Saturday, July 30, 2011

Breaking Radio Silence, Part 2: Grand Scenesterism

I've recently done a couple pieces for Scene Magazine, covers and what not. It's actually a pretty awesome gig doing work for them now. They recently took on my homie, and design powerhaĆ¼s, OKPants, AKA: Aaron Secrist, as their new Art Director and he's really whipped things into shape, with the quickness!

At any rate, I did the cover of the May 18th issue, which was for an article, The Job Machine, about an organization, Global Cleveland, that is working to bring a specific type of immigrant, H-1Bs, to Cleveland to fill jobs, and what that might mean for the region. I used the local iconic image of one of the Guardians of Traffic statues that hold sway over the Hope Memorial Bridge (Lorain/Carnegie). I think it came out pretty awesome, even in print it looked better than I expected.

In addition to that, I did the cover for an article about Ohio selling off the prisons to private corrections firms, and the impact that will have on the system, all the lives completely wrapped up in that, and the communities that have to co-exist with it.

Years ago, I did the art for a series of columns in the Cleveland Free Times written by a man who was actually IN prison at the time, called simply "The Joint". I posted a lot of them on this blog, but apparently only labeled some of them, HERE. After reading the draft of the article, Shake Up in Lockdown, I went back and looked at all the art from The Joint, which I hadn't looked at in years. I felt a strange level of pride for all that work as the memories flooded the vines of my mind grapes. There's a distinct illustrative growth that I think is apparent over the arc of the series.

These are the roughs I jammed out and sent Aaron, and the editor, Erich, to light the fuse on this piece. I knew it needed to be claustrophobic and have a great many number of people in it. One of the worst problems in the corrections system is over crowding, and the pressures that puts on the inmates and the C.O.s was something I thought would be visually compelling.

They chose the fourth option, and I just ran with it. I love drawing crowds of people and trying to make them all look like unique individuals with stories of their own. Essentially, I'd like you to be feel able to point out any single dude in that shot, and feel like you could read their story and it would be interesting, at the very least, and a compelling tale about a dude, at the very best.

I've been to prisons, I've never been IN prison, but I've been to them. I've even been to the prison they talk about in the article, in Grafton. I've visited, and spent a lot of time paying attention to the convicts, inmates, the Corrections Officers, the other visitors, who's there and the way everything is set up. I didn't use any hard number statistics as a basis for the crowd on this cover. I based this drawing on what I have seen, with my own eyeballs, in my own head, right in front of my brain. Prisons are pretty dehumanizing, and it's easy for people involved to get wrapped up in the systematic details, and what those statistics mean. To loose sight of the vast number of actual lives involved. It's also very easy for people who don't have the first hand experiences of being there and seeing it in person to not think about it, or even give a shit about what's happening. It's easy to glance at an article or catch some seconds long news bite about the system and think "hey- that's fucked up, thank god it ain't my problem. It's all those people that are statistics' problem." When I got assigned this cover, in some small way, I felt like this was an opportunity to silently state "LOOK- this is what we're talking about. THIS is what we're dealing with." I don't know if it worked or not.

Here's the final colors. I think it came out good. I think I saved a palette of swatches in Photoshop just to use for the clothes and skin tones. I knew I wanted it to be pretty colorful, but also limited. Lately I've been using this Color Scheme Designer website to cheat. It's pretty helpful, but I often then go way off into the wilds after setting up the palette.

Here's the final with the text designed by Aaron, which looks awesome. I always do all my text by hand, and I love the way that looks, but goddamn does it look great when another designer spikes it over the net straight into the opposition's faces (yes- a volleyball reference! Who knew?).

Also in the mix over at Scene, I drew this background are for the featured Happy Hour of the week, which runs in the center of the magazine every week. The art stays the same, but the Happy Hours change every week. I drew this pretty big, brush and ink on Bristol Board... 14" x 17", I think.

Here's the colors. This one I knew I could get pretty bright and vibrant. It's always a blast coloring a city scene. It's easily one of my favorite things to draw. There's definitely an opportunity to make buildings and other urban structures just as expressive and characteristic as ...characters. It's architecture and also part of bigger scheme, I think cities lend themselves to articulating something that maybe can't be said otherwise. I have to think about this way more before I keep on typing.

Aaaaanyway, here's a shitty cellular telephone camera picture of the spread in the magazine. I like it. It works.

Next up: MELT megapost.



That "Best of cleveland" layout you did was awesome. I saved the scene

John G said...

Thanks Vagabond Pop, if you missed it, I posted up about it in April:

I'm pretty proud of that one!