Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmasy Illos of 2009 (Part Two): The Boston Phoenix Meets "Mad Men"

I'm hopelessly addicted to Matthew Weiner's wonderful AMC series Mad Men, so when Boston Phoenix Art Director Kristen Goodfriend asked in early November if I'd like to draw a Mad Men-themed cover, I felt the familiar rush of nervous excitement that accompanies every dream assignment. I can't speak for other illustrators, but when I'm asked to draw something that I love, the stakes are somehow higher. I suppose that's because in these rare instances, I'm working not just to please the art director, but also myself as a fan.

At first, Kristen said that the Mad Men cover would be part of the Phoenix's Ski Guide, although neither of us knew how they'd manage to connect the show to skiing. Fortunately, the editors soon decided that their Christmas Gift Guide cover would be more appropriate for the Mad Men treatment, and I agreed that this was a much better fit.

The series' third season finale, ("Shut The Door, Have a Seat") had just aired, bringing big changes to the show's storyline. I suggested that an impromptu Christmas party scene in the newly-reformed ad agency's hotel suite office might make a nice Gift Guide cover illo. Here's Sketch #1, (drawn in the midst of feverish coughs and sneezes, owing to a nasty flu):

Upon seeing the first sketch, Kristen's suggestions were (thankfully) both sensible and few in number. She felt the mood needed to be somewhat cheerier, (it's a Christmas party, after all). She also asked that Christina Hendricks, ("Joan Holloway") get central placement in the composition. With these changes in mind, and in a somewhat improved position in my battle with the flu bug, I drew Sketch #2, (which I think is noticeably better than Sketch #1):

Sketch #2 got the thumbs-up, and here's how the final art turned out:

And there was more.

While the group illo would run on the cover of the Gift Guide insert, Kristen also wanted some Mad Men art to run on the paper's front cover. Specifically, she asked for two standing figures that she could use to frame her cover lines. We quickly decided that Jon Hamm, ("Don Draper") and Christina Hendricks, ("Joan Holloway") were the show's most cover-worthy cast members, and here are the results:

But wait, there's still more!

Just when I thought I'd finished this job, Kristen asked if I could squeeze out one more quick illo for a short prose piece that would serve as the Gift Guide's intro. The story featured Sterling Cooper's creatives banging heads in Don Draper's office, deliberating over the best way to conjure the holiday spirit in a campaign. By this point, we had just a couple of days before this issue went to press, and I needed to keep this illo fairly simple in order to turn it around by deadline. Here's Sketch #1:

Kristen's response was: "If you can work in Peggy, (maybe on the right side?), it's a go!" I drew up a quick Peggy and pasted her in on the right, (don't let anyone tell you that I can't follow direction). Sketch #2:

And here's the final art for the intro illo:

Caricature-heavy assignments like this one usually leave me dazed and full of self-doubt. I found Jon Hamm particularly tough to draw, mainly because the guy is so god-damned handsome! Only in the last of the three illos did I arrive at a Don Draper likeness with which I was fully satisfied. I'll leave it to you folks to tell me how well I nailed down these likenesses, (please be gentle but firm).

Happy holidays!

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P. Jacko: I'll Definitely Miss Drawing This Guy.

I'm not a Michael Jackson fan. He was undeniably talented, and I enjoyed the Jackson Five's tunes as much as any other child of the 70s. However, that does little to mitigate the allegations of child molestation and the baby-dangling episode. Toss in the hyperbaric sleep chamber, the Elephant Man's skeleton, the Mystery of the Melting Nose, the monkey, and you've got a tragic freak show that provided me with a number of fun illo opportunities before it came to a sudden stop.

Some of you may have seen this first one before, since it served as a placeholder on my old website for many months while I was pounding away on the updated site. If you HAVE seen it before, all I can say is: well, here it is again. I drew "Ecce Jacko" for publishing magnate Josh Bernstein's excellent mag ROYAL FLUSH in April, 2008. It appears in Issue #5, and I strongly urge you to buy it here.

Next we have four unlettered panels from a strip I drew for DC Comics' The BIG BOOK OF SCANDAL, which was edited by Andy Helfer, and published in 1998. The three page B&W strip, (written by Jonathan Vankin & titled "Wacko Jacko") illuminated some of the weirder episodes in Michael Jackson's career, (episodes prior to 1998, of course). I drew a heap of strips for the BIG BOOKS series, and "Wacko Jacko" has to be my personal favorite, (it's a toss-up between this one and "Other Oswalds," a strip I drew in 1995 for The BIG BOOK OF CONSPIRACIES). The BIG BOOK OF SCANDAL is available here.

I drew this next one for FHM in August of 2003, most likely for FHM Art Director Matt Warner. I'm at a loss to tell you what this illo is about, other than to look at it and say "it's a drawing of Michael Jackson sleeping with the aid of an oxygen tank, having a happy dream about Bubbles the Chimp and Liz Taylor riding the roller coaster at Neverland Ranch."

Finally, we have an illo I drew for The Wall Street Journal in August of 2001. August 28th, 2001 to be exact, two weeks before September 11th! Commissioned by WSJ Art Director Sue Foster, this illo shows Michael Jackson cavorting onstage with's CEO Jeff Bezos. Again, I have little to offer in way of explanation except to mutter the horrendously-overused cliche "it is what it is." Maybe I'd remember what the illo was about if TWO HUGE FUCKING JETLINERS hadn't---oh, never mind. So long, Jacko.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Four Obamas

Whew. Historically, when I've given money to a campaign, it meant that they'd either lose or drop out, (Dean, Kerry & Edwards). What a pleasure to see things done right for a change!

Here are four Obama illos from the campaign, in chronological order. The first was drawn in September 2007 for Aaron Huffman at The Stranger.

The drawing of a monitor bursting with candidates was for John Elsasser at PRSA's The Strategist in January 2008. A note about this illo: originally, this drawing had Law & Order's Fred Thompson at the top of the group, but just as I was turning in the final art, Thompson dropped out, and Mike Huckabee was on the rise. I did a quick revise, patching in Huckabee's head over Thompson's.

The drawing of Obama painting himself into a corner was a cover illo for C&E Politics, drawn in June 2008 for Jeff Brown. The original concept had Obama and Hillary Clinton engaged in a squabble over who'd slung the most mud. I thought this was a stronger concept, but for whatever reason, the folks at C&E Politics opted for a solo Obama.

Finally, at the close of a Summer laden with cinematic superhero blockbusters, we have Obama and McCain clad in brightly-colored spandex. This was a cover illo for Creative Loafing Tampa, drawn for Jason Hatcher in September 2008. This drawing was a real treat; not only did I get to draw the candidates, but I got to have a crack at few iconic superheroes, which is always fun.

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