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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!!




Less Is More

BY: | April 20, 2012

I was delighted to get the opportunity to work with the always cheerful and positive Art Director April Montgomery at Computerworld. This piece dealt with technological issues that travel eons beyond my technological limitation, so it was a good challenge to find a way to illustrate Holistic Virtualization. Keywords from the creative brief included meditation, manipulating virtual technology, all-inclusive, organizing and streamlining.

here are the roughs:

and being that the cover was going to run again on the interior, we thought it would be nice have the spectrum flow  across the gutter and above the text.

these were April’s initial rough layouts with the sketches

here is a progress shot of the figure

and my attempts at inking the spectrum lines…


there is something very meditative about the simplicity of pigment, water, bristles and paper.

the sound of the brush drawing over the paper, wonderful.

once the final shot was taken on set, the ink work was scanned in and then layered over the photo.

the backdrops were the backsides of an old roll of bathroom wallpaper, it had a beautiful, soft, off-white color.

and here is where April worked her magic and made everything ‘flow’.

Machines make it easier

BY: | March 6, 2012

I have been asked to create the website mastheads for Deliver Magazine for 2012. All in all, there will be four total.

This is the process for the current masthead. the goal of the project is to create a header image that embodies what Deliver can facilitate in the relationship between marketers and consumers. In this case, Deliver is the machine that utilizes many aspects of communication to help you best reach your customers.

Here is the thumbnail and refined sketch for the piece.

These are the junk boxes that I begin to source my materials from.

roughing out heads and sorting gears over a ‘actual size’ print out of sketch

machine starts to take shape. including everything from typewriter parts to dishwasher parts

the receiving end of the machine

assembling the heart of the machine with the deliver masthead


washing in the type

refining the heads and sourcing fabric

adding color to the type, late friday…. feeling good.

the weekend leads to waking up in night with cold sweat about how the masthead is too disjointed from the machine and doubting all my decisions up to this point…
this is my monday morning rush to redesign the masthead section of the machine to give it more of a unified look and create a better ‘heart’ to the machine.

here is how the final illustration works in the website setting. Follow this link to see it live Deliver Magazine .

I am looking forward to continuing on this series.

Its All About The Light

BY: | January 9, 2012

anyone who has dared to ascend the 13 creaky steps into the studio knows how unorganized and dusty this place is. i am not saying that its a bad thing, its just i am not the neatest illustrator out there. When i received a call from the organized and meticulous Creative Director SooJin Buzelli of Asset International to create an illustration for an upcoming survey on how Plan Advisers run their practices, i was a little stumped at first on how to best visually solve this one.

here are the four sketches i submitted, based on the theme of sorting complicated data:

we decided that the librarian on stilts was the best choice.

(honesty, looking back, i am not sure why i thought the basketball players would have worked very well…)


with this piece it came down to the light. getting that light to stream in at the right density and angle almost drove me nuts, but it finally worked out. it is the little things like that, that keep me fired up about what i get to do everyday.

and how it appears in the layout:


The Art Institute of Boston shows Red Nose

BY: | December 7, 2011

The largest east coast showing of my work is currently on display at the –gallery of The Art Institute of Boston through Dec. 18th.

the last time i visited Boston was for the 2008 HOW design conference, and i have to admit that i am growing quite fond of Boston.

i was asked to give a talk about my creative process and my career path on the opening night of the show, and this lovely group of folks were kind enough to sit through 60 minutes of my talking and 220+ slides.

a HUGE thanks to AIB for being such a welcoming institution. I immediately felt right at home.

i apparently am inept at using a camera outside of the studio, but fortunately the school has a nice set of photos of the show and my visit on their illustration and animation blog.

here are a few pages from my sketchbook during my brief trip to Boston.