Lazarus: Number Eleven

Lazarus: Number Eleven

Lazarus 11 hits stands today from Image Comics and with it the "Conclave" arc begins with the emergence of another Lazarus from the family Bittner and growing shadows of doubt haunting Forever's past, present and future. Written by Greg Rucka, art by Michael Lark with Tyler Boss, colors by Santi Arcas, lettering by Jodi Wynne, Designed by Eric Trautmann and edited by David Brothers; I couldn't ask for a more dedicated team to work with.

I've included a small process animation to the left layering steps from brush and ink drawing through Photoshop, as well as cover sketches for different approaches to Bitter and Carlyle's icy introduction below. A preview of Michael's epic opening pages for the issue is available here.

Lazarus: Number Eleven

The New York Times: 10:04

NYT_BookReview_1004_Fin650px
I really enjoyed illustrating this weekend's New York Times Book Review of Ben Lerner's second novel 10:04 with AD Joele Cuyler. Visually reinterpreting another's creative work via the interpretation of a third reviewer is often a telephone game-like experience, but in the case of a story that itself cites coconstruction and shared experiences of art, the layered/perception sketches below came together quickly.NYT_1004_Sketches_650px
I've included something that I don't always mention but is integral to most illustrations I work on: inspiration beacons. After I've worked out the content of the illustration in sketches, I reach for the shelves and folders of art books and JPGs and usually unconsciously pull a few that serve as these beacons. I place them next to the reference on a second monitor to play the role of corner-men, long lost teachers, or idea-maps to something I'm fixated on at the time. In this case, they happened to be a collage by Josep Renau, a book cover illustration by Mitchell Hooks, and a photo by John Cho.
NYT_1004_Inspiraion_650px

Lazarus: Vol. 2

LAZARUS Vol. 2
I am excited to share my first illustration as cover artist for Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's Image book Lazarus. The second collected volume arrives in comic shops today, and follows Forever, the Lazarus of the Family Carlyle, as destabilizing plots unfold within and around the ruling families in a dystopian near-future.

The solidity of the world and characters Michael and Greg have developed provided a wealth of visual options, so I was able to run with one I particularly loved which was the "Lift" propaganda poster Michael designed for chapter eight. We narrowed into an idea of Forever surveying the world from a decaying billboard with the deconstructed "Lift" graphic behind her, which I explored in the sketches below.
LAZARUS Vol. 2
While we have only done a few covers so far, this has already been one of the most fun and satisfying collaborations of my career. Thanks to Michael Lark, Greg Rucka and everyone on the team and at Image for inviting me to be a part of this excellent project.
Photo of LAZARUS Vol. 2 by Jared of OK Comics
Photo courtesy of Jared of OK Comics

Viking: The Ways of the Dead

Viking/Penguin: Ways of the Dead
An interesting challenge came in the form of a book cover project for Viking last fall. The assignment was the cover illustration for The Ways of the Dead, the first in a series of crime novels by Neely Tucker. The art direction was to hint at an eerie crime scene on the backstreets Washington D.C., and to do it without any figures – which are usually pivotal in the majority of murders.
Viking/Penguin: Ways of the Dead
Without the human element, I threw myself into researching alleyways and refuse containers (not always easy to access by the way) and noticed a certain sickly green glow from fluorescent lights in entryways and loading zones would often lend a claustrophobic edge to the space. The dumpster in the piece also took on its own character so I played with different compositions and proximity from the viewer within the alley.
Viking: Ways of the Dead
The final illustration was painted digitally using Photoshop and Corel Painter and underwent a few rounds of punching up the contrast to help make the shadows feel deeper and inkier. Art Direction by Alison Forner.

Entertainment Weekly: Mr. Mercedes

Entertainment Weekly: Mr. Mercedes
A couple illustrations I did for Entertainment Weekly's feature on the upcoming Stephen King novel Mr. Mercedes are in the issue on stands this week. The story follows a retired detective working to stop a killer who murdered 8 people and injured 11 at a job fair with a stolen Mercedes. The excerpt focuses on the dark interior of the antagonist's basement and mind as he reflects on past and future attacks.
Entertainment Weekly: Mr. Mercedes
Above are development thumbnails and sketches for the spread and interior, working out different compositions for the foggy morning street and the ominous wired basement. Ultimately, the more overt violence was selected and the circuit diagrams became a connecting visual motif. AD Dennis Huynh.Entertainment Weekly: Mr. Mercedes Entertainment Weekly: Mr. Mercedes

The New Yorker: Blue Bloods

The New Yorker: Blue Bloods
I love horseshoe crabs. It might be their quiet witness to half a billion years on earth, or the fact their hearts pump a singular amebocyte that defends their blood from pathogens, or the fact they can't be raised in captivity yet are preciously harvested by pharmaceutical companies. Horseshoe crabs are fascinating.

I wish I could claim that my interest in them predated the piece by Ian Frazier but it truly started after Christine Curry from the New Yorker sent me the article to illustrate. Once I read the story and began researching and drawing horseshoe crabs it was hard to stop. Below are some of the development sketches, exploring different ways to try to do these orthropods justice. Did I mention they swim upside down?
The New Yorker: Blue Bloods

Canadian Business: The Slaves of Eritrea

Canadian Business: Slaves of Eritrea
One of the great aspects of working on editorial assignments is illustrating in concert with different forms of engaging journalism. A few weeks ago I had the chance to work with Art Director John Montgomery on an interesting assignment for Canadian Business magazine. The article investigated reports of Human Rights Watch allegations brought to Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The report stated that Canadian mining companies were, knowingly or unknowingly, employing local contractors that exploit unpaid conscripted labor in the North African nation of Eritrea.
Canadian Business: Slaves of Eritrea
Above are the rounds of idea sketches, the core of which I felt were to convey the visible and invisible systems that contribute to slavery and exploitation in developing nations – grounding the scenes in realism, while also using symbols and visual metaphors for the more insidious human rights issues at play. We circled back around to the idea of a reflection to convey an alternate, darker truth about the conscripted workers. Final page design and layout by John Montgomery.
Canadian Business: Slaves of Eritrea

Mother Jones: 780 Days of Solitude

Mother Jones: 780 Days of Solitude Illustrators and artists working in black and white have always captivated me, and have been inspirational in keeping me practicing drawing directly with ink in my sketchbooks. Ink forces you to move only forward in a drawing, which I find instructive and exhilarating, and perhaps the closest to a "live record" of the process.

In most illustration assignments, the ink drawings are just the first step in the process, so it was particularly exciting to get a call to illustrate a series for Mother Jones with ink drawings as finishes. The feature was an excerpt from the upcoming book A Sliver of Light by Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd about their experiences as prisoners in the Iranian Evin prison for 780 days beginning in 2009, and the visceral detail and intimacy of each of the voices in the story is astounding. As I re-read it I felt a growing weight of responsibility to create as an honest sense of reportage as is possible secondhand.
Mother Jones: 780 Days of Solitude

The initial sketches were inspired by various personal accounts throughout the piece, and once the ideas had been edited down, I was actually able to discuss additional visual reference and specific details with author Shane Bauer. Much thanks to AD Ivylise Simones for the collaboration and opportunity to look at things in black and white.
Mother Jones: 780 Days of Solitude 

Mother Jones: 780 Days of Solitude 

The New York Times: For the Love of Money

The New York Times: For the Love of Money
This past week a compelling op-ed assignment for The New York Times Sunday Review came across my desk, and despite being in the midst of several projects, I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to work on the illustration.

The piece was an autobiographical account of author Sam Polk's struggle with unchecked wealth as an investment banker on Wall Street. I put together sketches inspired by descriptions of the author's manic climb to wealth and attempts to use trading to assuage his feelings of powerlessness.

Getting to pitch in ideas on layouts for artwork is also a rare treat. Much thanks to AD Aviva Michaelov for the challenge.
The New York Times: For the Love of Money     The New York Times: For the Love of Money  The New York Times: For the Love of Money

Surface Pro 2

Surface Pro 2 travel setup
A few months ago I ordered a Microsoft Surface Pro 2. My needs were modest but specific -- to be able to produce sketches and revise illustrations outside the studio without adding much weight to my travel set-up. I’ve enjoyed the portability and simplicity of the iPad but it is dwarfed by the performance of my Cintiq. So when in the market for a laptop+tablet "travel" combination, I knew I needed a machine with a very particular set of skills.

After reading some write-ups on the Surface Pro and its Wacom screen performance, especially from digital artists, I ordered a 256GB Pro 2 in November and have been using it for roughs, sketches, studies, etc. I had yet to use it for a full illustration but since I spent the most part of last month travelling, I had the opportunity to put the device to the test and now return the review-favor. Here are a few photos and notes on my experience with the Surface Pro 2 as an illustration tool for the New Yorker piece “Labor Day.”
Surface Pro 2 travel setupThe Surface is a compact tablet – the 10.6" screen is only a few inches bigger than the sketchbooks I use regularly. The portability is great for working up roughs and thumbnails for assignments and pushing around digital paints, however, it is a bit more challenging to think big-picture or get precise line-drawings since the length/flow of drawing tends to bump up against the boundaries of the screen.

Pictured above is the basic work/travel setup I've taken on short trips up and down the west coast and overseas to London this past month. The form factor is still relatively small, even with these additions, and travels well. Pictured above is the Surface Pro, the stock Surface Pro Pen and white Modbook Pro Digitizer Pen,  a 5.25" x 8.5" Stillman & Birn (Epsillon series) sketchbook, and just inside the bag a pen case, the keyboard and stand. The Surface Pro weighs in at 2 lbs., which isn't bad for carrying around airports and train stations, but I wouldn't want to hold it for long periods while drawing and found myself wanting to apply a little more drawing pressure than the kickstand angle allows. I picked up Surface Pro Artist's recommended iKlip Studio Music Stand, which I now use all the time. The stand has a nice industrial build (I think it's primarily for musician's digital tablets) and it has multiple angles and grabby rubber feet that give it a sturdy base on any table.

Surface Pro 2 travel setup
Because I've become accustomed to the two side buttons and eraser on the Cintiq pen, I found the stock Surface pen underwhelming, and was glad to discover the Modbook Pro Digitizer Pen, which comes with a range of Wacom nibs and includes two programmable buttons and an eraser. I have noticed slight shifts in the precision on each digitizer pen I've tried. I don't know if it is the calibration drivers or the sensors in the pens, but as I got into detailing more precise work, I felt the Microsoft pen registered slightly tighter than the Modbook.

I initially contemplated getting the Type Cover 2 keyboard to also act as a cover, but ultimately went with the Microsoft Wedge bluetooth keyboard as I keep the keyboard off to the left of the screen for shortcuts while working.

The New Yorker: Labor Day
I got a call from The New Yorker about a quick-turnaround illustration when I was away from the studio over the holidays with only the Surface and my sketchbook, but having worked up elements of previous illustrations on the Surface, this felt like a reasonable test. The sketches were done in Photoshop, and then I went straight into the final drawing in Manga Studio. This turned out to be the trickiest part since the screen can feel a bit cramped when doing more gestural line work, so I tried to work around this by drawing slightly faster and adding a little more snap-correction to the pen in Manga Studio. The painted elements and colors were done in Corel Painter and fine tuned in Photoshop before being turned in the next morning. (The film is Jason Reitman's "Labor Day," review/illo in this week's New Yorker.)
The New Yorker: Labor Day
Overall I have to say the Surface Pro 2 has delivered nicely. I'm not sure why Microsoft isn't marketing its Wacom digitizer screen more prominently, but the 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity are on par with their Intuos tablets, the processor has been keeping up with everything I've thrown at it, and simply being able to run full desktop Photoshop, Manga Studio etc. at the size of a sketchbook adds up to a really handy digital illustration tool.

Random House: Brief Encounters with the Enemy

Random House: Brief Encounters with the Enemy
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of working with Robbin Schiff at Random House on the book cover illustration for “Brief Encounters with the Enemy" by Said Sayrafiezadeh. The characters in the stories had a quietly haunting quality as they moved through their seemingly mundane city; exploring those elements in the sketches below was a lot of fun.
Random House: Brief Encounters with the Enemy Random House: Brief Encounters with the Enemy Random House: Brief Encounters with the Enemy Random House: Brief Encounters with the Enemy