For portrait commissions I generally don’t do preparatory sketches anymore, usually just sitting down and banging out four or five ink drawings of the subject and submitting them all, letting the art director and editor choose which one they’ll ultimately run.
 This approach began with a job I did for the New Republic in 2009. I was commissioned to do a portrait of the economist Nouriel Roubini.
 I sat down at my desk with a sketchbook to begin doing some “sketches” and, as often happens, there was a looseness and spontaneity to the “sketches” that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to replicate in a properly “finished” piece of art.
 At that time in my studio, I had several large acrylic paintings on paper that had been abandoned. I gessoed over one of these paintings and tore the sheet into small pieces after the gesso had dried.
 I liked the way the colors from the under-painting crept through the thin layer of gesso.
 I scanned one of these pieces of the abandoned painting along with my favorite sketchbook drawing of Roubini and combined the two using Photoshop.
 The resulting image ended up being an early example of my using the computer to stitch together traditionally created elements, and a preparatory sketch being presented as Finished Art.
 The Chronicle of Higher Education is a favorite client of mine. As an educator as well as an illustrator, perhaps the articles they send through often hit close to home. In this particular piece, called "How Academe Breeds Resentment," the author considers paranoia, envy and over-thinking amongst academic scholars.
 The brief summary the art director sent through highlighted some general themes: Paranoia, envy, academic over-analysis, etc. My initial ideas – looking over one's shoulder, hunkered down on a desk full of research – were Ok as starting points but were lacking any sort of graphic anchor.
 Above the desktop computer in my studio is a framed sketchbook drawing I made of a banjo player and a young woman in a red striped dress at the Bedford Avenue subway stop on the L Train in Brooklyn.
 I made the drawing based on a dozen cellphone photos I'd taken on the subway platform in Brooklyn. I liked the banjo player's set-up (kick-drum and high-hat strapped to Chuck Taylor sneakers, two harmonicas snapped into a holder that was designed for a single harp). It wasn't until I got home and began "drawing on location" from my desktop computer that I realized the woman in the red striped dress had been taking pictures of me taking pictures of the banjo player.
 I cast the banjo player from Brooklyn as my paranoid academic.
 Digitally, I cropped the banjo player's face out of the subway drawing, printed it out, trimmed it and taped it onto a few pages of a sketchbook, fleshing out some ideas. Here, he looks over his paranoid shoulder at what other scholars might be doing/who might be plagiarizing his brilliant ideas.
 Here our scholar cranes his neck to see what the next scholar down the way might be up to.
 This idea is the clunky one of the three, conceptually, but I may revisit it someday: A large magnifying glass balanced on the desktop of our scholar, but pushing our image of him further into the distance.
 The Chronicle liked the first idea best so I transferred the sketch to some beefier paper and inked it with a steel brush and various other pen nibs (watercolor added as an accent).
 Originally designed as a vignetted spot, the drawing ran as a full-page illustration, online as well as in print, always a treat to see.
 Another piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education and another very interesting article, which I’ve come to expect from this client. Titled “Ovid Had No Trigger Warning,” the author suggests that most meaningful works of literature are in fact “post traumatic,” using Ovid’s work and exile from Rome as a jumping-off point.
 In 8 AD Ovid was banished from Rome by Emperor Augustus for mysterious reasons. The only clue we have is in Ovid’s own words:  Carmen et error  (“a poem and a mistake”).
 Isolation can be terrible. Isolation can be the most important thing in the world.
 What if Ovid could look down from the mountains of the past and see a student blindfolded for their own protection? What would he say? “You are not alone,” the author of the article would seem to suggest. “We can cross this dark valley together.”
 As an artist I often feel torn between loose drawings and tight drawings, Gestural versus Deliberate. The marriage of the two is a constant carrot on the end of a constant stick…
 When this job came through from the Chronicle of Higher Education I was reading  King Lear . I’d just gotten to the part in the play where the Earl of Gloster’s eyes are dug out of his head by the Duke of Cornwall. I wondered if that vision ought to be shielded from students in a classroom.
 Is it the duty of an “educator” to so sensor the content of a text for a student?
 This is Jacques-Louis David’s  The Death of Socrates . It’s in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York City.
 I’d made a drawing of this painting in a sketchbook I was working on at the time. In the Chronicle of Higher Ed article the author speaks of Plato’s teacher, and his choice to drink hemlock and die rather than confess to breaking laws he did not recognize. Though not mentioned by name, we all know that Plato’s teacher was Socrates, and that this “traumatic” event effectively fueled Plato’s life of the mind.
 I sent the sketchbook drawing to the art director in Washington D.C., suggesting that this might be a perfect pairing for his article on “trigger warnings,” David’s  The Death of Socrates  in my sketchbook.
 Over the past several years, when a project permits, I've been experimenting quite a bit with different combinations of mediums (acrylic paint, collages elements, pen and ink, etc). The drawn pen and ink line tends to be the thread that runs through all of the work.
 Malibu magazine e-mailed with an assignment that required a double-page illustration. The article was about Los Angeles-style traffic congestion creeping up the Pacific Coast Highway. Because of the magazine's relatively small budget, I decided to take the opportunity to do something more experimental in terms of final execution. As with most jobs, I began with a couple of pages of very rough thumbnail sketches.
 The coast along the PCH is popular with surfers. My first idea had a surfer catching a wave of traffic headed north, out of Los Angeles.
 Here a beach-bum halts the traffic with casual, super-human strength.
 Same idea as the previous sketch, only this one's in stereo.
 A more organic wave of traffic being less-successfully held back.
 A pedestrian up the proverbial tree.
 This sketch seemed to satisfy the requirements of the assignment pretty well, but I usually do one more sketch when I reach this point.
 This little character was from a sketchbook. I plopped him down on the page, standing in-between a wall of traffic and the Pacific Coast Highway. Makes no real sense, conceptually, but maybe that's why I like it.
 And then, because the project's budget was quite small, I offered to hand-letter the article's headline and credits, too(!).
 Hand-lettering anything usually takes a ton of passes on the copy.
 To be clear, the title of this article was "NO WAY OUT" (these pages weren't some sort of cry for help as my wife feared they might be when she came into the studio and saw all of these pages strewn across the floor)...
 The part of the iceberg below the surface that nobody ever sees...
 In this piece I tried something new...
 ...I scanned the simple drawings of the cars and trucks, added some simple color in Photoshop, printed them out on archival paper and collaged them into the final hybrid drawing/painting.
 The finished traditional/digital hybrid on my studio easel.
 As it appeared in Malibu magazine with the hand-lettering incorporated.
Malibu Mag Spread (Square for IG).jpg
 In January 2016 North Dakota State University's football team won their fifth consecutive national championship. This was a very big deal. And while I'm not an alumni of the school, I've worked with the University's magazine for nearly 20 years and was thrilled to be asked to contribute something to this landmark issue of their school's semi-annual publication.
 My initial conversations with the magazine's editor suggested that we work on the idea of community, ie, behind the team's success was a vast and enthusiastic support system. One possible take on this idea was a football player assuming a sort of Heisman Trophy stance, with more than one arm cradling the game ball. 
 Carson Wentz, NDSU's quarterback, was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the number two pick in the 2016 NFL draft.
 Carson Wentz and I both graduated from Century High School in Bismarck, North Dakota.
 I often find that working in small, pocket-sized sketchbooks when working up initial thumbnail sketches is useful. This idea involved a cheering crowd of loyal Bison fans riding on their school's mascot's back.
 Perhaps something as quiet as a still-life, featuring a folded hooded sweatshirt with the school's logo on the chest, could be a poignant conceptual solution.
 This idea had a smiling fan in the middle of a like-minded crowd, but the concept didn't work without a little hint of color...
 With these thumbnails I applied fields of color to separate pages of the small, pocket-sized sketchbook and incorporated the color into the thumbnail sketches digitally.
 In the Fall of 2000 I painted a large bison for the cover of the inaugural issue of NDSU's magazine. After further discussion with the magazine's editor, we wondered if revisiting this more straight-forward approach to depicting the school's mascot might not suit the current issue really well.
 And so I began doodling bison, focusing solely on form and shape and not paying much attention to concept at all.
 The simple addition of the confetti (in the school's colors) gave the image a graphic, celebratory feel. But we weren't quite there yet in terms of finding the right bison for this job.
 So I tried a couple more. (This one felt too goofy.)
 This one was nearly there, but the back leg came across as too spindly and the hump on the bison's back was a bit too pronounced.
 Hump and legs were getting there. One more pass...
 The legs looked good, but the hump needed to be tamed still further.
 We did it! Sketch approved/time to enlarge, transfer to watercolor paper and draw.
 Sometimes, finished sketches are so resolved that there is little variation from the sketch to the finished drawing. In terms of execution for the finished drawing here, I've used a steel brush pen made by Speedball (out of Philadelphia!). It's a pen nib of sorts, but wasn't built to make drawings like this. That's why I like to use it: It gives the lines character, sort of like a singer's vibrato, or the shape of a note blown through a wind instrument.
 And because I wanted more control in terms of placement of the confetti, I made that with watercolor on separate sheets of paper which were then combined with the original pen and ink drawing in Photoshop. 
 Best of luck to the North Dakota State University Bison next season!
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