Sean Taylor, RIP


The murder of Washington Redskins’ safety Sean Taylor reminded me of an illo about him I did a couple of years back for the Washington City Paper. Seems Taylor was a bit of a troublemaker on the field, and had made headlines for spitting in another player’s face. The City Paper piece about him was called “Dishonorable Discharge” — clever, don’tcha think? It’s not the most flattering tribute to the tragic death of a professional athlete, but here’s that old illo:

last-second assignments


In the last week, I’ve gotten two one-day illustration assignments. Other than when you’re working for a daily paper, this is extraordinarily rare. Like, usually when an art director gives me a “quick turnaround” project, they may have “only” two weeks before the deadline. Not usually a problem.

Well, last Thursday night, at 8pm, I got my first-ever assignment from Time magazine (!), for a piece due 11pm Friday! Barely 24 hours. Plus, it was for a very dry topic (527 committees and the Federal Election Commission) and they had no ideas for the illustration. AND I was leaving for SPX the next morning. Oy!

Well, I got the job done, brainstorming and coming up with seven sketches at 1am Thursday, and doing the complete, full-color illo after I got to Bethesda on Friday afternoon. It meant I lost a full day at the con with Pekar, but, oh well, the pay was great, and it was for fricken Time. (The irony is that tho’ the illo was supposed to run this week, the story ended up getting bumped. So look for it next week…)

I thought that was a one-time thing until I got a call yesterday from a regular client, The Washington City Paper.

The painting is in the mail


I got an illo assignment Monday morning for a piece due yesterday evening. The article was about a painter (in Washington, DC) who pays his rent with his art. He makes pop-art pictures of George Washington. So immediately I made the connection between G-Wash and the one dollar bill. I did a couple of different concept sketches but this one made the most sense:

With George popping out of the dollar bill to sign a rent check, I thought it captured most of the elements of the story. The art director liked it, but suggested adding a frame to the outline of the dollar bill, to drive home the point that the bill itself is art and not an actual dollar bill. I also liked his idea because it takes the illo further away from the possibility of it being a commentary on, say, the national debt.

So here are the pencils for the piece:

I scanned in an actual dollar bill and squeezed and stretched it to fit the layout of the piece. Then I lightboxed it to get the details of the bill and lettering, and integrate it with the image of George leaning out of the bill. (I was especially proud of how I sneaked my signature in there.)

Then I went to final with inks and toning:

And, voila! – a finished piece. All by 6 pm last night.

Sin City Revisited


Like a character from Sin City, I must be a glutton for punishment. I’ve already talked about how much I hated the movie, but I was recently forced to revisit its sordid world for an illustration assignment. A regular client — Washington D.C.’s City Paper — called up with a story about the owner of a strip joint and his run-in with an undercover cop. Words and threats were exchanged, along with a lot of male posturing; the whole scenario called out for the Sin City treatment.

I proposed the illo show the club owner and some strippers facing off the undercover officer and some other cops, in the Miller “style”, with some type treatment to drive the point home. When the a.d. mentioned that there was a D.C. goodwill campaign going on that promised “city living, d.c. style,” the whole concept came together.