Thursday, December 24, 2009

3x3 Illustration Annual No. 6

Well after a total reprint of this year's annual, they're off to the distribution points and post office. A pagination error on the printer's part forced a total reprint of the annual, originally scheduled to deliver before Thanksgiving we were forced into the reprint which of course delayed delivery. When there's one error there's usually another, and sure enough we find a typo on page 4 and had to reprint the first signature again--at our expense, so another week delay getting the job printed. This year's annual was printed by JS McCarthy, an eco-friendly printer located in Maine; we have used them before on a number of jobs here an at Graphis and have always been pleased with the results.

Our cover was done by Marco Wagner, not to be confused with Mario Wagner. Marco works in his home town Veitshöchheim in Bavaria. Clients include Bajazzo Verlag, Playboy Germany and Nintendo and has been a winner in numerous shows including Communication Arts, Illusive 2, Novum Magazin and 3x3.

Look for the annual on your newsstands next week and get your entries ready for next year. We have a wonderful panel of judges lined up for all our shows--we'll be sending out the Call for Entries in January. Just a note, we're moving the student show to late March, the ProShow will still be mid-March and Children's Books will be in April.

Monday, December 7, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 13

We're right in the middle of putting out our third 3x3 Illustration Directory and I'm a bit puzzled by a recent email I received, not only because as a design firm we wouldn't be advertising in their directory but also in looking at their claims I find them hard to believe.

When directories first came out they were thin and only featured the very best illustrators and photographers in the field. There was certainly some sort of selection process that unfortunately doesn't happen today, now it's merely a pay-to-play scenario. Though just as a plug, that's not the case with 3x3's. Now directories look like strip malls, way too many images per page, every page is a different design and there is way too much mediocre work being shown. Again, in 3x3's directory it's curated, I personally select artist who are shown–-they must have been winners in our shows or have been in the magazine and I may add illustrators whose work I admire to join this group but it is definitely not pay-to-play.

Coming from an advertising agency background I've been around market research for most of my career and understand the basics on how to select a target audience. Relying on the best list source is certainly the first step but then analyzing where the potential market is is the next step. I don't buy that there are 18,000 to 20,000 creatives in the US that have an interest in commissioning illustration. My research just doesn't support that number, in fact it's in the thousands and not the tens of thousands. Sure I can get to the 20,000 number but that includes those who have no interest in hiring illustrators. Marketing is about targeting, being specific instead of being broad--a rifle shot not a shotgun blast. Making sure you have a valid list is key. From personal experience our ad agency always received way more directories than we had people and in many cases addressed to individuals no longer working with the firm. So buyer beware.

Also if there were 20,000 art buyers out there then we'd all be a whole lot busier. And don't be fooled by the suggestion of sending directories abroad as a source for work, first of all while it is a global market, the fees are much less outside the US and there are other issues to consider such as language and collection of your fee. The US market still offers the best source for illustration work.

There are those out there that say directories are passé, that art directors only look at the web for artists. I do agree that the current state of directories are out of fashion and they should be. But I'm not buying that art directors only surf the web for artists. First of all there are way too many sites for an art director or art buyer to look at. That option becomes a laborious waste of time. Secondly, until now there hasn't been a directory that only showcases the best work; for far too long art directors were left with a poor taste in their mouth about illustration since the directories were filled with marginal work. Lastly, illustration is not on everyone's radar; we're trying to shake that up by sending a well-designed, well-produced, minimalist directory--one image per page-- to a select group of art directors and art buyers in the US. I'm convinced that seeing illustration in a better context will help to change the minds of ADs and designers who are not using illustration today. And we haven't ignored the web component, our site has direct links to each artist's web site.

I'm all for more promotion of illustration in as many places as possible--I think that illustrators don't do enough promotion. And I realize that directories are a business. I just think the cost to play is too much if you buy the fact that very few of the 18,000 or so recipients commission illustration and fewer still even have illustration on their radar. Our directory is a break-even proposition, our page costs are one-tenth that of other directories--hundreds of dollars, not thousands of dollars and while I can't guarantee that an illustrator who appears in our directory will get work I do believe we are presenting their work in a much better light. The more I can show really interesting images the more chances we all have that art directors will wake up to the benefits of hiring illustrators.

This year's 3x3 directory will be mailed free to 6,200 art directors and art buyers in a variety of industries in the US. We have selected the top ten advertising/media markets as the basis for our list and cherry-picked individual markets and titles. Of those on our list we found only 1,500 were in editorial which offers an untapped market out there for illustration beyond magazines and newspapers. There are a number of reasons to consider good directories, there are a innumerable reasons to promote your work; spend wisely.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Capture the Imagination:
Original Illustration & Fine Illustrated Books

Bloomsbury Auctions announces its annual holiday sale of original illustrations and fine illustrated books on Wednesday, 9 December at 2pm. The sale will showcase important works from the Golden Age of Illustration to the present day.

Among the other important modern illustrators in the sale are Caldecott winners Arnold Lobel, Uri Shulevitz, Beni Montresor, Evaline Ness, Richard Egielski, Paul Zelinsky, Trina Schart Hyman and Leonard Weisgard. Other treasures that will be auctioned are Maurice Sendak’s original designs for the Wild Things Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon ($40,000-$50,000), an unused illustration for The Bee-Man of Orn ($30,000-$40,000) and numerous signed presentation copies.

Watercolors by William Steig for the original Shrek! ($15,000-$20,000), Sylvester and the Magic Pebble ($15,000-$20,000) and other works will be sold to benefit The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Two time Caldecott winners Leo and Diane Dillon are represented by works from Ashanti to Zulu ($15,000-$17,000), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice ($10,000-$12,000) and other award-winning titles. There will also be watercolors, drawings and other work by Edward Ardizonne, Umberto Brunelleschi, Edward Gorey, Tomi Ungerer, Al Hirschfeld, H. A. Rey, James Marshall, Barry Moser, Jerry Pinkney, Charles Santore, Charles M. Schultz and Walt Disney.

Saturday, 5 December, 10:00am to 3:00pm
Monday, 7 December, 10:00am to 5:00pm
Tuesday, 8 December, 10:00am to 5:00pm
Wednesday, 9 December, 10:00am to 1:00pm

Special Event
Illustrators of Our Time
Lecture by Michael Patrick Hearn
Tuesday, 8 December, 6:00pm
at Bloomsbury Auctions, 6 West 48th Street New York, NY 10036

Bloomsbury Auctions, New York, Wednesday, 9 December, 2pm

Thursday, November 12, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 12

Getting out of town helps clear the mind, getting out of the country creates a whole new perspective. Trying to avoid jet lag before the lecture series, we opted to land in Paris instead of London. Our first day was spent getting used to a new language, one that I'd feverously studied but came up lacking during our entire trip. All I really needed to tell them that I spoke no French was Je suis un Americain, I am an American.

Later that day we ventured into Pere Lachaise which was two blocks from our hotel--as many of you know I have a dreaded fear of cemeteries but somehow Pere Lachaise was different; perhaps it was the time of day--the quality of light and the fall colors made the place look radiant. Maybe I would have had my old familiar feelings had it been a cold, dreary day. Whatever the reason I embraced it, it was similar to visiting a sculpture garden, the variety of gravestones, the typography, the ornamentation all lent an air of artiness to the place and one I could enjoy.

The next day was a step back in time with a visit to Palace de Versailles, it was huge! I pictured something a bit smaller, something like what I would soon experience in London, but the massiveness of the place was almost overwhelming. And the crowds of vistiors spent little time in the rooms, preferring to raise their cameras above their heads and snap photos. Thankfully, the gardens were less crowded and much less so at the Petit Tranon, the simplicity of this place was much appreciate after the extravagance of the palace.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Villa Savoye, the next day's excursion. Completed in 1929 it is a prime example of the architecture of Charles Édouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier. The austerity of each room, the multiple views, the contrasting colors, the act of bringing the outdoors in makes it a home worth living in, though its tenants were very disappointed with the house and the workmanship--sometimes to be expected as the result of working with a genius.

Two ends of the spectrum, Louis XIV to Le Corbusier but both mad geniuses.

On to London via Eurostar, under the English Chanel which lasted only 20 minutes of the two and half hour trip from Gare du Nord to London's St Pancras. If they offered an cross Atlantic route I'd sign up. The trip was smooth, the food was what you used to get on the best airlines with service to match.

We tended to remain historic in our sightseeing, looking back at centuries past rather than searching out the contemporary scene. Our weekends were spent sightseeing, our weekdays conducting lectures on illustration at various colleges and art schools in and around London.

We also got to visit the offices of the Association of Illustrators in their shared loft space with Big Orange in East London. We met with Derek Brazell whom we have been in contact with for sometime and their new director, Ramón Blomfield who just celebrated his first full year this month. We talked about the difficulty and non-profitable aspects of newsstand distribution especially in the US and found we both share better interest in both Canada and the UK. Their house publication, Varoom, started off as their newsletter and my suspicion is that once they saw 3x3 they decided there must be a market for a magazine on illustration, several other publications have sprouted up since we started back in 2003, all with dismal results. A new one just launched this month in London.

I have long admired what the AOI is doing for illustration in the UK and feel they do a much better job than we're managing to do here in the States with our illustration organization which has a much longer history than the AOI. Why that's the case I'm not sure, but it does not bode well for illustration; we must all be doing more to increase the visibility and promote the viability of illustration.

Sometimes you have to get out of the country to see what you really are. Our visit uncovered the fact that 3x3 holds the only international student show as well as the only international professional show--something I hadn't really considered before. Being there pointed out just how insular each of our countries are. The fact that neither the AOI nor the Society of Illustrators actively invite international entries nor have international panels of judges pointed out our uniqueness and something we need to exploit as it gives our readers and our entrants a totally different "perspective" on what's happening in illustration.

Getting a first-hand look at the education of illustrators in the United Kingdom was one of the purposes of our trip; seeing the differences and similarities was helpful. What I noticed immediately was an intense sense of pride in each school, each went out of their way to explain why their school was the best in the country. Whether the claim was the largest, or the highest number of successful graduates or the star-quality roster of alumni, each school felt that they did it best.

In a number of the schools a student would get instruction from a single instructor for each level, others may interact with one or two more but I did not encounter anything like we have here in America with multiple instructors for each year. And their programs ran three years, not four. What I did notice was an emphasis on idea generation rather than style which I found refreshing. In America we seem too worried about developing a personal voice, sacrificing sound market-driven visual solutions in the process: Students may develop a voice but they often times have too little to say. I didn't find that in the UK, and from the class I sat in on the problems are not simplistic, they're quite involved requiring research before laying pen to pad. I wish our schools did more of that. But from what I learned their national government has put much more emphasis on practical knowledge and as a result those studying applied arts learn how to apply their craft though at times sacrificing experimentation in the process. There they can learn something from us Americans. No educational system is perfect, ideally it would be a mix of the two systems I've witnessed.

Being abroad also puts today's news into focus. What I also gathered is that the 24-hour news cycle has exploded the recession way beyond fact. While there was a downturn in the early part of the year, the illustrators I've spoken with, here and abroad, all say that they are busy, and some are busier than they've ever been. Which is really good news, for illustrators and for illustration. And it looked like the Christmas season was already in full swing judging by the crowded streets and stores.

Getting out of one's homeland points out differences but also similarities. Looking at the faces of the students in the crowded lecture hall was no different than here in the States. Bright, enthusiastic faces that will soon become the next generation of illustrators. General remarks about our talk were that it gave a more "American" approach to being an illustrator, the fact we stressed about illustration being a business, that it was important to be visible and the fact that using the correct marketing tools led to a successful illustration career were appreciated with more interaction from both students and faculty than we've received before. Though I did add two new sections to the talk since last speaking in the States, so it may not be a fair comparison. Whatever the response I'm glad we went, I'd like to thank all of the schools who invited me to speak, for their warm hospitality and welcoming spirit and I'd like to thank Sarah for the planning of the trip and keeping us on schedule.

Lecture Six: Kingston University

Our final morning in London started with a cab ride through some of the historic British landmarks onto Waterloo Station to catch the train to Kingston.

A short train ride later followed by a short cab ride and we arrive at Kingston's Art and Design building and were quickly greeted by Geoff Grandfield. Geoff is a noted illustrator and has been the Illustration Course Director at Kingston for almost four years now. A short tour of the building followed by a stop in the cafeteria for an espresso and then a laptop presentation about the school and their areas of concentration. Sequential work is stressed here both in comics, graphic novels and in motion--short films and movies. We found out at the Royal College that Kingston is one of the school the RCA actively recruits from for their MA program.

The lecture took place in one of the large classrooms, over 100 students crowded in to hear the talk. Afterwards we had the pleasure of having lunch with Geoff at a local pub a few blocks away from the school that had been transformed into a Thai restaurant. Then we were off on a 45-minute car ride to Heathrow.

Photo of Geoff Grandfield by Sarah Munt

Lecture Five: Royal College of Art

Thank goodness for the two day respite between lectures, a good time to catch up on sightseeing and rest before starting the week. After a morning meeting at the Association of Illustrators (AOI) with Derek Brazell and Ramón Blomfield we were off to the RCA.

And wouldn't you know it, the one time we didn't consult our map coming up out of the Tube we started walking in the wrong direction. Arriving a bit late Andrzej Klimowski and Debbie Cook swept us off to the faculty dining area for lunch which started with a bottle of red. It was like dining in a museum, a Hockney here, a Moore there, Kitaj and other alumni from the Royal College graced the walls and plinths. We were used to eating in the school's cafeteria which was all well and good, but here they have their own chef; on today's menu: pheasant, risotto, salmon with scrumptious sides. Too nervous to eat much I settled on the risotto. Then time for espresso and on to the lecture hall.

Entering the building I was struck with a familiar smell, turps; it brought back memories of all those days in the fine arts building down in Austin and it had been ages since I had smelled that old palette buddy. Setting up was a breeze and then it was time for the lecture. Good questions at the end and then a quick tour of the school's facility and then back to the flat to ready for our final lecture and then the trip back to New York.

Andrzej and Debbie before the lecture and students, photos by Sarah Munt

Saturday, November 7, 2009

London Get-Together

As many of you know we like to invite out of town artists for a meal at our studio so we figured why not try the same thing in London. Except we were only going to be there for such a short period we opted for a small get together over wine and cheese. And we kept our list to artists from the London area.

On the invitation list were those who had been in the magazine including A. Richard Allen, Andy Potts, Paul Wearing, Richard Wilkinson, Jo Holdaway, Sara Fanelli, Paul Blow, Russell Cobb, Nishant Choksi, Phil Wrigglesworth, Harriet Russell, Vanessa Dell, Chris Corr, Joao Fazenda, Sharon Tancredi and Chris Haughton and added Cantell Ronca who we'd just met when we were in Hatfield. Several couldn't make it due to personal obligations or last-minute deadlines but it was good to meet those who did come and put a face with an email address.

It's helpful to get a sense of the illustration community in the UK and how it's the same or different from the US. All seem to be unaffected by the recession, though things had slowed down early in the year now some are busier than ever.

The next time we're in London we hope that we can meet more illustrators in the community. Thanks to those who braved a soggy London evening to drop by.

Andy Potts, left and A. Richard Allen listening intently to Paul Wearing who is off-camera.

Lecture Four: Loughborough University

A short train ride south from Sheffield and we arrive in Loughborough, home of Loughborough University, the site of our next lecture. We were greeted at the train station by our old friend Andrew Selby and his colleague Alastair Adams, a noted portrait artist and head of the illustration program. Thanks to the generosity of Andrew and his wife Felicity we were invited to stay at their lovely home in Oakham the evening before our lecture. Located about 45 minutes from Loughborough we arrived in Oakham in time for dinner with the Selby's at one of the area's oldest pubs, The Olive Branch.

The following morning we got a better look at the beautiful countryside as we took the trip back up to the university. Andrew had scheduled my talk for the evening but had Sarah booked for a roundtable talk about publication design with the students interested in publishing in mid-afternoon. Reports are that Sarah did quite well in her first-ever lecture, mine followed in the evening.

A fairly restful day before our lectures we got a chance to see the sites around the small village town, had a coffee and English Breakfast at a lovely spot call Wests and got a tour of the illustration floors in a building that had great light and a life drawing studio which was once used as the energy generator plant for the entire campus, plans are for the department to move into newer quarters in the not too distant future.

Unfortunately we didn't get to see that much student work as they were in the midst of tutorials but we did wander about the studios to see the work hanging on the wall.

The evening's lecture took place before a fairly-packed auditorium, especially considering it was Guy Fawkes Day, the equivilant to our 4th of July. We had lots of questions during the lecture and afterwards. Then off to bed for our trip back to London on Friday morning.

Andrew introducing the speaker for the evening, photo by Sarah Munt

Lecture Three: Sheffield Hallam University

Our first visit far outside London took us to the North Country. After a two hour trip we arrived in Sheffied, crossed the street and arrived at the university-one of the largest campuses in the UK.

Frazer Hudson met us in reception and took us on a short tour of the Arts and Design building before a quick lunch at the school's cafeteria and then onto the lecture hall. Frazer has been at Sheffield for two years, prior to that he had lectured and taught part-time at a number of schools in the UK. The building is fairly new--the previous location was well outside the city center--each specialty has its own floor with numerous classrooms and open spaces.

After a quick setup at the state-of-the-art lecture hall, the presentation, a Q&A period and then we gathered our books, magazines and suitcase and headed back to the train station for our journey south to Loughborough, the site of our next lecture.

It was a treat to finally meet Mick Marston who came down from Leeds for the lecture. Thanks to Frazer and Claire Lockwood for their warm hospitality.

Photo of Frazer Hudson by Sarah Munt

Lecture Two: Central St Martin's

Following a wonderful lunch with Brian Grimwood and Ben Cox from the Central Illustration Agency we ventured first to the Apple Store to get a necessary connector to work with all the overhead digital projectors. From there it was back to the flat and then on to Central St Martin's for our evening lecture with their Master of Arts students.

Thanks to Patrick Roberts, Course Director, MA Communication Design, for helping us setup for the presentation and it was good to see Gary Powell whom we'd met a few years ago when he brought his students over to the studio. And of course, Andrew Foster who'd arranged our lecture. Andrew is this year's 3x3 Educator/Illustrator of the Year and is featured in the 3x3 Illustration Annual No. 6 due out later this month. Andrew is an exciting and intense artist who is definitely blurring the lines between illustration and fine arts. We also met the artist, Anna Bhushan who had just returned from a four-year stay in New York.

The lecture was followed by one of the more intense Q&A periods we'd experienced on either side of the Atlantic. A brief dinner followed at a Greek restaurant around the corner. Thanks to Andrew, Gary and Anna for making us feel so welcome.

Sorry no photos, there were problems with the camera.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lecture One: University of Hertfordshire

The day started off lovely, it had rained most of Sunday but Monday morning is bright and sunny, a bit cooler but still nice. A quick walk to Knightsbridge station and we were of to King's Cross to catch the morning train to Hatfield. Just two stops on the express train outside of London we arrived in Hatfield, took a cab to the campus, entered the Todd Building and rang up Adam Graff who quickly met us in the lobby and then took us for a quick espresso before getting setup for the lecture. Adam, a noted illustrator, has been teaching at the university for ten years, just finished his masters and is a proud new papa.

Everything was running swimmingly until the presentation was about to begin, then technology raised its ugly head. It took well over 20 minutes to get a picture on the overhead screen but everyone was quite patient during the process. A bit of background, the history of American illustration, three tips every successful illustrator knows and a list of Do's and Don'ts that young illustrators need to know and an hour and forty-five minutes later the talk was done.

Off to lunch at the school's new food court and Catell Ronca joined us, Catell teaches the first year students and is a graduate of the Royal College of Art; Adam teaches the second year students. Unlike America there is one instructor per year and the curriculum is very hands-on practical assignments taken from real jobs. Adam permitted Sarah and I to sit in on one of the classes for an hour or so and we were able to see first hand Adam's teaching style and the work he is getting from his students. And we learned a bit about British humor and how each of his students approached their assignment.

Conceptual thinking is stressed from day one at the school, everyone enters the Communication Design department but in the second year the students decide on which direction they would like to pursue: design or illustration. You could see the results of their thinking in the sketches they presented to Adam, they did their research on the different sayings as related to the game Bingo and then showed a number of solutions to the visual problem. Just like in the real world they were given limited time to complete the assignment.

Then it was time to head back to London. We appreciated the hospitality Adam and his group granted us, it was a pleasure to speak in front of such a receptive audience. One down, five lectures to go!

Photo of Adam Graff by Sarah Munt

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Coffee with Rick Tulka


I’ve been meaning to have coffee with Rick for years, it so happens I’m in Paris, Le Select is open--it's always open-- and Rick is ready to meet. Well not exactly, we're disturbing his ritual of a 3pm jaunt to the café but he's nevertheless agreed to meet us for a morning coffee. Le Select is one of those famous Paris eateries in Montparnasse whose clientle reads like a Who's Who of twentieth-century arts. Hemingway, Bunuel, Brassaï, Giacometti, Picasso, Beckett, Picasso, Noguchi, de Beauvoir, Satie, Poulenc, Baldwin, and Godard all took their place there. Rick goes every day to sketch the newcomers and the regulars, in fact a compilation of his drawings Paris: The Select Crowd was published in 2007 and featured on the CBS Sunday Morning Show.

Rick and his wife left Brooklyn once they turned 40 and haven’t looked back. Neither speak a lot of French he says but he’s finding more and more people are speaking English. He does admit that the language has turned his English inside out, he now catches himself translating French into English when speaking and writing, which he has to laugh at. Rick’s a funny guy, he spent a lot of years at Mad Magazine and still contributes from time to time. He’s a comics-nut, and adds that the French are more passionate about it than even we Americans.

After our coffee and conversation we headed off to our next meeting, Rick simply changed his seat to his favorite spot and took out his sketchbook and returned to his daily routine.

Dinner with Eric Giriat

While we usually do lunch with artists this time we changed the location and the venue and or had dinner with Parisian illustrator Eric Giriat. Eric suggested one of his favorite restaurants, a quiet place in Paris’10th Ardissonment. Located in a former textile workshop the owner Odile Guyader--owner and chef—has been serving exquisite meals since 1992. Decorated with a changing assortment of artist’s work the name was a lift from artist Roland Topor’s book Café Panique, the artist when asked if it were okay to use the title simply replied, “As long as you don’t serve shit.” To that Odile replied, “Come eat.” The artist had no complaints so the name remained.

Eric is a charming fellow, born and bred in Paris he speaks English not with a French accent but a German one due in part we think to his mother being German and the fact that he splits his time between Paris and Berlin where he also has a studio. Speaking of studios, the next day we got to make a brief visit to his workshop which also doubles as his live-in space.

Crammed with books, magazines office supplies, drawing table and art supplies, the space is welcoming and understated. The view is directly above the railway tracks which is the site where Manet painted a number of famous paintings of trains—he was also a resident of the building along with other painters. Now the building is filled with mostly musicians which made sense as the neighborhood was filled with stores selling all sorts of musical instruments. Eric had a scheduled lunch with an art director so our visit was brief but memorable--he inscribed his latest children's book La tête perdue de Monsieur Mue for Sarah and I. In parting he pointed us in the direction of another favorite lunch spot, La Bastide Blanche which was equally divine.

That's Sarah in the top photo.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 11

We’re getting close to sending our next annual off to the printer and one of my tasks is to write the blurb for the backcover which got me thinking about art and illustration. Being a parent I can testify to the following observation and even remembering back to my own school days there was something natural about everyone drawing. One of my favorite books, perhaps my favorite book, was “The Little Engine That Could” and I still have the book and there are marks throughout it—my failed attempt to copy the illustrations. I’m not alone, we all start out making marks.

We all start off loving art, who can forget how we liked getting our fingers dirty in kindergarten with chalk or crayons or poster paint. We mushed clay together to make ashtrays for our parents. We pasted together popsicle sticks to make a jewelry box. We explored drawing mom, dad, siblings. Houses. Trees. Celebrations. Vacations. Crude though they were they had real meaning to us and even today looking back they still do. And as a parent I kept so many drawings and paintings of my young ones, why? They are memories we captured in our own unique way.

Most of us moved away from art as our education continued, we became more enamored with science or math or history, art faded in our lives. But there were always at least a couple of kids in our classroom that somehow we knew would always be artists. And they are, some are fine artists, others are illustrators and a growing number are both.

Illustrators capture the essence of our times through paint or pixel. The style of our times is evident in the illustrations that appear in magazines, newspapers, books and on screens big and small. They record events, personalities, ideas—political and otherwise, pathos, love, the zeitgeist in a much deeper and more meaningful way than we can ourselves or that an ordinary photo provides. The image is imbued with the hand and eye of the artist, it speaks to us in a truly unique way. And just like our early crude stick figures, it makes a lasting impression.

Lunch with Mario Wagner

We had the pleasure of Mario Wagner and his girlfriend Holly Hambly's company on Friday for one of our studio lunches. The pair had just come in late the night before from San Francisco specifically to attend the "Cutters: An Exhibition of International Collage" at the Cinders Gallery in Williamsburg. If you haven't seen the show you should, over 40 artists contributing close to 150 works--the show's up through November 15. Mario is a part of the show and is a recognized collagist.

Holly and Mario met when he was here last year at a gallery opening in SF, Holly is a victim of the poor California economy and is headed back in school to study art history. Small world she worked at a vets where she met Vivienne Flesher, not realizing she was a famous illustrator.

Mario has been busy this year with work and busy working on getting his visa to move to the States, hoping to settle in either San Francisco or New York. He is presently based in Cologne and is a studio mate of Lars Henkel.

A charming 6'4" giant who with impeccable English--you'd never realize he's not from here--Mario is looking forward to his new life in America. He'll be a great addition to the market.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lunch with Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Today we were graced with the company of Jean-Philippe Delhomme for lunch at the studio. Sarah and I had visited J-P's studio in Paris on one of our press checks in France a number of years ago and of course we got to know him when we featured him and his work in Issue Two of our magazine. It was a pleasure to renew the friendship and to have an opportunity to spend more time with him.

Jean-Philippe and his wife and young son moved to New York in August for the next year, maybe two and have encamped in the loft that Serge Bloch and his family were renting near Union Square. J-P's 11-year old son is attending school at Alliance Française and his wife, an art director for a French magazine, has taken a one-year leave of absence to enjoy her new life in the city.

It was interesting talking with Jean-Philippe about art and his early perceptions of illustration. HIs father was a creative director for Lancome so he was a bit familiar with the advertising world but didn't realize he could make a living as an artist. "I knew I wanted to do something in painting and drawing but was unsure how to make a living at it." he recounted. Starting out in art school J-P was influenced by the work off Savignac and other French poster designers. After school he was wise to realize that London would be a place where he might find work, and so he did.

We here in America are treated to Jean-Philippe's work on a monthly basis in GQ and now he is not only illustrating but also writing for the French GQ. In addition he has a new book out, The Cultivated Life: Artistic Literary, and Decorating Dramas ( Rizzoli 2009) and he has started a blog--Unknown Hipster--which he might make into a book at some future time. We New Yorkers have also been exposed to his work for The Mark, an upper eastside high-end hotel and condo. The fabulous slip-cased book fully illustrated can be seen through the windows of the rental office, or as they call it the Design Boutique. Designed by Pandiscio, the book is lushly illustrated in the romantic style of Jean-Philippe.

Thankfully Jean-Philippe's English is quite good as my French is non-existant. Asked how he came to speak so well, he of course had picked up some of the rudimentary language in school, but really grew his vocabulary by meeting art directors and other illustrators in London and New York. Asked what I should do facing a three day trip to Paris and not speaking the language well, even after weeks of Pimsleur's Conversational French, he said to think of it like a box, you start out with a small box of words you can recognize and hopefully put together to speak, then you build a bigger box by adding words and phrases. And then a bigger box. Of course he added that total immersion in the culture and surroundings is the real way to learn a language but that visual of the boxes is one that makes the task of learning French much easier to deal with. Hopefully I won't embarrass myself too badly.

We're pleased that he was able to take time out of his busy day to venture into Brooklyn on a rainy Thursday to share a meal. The menu: vegetable, chickpea and kielbasa ragout, side salad with individual cheesecakes and espresso for dessert--all fresh from our tiny kitchen. Jessica, you missed a great lunch! After a lovely get-together we bade adieu to Jean-Philippe as he headed back to work, an illustrator definitely hip but far from being unknown.

Pictured in the dining room: Jean-Philippe Delhomme and Sarah Munt; missing Jessica Quiñones--out sick with a cold.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Assistant Professor of Illustration Opening:
Emily Carr University

Emily Carr University of Art and Design, a world renowned learning community dedicated to research and the education of artists and designers, invites applications for a full-time tenure track position of Assistant Professor in Illustration, starting August 2010.

Located in downtown Vancouver on the West Coast of Canada, the main campus is on Granville Island, an award-winning site of urban renewal. The student body is culturally diverse with approximately 1800 students from across Canada and the world. Emily Carr University offers programs leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees in Fine Arts, Media Arts and Design. Emily Carr University is actively searching for a full-time faculty member in the Faculty of Visual Art + Material Practice to teach in our new Illustration program. The successful candidate will have an exemplary art practice with a demonstrated interest in all aspects of current pictorial discourses that bridge contemporary art and design.

The successful candidate may teach students at all levels, from Foundation to Graduate Studies, and will be expected to make a major contribution in developing Illustration curriculum in a university that is committed to the interrelation of theory and practice. Faculty members are expected to contribute in shaping the future of the university through participation in planning, administration and committees and in being actively engaged in the Emily Carr community. Candidates should have a Master of Fine Arts or equivalent, a minimum of two years related post-secondary teaching experience, and an active art practice.

Letters of application should address the candidate's expertise in the areas of teaching, pedagogical philosophy, current research, professional work and community service. The applicant should include a current curriculum vitae and supporting material including a CD or DVD containing images of recent work (maximum 20) presented as a Powerpoint or PDF file with a printout of thumbnail images submitted, catalogues and reviews (to a maximum of 5 each) and CD (if appropriate). Please provide a check list of submitted material. Submissions should include the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses of three persons who can be contacted for a reference.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply, however Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.

Please send applications (quoting Competition #F009-2009) by November 18, 2009, to:

Human Resources Department
Emily Carr University of Art and Design
1399 Johnston St Vancouver BC V6H 3R9

Phone (604) 844-3824 Fax (604) 844-3885

Friday, October 2, 2009

Illustrator Barbara Nessim Honored as Norman Rockwell Museum's First Artist Laureate

This is a bit late but we wanted to recognize Barbara's honor by the Norman Rockwell Museum. Barbara was our magazine's second ICON and first Educator/Illustrator of the Year back in 2003 and I've been a huge fan for years--one of my very favorite artists and a wonderful person. She's been supporting our efforts since day one and we greatly appreciate it and her sage advice. Here's more from the NRM press release:

STOCKBRIDGE, MA.- Norman Rockwell Museum announces the honoring of Barbara Nessim as its first Artist Laureate. Nessim, an internationally known artist, illustrator, and educator, also served on the Museum's Board of Trustees from 1999 until 2008. The award will be presented to Nessim on behalf of the Museum's new Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies during its annual Board of Trustees meeting, held on Saturday, September, 26.

"We are honored to award our inaugural Artist Laureate award to Barbara Nessim," says Laurie Norton Moffatt, Director/CEO of Norman Rockwell Museum. "The commendation of this award recognizes Barbara's exceptional skills as an influential visual communicator and an early visionary in the digital arts. Barbara's ongoing dedication to the Museum, where she has worked closely with curatorial staff, and served as a passionate advocate for the Museum's expanded collection mission continues as she lends her vision and support- connecting the Museum to new illustration communities and younger artists."

A selection of Barbara Nessim's work will also be on view at Norman Rockwell Museum starting Saturday, September 26, and includes "Women In Madness," an original work generously donated by the artist for inclusion in the Museum's illustration art collection. Later that day, Nessim will present "Graphic Change," an illustrated talk about her evolution as an artist and her creative inspirations.

Illustrator Barbara Nessim has been a vital contributor and influential visionary in the art world over the past several decades. A digital art pioneer, Nessim helped shape the MFA Computer Arts Program at the School of Visual Arts, and was Chairperson of Illustration at Parsons School of Design for 12 years. Her work has graced the covers of Time, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. Most recently, the artist has been commissioned to create several large-scale works for various building lobbies in New York City. In addition to several years of dedicated service as a member of Norman Rockwell Museum's Board of Trustees, Nessim acted as liaison to the Museum's Illustrators Advisory Committee, helped develop the exhibition and participated in early discussions related to the development of the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies. In addition to Norman Rockwell Musuem, an exhibition of Nessim's art will also be on view at The Sienna Gallery in Lenox, Massachusetts, starting September 25.

Photo of Barbara in her Soho studio, 2003 from the 3x3 Student Annual

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 10

In my advertising days we would often hear from clients that they wanted their job "good, fast and cheap". And we would always tell clients that only one of those were possible at any one time. You might get the job "good, fast or affordable" but you couldn't get the job "fast and cheap" nor should you expect it "good and cheap".

Clients were buying our marketing and advertising expertise and while they may have an unreasonable deadline or budget or both, we had to school them that there was no way for us to do a job "good, fast and cheap".

In a time where budgets are shrinking we once again hear from clients the three little words, how do you combat that and still keep the job?

First you tell clients that you always do the job good, and sometimes great no matter what the budget, it's a matter of pride and professionalism that you approach the job giving it your very best. The second thing you explain is that you are willing to work within any budget within reason, we all understand budgets vary by client size and project and we bill accordingly. And you'll work within any reasonable timetable.

The bottom line, we're striving to do a good job within a reasonable timetable and be paid accordingly. However, if the client wants the job overnight, cheap is no longer an operative word, the client is billed more for wanting it faster. If the budget is ridiculously low then the client must sacrifice time, the job will take longer to produce you'll work the project into your schedule, not theirs. Any professional would do the same. Try getting a printer to do a job overnight and charge the same, never. Or an accountant to do your return in less time. Certain things take time, fresh ideas is certainly one of them.

Too often we take the job and never even broach the subject of more money for the job that has to be done in less time. Or to get more time if the budget is less. While this can't always be the case, illustrators in particular never seem to draw the line on what is unreasonable. Counseling the client in how long a job should take is part of the communication process between the artist and the patron.

Remember a client has no concept on how long it takes to come up with an idea--a good idea--nor do they understand the process of completing the assignment. It is your job to explain patiently how long the job should take, if there is no budge on their end then you must charge more for the project just to compensate for the sleepless night, or nights, you'll be up completing the assignment. Granted, there are clients who could care less about your sleep, but until we stop taking every assignment with unreasonable deadlines, or budgets clients will continue their habit of abusing us.

As freelancers we seem to think we have no power to change opinions or circumstance. Large design firms or advertising agencies employee client go-betweens who handle the time/money situations much as artist's reps do for illustrators, but that's not to say that as independent illustrators we cannot stand up for what is right and fair. Sometimes we're too eager to do the job and frankly, get taken advantage of. For every illustrator who stands up, the less chance there will be abuse for the rest of us. But it takes more than just a few artists doing it, it takes a mass effort to change the dynamics. It can start today or we'll be hearing for "better, faster and cheaper".

Illustrated Packaging

In searching for our next campaign feature for 3x3 I came across this wonderful, amusing package design by Saffron Consultants in Madrid. The package features illustrations by Andrew Bannecker and as a release from B-A Reps says, "Andrew and Saffron have helped Coca-Cola develop a new drink, Menos es Más, that is easy both on your wallet and the environment. Being frugal doesn’t mean being boring, Saffron has developed a joyful personality for this mighty little drink. We wholeheartedly believe “personality goes a long way”. That’s why Menos es Más is all about optimism and joy. And yes, we have magic funnels that transform birds into elephants. Just like this concentrate can make liters of refreshment from a small drop. The logic is simple, this drink takes up less space and produces less waste." Nice job all.

Friday, September 25, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 9

Back in 1985 it wasn't the ideal time to start an ad agency, especially in Houston where the oil bust had taken away most of the booming big business which naturally impacted many other smaller businesses. But I was leaving a job that paid a lot of money but one which I hated and felt there was room for a boutique agency where creative solutions were unique. It would be the second creative agency I had started.

Yes I had options, I could have moved to New York and worked in the agency's parent company but that meant moving my young kids to a city that I loved but wasn't sure if it was a good place to raise a family. Hindsight is always 20/20--it would have been a perfect move, the two kids would have been better educated and the cultural influences would have made a definite impact on a future graphic designer (my daughter) and chef (my son). I also had a wonderful job offer in Dallas but preferred the landscape of Houston so start a new advertising agency is just what I and my business partner did. Very undercapitalized but we had a sweet deal in buying an existing agency whose founder was retiring.

Within a year we had lost all but one piece of business--they were not accustomed to the type of creative work we wanted to do so one by one they left. That year we swept the local Addy show with the work we had done and people were amazed that we were able to create the body of work we did with a staff of six.

But money was always an issue, many sleepless nights worrying how we were going to make payroll, pay our quarterly taxes, pay the monthly rent, the equipment leases, all the things you worry about as a business owner. Fortunately we had received some good advice from a small town accountant on the outskirts of Houston who set up our little corporation and served as our business advisor for the first two years of business. He said: never worry about where or when the money is coming in, worry about how to solve the client's problem because if you worry about the money part you'll freeze up on the creative part. And that's the advice we followed. Money was always an issue but we grew the business from three to twenty-three employees, had beautiful office space, expensive cars, a beach house and two mortgages. All the result of doing work that we loved. And by focussing our energies on solving the client's problems in interesting visual ways it lead to more awards, recognition far beyond our borders--write-ups in Adweek and The New York Times and a successful business.

Many new businesses don't make it past the first year, thanks to the sage advice of one accountant we survived and thrived. You can too. Whether you're freelance or otherwise concentrate on the creative part.

Friday, September 11, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 8

Advertising. Marketing. Promotion. There are a lot of freelancers that aren't sold about the importance of promotion but also confused about what works and what doesn't. First it's important to think of yourself as a brand, just like any product, new or renewed, you have to make an impact on an audience. You've got to get their attention. Make them look at you. See what you have to offer. Compare that to the competition. Decide on your price worthiness. And then either buy or ignore. Too many illustrators spend far too little on promotion. They're doing one promotional mailing a year or taking one ad out in a publication or directory and waiting for the phone to ring, and far too often disappointed when no one comes calling. That's like whispering in a crowded room, no one is hearing you.

You shouldn't look at the results of one ad or one mailing to determine your expenditures on advertising. Advertising is a combined effort, placing one ad anywhere is never enough to generate sales, you need to be everywhere: Have work accepted into shows, be seen in major publications, be seen in annuals, directories, promotional pieces, email blasts. Too many illustrators do not follow the rules of successful promotion. For any piece of advertising to work it has to be seen at the minimum three times before it's even noticed, that's whether you're a freelancer, small business or a mega-corporation. It's no different for illustration. When I'm looking at say The New Yorker or The New York Times Book Review and see an illustrator I've never heard of, I make a mental note but I don't really put them into my files until I've seen them in several other publications, or a show, or from a promotional piece or an email. It takes that same three times effort to get my attention. And I'm out there consciously looking for illustrators, imagine what it's like for those who are only sometimes looking.

Yuko and Fernanda are two examples of how advertising should work for illustrators. They're everywhere. They send out announcements concerning new work, they're in shows, annuals, directories, galleries, they're seen in many places--Yuko was in a German directory for instance and I doubt seriously she got a single job from Germany, but the fact of being so visible makes all the difference. Both of these young illustrators came out of nowhere and it seems like overnight they're everywhere. Talent plays a part but they both have a smart marketing sense, I'm convinced Fernanda's is instinctive and Yuko's comes from her former life in ad agencies.

Illustrators are facing an uphill battle just to get work, to pry it out of more art director's hands and keep them from giving it to photographers or resorting to stock. Every effort you make promoting yourself is important, and jointly they can lead to you being successful. It's not any different from any brand out there, the more you see a new product, the more buzz the product has, the more inclined you are to try it. Advertisers just want you to try their product once as they are convinced you'll be a repeat customer. Illustrators are no different, unfortunately too few think of themselves that way.

Making some basic changes in how you promote your work can mean all the difference. Especially now. Recessions are times of unleashed creativity, ad agency art directors are looking for new ways to market products and services. From personal experience I know that clients are looking for different ways to market themselves in a down economy, illustration can be one of those ways. Do yourself a favor and be visible. Be everywhere. You will be rewarded and so will the industry.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Lunch with Hideyuki Mori and Ryu Takeuchi

We had a wonderful lunch earlier this month with two young illustrators from Japan, Hideyuki Mori and Ryu Takeuchi who were in town for their traveling Sakura exhibit that landed at ISHI Gallery on St Marks and at the About Glamour Gallery in Brooklyn. The exhibit featured the prize winners from a recent competition sponsored by HYACCA, an organization consisting of groups and individuals whose purpose is introducing Japanese artists to the world. HYACCA literally means “one hundred flowers” in Japanese. The two artists were accompanied by their translator, a young design student who after meeting the illustrators gained a new appreciation for illustration. Hideyuki and Ryu work together; Ryu is responsible for a number of exhibits in Japan and the production of LABO Books. We had to apologize to our guests as we had only prepared enough food for just one guest so they were treated to a 3x3 Lite Lunch. We applaud their work in trying to increase awareness for young Japanese illustrators and we look forward to working with them in the future in some cross-cultural exhibits. Left to right: Translator, Hideyuki Mori, Charles Hively, Ryu Takeuchi.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 7

I'm continually amazed at the positive response we get from our magazines, whether it's 3x3 or our sister publication Creative Quarterly.

In a down economy magazines are having a hard time surviving and to be a young fledgling publication in these times has been difficult. We’re not backed by a major publisher, we’re not a spin-off of a larger conglomerate, we’re just a simple set of magazines started by individuals who believe that there is talent out there that’s not being recognized.

Entries into are shows continues to grow—we had our strongest showing ever in January at the heart of the recession. But we positioned ourselves correctly, our entry fees are low compared to most shows and we only select the best work unlike shows who seem to have a quota when it comes to filling their pages. When so many people are painting the economy as bleak we see colors.

It’s a time of innovation and there’s no better time to pull out the stops. In past recessions our design firm we would find that while clients tend to play it safe in a good economy they turn much more daring in a bad one—poor economies unleash the chains that holds back creativity. Sure it’s not all going to work, but it isn’t a time to play it safe, it’s a time to be bold and daring. And the work in our publications reflects that.

Creative people embrace downturns, it tends to get rid of waste, of duplication or incompetence. A bad economy focuses us. We’re only worried about today and not forecasting for the future. Things are clearer. More understandable. Black & White. There is no wishing there is only doing. And doing it like there’s no tomorrow. You can be fresh out of school or a long-standing artist or designer, it doesn’t matter, we’re all approaching the situation with a unique vigor and it will pay off. Maybe not monetarily in the extremes—do we want to go back to extremes?—but our work creates a worth of its own.

And good work moves people to action. Whether they buy a painting in a gallery, or respond to a poster for a Broadway show or an ad for apple juice, good work works. You keep producing, we’ll keep recognizing it and showing it and the world will applaud.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lunch with Josh Cochran

We had the pleasure of having Josh Cochran over for lunch at the studio. We've been a big fan of his work for some time, he was featured in an early 3x3 Gallery section and I had to admit that I thought he was from the UK when I saw his work. It definitely has an un-American look to it, much more European. Fact is, Josh spent a great deal of his days in Oregon, some time in Taiwan and finally in the LA area where he attended Art Center. After spending three years as a fine arts major at USC, he transferred to Art Center as their grant specified he had to be working on his bachelor's degree. Smart move. Josh will be taking to the other side of the desk as he begins a teaching stint this fall at Parsons, teaching a drawing class--lucky students. Josh and his wife moved to Brooklyn last year with a studio in an old pencil factory in Greenpoint and an apartment in Bed-Stuy. His wife is working at a book publisher's and studying typography nights at the SVA. He's been busy with a lot of interesting projects, mostly advertising assignments and has been picking up more work from across the pond lately. We noticed that Josh was sporting an interesting new tattoo. When asked we found that the topographic drawing along his upper left arm was an original design commemorating the last hike he had with his father along the Muir Woods Trail. He's still debating whether or not to color it in. Lunch was the chicken curry salad redeux we did for Carlo's lunch; dessert was a homemade chocolate sorbet followed by cold-brewed iced coffee. With every course Josh would exclaim, "Amazing!" about the food and presentation which is exactly what we think of his work and him, amazing!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lunch with Carlo Stanga

What could be better on a grey, rainy, humid day in New York than a visit from distinguished illustrator, architect Carlo Stanga from Milan. The minute he walked into the studio he lit up the room, charming, gregarious and funny it was a delight to sit in his company. Usually it is all work and no play around here but today was different, for a good three hours we were entertained more than being the entertainers.

When asked how he learned to speak such good English, he commented that he taught himself--movies were a big help but also the cultural influences of music and literature played its part; his English was so perfect it sounded as if he lived in the States. Based in Milan Carlo spends at least a week out of every month in Berlin. Fascinated by the art and architecture scene there, he has settled into an apartment of his own but has yet to master the Germanic tongue--and may never. Fortunately most speak English though he admits their English is a different than here; one thing they speak slower than most New Yorkers.

Carlo had come over to New York to meet some friends from Rio as well as to spot his new subway platform poster for the MTA which is featured in the current issue of 3x3. Of course another stop was with his agents, the lovely Vicki Morgan and Gail Gaynin. And we were pleased that he put us on his schedule on his way to the airport--another reason it's good to have a studio in Brooklyn, close to all three airports, JFK and Newark in particular.

Lots of discussion about art, illustration, art supplies and architecture and he was one of the rare guests to recognize our collection of mid-century furniture by name. He was only in the city for a short time be he shared his views on both art and architecture: Impressed by an exhibit on Afghanistan at the Met, the architecture of the New Museum and disappointed by the the new MAD museum on Columbus Circle, it was an interesting discussion on architecture in America. We shared with him our images from our trip to Philip Johnson's Glass House last week which got him excited about the next trip to New York.

In relating the current illustration market in Italy he says that he's never been busier, that editors have found a new-found interest in illustration, replacing well used photography with drawn visuals. And he's picking up assignments within even more traditional markets--his work for a Italian law firm has him busy with dozens of portraits and conceptual spots--all to be used online. Talking about technique he prefers the tools of an architect over the use of a tablet; his poster of the skyline of New York done for the MTA was actually completed in pieces, each building hand-drawn with a Rotring pen and then assembled and colored on the computer.

Lunch consisted of Sarah's Bombay Chicken Salad served with kiwi, peaches, plums, toasted coconut and almonds with chicken, curry and sour cream served over a bed of watercress. An architectural masterpiece in presentation. Desert was a literal flop, the Chocolate Walnut Cookies failed to rise and stay firm--probably the humidity--but were served in pieces eaten with a spoon. Embarrassed to make Espresso for a true connoisseur, it seems our guest was nevertheless impressed as we sent him off to catch his flight home. Ciao, Carlo.

Pictured above: Carlo and Jessica, at left dueling photographers

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lunch with Jon Burgerman

As is our habit, when illustrators come to New York we like to invite them over to the studio for lunch. Many times this doesn't happen, they're only here for a short time so I'll come into the city. But Jon Burgerman is a special case, he's here for the summer so lunch at the studio could be more leisurely for everyone.

Luckily we had prepared a lunch of salad and risotto balls followed by homemade pineapple sorbet as we learned as we sat down that Jon is a vegetarian. And that's not all we learned, Jon is a world traveller, sometimes flying in for a day at a time in some exotic locale to do one of his wall paintings and then back home. We found out that he uses, not a Sharpie but a Japanese pen that actually spits out a substance closer to paint than ink; that way he is able to fill in areas and maintain the same flat surface and texture. We learned that he's in the process of moving, well, kinda. He hasn't made up his mind exactly where but feels like he's stuck and needs to make a move--not that all that traveling hasn't given him lots of choices, including New York.

Looking and listening to Jon reminded several of us of the actor Clive Owen, close your eyes and you hear his voice, remove the beard and you'll have a very young looking Owen. Clive, I mean Jon, moves in different circles than most illustrators, he is more at home with street artists and gallery artists than hanging with fellow illustrators at the Society or AOI. And he's gone solo, after a period with a rep firm here in New York he now fields all his work on his own--he does have a UK rep, Debut--and tends toward more specialized projects that utilize his work more perfectly. A constant namedropper--a good thing--we were busy looking up artists we weren't familiar with after he left. A good time was had by all.

Feeling badly that he'd missed a previously scheduled lunch in February he left us all with a ton of stickers that he always carries with him in his rucksack. He's got a book-signing this weekend at Kid Robot and a show coming up in August. Just look for that Clive Owen look alike.

Monday, July 6, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 6

Entering shows is tricky and after reviewing the entries to our shows I would make a few suggestions that may improve your chances of being a winner.

The biggest problem I saw was that the series entries can be a problem simply because you are judged on the entire suite of illustrations. All three to five images have to be excellent; many times three out of the five were great but the one or two that were weaker eliminated your entry from being in the show. What I do in shows is enter the series but also enter the top three pieces as single entries as well--five if I can afford it. That way I have a better chance of getting something in the show, and it has happened that both the series and the singles get into the show because once judges like a piece they will always rank it high. So instead of getting nothing in the show you could have multiple pieces accepted.

The other thing is to know what judges are looking for, unfortunately not all shows are judged equally. Looking at shows you can see a pattern of what the organization is looking for and they will usually select judges to give them that type off outcome. You'll find traditional and non-traditional shows, select your work accordingly. If you see that there are a lot of comics being accepted in previous shows then enter, if not, don't. But don't be afraid of entering strong pieces in any category in any show, good work will always be recognized.

Also be concerned with the categories. A few things to keep in mind: Generally speaking, children's books should be entered in children's book competitions; entering them in the Books category makes it much tougher to be recognized. The more obtuse category is Unpublished and what I find is that there is a lot of work in this category that would do better in the Self-Promotion category. What judges look for in Unpublished is what should or could have been published but wasn't. Don't confuse it as self-promotion though if it is a strong image it can be entered in both categories. Also enter your more experimental work as this is a perfect place to show a new way of image making. Judges are looking for new ways of making images which is a good way to get work in a show.

Gallery is another one where it seems that illustrators are selecting work that probably is better in the Unpublished category. What judges look for here is different than commissioned works, they're looking for work that may or may not relate to the artist's general style but stands out as a work of fine art. If you have prints of your commissioned work that you're selling they would do better in the Self-Promotion category rather than in the Gallery.

What I also find is that concept is king in all categories, judges are looking for fresh ideas and ones that are easily recognized. As a suggestion: If you feel you have a complex entry that could use some explanation it would be better to submit the entry in context, while it will only appear as the illustration in the annual, judges will have a good opportunity to see it in its application.

And it's important not to be discouraged, a lot of the entries almost made it into the show--I think our percentage of really good work is better than a lot of shows so keep entering. I saw a lot of really good pieces that had a shot of being in the show.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Children's Show Winners Announced

The Children's Book Show judging is complete. This was the first year we judged the actual books along with digital entries as well as adding several new categories. As always the judging was tough and each winning entry had to receive a majority of votes from our judges. A great many fell just shy of having the necessary votes. In some shows all it takes is two judge's votes and an entry would be in the show; if we used that criteria then we would have had many more winners. We prefer a tougher show; it makes winning all that more special.

Our panel of judges included senior art director David Caplan, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Laurent Linn, art director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Eleni Beja, editor for Holiday House and illustrators Raul Colón, Serge Bloch and Sean Qualls.

Congratulations to our winners.

Best of Show
Shaun Tan, Young Adult

Shaun Tan, Children's Book
Sun Young Yoo, Children's Book
David Ercolini, Educational
Annika Skold, Educational

Isabelle Arsenault, Children's Book
André Letria, Children's Book
David Ercolini, Educational
Scott Menchin, Misc

Elisabeth Alba, Children's Book Unpublished
David Ercolini, Educational

Ofra Amit, Children's Book
Carin Berger, Children's Book
Maria Carluccio, Children's Book
Rachael Cole, Children's Book
Andre da Loba, Merit,  Children's Book
Cambria Evans, Children's Book
Julia Friese, Children's Book
André Letria, Children's Book
Natalie Pudalov, Children's Book
Sean Qualls, Children's Book
Edel Rodriguez, Children's Book
Dan Santat, Children's Book*
Stefano Vitale, Children's Book*
James Yang, Children's Book
Soundprints, Children's Book
Claudia Boldt, Children's Book Unpublished
Cannaday Chapman, Children's Book Unpublished
Seounghyon Cho, Children's Book Unpublished
Kenny Harris, Children's Book Unpublished
Kevin Kelly, Children's Book Unpublished
Youngsun Liu, Children's Book Unpublished
Sonia Kretschmar, Book Covers
Michael Slack, Book Covers
Paolo d’Altan, Covers & Interiors
Adrià Fruitós, Covers & Interiors
David Ercolini, Educational
David Ercolini, Editorial
Michael Slack, Misc

*Multiple winning entries

Monday, June 29, 2009

Art Director Don'ts

This is a follow-up to my last posting on For What It's Worth. Scanning the web today I found the following piece on José Cruz's site. Every illustrator should keep this posted right above their computer...and every art director should take note:

Don't ask me to do art for free!
Don't ask me to sell my art CHEAP!
Don't ask me to incorporate ideas that don't work!
Don't ask me to do BAD ART!
Don't ask me to work on SPECULATION!
Don't ask me to put everything into a piece of art including the Kitchen Sink!
Don't bother to call me if you don't like what you see in my book!
Don't ask me to illustrate like another illustrator!
Don't ask me to underbid another fellow illustrator!
Don't get estimates from several illustrators and choose the cheapest!
Don't ask me to Think Like You!
Don't ask me to Read Your Mind!
Don't ask the client what he thinks!
Don't ask the client what you think!
Don't ask me to wait 90 days for payment!
Don't ask for something overnight unless you pay me overnight!

Good art directors already know these don'ts but it's up to us to make everyone aware of why you do hire an illustrator and the value of illustration.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Maira Kalman: And the Pursuit of Happiness

Maira's art is always stimulating, I particularly enjoy her take on fashion and children and own every children's book she's done plus some more adult books that are a treat. Her work definitely come from a single source, today's feature in the online New York Times is another topic I have a passion for. Maira takes us on a trip to Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson has always been a favorite of mine, a true Renaissance man, and I've made many a pilgrimage to his home, outside Charlottesville, Virginia. My daughter went to school in Lynchburg so Monticello was just up the road; I'd always wanted to visit and with her being close by I made a couple of trips there and then a couple more later. Every visit is a treat, on my first visit we were able to go upstairs, but they had to stop doing that--the Fire Marshall and insurance prohibited it.

Sitting on top of a hill, the house is an elegant addition to the landscape. It was fun to see where he and his new bride stayed while the first of many incarnations of Monticello took place. A simple square box, two-stories tall but quite compact which now links by a boardwalk to one side of the house. There's an identical twin on the other side. Jefferson was intent on getting the house just right so he built up and tore down until he had the house he wanted and seems like I remember he only lived in the final form the last 12 years of his life.

Maira captures the man in pictures and words perfectly and has me salivating for a return trip.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Creativity: An Act of Will

Something interesting came across my desk today. It came from Joseph Michael Essex at sx2 design consultancy and speaks about the act of drawing in words much better than I could write. Enjoy!

Yes, Creativity is an act of will. It also demands practice, discipline and confidence.

“I don’t have a creative bone in my body” and “I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler” are a few of the responses we hear when we explain our work. Most people assume that creativity is a gift, a talent you are either born with or not. This is both true and not at the same time.

The primary component of creativity is awareness. We all are born with the capacity to be creative because from birth we absorb everything. We soak everything in, we learn at an exponential rate. It is only when that awareness turns on itself and becomes self-critical do we narrow our focus. If our drawings don’t look like those of others, we lose confidence in our own vision of things and we stop drawing.

When we stop seeing and settle for the familiar our creative muscles begin to atrophy. The patience, energy and discipline required to continuously examine the status quo for relevance and substance becomes too much work and risk for too little reward.

Creativity has more to do with attitude than art, more about ideas than images, and more about motivation than innovation. It’s not always about what’s new, but what is possible, even meaningful.

Those that are willing to risk embarrassment by asking the “dumb” questions will learn a great deal. By questioning the king’s new clothes or challenging how things have “always been done” we allow ourselves to discover new things. A few steps back toward childhood might expose opportunities we were too close to see.

Let Joseph know what you think.

Monday, June 15, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 5

There seems to be a pervasive request for freebies lately; it's almost like the buzzword for the 21st Century is Free. Whether it's Google trying to get illustrators to create work for Chrome for nothing or the free downloads that seem to be invading cyberspace. There's nothing wrong with bartering in tough times, it's a historical fact that artists have bartered their art for food and shelter but the idea that a multi-billion dollar corporation can't pay an artist's fee for usage is downright despicable. But it's not unusual.

Unfortunately illustration lacks the respect of the vast majority of art directors, art buyers, editors and the like. They view illustration as second-rate, only to be used when they can't afford photography or just to fill a space. They don't view what an illustrator does as anything special, nor worthy of a high fee.

And the worst thing of all is that too many of us are willing to work for free or very close to it. And everyone knows it. You wouldn't find a photographer taking the bait from Google and more importantly, Google wouldn't even bother to approach them because they know what the answer would be--NO.

It's like the difference between cats and dogs. Illustrators can be like pups who sit there wanting to be loved, waiting for someone to throw them a bone. Cats on the other hand are aloof, sure they can be affectionate but they're not there begging for attention. When they approach you it's on their own terms. Cats know their value and they play to their strengths. If illustrators were more like cats they wouldn't do assignments for free or for a ridiculously low fee. The illustrators who turned down Google are like cats, the ones who took the bait are like dogs. We all need to be cats.

3x3 Children's Book Show Judging

The First Round

The Fifth Annual 3x3 Children's Book Show judging took place on Wednesday, June 10 at the Art Directors Club. Our judges included David Caplan, senior art director, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Laurent Linn, art director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Eleni Beja, editor, Holiday House Books and illustrators Raul Colón, Sean Qualls and Serge Bloch.

L to R: Serge Bloch, Eleni Beja, Laurent Linn, Raul Colón, Sean Qualls and David Caplan

This was the first year we've actually judged the actual books, previously all judging was done digitally and for a very good reason, by judging the work digitally we were able to get a panel of international jurors to judge the work. We find that there are distinct differences between books from the the States and from outside North America. This year we decided to try doing the judging here in the New York--we did have one international judge, Serge Bloch who has been living here the past three years and is returning to Paris at the end of June. There are two parts to the judging, the actual books and everything else that has been entered digitally. We discounted the entry fee if entrants entered the actual book but it seems over half chose to enter digitally. The digital judging will be over in about two weeks and we'll announce the winners at the end of the month.

Eleni and Raul check out a book

Judges were asked to select their favorite books during the first round, we then placed upside down paper cups and gave each judge different colored chips to vote for the pieces they felt should be in the show. Once the digital judging is complete we will be able to announce medal and merit winners in this year's show.

Photos by Sarah Munt.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 4

Today's subject is about something that's been concerning me lately, Blogs and Blog-lite.

This is one of the times of the year that I'm immersed in illustrator web sites. Clicking on links in IllustrationMundo. com looking for new artists. Adding artists to my favorites list. And inviting a few to join the next issue's Gallery or Showcase. It's been about six months since I've been so devoted at looking for new artists--though I'm always on the outlook.

There seems to be a disturbing trend towards the use of blogs or blog-like sites and away from the traditional web sites. This has plusses and minuses, but as you can tell I'm none too thrilled with the approach. You must remember I'm spending a great part of my day doing nothing but looking for artists, that's a truly unique position. An art director or art buyer won't spend this kind of time, nor will they try to figure out an illustrator's site.

Sure on a blog it's good to not have to wait for images to load, to see images larger than normal, but you're forcing me...and art scroll down the page to look at your work. Two things are going to happen, we won't scroll all the way to the bottom and we'll make a judgement on the first two or three pieces we see--which may or may not be your best work. And we're not going to read any text. Whereas when you show us the traditional thumbnail images, cropped or not, we can select random images to look at. While we may not look at more than three or four images, depending on how much time we have, but chances are better that we're walking away with a better understanding on who you are as an artist.

One good thing about a blog-like site has is that it is not over-designed. You wouldn't believe how many ultra-designed illustrator sites there out there. Great work, lousy navigation, slow loading times and total confusion. There was one site where the homepage is this pattern of lovely houses against a red background. I couldn't find a link to the work to save me. I clicked here, I clicked there but finally in frustration I just left the site. I gave it a chance, an art director will not; they'll give you about a second to get your navigation so they can find your work or leave. A lost opportunity for you. No work is so great that we're going to labor over looking at it. Art directors just don't have that kind of time, even the art directors who love illustration. Remember we're trying to grow the market, to reach art directors who are not using illustration, or using too little.

Overall most illustrator sites have way too much design to them. Art directors are not hiring you to design, they are hiring you to communicate. And a good test for that is how well you communicate with them. Through your web site, through your conversations. Keep blogs like you would a diary, share those with your friends and family, but don't try to use them as a marketing tool unless you are good friends with the art director you hope will hire you. And make it dead-simple for us to see your work, chances are better you might get an assignment. Don't make it simple and you're dead-certain not to.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Call for Entries: Images 34
The best of British contemporary illustration competition 2010

The Association of Illustrators (AOI) has announced their call for entries. The deadline is July 31 and only UK illustrators or overseas illustrators working for UK clients may submit work. Work must have been completed since January 2008. Enter and pay online. Images 34 will distributed in 2010. Full details are available online. US fees are in parens.

Entry Fees per entry (including VAT)

£20 ($32.18) AOI full/associate member
£23 ($37.02) AOI student/college member

£30 ($48.28) AOI corporate/AOI/SAA agent member

£38 ($61.16) Non-member
£30 ($48.28) Student/college non-member

Publication Fees per full page* (including VAT) 

In line with the new format of the Images annual, only full pages are now available to selected entrants. Individual illustrators may publish up to two selected entries per full page.

£220 ($354.07) AOI full/associate member

£264 ($424.88) AOI student/college member

£330 ($531.10) AOI corporate/AOI/SAA agent member
£440 ($708.14) Non-member

£330 ($531.10) Student/college non-member

Hanging Fees per image (including VAT)
£44 ($70.81) AOI Member

£88 ($141.63) Non-member

£66 ($106.22) Student/college non-member

Please note: Each selected exhibitor is committed to hang a minimum of one image at the London show at the rate published above

Deadline: July 31, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Intern: André Carvalho, aka André da Loba

We have added a new intern at 3x3, a recent graduate of the SVA MFA program. Thanks to Kim Abondi at SVA who put out the word, André asked for an interview. Born in a small village in Portugal, André studied graphic design and then moved to Spain to take classes in illustration. After freelancing as an illustrator/designer he attended the School of Visual Arts Illustration as Visual Essay program, graduating this year. His work has been exhibited in both 3x3 and Creative Quarterly and won a prize at the Bologna Children's Book Fair.

After a briefing on the particulars of the job, André showed the group his portfolio. Housed in a wooden case he'd found on the street, he opened what was to be an atypical book. It was like watching a magician perform. Instead of traditional two-dimensional books his storytelling took the form of simple wooden blocks which when turned presented the next stage of a simple story, his paper maiche head when spun answers either yes or no or the weighted profile of a man's head which hung easily on the tip of ones finger. It was truly a visual treat. Most of the materials were found on the streets of Manhattan, used cardboard, blocks from scraps leftover from the sculpture labs; materials not usually found in an artist's portfolio. The magic was not only in the work itself but the performance by the artist, you could literally feel the enthusiasm for the work. It wasn't showy or pretentious, it was an expression of love and not unlike the experience one feels from experiencing Philip Petite walking on the wire. Speaking of love, the del Loba is a reference to his grandmother's nickname who raised two children as a single parent. He said, "If that's not an expression of love, what is." We found out that Carvalho is used for design work and da Loba is for his illustration work.

He may or may not work out as our intern, we'll know soon enough, but he certainly has a great future ahead of him as an artist/illustrator, the magic is bottled up and itching to get out. A true original.