The latest article given to me by the editor of Lodging Magazine involves manager tips for making a workplace a good environment for employee mental health. The key was offering support to workers in terms of acknowledging outstanding work, explaining employee goals in a clear way and setting an example for employees to model. I came up with an arched bridge as being the means of support, with the recommended action points spelled out on the pillars.
First I drew a pencil sketch with loose tones blocked in –
With the idea approved, I traced the drawing onto illustration board, outlined in prisma pencil and painted it with acrylic washes, using the sketch as reference to keep the values consistent.
Meal kits are very popular right now, especially among young couples in big cities – they are a subscription service that delivers a fully-stocked box full of raw food to your door in a refrigerated container, with instructions on how to cook all the ingredients into a delicious, almost gourmet dinner for two. And if the recipe calls for one stalk of celery, that’s exactly what they provide – one stalk, in a clear plastic sleeve, so there’s no scrap left. What, though, can be done with all the packaging that’s leftover? Well, since spring is just around the corner, I propose . . .
I’ve been looking through the illustrations of Arthur Getz, one of my favorite New Yorker cover artists. Getz painted 213 covers for the iconic magazine between 1938 and 1988. In addition to illustration work, he painted cityscapes and landscapes – ‘fine art’ sold through galleries – although he sometimes signed them with his middle name, Kimmig, because at the time a fine artist was not supposed to cross the line into commercial art.
A particular favorite of mine is his cover from 1957:
The moment it captures is utterly American, isn’t it? To the left, the bustling, spangly city with silhouetted crowds in frenetic motion, and in the foreground the relaxed parking attendant, contentedly oblivious to the high life a few blocks behind.
The skill and techniques of this artist make the painting especially appealing to me. The blazing city lights in the distance are warm, but it’s cold moonlight fluorescing down on the garage attendant – that’s the opposite of what you’re taught in painting class! Warm colors are supposed to come forward and cools recede – but Mr. Getz makes this inversion work beautifully. The covers of the magazine our fellow’s reading are slightly brightened with the reflected light bouncing off the pavement – reflected light is a detail that a master’s eye notes, and novices often overlook. The splashes of neon red far off in the city are balanced by that rusty red wall to our protagonist’s left; there’s even the faintest red haze in the air above the cars in the garage, a delicate touch to offset all that chill October air.
And our attendant’s pose, balancing on the chair – another master stroke. Let me explain: when you draw a standing figure and you want it to look steady, not tipping over, you draw it so the supersternal notch – that’s the central notch between your left & right collarbone – is directly over the inner ankle of the leg bearing the weight of the body – this makes the figure looks solid. Well, Mr. Getz has this gent perfectly balanced: if you imagine where his supersternal notch is, and draw a line straight down, it’s directly over the spot where the chair leg bearing the man’s weight touches the pavement. This acrobatic bystander is not going to tip over!
The contrasts in tone all around our nonchalant hero seal the deal for me. After your eyes take in the whole scene, where does your attention go? To the crisp lightning-white page edges of that magazine and that tiny cusp of face and finger illuminated by the October moon. That’s intentional – they are painted with a razor edge and surrounded by blacks and neutral grays to draw your gaze like a pinpoint. The same goes for the swatch of city on the left, the contrast is so high between the yellows and blacks that you can’t not look at them – but even though those marks are skillful, they are vague, to give an impression of buildings and lights. The painting strokes in and around our parked friend’s figure, instead, are descriptive, deliberate and masterful.
There’s sometimes a bit of friction between illustrators and fine artists, over whether illustrations deserve the same esteem that framed paintings are given. If you ask me, this Garage Nocturne by Arthur Getz could hang in a museum next to Hopper’s Nighthawks any day.
My latest illustration for an instructive article for the hotel industry’s Lodging Magazine involved rating the entire guest experience at a hotel – at least that’s my understanding, since I did not get to read this article. The editorial staff was running behind on deadlines, so they just gave me an idea to draw & I did it! Sometimes that’s how publishing goes.
They asked for a drawing showing the process of a hotel customer booking a room through her smartphone, receiving confirmation, arriving at the front desk, chatting with hotel staff in the room, and then writing a review of her experience. I started with a rough pencil sketch –
and tightened it up to show the editor –
She approved this and I drew it on coldpress illustration board in prisma pencil, then painted it with acrylic washes. The finished art is below.
I’m looking forward to speaking to the members of the North Penn Arts Alliance on Wednesday February 6, starting at 7:00 PM. The group meets at the William Trego Arts Center, 125 N Main Street in North Wales, PA 19454. The Trego Center is in an old Church with a parking lot behind the church off Second Street.
I’m getting a slide show together of my children’s book illustrations and gag cartoons, and the public is invited to this free talk. See you there!
Addendum: If you plan to come tonight to my talk, and have not been to the Trego Art Center before – it is located in a building attached to St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, 125 N. Main St., North Wales. The easiest way to get into the Center is, coming down N. Main St., turn east on E. Walnut St. , go one block and turn left onto N. 2nd St. About halfway down that (1-way) street you will see the back of a large church on the left; park in that parking lot, and the modern-looking addition attached to the right side of the church is the entrance into the Trego Center. Go in the door and to the right and the room is the 2nd on the left.
My most recent illustration for Lodging Magazine accompanied another one of those hard-to-picture articles – it spoke about a lot of thought processes and planning but few concrete images presented themselves. The article explained how hotel management should handle an employee who had been injured on the job and was now returning to work, often in a diminished capacity until the employee was fully recovered.
I’ve found that when the subject matter is rather heavy and step-by-step, sometimes the way to make a more lighthearted illustration is to think in terms of a board game. I used several of the many tips in the article to construct a game with a manager driving an employee on the journey back to full capacity. First a rough doodle to lay out the path –
which I refined a bit, then transferred to illustration board –
and then painted in bright acrylic washes for the finished art.
My latest illustration for Lodging was for an article advising hotel owners to try to customize employees’ benefit packages to suit their individual needs. The idea arose of a stockroom full of various benefits, which were mentioned specifically in the story. My rough pencil sketch –
and a tighter tracing –
For the final drawing I thought of ‘personalizing’ the boxes the employees’ were using with little headshots of each owner. The finish is done with prisma pencil and acrylic paint washes on illustration board.