Category Archive: Illustration

Rupa & The April Fishes poster


My friend, singer/songstress Rupa Marya asked me to do a poster for a great project last month. She and her band, the April Fishes, were doing a tour around the entire Bay Area on their bikes, culminating in a show at the Independent here in SF. We did two versions, one for the tour and one for the Independent show.

I’ve done a lot of illustrations of people on bikes in my time, and one thing I can say is that it never gets easier! It’s a very tricky thing, all the gears and pedals and weird angles that never seem right. But this poster was a lot of fun. And I’ll be doing another shortly for the upcoming Bicycle Music Festival!

Both posters are for sale in my shop! Bay Rising Tour poster & Rupa & the April Fishes at the Independent.

If you haven’t heard Rupa’s music, check it out! Free download a track from her new album here!

May Day! My Poster Goes Viral

May Day was a big deal this year. While this holiday is a huge in the rest of the world, with giant rallies and celebrations in every country on Earth, it’s rarely celebrated in the United States. So I was glad to hear that there were protests and celebrations planned in cities around the country. This is, after all, the country that invented May Day, a holiday born of the struggle for the 8-hour day in the 1890s.


I made this poster to mark the occasion, and I was glad to see that it went viral! It’s been shared over 200 times on Facebook, has been featured on the Occupy Wall Street page, Wonkette, and multiple other blogs, and I have reports that it was put to use as far away as Italy, Spain and Australia!

I posted the image, on my Flickr page (you can download a hi-res image if you like), and encouraged people to download, copy and share it, keeping in mind the image is available on a Creative Commons Non-commercial Attribution license. I don’t have much time for activism these days, but I’m pleased if I can contribute to these movements for positive social change with my artwork. (Way more fun than sitting around in endless meetings or other “activist”-like stuff!)

Many people have written asking for a print of the poster, so I’ve made it available in my shop at the low working class price of $20. Get one today!

Also, you might be interested in the inspiration for this poster, which is the wonderful classic from 1896 by Walter Crane. What an inspiring image!

Anarchist Bookfair

I did the poster again this year for the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, which is taking place this weekend!

This is the 9th poster I’ve done for the Bookfair. Each year I try to do something completely different — something outside my usual style. I’m always amused when people don’t realize that I’m the artist behind all of them!

Each of the Anarchist Bookfair posters I’ve done are available on a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial license. You’re free and encouraged to download them from my Flickr page* and print, publish, remix and re-use for your own purposes.

Next year will be my 10th and most likely my final poster for the Bookfair. Maybe someone else will want to step up and do some? I hope so! It’s a fun project.

* To download the hi-res image, choose the “Action” tab above the image, then choose “View all sizes” and choose the size you want.

New Young Adult Book Covers

At home, I have a shelf of books with covers I have designed. It’s been steadily growing over the years!

I got to add to my shelf last week, when I got a couple sweet packages in the mail: two books for which I had done the cover art several months ago. The finished product at last!

Dust City is a book that I can heartily recommend. It’s a wonderful modern fairy tale, about a young wolf with a bad reputation (his dad, it turns out, is the Big Bad Wolf himself). It’s set in a gritty urban environment where all the precious “fairy dust” is controlled by an evil multinational conglomerate, making for some very dark fairy tales indeed.

Here are some of the sketches:

And here’s the final art:

The other book is called Sign of the Beaver. It’s a classic, winner of the Newberry Award in the 1980s, and it’s a lovely story of a young boy fending for himself in the Maine wilderness, with the help of a Native American family who teach him the basics of survival. I loved it, and it was a real privilege to illustrate.

Sketches:

Final:

I don’t always like the books I illustrate. But in this case, both these books are wonderful, and I’m happy to recommend them. Pick them up for any young adults in your life, or get one for yourself if you happen to be a young adult who never grew up!

The packages kept coming this week. I got a couple of bottles of wine with a label I contributed to. This was designed by my friend Alicia Buelow, featuring a figure that I illustrated with Alicia’s art direction. My first wine label! (It’s a small producer, so it might be hard to track down.)

To Kill a Mockingbird

Last year, I got a call from Sterling Press — the publishing arm of Barnes & Noble with whom I did a cover for Alice in Wonderland a while back. They wanted to know if I had ever read a book called To Kill a Mockingbird. I had. Would I be interested in doing a cover?

That was an easy question to answer. I have loved this book since I first read it in the 7th or 8th grade. In fact, I believe this was one of the first books that really showed me what a great book can do. Re-reading it a few years ago, I remembered how this book made me feel transported to another time and place, and how it helped me grapple with really difficult questions about morality and injustice. It’s a powerful story, told with such simple, elegant language. I hope it remains on the bookshelves of kids and adults for a long time.

The great thing is that this edition is designed to do just that. It’s a gorgeous (if I do say so myself) leatherbound edition, the kind of thing that is designed to endure a long time, and survive the rough handling of generations of curious youngsters.



I even got to design endpapers for this book! How’s that for class?

As with most book covers, this one took a lot of back and forth between myself and the publisher. We had to get all those little details right, from Scout’s ponytail to the type to the Southern courthouse featured on the back cover. The biggest surprise in this process was the fact that Harper Lee herself was involved! Yes, she is alive, and though she is careful to stay out of the public eye, she collaborated with Barnes & Noble on this edition, to the degree that she looked over my sketches and gave surprisingly detailed notes. As you might suspect, they were sharp and insightful, with suggestions on how to ensure that Scout looked as if she were actually tipping up on her toes to view the gifts hidden in the knot of that old tree.

I’ve done quite a few book covers now, but this cover is by far the one that means the most to me. It sounds a little silly to say it, but it really is quite an honor to have a commission like this one, working on such a great book, with feedback from such a great author, and for a publisher that is willing to put out such a quality product. The best part: this will be a book I can give to my nieces and nephew and other youngsters I know, in the hopes that they will one day find some of the magic that I enjoyed when I first read it.

You can order copies on the Barnes & Noble website, or stop in to your local B&N and buy a copy there.

PS: A number of people, hearing that I had done a new cover for this book, wrote me over the past few months to congratulate me. It seems that this cover, a classic re-issue of an old cover, has been in stores, and I dont’ blame people for thinking this beautiful, eerie silhouette cover art might be mine. Alas, it is not, although this may have been one of the reasons that Barnes & Noble wanted to have me for their version. I hope my version has some of the flair of this classic!

Shakespearean ABC Book for Grown-Ups!

Last year I was busy for several months, working on the artwork for a picture book for Gibbs Smith Publisher. The book is called Y is for Yorick: A Slightly Irreverent Shakespearean ABC Book for Grownups, which is a pretty accurate title. The author is Shakespeare scholar Jennifer Adams, and her text is both funny and informative.

Each letter is matched with a character from one of Shakespeare’s plays, which was both enormous fun and pretty intimidating. (It’s not every day you have to illustrate the work of the greatest author in the English language, right?)

Here are some of the spreads:

You can get a copy on Amazon, or look for it in your local bookstore!

The Return of Psychokitty!

A few years ago I came up with this character that I called Psychokitty. Basically, it’s a cat that reads your mind. He’s not evil, but he has powers you can’t even begin to comprehend.

I’ve just had a new batch of Psychokitty shirts printed up, by my friend Mick Laska from Graphic Facts — Mick is a great printer to work with if you are so inclined and I highly recommend his services. They are printed onto black American Apparel shirts with discharge inks, a new printing technology that imprints on the shirt without leaving any plastic-y surface. Once you wash the shirt, the printed area is as soft as fabric. (The colors are less intense than the old plastisol inks, but I actually prefer this more muted look.)


Will you look as cool as these über hip models once you have your very own Psychokitty shirt? Yes you will.

Here are links to my shop where you can buy your size and gender!

Men’s Psychokitty shirts:
Medium
Large
Xtra Large
Xtra Xtra Large

Women’s Psychokitty shirts:
Small
Medium
Large
Xtra Large

This is a limited run, and it will likely be a long time before I have more shirts printed. Know what that means? It means you need to buy one today if you want one tomorrow!

California Design & Illustration Show at Los Medanos Art Gallery

I helped curate a show with some amazing artists that opens this Thursday! The show is called “California Design & Illustration,” and it features my work as well as three other artists — here’s the invite that Mati and I created for the show:

Check out some of the photos from the installation!

My incredible talented wife Mati McDonough is the star attraction (IMHO). In addition to some recent paintings, she installed a whole wall of her inspiration — replicating the beautiful creative chaos of her working space.

Our good friend Lisa Congdon is in the show as well — she installed a series of her beautiful animal paintings that are a wonder to behold:

In addition to us three, we also included Jason Munn of the Small Stakes, who is one of our favorite artists working today. Jason’s rock posters combine incredible design savvy with conceptual brilliance. I really want to own this Dr. Strangelove piece, but think it is sold out!

I displayed a bunch of my own poster and book work:

My poster work and books!

But to really make the show special, Mati volunteered me to design a mural for the show. It took two days and three of us working to do it, but it came out great!

Los Medanos Art Gallery is on the campus of Los Medanos Community College, way out in Pittsburg (at the end of the BART line). Here’s the info in case you’d like to make the trek to join us!

Opening: Thursday, February 3, 2011 · 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Through March 3, 2011

Los Medanos Art Gallery
2700 East Leland Road (map)
Pittsburg, CA

Long Lost Voodoo Project

In 2009, I did a neat job: repackaging a series of Voodoo dolls for a company called Running Press. They wanted a spooky, two-color redesign for the boxes and dolls, and it was lots of fun to create.

I mocked all four of them up with my color printer, and here’s how they would have looked:

The cool part was that each box had a special die cut window to display the voodoo doll:

The new packages never appeared on the company’s website, so I never got around to blogging them. The other day I came across the files as I archived some old work, and I gave them a call to check in. Turns out the new designs were never produced! They paid me, so I guess I shouldn’t mind. But it is sort of sad never to see your work come to fruition. That must be one of the pitfalls of being a commercial artist — relying on others to print, produce and sell your work for you. You can do your job, but that’s no guarantee they’ll do theirs!

On the other hand, I now have a nifty portfolio piece to share! Anybody want to some voodoo packaging?

Way to Go: Travel Guide Section for Washington Post

It’s been years since I’ve done anything travel related, but travel is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I got my start as an illustrator and designer working for the world’s most beloved travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet, where I worked from 1992 to 1998.

So I was really pleased when the Washington Post called recently, not to ask my opinion on world events but to see if I had time to do an illustration for their annual Way to Go travel guide. The best part? They wanted to put my typographic skills to use! That always makes me happy.

The sketch was easy, and actually it was mostly done before I was even off the phone. The hard part was getting the color right. I did several versions, each slightly different. Here are the first few:

In the end, we came full circle and kept most of the original color version. Here’s how it looked on the page:

The Way to Go guide had five articles, and I did a spot for each one:

It’s been a while since I’ve done work for a newspaper, and I’d forgotten how much fun a quick and dirty illo on a tight deadline can be. Thanks to the Washington Post for the opportunity!