me, so I went with characters I associate with the Christmas season just as much as them--the Heat-Miser and the Cold-Miser from those great Rankin-Bass TV specials (if I could've come up with a way to work in Burgermeister Meisterburger I would have).

So I thought, with a new President around the corner, there's a greater spirit of partnership in the air, and so these two mortal enemies would join together to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

(I think my favorite parts of this piece are the font up top and the patterned background--they look very Rankin-Bass to me.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Model For Murder"

For whatever reason, I saw the design for the title in the my head first--the titled angle, the outlined boxes--and built everything else around it. Maybe I shouldn't have used the color red again, but at least I used some different colors for this, the newest in my series of faux-paperback covers!

Friday, December 19, 2008

From The Vault: Vincent Price - 1994

This portrait of Vincent Price is nothing terribly ambitious--its just my own take on Price as he looked in the film The House on Haunted Hill--but it ended up being significant later on.

At the time of its creation, I was working at a video store, struggling to get the giant jumbo jet that is a freelance art career off the ground. I was creating new work constantly, thinking I couldn't let up for a second if I ever wanted to start landing work.

My work didn't go unnoticed at the store, and the managers there asked if I wanted to create some t-shirts of famous movie actors done in my illustration style to be sold at the store. That sounded good to me, so I worked up three designs--one of Orson Welles, one of William Powell and Myrna Loy (two of my favorites from the Thin Man movies), and this one of Vincent.

But when I got the shirts made, I told the printer to put the artwork of Price all the way over on the right of the shirt--I thought it gave the shirt an extra little "something", and worked well with the very vertical design of the piece.

For some reason, the printer actually argued with me, trying to convince me I wouldn't want them that way. It got so ridiculous that I almost had to walk out and search for another printer, because they kept trying to talk me out of what I wanted.

Finally, they relented, and I got the shirts made. And you know what? Of the three designs, the Vincent Price shirt was the only one we sold out of.

I kept one for myself, which I still have. I knew I was right!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Time Out New York: Benicio Del Toro

This week's "Hot Seat" column for Time Out New York was another rush, because the original subject got bumped back a week to make room for super-cool actor Benicio Del Toro, who is currently starring as Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh's new bio-pic (two bio-pics, actually).

Obviously, adding the ubiquitous Che t-shirt was a no-brainer, and I didn't feel like it was necessary to add anything else.

I guess what I'm the most sorry about is, since Hot Seat subjects never seem to repeat (I've been doing these every week for three and a half years, and have never to had to illustrate the same person twice), that means I won't get to do a portrait of Del Toro next year, when he's promoting the remake of The Wolf Man. I had a really cool idea all worked out for that...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WPA: Flowers

This was another idea I had for a WPA-inspired public service poster--the message seemed like the kind of common sense, for-the-public-good that the WPA would've gotten behind.

I haven't really had the opportunity to draw flowers much before, but I thought they turned out pretty well, and I enjoyed it. I'll have to try them more, partly because Tracy loves flowers so much and she was particularly thrilled at my efoorts this time around (she just doesn't get as excited about monsters, for some reason).

I have to admit, as a finished piece, it doesn't really look all that vintage, so it doesn't read as a real WPA-type poster as some of my other ones have, but I didn't let that stop me from putting together something I thought looked cool.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


This piece had started out as a more of a retro advertising-type thing, with text and all that.

But as I worked on it, I realized I liked it just as it is--just a simple little portrait of a beautiful woman with flaming red hair.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Universal Monsters: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Eh, I just can't stop with these "Universal Monsters" posters , even when it isn't a "Universal Monster"!

As a fan of those Universal Monster movies from the 30s and 40s, it always sorta bugged me that Universal never did a version of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, the one classic literary monster that's on the same par with Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, etc.

I guess that's because MGM did a a version in 1931 (which is the one reflected here--it even won Frederic March an Oscar for his performance) and then did another one (with Spencer Tracy, less well-received) in 1941, so maybe Universal never felt like they had enough time to make a mark with their own version.

In any case, I felt like it would be fun to graft the 1931 Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde into the Universal Monsters poster framework I had built, as if at some point down the line they got the rights to it and released with the rest of their classic monster movies.

I debated for a while how to portray the Jekyll/Hyde persona--have them both as the main monster? When I realized that would make things way too crowded, I decided the obviously right way to do it was focus on the monster--Hyde--and have Jekyll as a co-star, even if March spends way more time being Jekyll than Hyde in the film.

Like I mentioned before, I'm always a little concerned about watering down my collection of Classic Monster Posters, because they are by far the most popular work I have done, and I don't like to add one to the roster if I don't think its as good as the rest--but I think this one came out really well, and I'm happy to add it to the collection.

Friday, December 12, 2008

From The Vault: Pepsi Dance - 2002

Six years ago this Saturday, I was laid off by my then-regular employer, for whom I was doing web design.

I had had a couple of freelance jobs going at the time, but I still needed (or felt I needed) a regular paycheck. It was relatively unexpected, so I drove him in a fog, wondering What The Hell I Was Going To Do.

So I came home, told some friends, and let myself think about it for a few hours. I called another friend, who was a very successful freelance artist, and told him I was thinking of just going freelance from then on. I didn't really want to try and find a new job, and knew I would zero to no enthusiasm for any job I could land. Not only did that seem like a nightmarish prospect, but it wasn't even very fair to any potential employer who I might be able to fool into hiring me.

"Go for it", he said.

So sitting in my chair that night, I had officially become a freelance artist. My life's dream had been achieved, albeit in a very weird, scary, and anti-climactic way.

That was six years ago--at the time, I told myself if I could do it for six months it'd be a "moral victory" and I'd be willing to try something else, knowing I'd done it. The fact that its been six years seems like a miracle to me.

To commemorate the anniversary, I went back through my records and tried to the first new piece I worked on after Going Freelance, but my memory is hazy and I don't exactly remember which piece it was.

But this one is from around that time, so it might be the first one. It was a job from an ad agency that had Pepsi as a client(!), and they were comping up some new can designs to show to them. One design they wanted was a "very hip" couple dancing, done in the Pepsi colors, to be potentially put on the can.

Of course I was very excited to get the job, because it was a huge client, and who knows? Maybe my work could end up on millions of cans of Pepsi, rotting kids' teeth from coast to coast.

But they needed it fast, something like overnight fast. So I stayed up reeeeeally late one night, trying to find the right two, "very hip" people that would look good dancing together. I finally found the two you see above, changed their clothes and hair a bit, and dressed them in Pepsi blue and red, ending up with what you see above.

I turned it in, and the ad agency really loved what I did--it was exactly what they were looking for. Huzzah!

Sadly, days then weeks passed, and I heard nothing back. From my experience, when someone needs something from you Right Now and then you hear nothing back for weeks, something bad has happened.

And I was right--the agency told me that at some point down the line, Pepsi canned (sorry) the whole idea of having illustrations on their cans, so there went the whole thing. I still got paid for the work I did, and I had a nice piece for my portfolio, but obviously I was disappointed. Having my work on a Pepsi can as my first post-firing freelance job would've been a huge morale builder.

But it was not to be. And I've managed to do okay since, so I guess I made the right decision back on Dec. 13, 2002.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Time Out New York: Michael Ian Black

This week's "Hot Seat" column for Time Out New York was a rush x5 type of job--the subject, comedian/actor Michael Ian Black, wasn't decided upon until later than usual in the week, plus this piece had to be in earlier than usual because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

So while I think this piece is fine, I wish I had had more time to mess around the with background, or something. It looks sort of unfinished to me, but at the time it didn't seem that way.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bill Murray

Sort of continuing the thread I've been following this week, I realized while working on yesterday's piece that I've never done a straightforward portrait of Bill Murray, certainly one of my all-time favorite actor-comedians.

So I did this, again just for the fun of it, similar in a manner to how I used to my portraits--all black background, just the figure. (I guess if I had really wanted to do it Old School, I would've pulled out paper and glue, but I'm low on xacto blades).

I hope, one day, (maybe for Time Out New York?), I'll actually get the chance to do a portrait of Mr. Murray for real.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Larry Darrell 1984

I was still on a big The Razor's Edge kick last week, so in addition to re(x20)reading the book, I put on the two film versions as I worked.

The first was from 1946 and starred Tyrone Power as the book's protagonist, Larry Darrell, and then there was another in version in 1984, starring Bill Murray, in his first "straight" dramatic role.

I won't get into the details of the movies, other than to say I like them both. Each film differs quite a bit from the book, as they differ from each other. The Power version was a decent-sized hit at the time, the Murray version was not.

But I enjoyed it, so I worked on this portrait of the Bill Murray version of Larry, as he searched for spiritual fulfillment in India. Its no great shakes as a piece of artwork, but it I enjoyed working on it nonetheless.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Razor's Edge

The Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham, is my favorite book. I've read it about twenty times, which is nineteen times more than I've ever read any other novel (with the exception of Lost Horizon, which I've read 2-3 times).

I don't even remember what made me first want to read it, because I have never been a big reader of fiction. Non-fiction, history, sociology, biographies: those I can devour with barely any knowledge on the subject. But for some reason, novels have always been a tough slog for me.

But for whatever reason, The Razor's Edge spoke to me in a way no other book ever has, and eventually I started collecting different editions of it (an idea I first heard of from the recently-late and always-great Forrest J. Ackerman, who owned something like five hundred different editions of Frankenstein). I own hardcover editions, paperbacks, movie tie-in versions, one made for soldiers in WW II (reformatted so it could more easily carried in a back pocket), even one entirely in Hebrew! (I haven't read that one yet)

Every so often, when I get in the mood to read it again, I go on eBay and see if I can find yet another edition I don't have. And once again I found one, a British edition with a different cover on sale for only a couple of bucks. A few clicks later...

Which brings me to the piece above (way above--jeez, I'm talking a lot here), where I imagined what would I do if I had the chance to design a cover for the book.

I tried several different takes on this basic theme, and eventually I settled on this, simple and clean, with the addition of the book's epigram ("The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.")

At first, I had the blue boxes stretched all the way off the edges of the picture, but then I saw that it made it look more like water, and that the man walking was walking on water, which of course brought up all kinds of inappropriate associations (the book even features a part ultimately dismissing that particular kind of miracle), so I had to reign the colors back in a bit, which I think ends up looking better anyway.

I'm almost done my latest read through of the book, and who knows? Maybe some day, if the stars align, the book's publisher will want to put a new edition, and need a new cover for it...

Friday, December 5, 2008

From The Vault: Two-Face - 1995

Back when I first got out of art school, my illustration style was collage art, and I tried to get work that way.

After a while of no success, I gave up on it and moved onto the portraiture that I do today. But then, something weird happened--I landed a couple of illustration jobs--my first ever--with my collage work! I had sent out fliers advertising my collage stuff, and then promptly forgot about them. So, in 1995, I was back doing collage!

But of course I never gave up the portraits, and this piece was my first and only attempt to combine the two. Batman Forever was due out in a few months, and knowing I'd see the first ever live-action Two-Face got me excited enough to try this.

While the idea is solid, and the collage half is cool (I really like the crazy eye), the portrait side is dull. Of course it's not going to be as exciting as the other side, but I think I could've put a bit more detail on the portrait side to make it stronger visually. It sort of looks like Tommy Lee Jones, but not quite.

But at the time though, I didn't see that, and thought this piece was great. It stayed in my portfolio for a long while. Too long.

(Hmm...maybe I should go look for some Aaron Eckhart photos...)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Time Out New York: Craig Robinson

This week's"Hot Seat" column subject is comedian/actor Craig Robinson, who was promoting a NYC stand-up show, but is more well known as laconic, sarcastic Dunder Mifflin warehouse manager Darrell Philbin on The Office.

This makes the third Office cast member I've had the honor to illustrate for Hot Seat, the previous two being Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson:
Since, in each case, the actors were promoting projects other than The Office, I had to stay away from anything specific to the show (no reams of paper, Dunder Mifflin ID badges, etc.), so in all three cases I've gone with generic backgrounds.

Now, I can only hope Jenna Fischer has something to promote...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Carol Borland"

Are you like me, and you sometimes just want to draw Carol Borland?


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Sunny Day"

This piece morphed into several different things as I worked on it.

The woman in the water started out as the central figure for another faux-paperback cover, but I could never get a handle on adding text to it, so I abandoned that idea.

Then it was going to be more of a straight "glamour" piece, with no background or realistic details except maybe the water. I ended up not liking any of those attempts, either.

Finally, I started adding more realistic elements (yeah, that sun is pretty big, I guess...) and it became more, in my mind, of a piece of advertising art, maybe for travel or beachwear or something. In any case, it was in this form that it worked best for me, so I called it a day.

(Maybe it was more a case of wish fulfillment, since it was miserably cold and rainy outside as I worked on it)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Universal Monsters: It Came From Outer Space

Embarking on another one of my "Universal Monsters" posters is always fraught with a self-imposed set of expectations.

They are by far the most popular illustrations on my site, so if I decide to try and add another one to the series, I'm hoping that it measures up to the others. It would weaken the whole effort if there were a couple that weren't so good.

Of course, if the end result came out really bad, no one but me would ever see it, but from my experience that doesn't seem to happen. No, the ones in the series I don't think have measured up have just missed--they're not truly bad, but they are a missing a certain something that keeps me from adding them to the official roster.

But overall, I'm pretty happy with this one, a poster for the 1953 classic It Came From Outer Space. It presented a different challenge than the rest of them because the "It" in question is not seen that much in the movie, and not at all on the original posters. Seeing a full on, clear shot of the alien would really ruin the effect, so I went for a similar approach the original Universal art department did--you see the one giant, creepy eye, but all the other details are hard to make out.

This poster is a bit more crammed with stuff than the usual approach, but I thought it worked with all the crazy colors.

Speaking of colors, I decided when I moved onto the 1950s era, sci-fi Universal films, the posters would be in color, as opposed to the monochromatic look for the 30s and 40s monster ones. So I had to continue that here, and overall I'm pretty happy with the results.

Friday, November 28, 2008

From The Vault: "Wild To Possess" - 2004

This was the very first faux-paperback cover I ever tried, back in 2004. I have no idea what inspired me to ever try something like this, but I think I wanted to do more stuff with typography and this seemed like as good an idea as any.

I must have been pretty happy with it, since looking back over my records I see that I immediately did about a dozen of these, all in a row, to varying success.

I think my favorite part
of this whole piece is the little circle with the "To" inside of it in the title. I think that looks just awesome.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Time Out New York: Elton John

Sometimes the subject for Time Out New York's weekly "Hot Seat" column really spikes the Fame-O-Meter, like it did this week for music legend Elton John.

I really wanted to do a good job on this one, and I knew I wanted something very bright, cheery, up. So I downloaded a few EJ songs on iTunes and listened to about half a dozen or so on repeat as I worked on this.

I wanted as little black on this as possible, and save for the glasses I managed to stick with that. Looking back over it, I think the likeness is off just a little bit, but I do like the colors, the design, and the overall feel of it.

How wonderful life is with my weekly "Hot Seat" assignment in the world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Man With The Golden Arm" - 2008

Another one of my faux-paperback covers, but with some slight variations in the format.

First off, this one, for once, doesn't feature some gorgeous-but-dangerous dame, but a scungy-looking guy. I had this photo in an old folder of such items, clipped from magazines over the years, and I realized that I could mess with it a bit (ok, a lot) and it would work really well as the art for another "drug" paperback book, the kind I've been messing around with since I bought a book all about them, called Dope Menace (my first try in this genre I posted here last week).

As I went through the various titles, I realized the best one to pair up with this image was one of the most famous titles of the "drug book" genre--Nelson Algren's The Man With The Golden Arm (which is probably even more famous from the movie starring Frank Sinatra).

Once I started laying type in, I saw that the best use was not to over-design it and dress it up too much--just having it there, as stark as possible, looked the best to me.

Also, I realized the book's hyperbolic tag ("More powerful than a woman's love...more binding than a man's was dope!") line didn't really have a place on here, so I left it off. I think it looked really perfect just like this--the title, that face, surrounded by darkness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adweek - 11/17/08

This was an assignment I did for the 30th anniversary issue of Adweek magazine, to illustrate four people who are part of a feature called "The Influentials."

A lot of the time, I'm asked just to provide portraits which are then put into a pre-arranged layout, but this time I had the pleasure of doing a bit of the page design myself. Adweek and I went back and forth and I was able to put together something that worked with what they needed.

Anytime we're talking about guys who are on the cutting edge of technology, I was like to use rounded edges--to me, it feels like you're inside a Mac store, so it always seems like the right way to go.

This was the first job I ever did for Adweek, I hope its the first of many.

sgThese portraits are in the current issue, on sale now. Look for this cover!

Monday, November 24, 2008

WPA: Othello - 2008

This was another WPA-inspired poster, again focusing on Orson Welles, and again using a film version he did of a Shakespeare play as the basis for a poster.

I had done the Welles portrait (when he played the title character in a 1955 film) years earlier, but I always liked it, and thought it would work really well as an image to build a poster around.

I had the toughest time figuring out how to lay in the text, and looking at it now I'm not sure I got it totally right, but maybe that's just my inner Iago whispering doubts into my ear...

Friday, November 21, 2008

From The Vault: "Iced Tea" - 2003

Back in 2003, after a long search, I finally signed on with an agent, who I thought would open a whole bunch of new doors for me, career-wise.

One of the things they asked me to do right off the bat was create some product-specific advertising art, something I didn't really have much of in my portfolio.

I wholeheartedly agreed, wanting to do everything I could to start landing advertising jobs ($$$!), so I did a whole bunch of food-related illustrations, like this one. While they were hardly exciting, I tried to bring the same level of artistic acumen and passion to them that I did for any of my other work.

The whole agent thing came and went (that's a story for another day), but I'm glad I did this stuff anyway.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Time Out New York: Tom Colicchio

Every so often, the week's Hot Seat subject is someone I have absolutely no familiarity with--and this was one of those times.

This is chef Tom Colicchio, who co-hosts the show Top Chef. Never having seen the show, ever, I was sort of at a loss as to what to add to the portrait to make it specific to him.

(I had previously illustrated the show's other host, Padma Lakshmi, but that one was a little easier to get interested in)

Anyway, I did some research, and found the real-life NY restaurant Colicchio runs, and found a graphic of their official menu. I used the background image they have on their menu and put it behind him, which to me gave it enough visual interest to make it work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"H Is For Harlot" - 2008

I recently picked up a book called Dope Menace, featuring nothing but "drug" paperback book covers over the 20th century.

Not only were the covers beautiful to look at, but now I have hundreds of more genre paperback book titles that can inspire me to make my own faux-paperback covers!

This is one of those, and I had different ideas how I wanted this to look when I started it, but eventually the thing kind of took on a life of its own, and it ended up much more of a constructivist-type of thing, all tilted angles and abstract shapes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Sad Girl" - 2008

I wanted to do something colorful and cheery, and I liked mashing up all kinds of colors here. I call it "Sad Girl" because despite the colors, she looks kinda melancholy.

I know the background elements don't make a lot of literal sense, but I just wanted something there without them being too intrusive.

With the very-vertical orientation and heavy black frame, I was consciously mimicking the general layout of my Lauren Bacall piece, which I was really happy with and wanted to try again.

Monday, November 17, 2008

WPA: Macbeth - 2008

As I've talked about ad nauseum lately, I've been really into the WPA-style recently.

After being involved with the 75th Anniversary celebration the Design For Social Impact put together last month, I started working on faux-WPA posters, like the one you see above.

Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater did a bunch of productions under the auspices of the WPA, including some Shakespeare. They never did Macbeth as far as I know, but Orson made a film version in 1948, and so I conflated what he looked like in that film and moved it back to the 1930s, as if he and his company had put on a WPA-funded production of the legendary tragedy.

I was really happy with this once I finished it, and it will be the first of many in this style, of that I'm sure!

Friday, November 14, 2008

From The Vault: "Sheryl Crow" - 1995

I did this piece in 1995, when Sheryl Crow was just breaking out as a star, and I thought she was the sexiest woman ever to walk the Earth.

This piece was a little ambitious, in that it was huge--the original cut-paper piece measured almost two feet high, way bigger than I normally did them. I'm not even sure why I felt the need to do it that big, but it did make the piece feel more impressive, somehow.

I was working on this in an apartment I shared with a fellow artist and Kubert School graduate Sean Tiffany, and another Kubie friend, Dan Eaker, was over at the time. He wandered into my room where I was working on this.

I was just getting to the sunglasses, and he suggested making them a color, which I thought sounded good. I reached for a piece of bright orange paper, and...bang! Perfect!

At the time, I was really happy with this piece--I thought it looked cool and hip and was a great example of what I could do with this style. It was in my portfolio for a long time...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Time Out New York: Paul Rudd

This week's Time Out New York "Hot Seat" portrait was actor Paul Rudd, who I'm a fan of--he has the face of a leading man, but the flinty, goofy personality that makes him more of a character actor, and a hilarious one, in films like The 40-Year Old Virgin and Wet Hot American Summer.

But, as sometimes happens, being a fan of a particular week's subject doesn't always translate into a great piece. First off, I simply couldn't come up with a relevant background that would go with a portrait of Rudd, so I used a generic scheme.

Worse, I had the hardest time nailing the likeness--I won't say what part of the above portrait I feel like I screwed up, but it's there. Sometimes, though, what I perceive as an error will work itself out in my head over time, so after finishing, I'll leave the piece alone for a day and then look at it again. Most of the time, having "fresh eyes" helps me get a better perspective on the piece.

But this time, that didn't happen--I still saw the same problem--so I even went so far as to completely start over, and do an entirely different portrait of Rudd. But about 3/4ths of the way into that one, I saw it was even worse, so I bailed on it. With the deadline for turning the piece in being that same day, I only had the time to try and touch up the original and send it in.

TONY liked the piece just fine, but I feel like this is one that got away from me. I guess the beauty of this gig is, there's always next week...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Universal Monsters: Jack Pierce

Every time I finish up a new "Universal Monsters" poster, I promise that it will be the last one I ever do, because I always feel like I've exhausted every possible subject.

But, inevitably, I come up with yet another idea for one, and the lure of continuing what is by far my most popular work is too strong to deny. So I open a new folder, and start working...

This one is a bit of a departure, since its for a film that doesn't exist. After watching an excellent documentary on Universal's #1 make-up man Jack Pierce on a DVD re-release of The Mummy, I realized that I would love to see a full-length, movie-sized documentary on the man that created the iconic look for almost every single movie monster, as widely-known today as they were 75 years ago.

So I came up with a cast of movie titans that might want to talk about Pierce's work, like Guillermo Del Toro, Rick Baker, Peter Jackson, plus archival footage of Boris Karloff, James Whale, and of course Pierce himself (who tragically died, nearly forgotten, in the 60s).

My original title was Man of a Thousand Faces, but my pal Pierre Fournier (of the great blog Frankensteinia) suggested that Pierce deserved his own title, not a gloss of the one attached to Lon Chaney.

Pierre was right, so I went for a more exploitative, fun title, and I think its much better. Thanks Pierre!

Oh, one last thing--this time, I promise I will not be promising this will be the last new Universal Movie Monster poster I'm going to do. That's because, in between doing I've Created A Monster! and posting it here, I've already completed another one, which will show up here soon.

I can't help myself!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Caught In The Act - 2008

Another faux-paperback cover, this one frustrated me a bit.

I wanted to have some sort of silhouette in the doorway to, you know, underscore the whole "caught" thing.

But no matter how hard I tried moving the various elements around, I could never quite get it the way I wanted--it looked too crowded and didn't read right, so I bailed and left it like this.

I think this is pretty good; but it was one of those times when I couldn't produce what I saw in my head.

By the way, this is an exception to the usual "rules" of my faux-paperbacks--the title, author, and tag line are all mine this time. I'm particularly proud of the tag line--I know I'd like to read a book with a plot like that.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Eat Food" - 2008

This poster was based on my just having finished author Michael Pollan's newest book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. I had read his previous book, An Omnivore's Dilemma, and enjoyed them both immensely--entertaining and informative examinations of an all-important subject: how, why, and what we eat.

In Defense, right on the cover, Pollan boils the entire book down to a simple seven word mantra--"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Aside from the staggering amount of wisdom contained in just those seven words, it reminded me a bit of the very simple language used on the WPA posters, which of course are never far from my mind.

So this poster is what I imagined a WPA-era poster would look like if some artist was enlisted to communicate to a large number of people the best and simplest way to eat right.

I knew I wanted to stay away from any black on the poster at all, to give it a lighter feel. After finding the right font, I kept trying add more little bits of design to it to spruce it up a bit, but after several tries I realized I liked it exactly how it was--just the text and the food. Simple.

Update: I emailed Mr. Pollan, and sent him a link to the poster. He actually wrote back (how cool is that?) and told he really liked the poster, and thanked me for alerting him to its creation. Wow!

Friday, November 7, 2008

From The Vault: "FDR" - 1996

Presidents have been on my mind a lot this week (can't imagine why), so I thought I'd dig out a regular subject of mine, my favorite President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I call him my favorite partly because I have an affinity for the eras he so defined (the 30s and 40s), partly because he accomplished so much, and partly because he seemed to be the last guy who actually liked being President (when asked once if he enjoyed being President, he answered "Of course! Who wouldn't?"). That spirit, that joy, is something I hope maybe, just maybe, we'll be seeing again soon.

Anyway, I did a bunch of FDR portraits (I was reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's book No Ordinary Time around this time), and this one came out the best--I think it captured what I saw in the man, even if, looking back over it, I don't think I would've had so much black on the piece--reversing to a white background may have given it a brighter, cheerier look. Oh well, live and learn.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Time Out New York: Mystery

Every so often, the subject of this week's Time Out New York "Hot Seat" portrait is a complete...mystery to me (sorry).

This guy's name is Mystery, apparently, and he hosts some sort of romance-themed "reality show" on VH1. Luckily, someone who dresses as ostentatiously as this has a lot of photo reference available, so I was able to get a little more detailed--the hat, the rings, etc.--than I normally would.

I liked the combo of the spooky colors and the heart background, so even though I didn't know who this guy was, I thought it came off pretty well. Sometimes it happens that way!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Finished at 2:54 am, on one of the most exciting nights of my life.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dark Hazard - 2008

Another faux-paperback cover, these are always a fun lark.

I pretty much knew I wanted this color scheme from the beginning, and it was just a matter of figure placement and typography. It all came together pretty easily, and I thought the adding the dice was the proverbial cherry on top.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Foreign Policy - 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered an organization called Design for Social Impact, a design firm that specializes in progressive social causes, and frequently employs a WPA-inspired illustration style for their work, which of course intrigued me greatly. I was even more thrilled to see that they operate right in my own backyard, Philadelphia!

After talking to them about my work, they told me about their plans for a big celebration--this year is the 75th anniversary of the WPA, and one of the ways they were celebrating was with a call to local artists to submit their own WPA-styled posters, about whatever cause they would like. Of the posters submitted, some would be selected to be screen-printed (like the 1930s originals were) and given out for free, in various locations throughout the city.

I didn't hear about the contest until just three days before the deadline, but I really wanted to do something for this. I spent all of Sunday and Monday trying to come up with an idea, with the deadline baring down on me. Nothing.

I went to bed Monday night, and laid in bed trying to come up with either a visual or a tag line, something to build a poster around.

The DFSI had told me that I could do a poster on any subject, but they were looking for one based on any of the three themes not yet covered by other artists--one of them being War & Defense. So I concentrated on that.

Finally, something started to click--I liked the idea of moving away from the idea that all America has to offer is war. I imagined something involving bombs, but that seemed too downbeat, especially since the WPA posters were almost uniformly positive.

Then a phrase popped into my head--"Foreign Policy Can Be More Than Bombs." Yes!

At that point, I couldn't lay there anymore, so I got out of bed (around 2am) and started to work. I imagined an old-timey symbol of America--Uncle Sam--offering a kind hand to someone else, and within a couple of hours, I had what you see above.

Since it was going to be screen-printed, the DFSI asked to keep all posters to two colors (and white), so going with the old red, white, and blue was a no-brainer. I sent it in to them the next morning, and I was thrilled to find they loved it, and it was picked as one of the posters to be screen-printed and distributed.

That event was on Saturday, October 25th, and indeed, my poster was one of the ones offered up free of charge to people. It was a real thrill seeing my work done up like that, and a real honor that the DFSI liked what I did.

People like the DFSI are keeping the spirit of the Works Progress Administration alive and well, and I was glad to be a tiny part of it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

From The Vault: "Frankenstein" - 1996

Considering today is Halloween, it seemed only appropriate I find something spooky for this week's From The Vault installment.

By 1996, I had been working in this new style for a year or two, and as this point was trying to stretch what I could do with it as much as possible.

Looking back over my files, I see this portrait was one of my first attempts to illustrate someone beyond a normal, recognizable face, and as you can see it worked out pretty well.

The only thing I would do differently is the layout; I think now I'd make it more of a vertical piece, and have The Monster positioned a little more near the top, to convey his massive height, as compared to the viewer. Maybe something like this:
"Grrr! Re-do good! Fire bad!"

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Ever More Awesome"

Super Special Update Post!

As you'll see by reading the above, I sent the silly Obama-as-Cyclops graphic to The American Prospect's Ezra Klein as a goof.

I was happy enough that he posted it on his blog, but then he actually went out of his way to plug my site and compliment my work! Wow, what a delightful surprise.

I did some work for The American Prospect, which can you can see here and here. They were all fun projects, and hopefully they'll call me again sometime.

Time Out New York: Elizabeth Moss

Last week's Time Out New York "Hot Seat" portrait, actress Elizabeth Moss.

I knew Moss from her role as one of the President's daughters on The West Wing, but right now she is a regular on Mad Men, and she's currently in a New York production of David Mamet's Speed the Plow, which was what she was promoting in the interview.

Generally, when having to do a portrait of someone who doesn't have a strong public identity, I like to try a Golden Age of Hollywood-era "glamour" type of look, and I was fairly happy with how this one came out.

Looking back over it now, I think maybe I would've pulled in on Ms. Moss a little tighter, and moved her to the right a bit more. But these Hot Seat deadlines are always pretty tight, so unless some glaring change appears to me when I look it over one more time before "shipping it out", I generally go with what I thought was right the first time.