Friday, December 30, 2011

Avant-Brunch / Happy New Year

Here's the flier and menu designs for the inaugural "Avant Brunch" presented by old friends Christopher Weingarten and Seva Granik. The editioned 2 sided prints are swag for the event on Sunday, which i believe is sold out at this point. Werd, and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Mixerrr / Holiday Party

 Holiday Mixer 2 by ted mcgrath

Once again, somehow, the holiday season is upon us. 2011 has breezed by at an unprecedented pace, the sense of temporal dislocation only heightened by todays weather of 70ยบ and foggy... on December 6. In Brooklyn. Spooky? You bet.

But in lighter news, here's another round up of holiday sonic chestnuts for your seasonal entertainment - some are well-worn favorites, songs long canonized by the gods of pop culture and half-remembered office party slur-alongs, while others materialize warbly and weird like Dickensian ghosts of 45rpm crate diggers past. As with last year's offerings, i think they stand up to the "proper" work of the artists involved, and somehow balance holiday novelty and actual listenability quite well. The amateur edits and fades are back too, but hell, it's still better than that She & Him record. Just sayin. 

ALSO: for those of you so inclined and in the NYC area, the cast and crew of The Pencil Factory Studios will be having our annual shin-dig at The Diamond in Greenpoint this very Friday, from 7PM-? Last year's party was a total blast and it'd be great to see any and all of you if you're around. The Diamond is located at 43 Franklin St. Brooklyn, NY 11222, G to Nassau/L to Bedford. 

Happy Holidays Everyone! And here's to fantastic and Mayan Revenge-God free 2012!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New One For Draft Magazine...

Here's a new one from my bi-monthly series for Draft Magazine, a story about an out of work writer who rides out some rough economic times by working at Upslope Brewing's cannery.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Pro-Wrestling Cyclops, The Workplace And You": Undead Illustration #3

Last month* i contributed two illustrations to Institutional Investor. Though the above sketch wasn't used (the finals will be posted as soon as the piece publishes), i just rediscovered it while cleaning up at my studio and felt it was worth a post. The story was on "Market Volatility Becoming The New Normal." Draw your own conclusions.

*Yes, this job was executed during the same period of prolonged fevery illness as this guy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Animals for the New York Times, With A Quick Word On Researching Your Reference...

Last month i completed the above illustration for The New York Times Travel section, about discounted safari vacation packages. Seemed simple and straight forward enough, i was super happy with the final, and actually arranged to trade the mandrill to a friend of mine for a piece of his own artwork to be decided at a later date. This assignment however, marked the first time i ever had to significantly alter an illustration based on poor photo reference research.  It's been about 2 years since i've taught at an art school but were i in the classroom presently, this would be today's lesson. Here we go, do as i say, not as i did:

The brief for the piece was pretty simple: Safaris are being discounted more heavily than usual due to the depressed economy, and while still expensive, they are certainly significantly less so than they've been in a long while. The client's direction was essentially animals and discounts. Done.  Above is the original sketch... i've used tigers A LOT  in my illustrations in recent years (i've been trying to cut back) but this seemed as good a place as any to trot one out without it seeming like forced illustrator bullsh*t circumstances ("doesn't this guy do anything but paint tigers? c'mon...") as well as expand my usual cast of non-human players for possible allegorical usage later. A quick editorial tweak of the "language" in the piece and the below final ensued.

The problems begin here. A failure to glean from the article that it concerned only African safari tours allowed for the inclusion of the tiger, as my father, the son of a prominent veterinary pathologist succinctly pointed out much to my shame, "There are NO tigers in Africa," a sentiment echoed with increasing snark and indignation in the comments section of the piece on the Times' website (to be fair, i was in the throes of a sinister sinus infection and suffice it to say, "medicated"). Additionally, some intrepid commenters took issue with the bird, which, while there's no way i'll even pretend to describe it's specific phylum, was definitely culled from a Google image search for "safari bird." Ugh. A toucan it is not, but sometimes there's no accounting for taste, artistic license and so on. The last thing i wanted to do was embarrass a favorite and loyal client though, so the switcheroo from tiger to lion and "toucan" (ugh) to mandrill was made. A printed explanation later and all was well, minus my own embarrassment.  Earlier sketches made with the mandrill in more provocative poses such that scrutinous viewers and safari enthusiasts would have absolutely no problem identifying the animal via its specifically tinted posterior have been consigned to my sketchbook and studio visits. 

Moral of story, kids: read the damn article carefully, especially when under the influence of Thera-Flu. And make sure your photo reference corroborates - even if you're going waaaaaaay out on some weirdo limb, better to ground at least a toe or 2 in fact, especially when you're drawing for the world's largest news organization. 

A happier ending: this week i made the below drawing for the Times Op-Ed section, applying some allegorical animal grist (vulture) to a modern Goya-worthy disaster (Arizona). Buried in the comments is praise for the draftsmanship in the illustration, which you'd correctly guess i seldom ever receive. Redemption? Sure, but at the end of the day it's just another lunatic buzzard screaming from a top a picked-clean bison skeleton in the Arizona desert. 

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Margaret Mead

Inspired by the recent formation of a band by her name (one day every combination of words will have at least a secondary meaning as a band name which will necessitate the creation of a whole new lingual lexicon, but i digress) i thought i'd post this portrait of legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead from back in the halcyon days of 05.  I seldom get called for portraits as i've said before, but this is definitely as good as any i've ever done. It was commissioned by DOSE, the dearly departed Canadian alt-daily that launched more than a few illustration careers way back when, drawn straight into a sketchbook and scanned and emailed at kinkos while i was on vacation. Good times.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Death By Audio Mural

So this has been a hell of a summer - many things afoot over in would be sleepy Greenpoint as exemplified by the last 96 hours' metropolitan tremor and the first hurricane of the season that i'm watching drift in over the roofs of North Brooklyn as i type. So yeah, lots of action over the last 3 months in the art, music and miscellaneous departments, much of which will show up here with the attendant and typically verbose write up. Werd. 

One of this summer's projects that i'm super excited to finally share is the mural i painted over 2 days at Brooklyn's Death By Audio, one of the all-time great DIY art and music venues. A few years ago, the fine folks who manage the place began commissioning artist friends, (mainly from bands who play there often) to paint murals on the walls inside the space, and i was invited to contribute something to the walls opposite the stage that adjoin the back room to the main performance space. 

As a lot of the other pieces are relatively colorful, i knew right out of the gate that i wanted to do something stark and black and white. I was also keen to free-hand the piece with some India ink in the vein of some large pieces i'd completed almost 10 years ago at the tail end of art school but had seldom revisited since. 

Content however, was a problem. I find that a lot of illustrators and designers (myself very much included) can get both very excited but also a little gun-shy when confronted with a piece that's not only well beyond the scale of your typical editorial illustration or book jacket and also not quite as disposable. And on an old-timey Catholic guilt level, friends of mine run and maintain the venue: i wanted to be sure i created something that they (more than anyone else) wouldn't be repulsed by, sick of in a few days etc.  After hemming and hawing over ideas one of my friends who looks after the place remarked that he liked the Hokusai-derived waves i often  incorporate in my work, which was the suggestion i was looking for. A lot of the other pieces have kind of a monstery quality to them and i definitely wanted to tap into that without getting contrived. Adding a subtle, sinister eyeball to the sketch below solved pretty much all issues.

From there it was just a matter of executing the final piece. I spent a day on each side, having to prime the wall first and let it dry, then going back in with some pretty thick Japanese brushes and some ink. Thanks again to Edan, Gavin and everyone else at Death By Audio for the gracious commission and the chance to contribute some art to my favorite music venue!

Notes: Death By Audio is far and away one of the best DIY music venues going. If you're a music fan and find yourself in the greater NYC area with a night to kill, i highly recommend it. It's one of the last great venues where on any given night you can be utterly clueless about any of the bands on the bill and probably see and hear something totally unexpected and amazing. It's located at 49 S2nd between Wythe and Kent in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Check out the calendar here.

Also, please pardon the lofi iPhone photos, it was all i had available at the time. Better shots coming soon, i swear! Thanks for reading!

Priming the walls.

In progress, the fills were done with ink as well to keep the black consistent and give it a more painterly feel.

The finished piece. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Hey All - Happy Father's Day weekend. In the spirit of the event, here's a sketch book portrait of the old man (speaking figuratively) drawn back in 2007, dude's doing the crossword puzzle and holding still, uncharacteristically. Happy Father's Day to you and yours! Cheers!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

David Sokol Feature For Bloomberg Business Week Or "Yes, I Will Make Your Magazine Feature Look Like My Zines, Sure."

Once in a weird while you get called for what literally qualifies as a dream job - the kind of gig that you play out in your head every now and again that you know the odds of something like that actually going down are completely slim to nil. But once every election cycle or so (and i swear there must be a ancient and deeply uncool Aztec calendar for predicting this sort of thing somewhere in the seldom seen Stonecutters-esque subterranean vaults of the Society Of Illustrators), one of these assignments dings over your email and reminds you why you spent so many hours making endless revisions to that fascinating spot series about the evolution and mysterious disappearance of the spork for European mini mag Blaine Westway Presents: CUTLERY. That having been typed, somebody please, if you're out there, i'll draw yer sporks, actually sounds kinda cool...

Anyhow - in late April i received one such email from Richard Turley over at Bloomberg Business Week. Much and justifiably lauded since its relaunch last year, the new Bloomberg prefixed version of Business Week really is quite the wonder in this age of protracted panic about the future of print based media. Strictly from a design and illustration standpoint, they've been a complete joy to work for as i've seldom been hired for freelance projects where my role in the process and what i could bring to the table seemed so thoroughly and specifically considered. For this project, i was asked if i'd like to illustrate and embellish a feature story about David Sokol, the should've been heir to Warren Buffet currently suffering from a snowballing fall from grace that had finally started to captivate national news attention in spite of the best efforts of all parties involved not to make a scene. Richard had a copy of an older zine of mine called "Health & Science Center" and asked if i could apply a similar treatment to the pages pertaining to the Sokol story. Some images of the printed zine:

With this aesthetic in mind (black line on red background, hand lettered titles, xerox battered photos) i set about attacking sketches given the rough layouts and some photo options:

Originally the story was to be titled "The Latest Temptation of David Sokol" and the only real direction i was given was to avoid direct Biblical imagery to the best of my ability. Also, Buffet was to be shown as "protected" or "sheilding" himself from the fallout. Upon further reading of the story, Sokol was cast as a more ambiguous character than the initial headline suggested, portraying him as a generous philanthropist capable of ruthless and even bullying behavior in business deals, an honest and devoted family man very much in line with Buffet's own public persona but whose behind the scenes actions don't necessarily place him above a few minor crooked deals even though the actual financial gains would be a pittance to someone of his net worth.  

Given all of this i started thinking about the work of Max Beckmann (a long time favorite of mine who often painted from a personalized mythological vocabulary) and Rauschenberg's "illustrations" of The Inferno, works that communicated universal weighty themes by reconfiguring and recombining, or updating mytho archetypes. Corrupting black cloud ripped from Japanese woodcuts is certainly obvious enough, but i was really happy to get the accidentally toppled trash can full of vipers through. As for Buffet, couldn't resist giving him Odin-esque lightning bolt eye-brows (and for the record Thor was a great, stupid popcorn movie, way to make those Kirby costumes look totally believable) as well as a brickwall, moat, and psychedelic forcefield. Ultimately the 70s muscle dude bouncer and the dog got cut, but there was a lot happening in that shot already. With sketches approved, it was off to a 12 hour scanning and drawing marathon that ultimately incorporated scans from my sketchbook to fill in the margins and add to the zine-like feel. Finals and print version below:

Thanks again to Richard and the rest of the gang at Bloomberg for what was definitely one of the most fun and rewarding projects i've ever worked on!

Monday, May 16, 2011

From The Desk Of... Interview

The awesome Kate Donnelly was gracious enough to profile me on her "From The Desk Of..." Blog, a site devoted to the work spaces and working processes of artists, designers, writers, and other creative folks. There's a brief interview and some photos of recent work and my studio. Link below, and thanks again to Kate for including me in such distinguished company (there are pieces on some really terrific, super talented and in some cases downright legendary folks in the archive).

From The Desk Of... Ted McGrath

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Super Flu": Undead Illustration #2

Last week i was contacted by The New York Times Magazine to do some illustrated type for a piece on fighting the super flu, a strain of the seasonal menace that's adaptable and resistant to conventional antibiotics. Over a few days i came up with 3 treatments, all of which i was pretty excited about and ultimately the client as well. Unfortunately, just as the art was approved the story ended up being cut altogether, so no ultra gross microscope type to ruin your Sunday brunch next week i'm afraid...
That said, it's always super fun to both flex the Ed Ruscha-worshiping part of my brain and work for the Sunday Magazine, as they're pretty much responsible for a large chunk of my career. Werd. Type treatments below, the bottom version is what would've appeared in the magazine. 


Friday, April 8, 2011

Panda Bear's "Tom Boy" for NYLON

Last month i got a call from NYLON magazine to do a full page illustration of Panda Bear from Animal Collective to accompany the review of his forthcoming solo album "Tom Boy." Not terribly accustomed to being called for portraits, i was thrilled that the direction was pretty open ended, the only real stipulation being that the piece feel "painterly." It having been a while since i sunk my teeth into some gouache, this was exciting. 

I was very familiar with Mr. Bear's "Person Pitch" album from 2007 and was given a one-time use preview stream of "Tom Boy" to listen to while working on the illustration. From what i could assess from that one listen, the new record dialed up the melancholy undertones and slowed the tempos a little from the previous release. More than ever, the music reminded me of a bizarro world post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys, which in turn set me scrambling through my record collection for the Beach Boys comp "Endless Summer," one of my favorite illustrated LP covers ever. I've attached a jpg below - how cool/creepy are the weathered Wilsons hiding in a psychedelic surf jungle?
Using this as inspiration/homage i concocted the following sketch. The other conceit of this design was that it would grant maximum leeway in terms of nailing the portrait by obscuring a lot of the face with psychedelic flowers. 
This was then translated to the final below:

Coming off the Fashion Week process and some design related work i've been up to, it felt really great to do something of the "hands dirty" painted approach again. Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Where Have I Been You Ask? Fashion Week I Say.

A few weeks back i had the distinct pleasure of working with some dear friends from way back in the Pratt days on a project for Pepsi and Simon Doonan in conjunction with Mercedes Benz Fashion Week here in New York. Pepsi was unveiling their brand-new "Skinny Can" Diet Pepsi can and commissioned Doonan to concept some giant display style props for both a gallery in Soho that would host a release party of sorts, as well as some booth displays at Lincoln Center where most of the Fashion Week action would be occurring.
We ended up having to build 1 gigantic Pepsi can out of Pepsi cans (complete with proportional straw), 4 gigantic stiletto heels built from Pepsi cans, some weird eyeball light fixtures that incorporated the company's logo, and create several "stages" from full soda cans upon which would sit the above, as well as some custom furniture and wallpaper from Jonathan Adler, and at the party, live models. While it was certainly hard work over long days that required a lot of precision, the very nature of the project and materials involved kept the mood light with a certain air of "I can't believe we're actually getting paid to build this stuff!" Good times.
My tasks pretty much entailed assembling a lot of empty cans into the shoes once we had settled on the design, meticulously hand painting a bunch of gigantic Pepsi logos, and figuring out the construction and assembly of the straw and wallpaper vignette. 
While I'm certainly happy to be back in the confines of the studio, and working on some rad new projects to boot, this was an awesome break from the usual illustration/design routine of draw, scan, rinse, repeat with a bunch of old friends that i don't see enough of, a fleeting moment of living out some "young Rauschenberg" fantasy (he got his start as a window designer ya know). Photos below!

Some shots of the "can based" props nearing completion in the Soho space.

Engineering and wrapping the straw with the Jonathan Adler Pepsi pattern at my studio.

The Adler pattern was printed on gigantic sheets of rag paper and installed "wallpaper" style with discreet tacks. Notice the "can floor" as well...i think it ended up being somewhere near 6 tons of Pepsi...

The finished installation, complete with models, at the launch party.