I wanted to share an illustration project I did a few years ago for the Contra Costa Times that shows the influence on my work of master illustrator Barron Storey. Barron has done everything as an illustrator, book covers, Time magazine covers, National Geographic…he has a mural in the American Museum of Natural History and portraits hanging in the National Portrait Gallery.
If I have ever seen true genius at work it is looking at a Barron Storey original…once in illustrator Bill Koeb’s old apartment in San Francisco and I have had the luck of catching a couple of gallery shows in the city over the years. His sketchbooks are legend: His personal visual journals and his graphic novel work have influenced and inspired many artists: Dave McKean, Bill Sienkiewicz, Greg Spalenka, Bill Koeb, George Pratt and Kent Williams among them.
As a teacher he may be without a peer…so I hear. Barron is the reason I moved to the Bay Area in 1996 to pursue a graduate degree in illustration at the Academy or Art in San Francisco. I researched the influences of artists that influenced me…many of them cited Barron as an important influence. That’s how I discovered the Academy of Art and how I ended up in the Bay Area. My timing was a bit late. By the time I started my graduate courses in the fall of 1996, Barron was no longer teaching at the school, but was teaching at California College of Arts and Crafts and at San Jose State. Although I didn’t take one of Barron’s classes I was taught by artists who studied with Barron (Carol Nunnelly and my graduate advisor Bill Koeb)…so I was able to absorb some of his wisdom though them.
I have had the privilege of meeting Barron a few times. The first was at a gathering at Bill Koeb’s pad in San Francisco probably in 2000. About 5 years ago I was attending the Alternative Press Expo (APE) in San Francisco with Gary Amaro ( another of my graduate advisors. ) I had some samples with me including these Cancer Journey pieces.
About the Cancer Journey project. Contra Costa Times writer Dan Borenstein penned a five part series in 2007 on his harrowing experience with cancer and cancer treatments. I was honored and humbled by the challenge of illustrating each installment of the series. ( And indebted to Dan for sharing his story and giving me such a poignant project to be a part of.) I came up with the thought of a sequence of panels, interconnected that could each tell each part of the story individually. But when combined –on the final day of the series – made a sequence of panels telling the more complete narrative. The layering of elements, with drawings and line work is a direct influence of Barron. Not as much in the technique (who the hell can draw as well as Barron Storey?)…but in an approach to storytelling that I have soaked in from Barron’s journals.
Coming full circle: At the Alternative Press Expo, Gary and I found a table that Barron had been at to sign his journal book “LIFE AFTER BLACK.” I bought the book, word was that Barron was around and would be back. As we walked around the hall looking at the variety of local artists and creators we bumped into Barron. We talked for a bit and I asked if he wouldn’t mind taking a quick look at some of my work. He very graciously did…and when he saw the Cancer Journey images has asked me about them. I gave him a quick rundown of what it was about and said that I created them for the newspaper. He said something to the effect “Amazing work. So great that they published this in a newspaper.” I honestly died and went to heaven. I felt like I had come from the world of wanting to be…to being. That I had ascended the mountain top after toiling and struggling for years on the climb. From a dream of wanting to be better than I was as a visual journalist and illustrator in Missouri. From a dream of studying with the master in California and falling short. To finally, the master himself holding my work and finding value in it.
Barron continues to inspire me and give me something to aspire to. If you are not familiar with Barron’s work you should be. Here is a link
Here is the note Barron scribed for me in his book “Life After Black.” Thanks Barron.
This is a very disturbing trend. Disturbing and scary make for some great visuals. So…OK, I admit it. I had a lot of fun with this illustration for the TECHNOLOGY section published May 14 in the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. According to the story by the Merc’s Steve Johnson, cybercrooks are using “malvertisements” to steal data, infect computers and wreak havoc. Codes are hidden in these malicious ads…and the ads can show up on legitimate sites that screen for ads gone wrong. Not only are the malware codes hidden, a user does not even have to click on the ad to become a victim. Experts say this trend is only going to get worse. This story is worth a read to understand the problem and to get a few tips on how to protect yourself. Here is a link to Steve’s story
When I came up with the motif of the sinister shadow of a clawed hand and arm coming out of a computer everything else fell into place. The trick was to show someone getting attacked, but being unaware. I had the woman looking at a website with ads on the side. Out of one of the ads the shadow, filled with malware code, shoots out and wraps around. The hand is just about to get the woman. I hit on the idea of binary code interspersed with the word “MALVERTISEMENT” to layer into the shadow. I would have to say this one is one of my favorites so far this year for Bay Area News Group.
Here is how it looked in print across the Bay Area News Group papers, with a great page design by business design chief, Jennifer Morris.
A quick post on a recent illustration for a Jessica Yadegaran column for the Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News. The column was about her newfound freedom from the trappings of her iPhone. Jessica left it in the back seat of a plane after letting her kid play with the phone during the flight. She was unable to get the phone back and was forced to revert back to her old phone. At first she missed her iPhone and felt lost without it. But she soon realized she was spending more time enjoying life in the moment, rather than respond to each text, tweet or status update. Here is a link to Jessica’s story:
I played with the concepts of being trapped, shackled or imprisoned to contrast the idea of freedom. Also I tried to factor in how to depict the lost iPhone. I started playing with the idea of flight to symbolize freedom. The birdcage seemed like a great way to express being trapped. For the final solution I created the iPhone in illustrator and used the old cartooning trick of using dashed lines to indicate something that is a ghost or invisible. The rest was created in photoshop. The line art of style of the birdcage further contrasts the swirls and looser more painterly approach to the background and the woman with wings flying out of the cage.
Angela Hill’s story, published Sunday in Bay Area News Group papers, explores why it isn’t easy being green…in fact it can be downright confusing. What may claimed to be green, when looking at the carbon imprint and the amount of energy used in manufacturing a “green” product may net an adverse impact on Mother Earth. So sometimes when we are trying to be green we may not be…thankfully sometimes we are. The story offers tips and sites where you can go to help make good green decisions.
For the illustration I wanted to evoke a sense of Earth Day and of the dichotomy of making green choices…and choices that end up not being green. I wanted to avoid using a big earth for Earth Day…been there, done that. Instead I wanted to focus on the personal side of someone making green decisions. I came up with the concept of the Earth being used as the lens in a pair of sunglasses. One side the earth is green with blue ocean in the lens. The other has the continents in red and water is gray. On that side of the figure the color scheme is gray on the figure with red in the lens and background.
On the green side…color is vibrant..using a green, blue color scheme with warm flesh tones in the figure to give that side more life. We positioned the headline in the head scarf and the story in the dress of the figure. An extra embellishment was picking up the continents as a pattern in the scarf and dress.
Of late…all of the illustrations at the news job have been quick turnarounds…but challenging and fun. I working up a rough sketch, scanned it in and did more drawing and painting in Photoshop. I rendered the continents first in Illustrator and then imported to photoshop. Features Design Chief Jennifer Schaefer pulled it all together on the page and made it all work. For the page we used a tight, more dynamic crop.
I’ve been slamming out so much illustration work for Bay Area News Group recently I have had little chance to update my blog…I’ll start catching up this week.
IT WAS A REAL JOY AND FUN CHALLENGE TO WORK ON THIS SCI FI / FANTASY BOOK COVER. This artwork has the kind of visual storytelling I love the most. Mystery and drama..think Sci Fi and Film Noir..that really gets the creative juices flowing. A lot of fun elements to play with for an artist: fog, threatening shadows, a San Francisco landmark….and The Aurator, Megan, entering the scene with her glowing red aura. The book written by M.A. Kropf has just published and is the first of a trilogy. I better get busy on the next two cover illustrations.
You can find the book here: http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-0111572049/The-Aurator.aspx
UPDATE: Now available as an ebook as of Friday, March 9.
Here is a description of the book:
THE AURATOR: Deadly Secrets by M.A. KROPF
First book of a Trilogy. Genre: Fantasy/Sci Fi
Illustration and logo design by Chuck Todd
“Megan is a nurse, wife and a mother who learns that her lifelong heightened sensory perception puts her among an ancient elite group known as Aurators—those who can read people’s auras. Mentored by Max, leader of the Aurators, she is swiftly thrust into membership within a secret historical medical society originating back to ancient Greece and her world quickly wobbles between reality and the supernatural driving her to the brink of insanity. In discovering her powerful bloodline, she also learns the prophecy marking her to protect the world from the Caduceus, an equally ancient society intent on world destruction. Conflicted between her professional oath to do no harm, and her prophesied calling to protect the innocent, Megan cannot deny an inherent and swiftly growing urge to do the unimaginable. Barely juggling her new Aurator life, work and family, Megan tries to confide in her rock solid husband only to discover that he too has secrets of his own—leaving Megan to question if her marriage and family will ever be the same.”
For more information on the book, an excerpt from the story and on author M.A. Kropf go to: http://www.theaurator.com
You can also visit the Facebook page for more updates: www.facebook-the aurator.com.
My INTROVERTS illustration for a Bay Area News Group story by writer Angela Hill. Although extroverts get all of the attention, several new books highlight the advantages for those who prefer solitude. Some famous examples of successful and influential people with a more introspective approach to life include: Author J.K. Rowlings, Director Steven Spielberg, Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. I can relate, particularly when I’m working on artwork…solitude and quiet…help me on the path to finding my muse and to be creative and productive.
For this piece I thought it would be fun to illustrate some famous introverts. However, when I read the finished story, the focus was more on the individual who identifies with the traits of an introvert….and that they are not alone. In the original concept I wanted the famous introverts coming out of a shadow, or from behind a door or curtain. I liked the concept of pulling back the darkness to be enlightened. I shifted the dominant part of the image to be a woman in deep thought and used the portraits of Rowling, Spielberg, Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt as background elements…perhaps they are thoughts or inspirations. I used a warm/cool color scheme….and kept the famous portraits in deep blue tones.
Technique? All painted in Photoshop CS5…this is my third recent illustration done predominately in Photoshop. Rather than scan in drawings and coloring them in photoshop, I used my wacom pen and drew and painted digitally. Years ago I used Painter, I’m being inspired by my friend Jeff Durham who does spectacular illustrations in Photoshop.
Here is a link to Angela’s story on Introverts: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_20072237
An update: It was CRAZY busy in the month of February and so far the month of March is keeping the trend going. I will be catching up on my posts in the next few days with a recent book cover and other illustration work.
Revenge? Shouldn’t I be wishing everyone Happy New Year? Perhaps this isn’t the most optimistic note to close out 2011 on, but this was one of the edgier illustrations I did in 2011.
This image was for a story on revenge by Bay Area News Group writer Jessica Yadegaran from early December (2011). Viewers revel in watching shows like ABC’s REVENGE where a young woman named Emily Thorne gets even with those who destroyed her family. We dream about getting even with a bad boss or teaching back-stabbing friend a lesson. According to experts in Jessica’s story revenge can even be healthy…so long as it does not go over the line and stays safe and legal. According to the story, we often work out our injustices in our dreams, and quench our desire to get even without actually having to act them out.
I suspect this is one reason why Revenge tales are so popular in movies, books and comics. They are a harmless way of fantasizing about righting wrongs without actually doing the dirty work or facing the consequences.
The woman in the illustration is based on REVENGE’s heroine played by actress Emily VanCamp. I did a bunch of thumbnail sketches and came up with this solution replete with religious symbols. Of course the Eye for and Eye motif is a biblical reference to revenge. I like the idea of exchanging one card of an eye for another with flames trailing behind and the light trails covering her eyes. I worked to depict the tension between right and wrong. The femme fatale figure is powerful and in control, she has angel wings…but perhaps she is more an angel of death. The deep reds and shadows create a dark mood. I did an unusual technique, using a woodless pencil, brush pen and pen and ink on paper. The color was done in photoshop.
I get to work out all of my revenge fantasies with my artwork. How fun is that? I think I’ll do more in 2012. May your New Year be full of fun, fantasy and righting wrongs! Actually, that does sound optimistic.