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Archive for February 2008

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What Happens in Vegas....

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If the Jewish GrungeBoy wasn't enough for you yesterday, here are more done for American Jewish Life magazine. This series of illustrations depicting an improbable scenario. For obvious reasons, these were a ton of fun to do.

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Jewish Grunge

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A spot illustration for American Jewish Life magazine, featuring a young Cobain-ish dude with a Yamulke. I always enjoyed the assignments from this art director, as the concepts and images with out fail had an odd twist. You can view another in our Gallery, and I'll post more tomorrow.

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Who Is Emoto?

emoto1.jpg This three-part series of CD covers for Emoto Music asks the basic questions: Who? What? Where? Evoking a style of popular espionage comic books in the 1960s, I developed with Emoto a mysterious female spy character and the scenario for the series which would be unique, attract attention and make people curious about Emoto. Emoto Music creates and places music for advertising, television and films. These CDs were given to clients as samplers, with tracks by bands they handle and promote. I understand there are many such CDs dispersed throughout the industry, and I'm told these covers featuring my art received favorable reaction. emoto2.jpg View the third and final Emoto CD cover here.

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Star of David Smoothie

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Here's an illustration for the front cover of a music CD, for a Jewish musical group, but I can't recall the musical style. Jewish Salsa? Maybe something like Matisyahu? Obviously, I never received a copy. For this piece, we settled on a look for the blender, simple and somewhat retro. Then I had to customize and widen it to better fill the square-shaped space of of the CD cover, and to make room for as much fruit and as many stars as possible.

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Love That Lyle Lovett

He may be a weird-looking dude, and he may not fit easily into a single musical genre, but make no mistake: Lyle Lovett is one of the finest American songwriters and singers ever to come down the pike. Never mind he first arrived on the scene and has his roots in country, Lyle is a complete American original; with an unmistakable singing and songwriting voice, he handles a range of musical styles with wit, panache and insight.

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His most complete and cohesive album is the superb Joshua Judges Ruth. Covering blues, country, gospel and folk, he knows how to tell a story, drawing in and setting up the listener for a poignant twist or a wry punch line, as he does in Since The Last Time and Church, respectively. Other albums are strong, and some are patchy collections, but over twenty years he's built an impressive catalog of songs. I recall vividly hearing him for the first time, when my buddy, Tom (Thanks, Tom!) introduced Lovett's music to me, playing She's Hot To Go. I was hooked immediately. It was apparent at once here was a new and unique voice, someone who could swing, jab with sharp or subtle humor, give and take, all presented with a smooth and sly vocal style. When dealing with the subject of male/female relationships, he approaches it from many angles. He can be sarcastic or nasty: as in She's Hot To Go or Her First Mistake, both playful and self deprecating pick-up songs; She's No Lady, a facetious stab at marriage; and My Baby Don't Tolerate, where he bristles at the controlling mate. Or, he can be wistful with a break-up song, like She's Already Made Up Her Mind and All My Love Is Gone. But all this is balanced with sweet, tender love songs as in the straight, simple and beautiful Flyswatter/Ice Water Blues and especially Nobody Knows Me, or fun, bouncy feel-good love tunes like Cute as a Bug and She Makes Me Feel Good. His second best album, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band is split in two sections (one side each on the original LP): Big Band and Country. The country side features some of his best songs, some mentioned above, as well as a gender-flipping cover, Stand By Your Man. There's nary a clunker on the bluesy Big Band portion of the album, with additional stand-outs Here I Am, What Do You Do/The Glory Of Love and Good Intentions. Sure, I don't love it when he gets all twangy, but then just don't play those tracks as much. But sometimes when working in the country song form, he gives things a twist, with titles like I Married Her Just Because She Looks Like You, She's Leaving Me Because She Really Wants To, and the post-divorce ditty, where the narrator says, "You can have my girl, but...Don't Touch My Hat." And lesser efforts like I Love Everybody and Step Inside This House (a double album of covers of lesser known fellow songwriters) still have their worthwhile tracks, like Bears from the latter, and from the former: Penguins; Creeps Like Me; Skinny Legs; and Old Friend. Through all the up-tempo songs, the sly humor, he'll occasionally cut to the quick with devastating studies on family and loss. In Family Reserve, he relates the stories of the unexpected deaths of friends and family. The ghosts of those departed join him in the final chorus, "Were all gonna be here forever/So mama don't you make such a stir/Just put down that camera/And come on and join up/The last of the family reserve." And in Since The Last Time, which begins with the line, "I went to a funeral/Lord, it made me happy...." Starting off as tentative blues/folk, it explodes in a gospel celebration, defiantly spitting in the face of death, before plaintively revealing the surprising narrator. With these two brilliant tunes, both from the superb Joshua Judges Ruth, he'll set you up, knock you down, then pop you right back up again.

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His latest release, It's Not Big It's Large shows Lyle's still got it, with a handful of gems, some of which are already among my favorite all-time Lovett songs. Make It Happy is a jaunty happy-go-lucky tune, seemingly merging three or four musical genres in one song, an irresistible concoction. A classic country ditty, Up In Indiana features great harmonies, solos and a touch of bluegrass. All Downhill is a bouncy Texas shuffle, wherein Lyle wonders how soon his luck will run out. Given the high quality of his overall output and latest material, I'd say not any time soon.

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Morphing Women

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This has been linked to from a handful of blogs I read, but I couldn't resist linking, too. This stunning video of many beautiful actresses faces morphing from one to another will whet your appetite for the Oscars tonight, and perhaps make you long for another time. Before watching, can you guess who are the two women that form the amalgam above? Update: Blog nod to Ann Althouse filling in at Instapundit.

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Sick & Tired

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I've been having trouble sleeping the last few days, which opened the door to another cold which has settled in my chest. Fun! This exquisite feeling reminded of these two pieces I did long ago, back when I had even more trouble with sleep. I was experimenting again with the Hunt crow quill a lot back then, and with weird textures. For both of these pieces I dipped my digits in ink for fingerprint effects I thought helped get the point across, either for a wrinkles on a weary and weathered face, or twinkly spots before tired eyes.

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Chicken vs. Bull

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Unused art for a restaurant menu.

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Comic Book Page Composition

When doing layouts for a comic book page, the artist considers a variety of options quickly. Working with the script to tell the story as best as possible, one breaks down the page in a series of panels. Each of those panels has its own composition, but must also work within the overall page composition. Each panel is presented from various points of view, which correspond to and support all the other panels. And through it all, the artist must make sure the information and story is communicated clearly and doesn't lose the reader. The challenge is to make the art and layout fun and interesting, while still following sound and solid storytelling and layout principles. For example, here's a page from Dreams Of Looking Up, an historical and educational comic book I drew for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. dolu13_diagram.jpg In this page, we see an old woman looking at photos and a painting of an eagle, recalling her youth. The page begins in the past, the young woman holding her baby, looking up at an eagle taking off from its nest on a high peak. I decided a long, vertical panel would best depict this, also establishing a connection (both physical and emotional) between the young woman and her surroundings. This long vertical panel on the left is balanced by a column of panels on the right. The trick is to make sure the reader doesn't just skip to the last panel. In that regard, I have a few things going for me here. In America, folks are trained from early on to read from top-to-bottom, left-to-right, so it's ingrained and natural. In that first panel, though the vertical shape pulls the eye down to the woman and the baby, even for a split second, the reader's eye is pulled back up (rather than to the right) to see the eagle, and follows its flight path to the first caption, which is bridged between frames one and two, linking us to the row of panels on the right. Now, it's possible the reader will be drawn to the eagle, then to the caption, or directly to the caption (as indicated by the diagrammatic dotted red line above), but people take in images rapidly, and you'd be hard pressed to convince me a reader wouldn't see the entire first panel, even if only for an instant, before their eyes dart back to the top. Once there, readers will follow smoothly south, reading words and pictures 'til rejoining the present day conversation between her grandchildren. This is just one page out of twenty-four in this particular comic book story, each presenting its own layout and storytelling challenges. A lot of thought goes into each panel, each page, each story at this stage, before the real drawing begins. This page, and more pages from this book and its companion volume can be viewed in our Prime Projects section. Or order your own copies at the official Mille Lacs Band web site.

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Candidates

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Get used to seeing plenty of these two faces the next several months...and one of them come next January for the next four years.

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