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!

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