Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hillary Clinton

Picture a painting by Peter Paul Rubens titled, Immaculate Conception. Picture Hillary Clinton. Picture a pants suit. Put them together and what does one get? One gets this particular illustration that speaks about her and the Democrats finding religion. One also gets an illustration that luckily made it into Illustrators West 46, the juried annual exhibition by the Los Angeles Society of Illustrators. It will be on-line in the spring of 2008.

When I have some extra time, I will do self-assigned illustrations. This piece was based on a TIME Magazine cover story about the Democrats all suddenly finding religion in hopes of reaching a voting segment they've been historically unable to reach. The Republicans have been the party of religion, so this newfound interest by the Dems to start talking more prominently about their religious beliefs seemed worth probing.

What I aim to do whenever I assign myself a TIME cover story is execute it under the same stringent timeframe as is typical for a TIME illustration. It's good practice. I read the story on on a Thursday night -- when the new issue is published on-line. I generated some ideas later that night and decided on one to pursue for the finish. Friday, I shot some reference for the pose and did much of the illustration that night. Saturday, I added some final touches and it was totally completed that afternoon. It's very encouraging to have this effort validated by the gracious jurors at the Illustrators West show.

Now, as I add to this blog entry on March 4 -- Ohio and Texas Super-Tuesday -- and as we see Hillary take both states, this image takes on another life -- the martyr, the risen dead, the prodigal daughter? Is the tide turning? Does it matter? What about SNL? Are Tina Fey and Amy Poehler the combined Oprah of the Clinton set? How about religion? Funny how that has serendipitously sneaked it's way into the candidates' conversation. Thanks, Hil.

detail and inspiration

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Here's another illustration based on one of my San Francisco photos. While walking around the Nob Hill area, I spotted this belly dancer performing for tips. Accompanying her were a couple of men who gave her an exotic rhythm with drums they rested across their knees. Seconds before I depressed the shutter, a breath of wind caught her skirt. Click.

For an expressive photograph, you can't go wrong with a street performer like a dancer or singer. There is an element of rawness and unpolished beauty to these performers which adds a personal touch to their story.

The pose in itself is beautifully fluid, but I accentuated the twist in the torso and the jut of the hip to give it a little extra movement. Like the other color images on this blog, preceding this one, I did a monochromatic painting in acrylics, scanned it into my computer, and gave it adjustments in tone and color. Needless to say, the process is a bit more involved than that. However, I like having the flexibility afforded by Photoshop to try things out, make mistakes, correct problems, explore, and discover something new.


Sunday, November 4, 2007


Her name may or may not be Valerie. She kind of looks like a Valerie. I just thought it a perfect excuse to use the name of my favorite song at the moment.

I'm always on the lookout for interesting photographs. In 2005, while in San Francisco for the Illustrators Conference, I was able to absorb the wonderful energy of the city and take nearly 1,500 photographs.

Near the Hotel Nikko is Union Square, where people gather to eat lunch, hang out, people-watch, or just rest their weary bones. I hung out there quite a bit, grabbing a panini on occasion from the adjacent cafe. Of the many people who caught my eye, this girl with her cell phone and portable CD player was a source of many photos. She kept making great animated faces as she sat and waited out the afternoon. In this scene, I seem to have snapped her in mid-blink.

This turned out to be more of a character study with the background remaining fairly non-descript. The radiating brush strokes and shocks of vibrant color are recurring themes for me at the moment. I'm also experimenting with storytelling -- allowing the viewer to engage with the picture and come up with their own story. How little is required to tell a compelling story? I don't know if I've come in under or over the line on this one, but there are puzzle pieces here for the finding. I think the human mind is always looking to make sense of whatever it sees. It's always more fun to let there be some interactivity rather than spelling everything out for the viewer.

It's the same kind of intrigue we get from looking at a candid photograph -- trying to fill in the blanks to the lives of the people in the picture. What are the details of her life?