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!



  1. ye, everything i ever draw looks like a poster to psychedelic dentist office. you definitely found the bright side.

    1. Great topic, great work, Ted! We've all been there…

  2. Very nice, Ted. Looks great in print.

  3. loved seeing this in print! thank you.