This is not the kind of sketch intended to instill confidence in an art director on deadline. It is the kind of sketch which is best utilized when a well-traveled route requires a detour.
This sketch was my final hail mary proposal for an illustration for the NY Times magazine’s Eureka feature back in July about the perils of boredom in space—particularly as they might relate to a manned mission to Mars. Astronauts have to prepare both mentally and physically while on Earth to contend with the kind of crushing routine required of space travel which, in the event of a lesser constitution, can lead to behavior one might later regret, be it in the dark endless void of blackness or up river.
Working one floor above the magazine has led what have now been four very fast adventures in the past year which have begun the same way each time: In the middle of the day amidst the daily op/ed scramble, one of the magazine ADs will get in touch to talk about attacking an illustration for whatever issue they’re working on. I shoot downstairs at an available moment to talk about the piece and the schedule, (this one had a three day window). That evening while on the subway going home, I’ll read through the draft and any additional notes they gave me. I’ll chip away at concepts for possible visuals that night until I run out of steam sometime in the witching hour and send over what I have the following morning before my day starts up and hope that something lands. In the event that one of the ideas works and gets the green light sometime that afternoon, I begin the final that evening and spend the final day finessing the details with the AD in between whatever pausing points I’m able to scrounge up in the afternoon.
In what I’ve begrudgingly come to accept as a comfort zone, we had been pursuing photographic directions which were coming along fine. Here are some of them:
The decision to ditch these in favor of the drawn approach as rendered in my chicken scratch up at the top was an impulsive one and one that was subliminally rooted in a selfish desire to make something that felt unfamiliar to me and—if I’m being honest—most likely an adverse reaction to the idea of doing what felt like a familiar process for the subject of boredom.
The further we talked about the sketch featuring the ‘yawn’ text, the more truthful it felt to find a way to somehow embody the condition of boredom instead of spelling it out. Spelling it out was actually boring. We were short on time that afternoon with the deadline approaching the following day and I was in the middle of contending with the op/ed simultaneously, so I spent a whole three minutes drawing what I had envisioned as a listless astronaut dulled even by the disruption of the red planet crashing into his helmet. Then I went back downstairs and explained it. I attribute this idea getting the go ahead to having the oft-discounted luxury of being able to talk to my co-conspirator and earning his trust while circling a problem in the same room.
Since the sketch was admittedly slack, I drew these three below as an intermediary step:
That helped. We both felt considerably more confident that this would work. We narrowed the preferred pose down from there and I decided on a diagrammatic, unblemished vector line to provide a kind of sterility I thought would be appropriate to boredom. I then spent a rare uninterrupted 4+ hours drawing with my headphones on after hours, listening to the Flying Burrito Brothers.
This is the final below.
Art direction: Caleb Bennett