I tried to post more frequently this year. I failed. Pretty quickly.
It isn’t that I don’t love the internet, I just cultivate a suspicion that any reason to devote time and attention anywhere else is probably healthier. Consequently, nearly 8 months slingshotted past and in considering the average lifespan of an editorial piece or a book cover, half of the “new” work I have is already approaching its teens. Contrarily, I don’t feel great about that; So to honor a stolen moment at the end of 2014, here are some (non birth-related) things that I was grateful to have happen this year:
The SAT is Fair - ADs: Gail Bichler / Kim Sutherland, Photo by Jens Mortensen
From early March: A cover collaboration between myself, Gail Bichler, Kim Sutherland and photographer Jens Mortensen on the re-writing of the SATs. Occasionally when taking a photographic approach to an illustration on my own, I’ll shoot something and if it’s focused and clear and the white balance is on point, I’ll allow myself to be pleased with the quality of the image for two or three minutes. I was on hand at Jens’ studio with Kim and Gail on the day he shot this and had the pleasure of watching him work. I am not a photographer. Jens is.
Consciousness and the Brain — AD: Roseanne Serra
A neuroscience cover for Penguin in which I ripped myself off by repurposing a NYT Science illustration I had done the year before. I gave a few talks this year and at each one I showed this cover next to my original image and asked the audience if they thought that counted as cheating. The responses were mostly mumbles.
Pinkerton’s Great Detective - AD: Paul Buckley
A book about the early national detective agency and their foremost badass detective who infiltrated the Molly Maguires, chased Butch Cassidy and tore after the Wild Bunch. It is difficult to argue with history—particularly when it’s as exhaustively researched and accounted for as it is here—but Sam Peckinpah’s glorious and perfect Wild Bunch film is so etched into my pleasure center that as a human I found it very, very, very difficult to root for anyone other than the Wild Bunch in this scenario, true-life barbarism and historical certainties notwithstanding.
I am not the first, third or hundredth person commonly considered for logo projects so it was no small honor to be commissioned to produce this one for WBEZ Chicago and the This American Life crew on the occasion of their freakishly addictive new podcast. The rabid enthusiasm that the podcast rightfully earned upon its release has been amazing. And pretty damn deserved.
My process in working with the Serial team played out in an eerily similar way as one of the show’s episodes. We talked, we kicked some questions around, we extrapolated some ideas based upon those questions and chased down a mark without any preconceived impression of where it should land. These producers are comfortable in all respects with letting the territory draw the map, which bodes well for the show’s future.
UPDATE: This item prompted a lot of interest and some incredibly kind words of appreciation. I shared few more details about how this project came together over at WIRED.
No Stopping Train
For Soft Skull Press—a cover for the posthumous final novel of the underground Hungarian author Les Plesko. Just below it was an alternate that I swore at the time was a lock to be chosen. I’m rarely right about anything.
Your Band Sucks — AD: Paul Buckley
Jon Fine played in Bitch Magnet—a band I discovered far too late—in the mid ’90s. Sooyoung Park, one of his bandmates in Bitch Magnet, later went on to form Seam, a band I had on regular rotation through college. Generally, I bristle at the suspicion that I get pigeonholed for certain kinds of projects but if I have to be the guy to work on punk and hardcore chronicles from the ’70s through the mid-90′s, I’m relatively confident that I’ll find a way to live with it.
The Professor in the Cage — AD: Darren Haggar
In which the author—a bookish, self-professed academic professorial type—decides to submit full tilt to the culture and unforgiving training regimen of MMA and documents the whole thing. You wake each day and practice your trade in the interest of finding a higher grace until the fates task you with producing a skull getting punched by an invisible, theoretical fist. Thus continuing my year of black book covers.
The Atlantic: Ukraine — AD: Elisa Glass
An illustration for The Atlantic done in the early days of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine which argued the perceived threat was bigger than it actually is. Dissent is encouraged.
Esquire — Stephen Marche on Government
A quick one for Esquire done over the summer for Stephen Marche’s column about the US government’s ongoing downward functionality.
The Atlantic: Law School Scamming — AD: Darhil Crooks
A suite of images for a feature in the Atlantic exploring how a for-profit law school in Florida scammed its students with a sub-par curriculum which left them ill-prepared to take the bar exam and then shafted them with outsized debts. Further supporting an unscientific, unfounded hypothesis that theft is the only remaining pathway to wealth in the US.
NYT Mag: Major Threat — ADs: Gail Bichler, Kim Sutherland
In which it became clear (very quickly) that pissing off a punk rock purist is a thousand times easier than pissing off a democrat or a Republican or even a Libertarian like Rand Paul would ever be. This took over our lives for 72 hours and was initiated and completed in whatever stray seconds and minutes I could spare when I wasn’t strapped to the op/ed page that week. And even after being given copies for posterity, I still can’t believe this actually exists. A fair amount of coverage was given to this at the time of its release over the summer and most of the practical questions regarding how it was made are addressed here and here.
Some remnants from the construction:
…and here’s the other something I’ll only ever be able to get away with once.
The New Yorker: Friends of Israel — ADs: Chris Curry & Chris Mueller
A feature illustration for the New Yorker for a monster piece about AIPAC’s overly aggressive lobbying in Washington.
Wired: I Can’t Let You Do That, Dave — AD: Victor Krummenacher
Two spots for a WIRED piece by Cory Doctorow about the legal and humanistic slippery slope that comes along with self-aware computers. Or to a more tangible extent: a company which can surreptitiously drop a U2 album into millions and millions of iPhones without consent of the owner.
NYT Book Review: Man Down — AD: Nicholas Blechman
Pure tragedy. A young pot dealer who worked his way out of poverty by sheer force of will and some lucky breaks is accepted at Yale, majors in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, graduates, resumes dealing and is ultimately shot in a basement over either drugs or money or probably both. There is a bitter argument in play that all the money and social programs and institutional assistance in the world can’t divorce a person from the perspectives, practices and codes of their youth.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed — AD: Helen Yentus
For Jon Ronson’s new book, a mountain disguised as a question: What does public shame look like without finger pointing?
The book needed a cover which bore connective DNA to his previous two jackets, and as both Ronson’s queries and his conclusions never reveal themselves at the end of a linear path, the logical considerations of what public shaming looks like (finger pointing, dunce caps, stockades, etc.), were gratefully set aside. This was the proven victor—the actual, tangible version of which will clash as loudly as possible with silver and fluorescent pink.
My kingdom for some strange. More than the movies or music or an honest-to-goodness vacation, fiction was the great personal palliative of 2014. Regardless of whatever level of realism anything I read on the subway this year may have been, having the comfort in knowing that it was all made up gave my brain a license to puke back up some of the true life op/ed horrors I worked on during the day. It helped.
Anyway, I made this cover for this book about a Bay area local who does a lot of drugs on the regular and what happens to him when he samples the everlasting gobstopper of hallucinogens. For my eternal gratitude, things get dark, weird and physically impossible.
This was an alternate:
We continue toward whatever is next. Happy new year.