Monday, November 26, 2012

Every (Good) Illustration I Made About The 2012 Election*

Weeks later, we're still picking up the proverbial pieces. I'm sure I speak for a large number of folks the world over when I say the palpable feeling of relief that the election is just over has lingered well past the closing of the polls late on November 6. And now, as members of both parties, elected officials or not, begin to plant their fingers in their ears and run deaf and screaming headlong into the holidays, an increasingly unlikely Mayan Apocalypse and hopefully not off the "fiscal cliff**," here's a quick trip back into recent history, from the Republican primary through election night via a bunch of election related illustrations that I've scarcely had time to post - please enjoy:

Remember Rick Perry? A piece for Bloomberg View from Nov 2011 contrasting his general approach to that of eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

The spectre of Florida circa 2000 as well as voter fraud and polling place catastrophe was raised by both parties as early as January of 2012. For Bloomberg View.

A favorite piece for the New York Times Op-Ed section about the art of spinning arguments and facts to reinforce any position. The New York Times, September 2012

A poster image for, a group of 30 artists and designers who contributed visual representations of arguments for re-electing the president. This was (loosely/abstractly) related to his stand on social issues, which for me was the single largest reason to vote Obama. 

A chart by Kim Bost and I as JMBOTRN breaking down the accuracy of some "non-conventional" national polls, including but not limited to a donut chain, 7-11 and bourbon distillery. For The New York Times, November 2012.

Finally, and you know, most importantly, which candidate would be best equipped to handle a zombie apocalypse? November 2012, Bloomberg View.
Though I'll miss the savory rapid fire illustration gigs like the above, again, regardless of party affiliation, I'll happily raise a glass to the election cycle's end. As always, thanks for reading!

*There were some stinkers too, but i'll leave that to intrepid googlers and schadenfreude aficionados.

**Hip-hop side project somebody? But make it cool. Please.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Know Your Rights Revisited" OR Bloomberg Businessweek's International Cover

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to receive a late afternoon call from the folks at Bloomberg Businessweek asking if I'd like to illustrate the upcoming international cover. Who wouldn't. "Of course!" I enthusiastically agreed, then listened with growing apprehension to the brief: In the run up to the commencement of the London Olympics, various local and national government agencies have been hard at work attempting to tamp down any social unrest as to put the UK's best foot forward with literally, "the whole world watching." The memory of last summer's incredibly destructive riots is still fresh in many minds, but as is often the case almost anywhere with these national and international media firestorms, the threshold between increased vigilance and draconian clampdown is often wide and blurry (NYPD actions during the 2004 Republican Convention at the height of Bloomberg's barely believed and still somewhat troubling extended WWF-esque pretend right-wing conversion come readily to mind).

To illustrate this on the cover, I'd been assigned to conceptualize and create illustrate* a grimy wall of graffiti, littered with language cribbed from various avenues of social discontent currently coursing the UK. This would then be "papered over" with the Olympic logo and a headline in the official 2012 Olympic type face, itself a confused beast of beauty and brutality. 

Initially a bit concerned about timeline, execution and direction, I soon remembered: 

I own a copy of Combat Rock.

AND there's a new a reliable coffee shop half a block from my studio.

A late-day cuppa and few spins through side 2 super confuser "Overpowered By Funk"**,  I felt ready for something. 

Books were borrowed, internet research commenced. Between some classic shots of the graf blanketed MTA of the 70s (for which I've always had a naive out of body nostalgia) and some grabs from UK street art from the last 10 years, I felt like I had sufficient visual reference to use as a jumping off point. Here's a few of the images I cribbed from (sometimes heavily):

With the rough layout secured, i cobbled together the above sketch.

The language, scale and density were pretty quickly agreed upon, the only suggestion being to make the final feel more "angry." I was then free to start building the thing. I'd have about 24 hours...

I'm happy to report that my studio came with an old industrial vent fan, left over from the building's early days as an actual pencil factory. It makes working with mildly hazardous materials like spray paint and various solvents a lot easier to deal with...

Most of the text was assigned or agreed to at the sketch stage, though a few of the more textural images and phrases were culled from in jokes or nods to various friends and colleagues. More imagery was included beyond what the spray paint drawings above, though I find that those are far and away the most interesting components. I also grabbed some quick crops of the wall in my studio that i work on to fill in as bleed and background texture where needed, hopefully lending the piece the feeling that it's been there for awhile, accruing layers of text and grime of a long period of time.

And there's the final piece, digitally stitched together in all it's gross glory. That said, I'm super pleased with how it turned out and how cohesive it feels for having been assembled via scans and shaky iphone photos.

A huge thanks to Richard Turley and the rest of the team at Bloomberg Businessweek (especially the production folks who did an ace job finessing the more visible seams of my rushed photoshopping) for the privilege of making such a mess of their cover. Seldom has this job been as much fun of blissfully exhaustingly messy. And as always, thanks for reading!

*I have more than a few friends in the city who are serious and lauded street artists, and I have the utmost respect and enthusiasm for their work. I just want to make it clear that I absolutely view this piece as an illustrated facsimile and not a serious attempt at or a legitimate piece in that vein.

** "Overpowered By Funk" features a spirited if awkward rap from NYC graf legend Futura 2000 (reverse engineering the assignment by proxy and on a level of real artistic legitimacy with sexy results) and is one of the most confusing pop songs ever recorded. It's impossible to tell whether it's a mocking ironic turn, a particularly sharp piece of self satire, all of the above, none of the above, it's just straight weird. The Clash also recorded a stand-alone follow up single with Futura, "The Escapades Of Futura 2000" which falls pretty short of its already confusing predecessor, despite noble intentions and what feels like 100% earnest investment from all parties involved. Don't get me started, I could fill 2000 words on "Overpowered By Funk" alone. If I ever achieve sufficient notoriety to contribute one of those "33 & 1/3" books, Combat Rock would be high on my list of choices. I'm no Jonathon Lethem but operators are standing by all the same.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seth Macfarlane For NYLON

I'm not always the best portrait illustrator out there, but for some reason whenever i do them for NYLON they turn out pretty alright. This one is Seth Macfarlane, creator of "The Family Guy" and professional bro behind Wahlberg CGI and dude humor vehicle ted. If i sound excessively snarky
about this right out of the gate, please know that it comes from years of childhood ridicule rooted in such late 80s/early 90s ted prefixed fare as "Teddy Grahams", "Teddy Ruxpin" etc, or public luminaries of the Bundy, Danson, Kazinsky and Turner varieties (i'll never forgive him for colorizing Casablanca). Gonna be damn near 100 outside today kiddies. For those about to rock...etc...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The (Questionable) Effectiveness Of The Death Penalty for Bloomberg View

Bloomberg View is a relatively new entity in the world of news opinion and commentary, but even in that short time they've become a favorite illustration client of mine (and I'm sure many other illustrators and designers as well). The pieces are almost always thought provoking, there's a lot of leeway in terms of available imagery and aesthetics, and I love the double edged challenge of the short deadlines and uniform scale for each piece. 
Recently I was contacted by the good folks at BV to illustrate a piece dealing with the (lack) of effectiveness of the death penalty in deterring homicides, and how both sides of the argument have based their cases far more on conjecture, faith and skewed figures rather than hard data. It's a great piece of social commentary and analysis and I was eager to respond with what I hoped would be an equally compelling visual. 
The problem inherent in many of these types of assignments, however, is (for lack of a better way to put it) "getting away with murder." Dealing with such weighty content, it's a slippery slope navigating between pandering via gratuitous overbearing illustrated violence (I'm rarely a fan) and something that comes off as too much of soft second serve, treating the subject too delicately or not seriously enough. Having been burnt a few times in the recent past on a few pieces related to congressional bickering (look out!), I initially opted to tread lightly, before being asked not to ignore the darker elements of the piece. That direction produced the following sketches:

I thought the deflating black balloon or death about to flicked off page by the giant hand of either bureaucracy or crime were shoo-ins, but somehow the skull profile/question mark ended up being the winner. 
This was exciting because A: it was far and away the easiest to execute effectively under the time constraints, and B: because there were a few hours to kill before the deadline it meant I could experiment with approach a little bit. After messing around with some ink and graphite washes with predictable and corn-ball results, i found that a clogged spray paint cap and documentation via a 2 generations old, grossly inadequate when it was new iPhone 3G camera did the trick beautifully. Some mild photo shopping later and I had 2 finals that I was more than excited about, as it's rare that I'm ever so totally, overwhelmingly pleased with something conceptually and as a drawing on its own:

Ultimately the inverted version won out. You can see it in context and read the story (and typically entertaining comments section) here:

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More Poster Action...

...this time for my dear and enormously talented friends Talk Normal, with whom i'll be sharing the bill on June 22... if you're in Brooklyn or even the greater NYC area or wherever, you should drop in. I'm loathe to guarantee anything ever, but i can in fact promise this will rule. Andrya from Talk Normal and i made this quick and dirty poster with some construction paper, spray paint and an iphone camera. DIY! DIY! Blagh.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pulled Punches: 2 Fer Flinchin' Trailer

Here's a quick trailer i made for a zine that releases next week. It's the first time i've ever done a follow up to one of those things so it seemed fitting to give it the summer block buster sequel treatment. The images from the original zine are below. Barbecue season is real.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Two Recent Posters For Union Pool

Happy Friday everyone. Real quick, here's 2 recent posters for i show i just played on May 16th and an upcoming one that some friends are playing on May 30th, both at Union Pool. Super happy with how these turned out. Cheers!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Re/Creation" - A Visual Essay For Print Magazine

A short while ago, the fine folks over at PRINT contacted me and asked if I had any interest in creating a "visual essay" for their June issue: essentially, I'd be given 6 pages of the magazine to do with as I pleased provided the content related in some way to the issue's theme of "play." Of course I leapt at the chance to take on such an amazing commission in such a venerated context... but as is often the case with these "creative carte blanche" opportunities, the initial euphoria quickly metastasized into panic as all I could seem to come up with idea-wise were the proverbial cartoon cobwebs and visions of clouds of an unpleasantly aromatic and chalky white fog/fugue. A drag to be sure.

But sometimes all you need in these moments is a little recontextualization. Essentially the assignment was to create some work akin to one of my zines, except it'd be printed in glorious technicolor and on the tab of a major industry publication with a far greater circulation than that of my tiny address book and social media conduits. Additionally, it provided a unique opportunity to make some specifically illustrative work about something from my direct experience: if i'm guilty of anything, it's overextending myself in terms of time, money, commitments to "projects", checking out "shows"etc... ya know, doin' stuff, but often to the retroactive annoyance of myself, my friends and loved ones.  It's a tendency I've been trying to curb if not reconcile with my age and the mounting responsibilities thereof for a while, as my 20s sail further and further into the proverbial sunset. While I usually eschew "diary art" in any form, framing these pieces in a loosely personal context seemed like it'd be an effective strategy to give them more teeth by making myself a little uncomfortable and also give the "essay" an actual editorial slant.

For visual inspiration I turned to the following: tacky vacation ephemera, Max Beckmann's dream drawings, an old health class text book and vague recollections of motivational office art (like the "hang in there" cat). With all of this in mind i completed the following sketches:

After completing these initial drawings,  I really liked the idea of the pages being tear-away images hung up in fictional cubicles and imagined dentist offices in some slightly psychedelic alternate universe, reassuring hygenists and analysts slumping after their lunch breaks. I mean, whatever gets you through the night and gets the work completed in a cool and timely fashion, right? With this in mind the opener was simplified and the more oblique brick wall guy and decidedly uncool swimming image from the end were swapped out in favor of the isolated "can cooler palm tree" and negativity bird, personal tropes less often recycled than lightning bolts and tigers. Below, the finals:

and in context:

This was by far some of the most fun I've had making illustrations in a long while, it barely felt like work. Ugh. Gross. Har, Har. Thanks again to Ben at PRINT for the super flattering commission and Kim for putting up with my mania while i worked on it. And of course, thanks as always for reading!