April 23, 2014

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

April 16, 2014

Houstonia: Notes From Underground

Houstonia_InvasionProof_spread Illustration on the booming world of vigilante home security for the latest issue of Houstonia Magazine, layout and design by AD Chris Skiles. Process roughs below from the development of ideas of, particularly how paranoia and fear obscure the reality that violent crime rates continue to decline each year.Houstonia: Notes From Underground

February 28, 2014

The New Yorker: The Unknown Known

The New Yorker: The Unknown Known Illustration of Donald Rumsfeld for The New Yorker preview of Errol Morris' new documentary "The Unknown Known." AD Jordan Awan.

February 24, 2014

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 

February 11, 2014

January 20, 2014

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

January 7, 2014

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.

January 3, 2014

Global Business Traveller: Risk

Global Business Traveller: Risk Illustration
 Illustration for Global Business Traveller Magazine about security risks facing international travelers both online and off. AD Bob Gray.
Global Business Traveller: Risk sketches

Legion Magazine: Collateral Damage

Legion Magazine: Collateral Damage
Illustration series for a piece on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Legion Magazine. Legion Magazine: Collateral Damage

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