book review

The New York Times: 10:04

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.

Boston Globe: "This Beautiful Life"

Boston Globe "This Beautiful Life" illustration
Here is a small illustration I did for last weekend's Boston Globe Book Review of the novel "This Beautiful Life" by Helen Schulman.  The review traces the path of a family newly transplanted by the father's career into an affluent Manhattan lifestyle, and crisis that emerges against the unfamiliar upper-class backdrop.  Below are the rough ballpoint thumbnail ideas and then the more legible sketches that were submitted.  Art Direction by Jane Martin.
Boston Globe "This Beautiful Life" sketches

To End All Wars

"To End All Wars" illustration
Here is an illustration I did for Sunday's Boston Globe Book Review of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild.  The review highlighted the complexities and political ramifications of the first World War.  Instead of attempting to capture an elaborate, global concept, I thought it would be interesting to focus on the effects on the individual soldiers, who, due to the breakdown of technology and resources, were left in unprotected trenches with only rudimentary equipment and supplies to survive.
"To End All Wars" sketches
"To End All Wars" process
"To End All Wars" Review


LATimes "Panorama" illustration
Last week, I got a call from Judy Pryor at the LA Times to illustrate the book review of the novel "Panorama" by H. G. Adler.  This is the first english translation of the novel, written in 1948, which follows its character, Josef Kramer, through 10 distinct chapters of his life, some of which mirror the author's own years in Nazi forced labor camps and surviving Auschwitz and Langenstein (where Kramer's character ultimately arrives).

Below are the rough thumbnail ideas based on a couple passages in the text echoing a recurring theme of isolation and obliteration throughout the passages of Kramer's life.
LATimes "Panorama" Thumbnails

LATimes "Panorama" Sketches
Above are refined versions of three of the sketches; the third sketch of the characters at the labor camp was selected.  Below is the ink-wash drawing, which went through a range of trial and error with color and light before coming up with the final version (top) that felt closest to the tone of the story.
LATimes "Panorama" Ink Wash

Destiny & Desire

Here is an illustration I did for the LA Times Book Review of Carlos Fuentes' new novel "Destiny & Desire."  Based on the brief synopsis and a couple overviews of the book, my AD Paul Gonzales and I came up with a couple specific visuals from the story, including the severed head of the novel's narrator lying on the pacific coast. Below are the quick thumbnail roughs, and then two tighter sketches that best carried across the cast of characters and violence while retaining some traces of magical realism, found in Fuentes' storytelling.

Kind of Blue

Here is a piece from yesterday's Los Angeles Times book review of Miles Corwin's latest novel "Kind of Blue."  The book centers around the reinstatement of the main character, an unusually keen and obsessive officer, to the LAPD to solve a high profile murder.  The thumbnails and sketches below were a inspired by the character's lone-wolf mentality against the backdrop of LA.  Much thanks to Judy Pryor for the call.


Kings of the Earth

"Kings of the Earth" illustration

Here is an illustration I did for the LA Times book review. The book is Jon Clinch's latest book Kings of the Earth: A Novel about the lives and deaths of a family on a rural upstate New York farm. After going through the first half dozen sketches based on the short synopsis available before the book's release, I realized the ideas were really just guesses at plot points and character descriptions. For the final sketches (the last three which I submitted), I tried to keep the themes broader and more symbolic rather than narrative.

Ultimately the obscured, voyeuristic family photo idea was selected, and the finished piece ended up running in black and white (below right). But as luck would have it on newsprint the black and white version gives off an eerie documentary feel that hopefully helps drive home the concept of the story's unsettling, incomplete history. Much thanks again to Judy Pryor for the assignment.

"Kings of the Earth" illustration process and print

The Surrendered

I had an illustration in yesterday's Boston Globe for a feature on Chang-Rae Lee's new novel "The Surrendered." While it ran in black and white on the link above, here is the a color version as well. The novel follows several characters through the aftermath of the Korean war, including an eleven year old orphan. Not having had a chance to read the book, I was drawn to the broader psychological impacts of war and how the effects of its brutality on the characters could be conveyed.

Thanks very much to Jane Martin at the Globe for the opportunity.