Friday, December 31, 2010

From The Vault: "Loose Canons!" - 1999

This was another catalog I did for Koen Book Distributors during my year there as a graphic designer.

Loose Canons! was Koen's big catalog of the year (half-year, actually, since we did two of them)--a hodge-podge of books from all different genres, a lot of marketing and sales effort was put into it, so much so a Koen employee who was some sort of alt. book specialist would come to NJ twice a year to help guide the catalog's creation.

For all the eyes that were on the catalog, the overall graphic design was surprisingly little commented upon--maybe because everyone was so busy worrying about the rest of it. This was the second of two Loose Canons! I designed, and by this point I was sort of punchy so I decided to just go totally goofy and make up all sorts of crazy fake newspaper-style stories, most of them featuring in-jokes that only other Koen employees would get (click the image to see a readable version).

I remember submitting this to my boss at the time, who laughed a lot and said he loved it (not a total surprise, since that's his daughter pictured at bottom). It then went to the head of sales, who only had one small revision, a joke I had made at a competitor's expense. I thought that was eminently reasonable and changed it, and the cover--and catalog--went out just like you see it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Bullet For Betty Lou

Another faux-vintage paperback, this one took a while to get right in terms of the text (title, author, and tagline made up by me). I started with it all on the background behind poor dead Betty Lou there, but it never quite looked right. But I had a ton of other stuff to work on, so part of me was ready to get close to "right" and then move on.

But before I did that, I thought why not try something else, and see how that goes--and once I did, dropping a box on top of the picture and then adding the title, it clicked immediately and after some minor dabbling with colors, this baby was ready to go!

On a side note: I think my favorite element is the feather pattern on Betty Lou's shawl or whatever--it just sort of screamed 50s showgirl to me. But as much as I liked it, I had to admit that the composition worked best with most of it covered up. Oh well...

Friday, December 24, 2010

From The Vault: Gay & Lesbian Interest Catalog - 1999

I thought I'd cast my From The Vault net a little wider again this week; digging up a graphic design piece I did back when I worked at Koen Book Distributors, doing design and layout work for their marketing department.

Doing the graphic design work for Koen was a great learning experience and one of the creatively satisfying jobs I ever had; my boss had no pretensions about how the catalogs should look, so he simply made sure they met certain standards ever Koen catalog needed; the rest was up to me.

So after a few weeks of getting up to speed, I really poured my heart into making these catalogs as visually arresting as possible--I think I ended up producing about two dozen different ones, and out of that group there's a handful that I think rank as some of my best work, even now.

This Gay & Lesbian Interest Catalog was one of them; I wanted a sophisticated, fun look, appealing to a literate, engaged demographic. This ended up printed on a nice, thick, slightly rough cardstock, making for a really sharp final product.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Caged Canary

Since my last faux-vintage paperback book cover was set in the bitter cold of the frozen tundra, I thought I'd go the other way this one, which from its looks seems to be set in some always-sunny, always-hot, always-humid location, with lots of people going around half-dressed, dripping with sweat.

The plot for this one--featuring title and author made up by me--is pretty standard film noir stuff: a beautiful woman, a mean and cruel sugar daddy, and the inevitable, aforementioned sweaty young hunk who tries to get the girl away from the old man, with disastrous and violent results.

Friday, December 17, 2010

From The Vault: Drive-In Theater - 2001

Its been a little while since I did a From The Vault segment--Friday kept coming around and I had forgotten to find something, on top of the fact that some of the stuff in the vault is so bad I don't want anyone to see it, even in fun.

I didn't want another week to pass having missed yet another Friday, so I rooted around my HD a bit and found this unfinished piece of business--a flier I was asked to design by a friend who was putting together his own genre film screening program called Drive-In Theater. It needed to have lots of big open space that could be filled by that week's films, so I had to design around that pre-fab area.

I don't really remember whatever happened to DIT--I think it sort of died before it ever got started--but I'm still really proud of the design. I think its slick and sorta grubby at the same time, and every time I look at it I'm sorry Drive-In Theater never became a reality.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time Out New York: Jeff Bridges

I was asked to do this week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York, the subject this time being film legend Jeff Bridges!

It only took a few seconds after finding out who the subject was to decide to do this in the same style as my "Tough Guy" series, since now that Mr. Bridges has aged a bit, he's moved into that sort of phase of his career--plus, he was promoting his role in the new Coen Bros. movie True Grit, and these seemed very True Grit-y colors.

I had fun adding all those crazy strands of hair--it adds a nice looseness to my style, and its really hard to put down a "wrong" line. Overall, I finished this piece pretty darn happy with it.

And that's a good thing, because odds are this is the last Hot Seat I will ever do for Time Out New York. As I write this, the magazine is undergoing a face lift, both in content and look, and from what I understand the Hot Seat feature is going away. Now, I heard that once before, back in the summer, and somehow not only did the feature survive, but I was back doing the portraits on fairly regular basis.

So you never really know, but for now I'm going to assume this is it. This week's Jeff Bridges makes for 275 Hot Seat portraits, an extraordinary run for one client. And while there was (of course) some weeks that I wasn't proud of what I ended up turning in, they were almost always fun and at times the results were some of my finest work. I'm happy to have been such a staple of the magazine for so long.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Snow Queen

This faux-vintage paperback book cover was created entirely out of boredom--I had a little bit of time on my hands, but not enough to get into working on some client work. All my blogging work was also done (for the moment, which never lasts too long when you have around fifteen blogs), and I always feel a little guilt just sitting around watching TV (even though I had put on a creepy fun movie, The Dunwich Horror).

So I just started messing around with this portrait, and after too long the "story" behind it came into focus--she was some odd being who lived in the snowy mountains of somewhere--a snow queen, that's it!

I had originally done the shadows in heavy blacks, but once I decided to put her in front of this absurdly desolate snowscape, all that went out the window I went with all blues and white. At first I had her in front of the snowstorm, as if she was so powerful it didn't affect her, but then I realized I liked the depth of field you got from having big chunks of snow in the foreground.

I made up the title and author myself, since I knew I wouldn't find anything that matched--this is kind of more of a gothic romance-type book cover than a mystery thriller, anyway.

And while I'm perfectly happy how this came out, I think my favorite part is the author name--"Abigail St. Nicholas", as a name, just sings to me. I picture a little old lady, cranking out romance novels in the mid-20th century, perhaps living down the street from Agatha Christie.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


This piece started out as just a portrait of Aquaman's wife and queen Mera--I just thought it would be fun to do a portrait of my favorite redhead (fictional division), something relaxing to work on in between client projects.

But as I worked on it, I thought hey, it'd be fun to have Mera holding an Aquaman comic book (featuring one of her favorite covers, I'm sure). And then the piece sort of morphed into a First Person ad for Aquaman, sort of playing up that old adage about you can tell how good a guy is by the woman who's with him. And since DC (Geoff Johns, specifically) has done such a great job transforming Mera into a top tier character, I figured an ad from her point of view, telling you how awesome her husband is, would be a good, effective way to promote any potential new Aquaman series.

You're welcome, DC.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Misadventures of Mistletoe Missy

Not too long after finishing my The Misadventures of Halloween Harriet faux-vintage paperback book cover, I realized that it would be just as perfect to do another cover, this time for Christmas. After all, who doesn't like a smutty Christmas book?

I liked the alliteration of the first book's title, so I decided to replace Halloween Harriet with Mistletoe Missy, which in my mind works even better!

I'm not sure, but I'm betting I'll have to come up with another one of these for Valentine's Day, the smuttiest of all holidays.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Time Out New York: Ewan McGregor

I was asked to do this week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York, the subject this time being actor Ewan McGregor!

Mr. McGregor was promoting the long-delayed film I Love You Phillip Morris, so I first thought of putting the PM logo on his t-shirt. But when crop-wise it worked better like this, I added it to the background and faded it a lot so it didn't conflict too much with the central portrait.