Jesus strip club illustration

I created this illustration for a story asking the question, "Would Jesus hang out at a strip club?" meaning would Jesus spend time with the fringes of today's society.

In my sketches, I represented Jesus with a Sixties hippy-type look, sort of a George Harrison hair and beard style from 1968, or so. For the strip club, I thought symbols for vices would be safe, maybe, money, booze, cigarettes, and such. I used a dot pattern in the background to suggest the flashing lights used on a marquee sign, spotlights, the overall energy of the place.

For one set of sketches, I showed Jesus close up and for another, set showed him entering the club.

The client chose the lower left sketch, the shoe and Jesus, simple, direct. It was my choice as well. The high-heel shoe really summed up a club dancer I thought without getting too revealing. And it created an obscure relationship between Jesus and the dancer, allowing the viewer to wonder, what is he thinking? Is he sad for her, sad for himself, for both? is he interested, uninterested? is he meditating, bored? a client, friend, protector?

I created this illustration in Ilustrator and then as a final step, added texture in Photoshop. I like the flat, graphic look of the vector art, but a few of my clients prefer my signature texture style. So I either ask which style they prefer or send them both options.

New York Times swimmer illustration

When I started out as a practicing illustrator, I used traditional materials, ink, watercolor, scratchboard. It was 1989, the computer was still fairly new, at least for me. I had a Mac but used it only for word processing, page layout, games, and playing around a bit with MacPaint.

My scratchboard work landed me a regular gig with a local weekly paper. The deadlines were fierce and I kept finding scratchboard unwieldy when making last minute revisions. But I liked the look of scratchboard so, instead of switching to another traditional medium, like pen and ink, I switched to the computer to replicate the look of scratchboard using a digital method. I thought the computer would make revisions much easier and quicker, and it did.

So, as my work matured in its early stages, my medium of choice was the computer, specifically vector art.

I eventually switched to Photoshop so I could incorporate texture and create a more hand-made look to my work. Photoshop became my medium of choice for most of my career. It was the medium I used to develop my signature style. But I still enjoyed making vector art now and then, and incorporating it into my process. And each time I had the opportunity to teach students how to use FreeHand and Illustrator, I became more interested in the process, and the graphic look. I had learned a lot about illustration since my early beginnings with vector art, and I found myself wishing I had known then what I knew now (Faces, "Ooh La La").

This year, my 25th as a practicing illustrator, I decided to revisit vector art, and above is the first piece. It's an illustration I created for The New York Times for a story by Jane Brody about adults not knowing how to swim.  It seems statistics show that a high percentage of swimming deaths are people middle-aged and older. I didn't realize I was in a risky age group when it came to swimming. And actually, I technically don't know how to swim, meaning I can't do that breathing in above water and then breathing out under water. I can swim fine as long as I keep my head above the water, but is that really knowing how to swim?

Above are the thumbnail sketches I sent to the art director. One idea was a person's head with its eyes just above the water. Another idea was a swimmer in a body of water in the shape of a coffin. I thought this idea was stronger. I sent a few variations for both ideas.

The art director went with the coffin idea, but I had to make the proportion taller, which was a challenge at first. The solution I found was to show the side of the coffin.

Above are the vector process steps, path outlines, color, and water pattern.

Walking therapy illustration

I created this illustration for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for a story about a therapist who walks and talks with her patients rather than meet with them in her office.

I created this illustration for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for a story about a therapist who walks and talks with her patients rather than meet with them in her office.

The art director saw these two illustrations in my portfolio and asked me to create a new illustration incorporating hand lettering with walking figures.

The art director saw these two illustrations in my portfolio and asked me to create a new illustration incorporating hand lettering with walking figures.

To reference, Minneapolis, I chose the Stone Arch Bridge, a metaphor for the therapy.

To reference, Minneapolis, I chose the Stone Arch Bridge, a metaphor for the therapy.

I tightened up the sketch but the art director wanted me to include land at the top of the illustration, a reference to the city, or a park, something on the other side of the bridge, a destination.

I tightened up the sketch but the art director wanted me to include land at the top of the illustration, a reference to the city, or a park, something on the other side of the bridge, a destination.

I roughed up a quick revised sketch with a cityscape. These rougher figures actually influenced the direction of how I would end up depicting the figures, less line and more shape.

I roughed up a quick revised sketch with a cityscape. These rougher figures actually influenced the direction of how I would end up depicting the figures, less line and more shape.

Above is the hand lettering I created for the illustration along with some buildings and shrubs. I decided to go with a park destination rather than a city skyline destination for the top part of the illustration.  Below is the Photoshop art in sequential states of completion. I begin with a background of textures and then repeat and edit these textures to create the other parts of the illustration.

Above is the hand lettering I created for the illustration along with some buildings and shrubs. I decided to go with a park destination rather than a city skyline destination for the top part of the illustration.

Below is the Photoshop art in sequential states of completion. I begin with a background of textures and then repeat and edit these textures to create the other parts of the illustration.

I really liked this stage, felt finished to me, calm yet active.

I really liked this stage, felt finished to me, calm yet active.

Above is the final with the strip of land at the top. This strip added more color and gave the piece an optimistic feeling, like spring.

Above is the final with the strip of land at the top. This strip added more color and gave the piece an optimistic feeling, like spring.

New England TB Symposium illustration

I made this illustration for the New England TB Symposium. It was used for their program and posters as well as mugs and bags. 2013-cabinet

Initially, I drew a pattern of abstract shapes, but the client wanted me to show the drugs used to treat TB. The final sketch fused the cabinet with the head and shoulders profile.

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I used my trimmed Pentel brush pen for the line work. It was getting low on ink which allows me to create a more textural line.

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Below is the illo in a few stages of development.

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Alzheimer's illustration

lzheimer Last month, I was assigned a job by Harvard Magazine to make an illustration for an article about Alzheimer’s. The concept relates to a treatment referred to as “meaningful engagement.”

One of the effective activities discussed involved patients tending to plants. I wanted to make a decorative portrait that showed this relationship between the patient and the plants, as well as the internal isolation of the patient’s mind.

The larger portrait represents the external activity, the patient tending to the plants, and the smaller internal portrait represents the patient separated from reality.

Below is the process, beginning with thumbnail sketches, rough sketches for the client, and the final sketch approved by the client.

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Above is the ink line work I made with a Pentel Brush Pen.

For my work, I use new textures made from scanned elements as well as old textures pulled from previous illustrations. For this illustration, I used three textures pulled from previous illustrations and re-colored them, light orange for the main texture, medium orange for an additional texture, and green for a texture that will relate to the line work.

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The image below shows the inked line work on a layer above the textures.

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I brought in additional textures to create the head shape, and additional textures for the body.

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And below is the colorized line work followed by the final illustration.

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Primitive Shape tool in Illustrator

1478327768 This illo was for a demo I did last semester showing my students how to create an illo using Illustrator's Primitive Shape tools. I originally posted this image Feb 10 but thought I would share a bit of the process.

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I used the Rounded Rectangle tool to create the main head shape and then used the Ellipse tool to create the features. The triangles were created using the Star tool, reducing the number of points to three (click and drag with the Star tool to create a star shape, while you are holding the mouse button down, click the up and down arrows on your keyboard to change the number of points). The Line segment tool was used to create the line at the top of the mouth between the nostrils.

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I then used the Shape Builder tool to combine the shapes. I lengthened the nostrils by dragging one of each circle's points down to the line above the mouth.