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ladies and gentlemen, sharpen your pencils.

BY: | August 28, 2012

When i was asked by the chair of the Society of Illustrators competitions (John Hendrix) this spring, if i would consider illustrating the poster for the 55th annual competition my first reaction, was ‘How many people had to turn you down before you decided to call me?’

I was taken back a bit, never would have figured that i would be asked to the poster. (although, i remember staring at Tim Bower’s image for the 44th annual call for entries poster (the 19th image in his portfolio) and dreamily trying to imagine what i would create if i were in his shoes)

John told me that i would be able to pick the designer i wanted to collaborate on the poster. and i quickly jotted down 2 names on the corner of whatever sketch i was working on at the time. As the next few days passed, i was digging up names from projects in the past, people i hadn’t worked with but always wanted to, designers and art directors from a variety of fun jobs. i found myself scared to ask anyone to collaborate on the poster with me, what if i really screwed it up, who would be willing to go down with me?

ultimately it came down to those first two names i jotted down. i knew both of them were extremely busy and if i was going to ask i would have to do it so they just couldn’t say no.

i drew up this clumsy but honest note to ask my top pick, SooJin Buzelli to collaborate with me on the poster and sent it in the mail. knowing it would take at least a week to hear back if i was lucky.

Within a few days i received a call from SooJin saying that she hardly ever looks through her mail and she wasn’t even sure when the note was sent to her. THANKFULLY she said yes.

We talked about possible themes and John mentioned that he wanted to see something humorous, not to0 self-serving and not too topically specific.

Here is a selection of sketches i sent off.

Some of the sketches were favorites from my then current sketchbook and some where more directed to the spirit of competition.

It came down to the pencil sharpener and buffalo concepts. I am still not sure what the origin of the buffalo in relation to the Society of Illustrators is, but we were trying to find a way to play off the idea of the double buffalo and the number 55.

In the end we chose the pencil sharpener concept and when discussing how to address the back of the poster we thought something like this might be fun.

when i initially created the sketch i hadn’t put much thought into the type of pencil sharpener that would work best.

here is a test with the studio sharpener and a paper figure to determine the scale and general format of the image.

i quickly discovered that all pencil sharpeners are generally 4″ tall which meant my puppet would need to be roughly half the scale of what i normally build.

after asking all the older folks in the neighborhood,  if they had any old, crusty pencil sharpeners in their garages and barns, i turned to Etsy and Ebay, eventually finding a nice yellow one in Idaho and a red one in Chicagoland. I went with the red one from the 1920′s from Chicago off Ebay.

here is the colorstudy.

here is a bit of progress on the backside of the poster.

After many phone calls and wonderful sequential folding systems by SooJin, we eventually came to a solution on how to best make the information flow.

it was up to me to give SooJin images that would make her job as easy as possible.

here is a final view of the front and back. it is a real treat to see it at 36″x24″


Thanks to John Hendrix and the Society of Illustrators for having the confidence in my work and especially for SooJin for taking this journey with me!!