Sunday, June 29, 2008

I swear Amy's on her way

If I were on the job they would have fired me by now. I have a final concept ready for Ms Winehouse, but due to other priorities I have yet to start the final yet. Also She's been in the news so much recently that I have to add some things. My concept involves a sea of hands, a grammy, and an awesome drawing method Sterling Hundley taught us. So I beg your patience, its in quantum space for now.
I have, however, been hard at work doing a cover for WUPR, and you can see this in process and further Academy work on my blog. Also, I have been hard at work on the shotgun 911 piece. 
In an effort to differentiate, I wanna try the idea of mixing up an emergency line for guns with real emergency lines.
So far my ideas involve guns as people, a fireman saving a rifle, and these two gems.

Not as strong perhaps as some of the other ideas, but the idea of a crook and cop with broken guns calling a hotline tickles my fancy, in some odd way.
Let me know what you all think, and please comment on some of the stuff I've posted on my blog also. I love hearing from you guys, and always appreciate the critiques.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Eek. I disappeared. Sorry! I actually did the first exercise, too! Sadly, I got a bit preoccupied, and then my classes began, and I got a job, etc. No excuses. But I'm afraid I'm going to be a loser and pass on exercise #2. I simply don't have enough hours in a day right now.

Some of you know I've been dabbling in the written word, and over the last three weeks I went from a major revision of my first novel, to submissions, and on Monday I got an offer from an agent! I sign with them next week (still not sure which agent, because two more came back and asked to have until Friday)...point is, I'm going to take a pass, and I PROMISE I'll do the next one.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

guns and explosions

Since I have no problem with guns, explosions, trucks, etc. I will be working on the first article (also I read that one and made some sketches before Mike posted the second one). I came up with several ideas but this was the one I liked best by far:

for some reason I liked the idea of the hunted animals being the ones calling the hotline, but I'm afraid that is too far removed from the subject/message of the article? I wanted some opinions on the concept before I move ahead with it. Also, I was thinking it might be better to have a lot of bears, or a lot of deer, etc., instead of the one-of-each setup I have now. And yeah, it is getting kind of cliche for me to draw animals with inanimate objects.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Article #2: Google Goggles

Alright, it has been brought to my attention that many of the illustration assignments you have received thus far may reflect some bias toward guns, explosions, and other XY-oriented imagery. In the interests of keeping everybody happy and, more importantly, involved in this purely voluntary activity, I have posted another article that John gave me at one time or another. It didn't used to be part of the curriculum, so I sincerely apologize if I've yanked this one out of any new lesson plan, John. No guns, no explosions, and everyone's happy. See how good I am to you guys? Fair warning, it's a somewhat twisted, bizarre story, and in order to do this, you need to stay focused on the broadest themes involved, or else the image will get muddy awfully fast. Go team!

Google Goggles: A Cautionary Tale

Dek: In less than a second, he peered into his past and found his first love. Then things got weird

It starts innocently enough. The insomnia-filled hours between my six-month-old son’s nighttime feedings give me time to fill. Too much time, in fact. One night, sick of contemplating the ever-expanding contents of my navel, I make a vain attempt at doing something useful: I log on to the computer to track down a replacement filter for our humidifier. One mouse-click leads to another, and all of a sudden I’m hot and heavy with the ghosts of girlfriends past.

I enter the name of the girl to whom I lost my virginity and press return. Even though the trail is, I'm embarrassed to admit, nearly 20 years old now, Google finds my long lost love, Jennifer Miles, in just 0.27 seconds. (I've changed her name and other details to protect her identity. Yes, it's ancient history, but it still seems poor form to kiss and tell.)

Jennifer Miles is now an attorney-at-law, who, according to the online newsletter for Baker, Reardon and McCloud, just made partner. But is that my Jennifer Miles? Or is my Jennifer Miles the soccer mom who felt the need to take her recipe for noodle salad and give it to the world? The confessional poetry that Jennifer Miles posted on sounds like it could be the work of my ex-Jennifer, but it turns out that this Jennifer Miles is now a freshman at Harvard. The last time I saw my Jennifer, this aspiring Sylvia Plath hadn't even been born. I keep searching.


We met when I was 17. She was 19. I had run off see the world but only got as far as Minneapolis--and an experimental high school affiliated with a regional children's theater company. The artistic director was a man whose love of children was unfortunately later revealed as a love of children, but that's another story. Jennifer, an actress apprenticing with the company, lived down the hall from me at the big white boarding house on Stevens Avenue. It was a grand old Victorian lady of a place that you could almost hear clucking her tongue as she presided over her shifting population of young bohemians, all, like me, intent on throwing away the only thing we owned: our innocence.

I had no hope of winning Jennifer, which is, of course, why I had to have her. Blond, model-pretty, with a sublime distaste for underwear and the sort of permanent pout I had only seen in the magazines underneath my older brother's bed. At 17, my post-pubescence was still warm. It had been ugly, gawky, geeky, my molting. Finally, I had emerged from the Oxy-10 cocoon of puberty not as a butterfly but as a fully formed walking erection. Anyone who bought stock in Kleenex or Vaseline that year did very well.

It seemed to me during this period that everyone, everywhere, was having sex--but me. As with many an oppressed minority, my only hope for real change seemed to be through acts of civil disobedience. I did everything short of hunger strikes and parades to draw attention to the harrowing plight of my erection. Jennifer couldn't so much as go to the bathroom without crossing my picket line of one. I was determined to get laid by any means necessary. No justice, no peace.

And then one night, I just “happened” to be passing by her room and she just happened to invite me in and then, like so many of those moments in life when everything changes all at once, it just sort of happened.

“You're not so bad looking.”

“I'm not?” Had puberty been kinder than I thought?

“I invited you in, didn't I?”

“Yeah . . .” I didn't know what else to say. The ball had never been in my court before. Hell, it had never been in my zip code.

“Just say, ‘I want you. Right now.’”

“Ah, sure. I, ah, want you. Right now would be great.”

She smiled, not unkindly, and without much ado took me by the hand and led me to a place where I actually, literally, felt as if I had left my body. I floated above the bed, fascinated, almost like a bird watcher who, after years of sitting in the woods, finally spots that rare bird heretofore only studied in guide books (or, in my case, my brother's copies of Penthouse). Breathlessly, I watched as that fairest of all fowl, the Bobbing Headed Woodshiner, perched between my legs and began her distinctive mating dance.

All I remember of the week that followed is a warm glow and a pleasant soreness. And that I was in love with her. To question whether this was true love or just sex is to miss the point. When you're 17 and a virgin and a beautiful woman has sex with you, you love her for that. True, deep love.

All life-altering things must come to an end, though, and that's where David comes in. David, Jennifer's ex-boyfriend, appeared in our kitchen one morning, fresh off the plane from Houston, all dark and adult, his lawyerness hanging on him like expensive cologne. David took Jennifer off to some hotel downtown where expensive lawyers go to have sex like grown-ups, while I sat by the door like a dog waiting for his master to come home.

In the end, David got the girl and I got a dear John letter that opened with “I'm sorry” and closed with the oddly poetic “I love you in the dark and in the day.” But, I guess, just not in Minneapolis. Jennifer disappeared in a cloud of David's cologne, and I never saw or heard from her again.

Life went on. Jennifer's room was taken by a smelly lesbian from Iowa who would stand in the kitchen with her hand down her pants blathering about Brecht to anyone who passed by the fridge. I tried throwing myself into my work but it didn't help. I’d been cast as the ass end of an elephant in the theater company's production of Babar the Little Elephant. It was a role for which I was a little too qualified.


Finally, my Googling takes me to a Web site devoted to all Jennifers great and small, a monument to some poor guy's losing battle with obsessive compulsive disorder. There I find a listing for a Jennifer Miles, actress, and a list of credits. A respectable little TV and B-movie career that petered out in the mid-nineties.

I happen to own the one film of the alleged Jennifer's that received a wide release. It's one of my favorites, in fact. After nearly 20 years of wondering what the hell happened to her, was she right here under my nose the whole time? I watch the movie with my finger on the pause button, like a hunter with a gun, lying in wait for my elusive Jennifer. In the credits, she is listed simply as “woman in red dress.” During the opening sequence a construction worker whistles at a woman in red dress, and she says what sounds like “Save it for somebody who cares” as the camera cranes up and away from the street and some Executive Producer's name flashes across the screen.

Is it her? She's a small figure in the back of the shot and when I pause the DVD, her face is little more than an impressionistic smudge. I study this 17-second piece of footage with feverish intensity, as if it were the sequel to the Zapruder film, analyzing the movement of her hips as they sway back and to the right, back and to the right. Maybe it's her. Maybe the angle of the shot just makes it difficult to tell. Maybe there was a conspiracy. Maybe there was a second shooter up on that grassy knoll. Maybe I'm going insane.

So what if it is her? Where is she now? Los Angeles? Isn't that where former TV actresses go to die? The Internet white pages has only two listings for a Jennifer Miles in the entire L.A. metro area. I can't imagine the Jennifer I knew, or anyone else for that matter, ending up in a place called “Rancho Cucamonga” so it has to be the one in the Hollywood Hills. It takes a stiff drink but I dial the number. One ring. Two rings. Three rings. I start to relax. It looks like we're going to voice-mail.

“Hi, this is Jennifer. I'm looking for something to restore my faith in human nature. If you'd like to take a stab at it, leave me a message.”

Yeah, that's actually the message, word for word. Somehow, I don't think crank calls from sentimental losers in their boxer shorts (that would be me) is what she had in mind. I call back three more times just to listen to the message. Is it her? Maybe--the quirkiness of the message, the not so subtly veiled flirtation, the hint of an Oklahoma twang. I try one last time.


I freeze for a moment and then, thankfully, remember to hang up the phone. I know that it's her, but it can't be her. It can’t be that easy after all this time. But it sounded like her. How do I know it sounded like her? After 20 years I remember what she sounds like? I could call her back. And say what? Is this Jennifer Miles? I know it's Jennifer Miles, the Jennifer Miles of 9880 Spring View Way, Los Angeles. So what do I say then? Are you the Jennifer Miles at 9880 Spring View Way, Los Angeles, the Jennifer Miles who humped me, dumped me, and left me in pieces? She's going to think that I'm some crazy loser stalker weirdo. Am I some crazy loser stalker weirdo?

“Honey? What are you doing?” calls my wife from the bedroom.

“Nothing!” I fumble and drop the phone in my haste to hide the evidence.

“Will you check on the baby before you come to bed?”

“Yes, honey!”

As I stumble in the dark over to the screened-off corner of our New York City apartment that we grandly refer to as “the nursery,” I am half afraid that the sound of my heart knocking against my ribcage will be enough to wake the baby. I bend to touch the warm down of his baby hair and feel ashamed. But of what? What am I guilty of? Nostalgia? Dialing a wrong number? I'll tell my wife about it and she will laugh and that will be that.


“Mmmm-hmmm . . .”

She's asleep, or almost. Why wake her? Why trouble her over nothing? I spoon with her in the dark. Our efforts to restart our sex life after the baby was born have been bittersweet at best, like coming back to a house that once was yours after someone else has moved in and renovated. She has been depressed postpartum, self-conscious about her weight, anxious. On the rare occasions when I take the time to shave, she quizzes me on my plans, asks if I have a date.

“Mmmm-hmmm?” she repeats.

“Nothing,” I say. I take comfort in the thought that a secret is not a secret if there is really nothing to tell. I am taking care of her, protecting her feelings. What a considerate husband I am.


Months pass. I forget about Jennifer Miles. Really. But then one day, I just happen to be out in L.A. on business, and just happen to have a couple hours to kill between meetings, and just happen to drive all the way across town against traffic to find myself here, parked in front of her house, sticking to the vinyl upholstery of my rented white Taurus in a cold sweat. I look up at the modest stucco house, perched at the top of one of those impossible little cul-de-sacs in the Hollywood Hills. Behind the screen door, the main door is open. Only a few millimeters of wire mesh now separate me from Jennifer, that and almost 20 years. Will she be anything like I remember her? Will she remember me at all? I tell myself that in one more minute I will get up the nerve to go knock on that door.

The minute passes. And then one more. I debate with myself which would be more pathetic--to have come all this way to see her, or to have come all this way just to turn around and go home? It's a toughie. I open the car door, close it again. No. Too naked, too desperate. Maybe a “chance meeting” at the coffee shop, a grocery store? Much better. I visualize the whole thing. Looking at her. That first taste of eye contact. A flash of recognition in her eyes. I “casually” go over to her.

“Jennifer? Jennifer Miles?”

And then what? Only now does it occur to me to ask what it is that I want from all this. It's not about mending fences or picking up where we left off. Our entire relationship, such as it was, lasted a week. She is just an icon of my youth, memorabilia of my becoming, some souvenir ashtray that an accident of history--that she was “my first”--has rendered a priceless heirloom in my memory. I think what I want most, actually, is just that flash of recognition. As if, within that momentary flash, there might still be a glimmer of the big bang that created my adult universe; a window back across the light-years of marriage and fatherhood to the precise moment I became a man in the arms of Jennifer Miles, now a stranger living in Los Angeles.

Maybe if I knocked on that door, I would see that magical flash of recognition. Or maybe I would just see a harried almost-40 woman, a little thick around the middle, graying at the temples, frayed around the edges. It wouldn't be magical. It would be like looking in the mirror. I don't know if it makes me a romantic or a cynic or just older, but I prefer the unlined reflection of memory in which both me and my Jennifer are forever foxy.

I don't really miss her. I miss my youth. I miss when weight was still something I wanted to put on, and when I still believed that “making love” and “having sex” meant the same thing. I miss problems I could just grow out of, and summers I really thought would never end. I miss not understanding all those things that my parents told me I’d understand when I got old enough. I bet Jennifer does, too.

I start the car. And with a little wave, to wish her well, I drive away.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Concept sketches for 'Shotgun 9-1-1'

As penance for dragging my feet on the portrait, I made sure to have a quick turn-around on these concepts. As you can see, I have two main ideas: 1) illustrating an actual shotgun "emergency", and 2) illustrating the idea of getting gun help over-the-phone.

I started with the top one, but decided that the 'phone call' was too small, and as a result too easily lost. The second one started the same way, but by replacing the boulder with a tree I could crop in closer. I also like the division of the picture plane and the new pose for the bear. Granted, it may be a bit vague (Who is he calling? Is he calling the park ranger? Yogi?), but by emphasizing the brokenness of the gun and refining his pose that he's looking more at the gun and concentrating on its reassembly, I believe it would work. The second of the above sketches is my favorite, but in the spirit of always trying to explore new ideas, I also have this one:

Lamely employing the "phone-call split-screen" device, the kindly Remington doctor is helping this clearly distressed gun owner revive his fallen compatriot. It's no Field & Stream centerfold, but a serviceable idea if need be.

I seek feedback and the revival of a somewhat stagnant blog. Post!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shotgun 9-1-1

Fresh from the wastepaper basket of Mr. John Hendrix, I present an interesting little spot from Field and Stream. Before I get complaints about how some of you might find the subject limiting, keep in mind that the ability to take an article on anything and be able to design an image in such a way that you can invest yourself in it is important. No matter what an article is about, you can probably have fun with it. So, take the relative absurdity of this article and run with it, because it could be a lot of fun.

Size 6" by 4"

"Due" date: Monday, July 3rd.

Shotgun 9-1-1.

The following, as they say on those Onstar ads, is an actual conversation with a Remington consumer service representative and a Remington customer:

Caller: “My 1100 keeps jamming.”
CSR: “Do you clean it?”
Caller: “Every time I shoot it I clean it just like my daddy taught me. I use a bronze brush and solvent and scrub out the fouling, then run cloth patches through the barrel until they come out clean.”
CSR: “Do you take the forearm off and clean the gas system?”
Caller: “The forearm comes off?”

If you have a problem with your Remington; want to learn the history of an older gun; need to talk about a repair or order spare parts; or you want information on new models, dial 800-243-9700. You won’t be alone. Even in July -- typically a slow month – Remington Consumer Service fields 3,000-4,000 calls a week. From mid-August through Thanksgiving that volume doubles. Consumer service also receives around 4,000 e-mails during busy months, a steady stream of faxes – mostly part orders – and a trickle of old fashioned snail mail.

A misguided few want a cleaning brush for a Remington shaver (it’s not the same Remington). Some have called thinking “WRA” stamped on a gun barrel somehow meant “Remington” not “Winchester Repeating Arms,” but the vast majority have valid questions. Sixteen consumer service representatives (CSRs) answer the phones every day at Remington corporate headquarters in Madison, N.C.

“We have a mix of shooters and non-shooters among our CSRs,” says Consumer Service manager John Locsin. Sometimes it’s easier to train someone who hasn’t shot before but shooting and hunting backgrounds are a definite plus. Lately I’ve been hiring shooters.”
David Sykes, 50, of Greensboro, N.C. is one of Locsin’s relatively new hires; a hunter and shooter for 45 years, he worked in consumer service at the IRS and American Express before coming to Remington three years ago. He knew he had entered a different corporate culture during his initial interview: “I mentioned sometimes my own 11-87 flummoxed me, and they got one out and we took it apart and did a walk-through right there on the desk.”

Like all new consumer service reps, Sykes received extensive training. He spent four weeks in the classroom learning company history and product lines before he ever touched a telephone. He visited the call center to listen to representatives handling calls, then spent a week on the phone with a CSR next to him before he “soloed. After a couple weeks on the phones Sykes went back for three weeks of technical training to learn about about parts and repairs.

In three years on the job, Sykes has taken all kinds of calls. “One man who called me about a repair was out crow hunting. He kept saying “Hang on,” and I’d hear “BAM, BAM” then we would continue our conversation.” He says the most common answer to “My 1100-11/87 doesn’t cycle” is that the customer forgot to put the barrel seal back on the gun after taking it apart for cleaning. In August, people ask Sykes about shot size for dove hunting. “I tell them to use 8 shot in the first week of the season, then 7 1/ 2 later as the birds get wild,” he says. Every day, though, there are surprises: “People lose stuff. I mean, I get absent minded sometimes, but people call who have lost bolts from their rifles while they were out hunting How do you lose a rifle bolt? I try not to think too much about how it happened, I just concentrate on getting them back into the field.”


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

better image

sorry, last post didn't maximize for some reason

WorkinProgress: Amy Winehouse illo

Hello all,
Forgive my laxness of reporting as of late, I have been quite busy with other work. I have reworked the image quite a bit, with this being the latest version. 
I'm working off the idea that John pointed out to me that its ironic that the media hails Amy as a genius while at the same time publicizing her troubled personal life. Thus I crafted an image that points out her grammy winning status as well as her "crazy" status.
There should be a break in the program next week for "Lecture Week" at which time I will try to work value and hue in this piece. 
Hope everyone is doing well!  I will try and send e-mails shortly.


Great Flash Animation

Ok, so I obviously haven't posted a thing since I put up those sketches a few weeks ago, but today (when I should have been working) I found this link that I think you might all enjoy.

It's a short animation by Alan Becke called Animator vs. Animation. It's rather simple, but I think it's both interesting and a great example of an unorthodox approach towards concept and execution. Check it out.

Oh, and one day I plan on finishing the Elvis Costello editorial illustration… someday. Before then, however, all of you designers should be on the lookout for a project designed for you by Ms. Mary Rosamond and yours truly. The parameters will be posted within the next week.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In process - Ellen and Gollum

Hi Summer Studio,
So I'm posting this in-process in the spirit of rejuvenating our somewhat dormant blog. 
I could use some help figuring out how to finish the composition of the piece. I learned from MikeC that I probably stepped outside of the goals of the original assignment, which was to make a likeness of someone that evokes a recognizable aspect of that person's life rather than making an editorial commentary with additional figures. Saddened though I am, I would still like to make this piece work.

The problem I am having compositionally: I have one figure, "Gollum"—who will have a cross around his neck—anguished and shocked, and a passable likeness of Ellen fingering the coveted "ring." I'm not sure how to synthesize these two figures other than how I've done it here. I've been thinking about maybe a flowery, Austin Powers movie poster-like design in the background, to reinforce that I am referencing Ellen's homosexuality. Or perhaps, I need to emphasize marriage, and place them in a setting of a church or something. Give me your thoughts please.

Best of luck on your drawings!


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Scarlett v3

Ha! I laugh in the face of paying work. As I have NO paying work I've had a little more time to devote to this project it is. Although Marblehead does sometimes feel isolated and like a colonial village, it was financial restraints, not rustic living, as Hendrix implied, that made me unable to complete this piece with gauche as I would have liked. On the bright side I did get to stretch my digital coloring muscles. Some call it carpal tunnel, I call it devotion.

I'm fairly happy with my Scarlett although in the coloring process I think she started to look less like Scarlett Johannson than she did while in pencil form. I decided that I love Scarlett too much to give her a bad review so I decided to depict her singing happy flowers & butterflies, rather than wilting or rotting ones. I tried to evoke imagery from Tom Waits' "Orphans" album to suggest her taking on Waits' songs but singing them very differently....flowerly to say the least. It may be a bit of a stretch but it was fun! Hope to see some final work from you all shortly...Michael.

Cushy soft deadlines.

Greetings, all:

In the interests of honoring our project's "deadline," I feel it is important to acknowledge its passing: it is now 12:41 AM on the day after the editorial portrait was "due" and no one has posted, including myself. Well done, us.

While not unexpected in the least, it merits mentioning that many of you have good concepts and good sketches, and that the beauty of such an experiment is that rather than setting hard deadlines we can harass each other into actually producing the work that we intended. Believe me, harassment is imminent, and I expect the same directed at me.

What's my excuse? Unfortunately, paying work trumps fun work every time, and paying work has stepped up considerably since classes ended. Good for me, sure, but bad for my self-driven projects. I still intend to post an editorial portrait of Tom Waits in the coming week.

So, Summer Studio marches on. Submit the portrait when complete (we all know who you are and what you were doing, so there's no escape), and submit suggestions for the next project.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Indy is Old

Hey All,

Sorry I have been MIA from this blog so far.  I have been having some internet troubles.  You'll also be shocked to know that I have been having trouble deciding who I want to make my likeness of.  I finally decided on an aging Harrison Ford from the new Indiana Jones movie.  Anyone got any brilliant ideas on how to make Indy look old in a funny way?

Also, I don't have a scanner so I'm not entirely sure I will be able to get my work up here.  You might just have to live with vivid descriptions I will be posting.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

DeGeneres VS DeGollum

Hi friends,
Here is a sketch that I've been working on for the Ellen idea. Sorry it's later than promised. I modified my original concept according to the feedback I received earlier, so that instead of Ellen masquerading as Gollum and prancing around with the ring, she is seen gaining possession of it, over the protests of the Gollum figure with a cross around his neck.

I like the drawing of Gollum. As it stands now--I think that it is hard to see in the scan--Gollum is tied to a tree, which I want to be read as the new legislation protecting gay marriage. Ellen I know needs a lot of work. The exaggerating features thing is new to me, and I'm not that good at getting a likeness anyway. However, I definitely learned a lot while doing my sketches from this website: . The artist, Tom Richmond, goes over some basic principles of caricature and likenesses, so if you're interested, take a look. I'm definitely going to work on Ellen more, like give her an actual pose, etc. What do you guys think about the subtle (i like to think it's subtle) "finger" that she gives the shocked Gollum?


Oh yeah, I almost forgot...
The following image reminds me of Ryan, as I imagine him in his room in NY:
I bring this up because I'd like to suggest that our next "assignment" for Summer Studio be focused on people in studio. I get dibs on Ryan (he wont be Gollum)!