Archive for November, 2008
At the very beginning of my career I hooked up with airbrush wiz Charles White III. He rented me deskspace in his studio on Lexington & 26th Street in Manhattan, and helped give my career the push it needed. We did quite a bit of work together in those days—work that I’d like to think was groundbreaking illustration work. Rather than have typography slapped over an illustration, we tried to figure out new and inventive ways of integrating letter and image. This is evident in pieces like the Chubby Checker album cover where the title was part of the illustration—contained in the Checker Cab-like decal I created—or the Gentle Giant cover where I painstakingly figured out what dimensional lettering would look like as it wrapped around a glass jar. One of our first collaborations was the incredibly complex Screaming Yellow Zonkers poster which took a more traditional approach to the integration of letterforms and illustration.
Charlie is finally getting the recognition he deserves for that early work in the just released book Overspray by Norman Hathaway. The book features Charlie who, along with fellow artists Dave Willardson, Peter Lloyd and Peter Palombi, formed a quartet of California artists that transformed the illustration landscape in the ’70s. Charlie, Dave and Norman together with legendary designer and art director Mike Salisbury (who contributed an essay to the book) were all in attendance at a book signing at FAMILY in Los Angeles on 11/12/08. To see photos from the FAMILY booksigning (which includes the back of my head) and some discussion from Norman Hathaway about the process and problems he encountered putting together this book, check out his Overspray Blog. To see more of Charlie’s work from this period, I’ve put together a PDF of images (not currently available) culled from his website. Throughout his career Charles White III has been consistently one of the most interesting talents around. Visit his Olio website to see what he’s been up to.
About a year ago I was contacted by comedy screenwriter Seth Front who pitched me his idea for “The Jewish Zodiac™”: a parody of “The Chinese Zodiac” but with deli foods instead of animals. Each of the 12 signs (based on birth year) would, in a light-hearted way, personify the food’s characteristics as well as explore compatability with the other 11 signs. It seemed like a good idea, and I could design them all as vintage deli food labels with the potential of becoming a mini portfolio of 12 related but distinctly different designs.
One problem I needed to solve was that Seth had already done food photography, and was intent on using it in the designs. Initially I wasn’t hot on using his photography because I thought it would be difficult to integrate into my graphics. But then I figured out a way of using Photoshop and Illustrator to translate the photos into simplified graphics using limited color. The results looking deceptively simple and easily achieved—but figuring it out and translating each photo was in actuality a very labor intensive process. I was then able to extrapolate the label designs using the limited color palettes derived from the processed photographs. Below is a section of one of the photos and the corresponding section of its simplified graphic counterpart I created, reducing it to 6 flat colors:
It took many months to get all 12 done, but I’m very pleased with the group as a whole. Below are two of them—if you’d like to see all twelve in more detail follow this link to the PROJECTS page on my website. To purchase T-shirts, mugs or magnets please visit Seth’s “The Jewish Zodiac™” website.
I’ve always loved the graphics found on vintage office machines (you know, the ones with industrial hammered metal finishes), which are often comprised of 2 or 3 color decals. They have a lot in common with decals that were used on gum and candy vending machines back in the ’40s and ’50s. I’ve managed to collect a few of those, and have always admired the naive, bold and simplistic graphics and design sense they share. I recently found a way to pay homage to them when my friend Jed Davis, Senior AD at both Promo and Direct magazines (and who also runs the indie record label “Eschatone Records“) called me with another cover assignment for Promo Magazine.
The November issue of Promo is a special issue called “The 2008 Promo Sourcebook” and they needed a cover design that was non-specific, yet eye-catching enough so that people wouldn’t mind having it around for several months. My first inclination was to give it a sort of ledger-like look:
But after consideration, I thought that idea might be a little too sedate and staid for what Jed was looking for. Then it occurred to me that perhaps this might be an opportunity to do something along the lines of the decals I had been collecting. I could get color and excitement into a cover that had the feeling of a ledger by also referencing the graphics and decals found on old office and gumball machines. To further the feeling I gave the gold color a subtle “decal” texture, and the background feeling of metal with an industrial machine-like finish.