Friday, January 25, 2008

Big Talkers

JAMES - well, i've got alot of catching up to do! this is the cover to last month's Bold Life - the lead story was on the local 'Toastmasters' group (i never heard of the Toastmasters before this, but apparently, they're all over the world). basically they're a group of people who meet up and give speeches. not the easiest cover assignment.

i was recently influenced by the work of Shepard Fairey after seeing some stuff in Juxtapoz mag (thanks for the subscription, tom!), so i put together this sketch which was very conceptual and ambitious. i drew it on a page ripped out of an old paperback book, and i intended the final peice to be bits of chaos, mixed with fine illustration, with lots of different media used (collage, spraypaint, regular paints, inks, etc.). unfortunately, i think it was too ambitious and it was rejected.

so i came up with these two - the last one being a throwaway, but hey, i was stumped. they liked the idea of mixed media from the last sketch, i think it was the concept that was too vague. so the second sketch solidified it much more, and i was ready to go.

first, i used my last sheet of some really shitty watercolor paper, which i used on purpose. this paper would start to crumble when it got really wet, and especially when i hit it hard with a brush - so i did. over and over, creating lots of layers and texture with watercolors, pencils, charcoal and scratching it up nice with a knife. then i drew all the charatcers on separate sheets of paper (actually three: one for the main head, another for the smaller heads, and another for the megaphone). i lightboxed it onto the messy watercolorpaper with a nice concoction of black india ink and some brown shellac ink i had. then i went over it with some more colors, and chalk, until i felt satisfied.

at the last minute, we realized we were running an article about historical markers and moments from the area - but had no photos for the article (no time to dig up photos from the civil war). so i was asked to do three illustrations for the story, each pertaining to one of the historical tales. i had to work real fast, since the deadline was approaching. they were all drawn on regular copy paper with my pentel brush pen; scanned into photoshop, and colored it up. the whole thing took 3 hours. when i was done, i stepped back and was really satisfied with the amount of looseness that i was able to keep, while still getting the point across. i think if i had more time, i would have gotten much more tight on them, but i don't think they would have been better served that way.
you can read the article here:

next month (technically this month): fencing!


thomas pitilli said...

I have to say, in terms of your Boldlife covers I am partial to the bold inking, comic booky type style that you use. I just think for the purpose of a cover, those really catch the eye and jump off the shelf. With that being said, I think your biggest accomplishment with this one was actually coming up with an exciting way to illustrate people that give speeches! Thats a rough one. I do really like the texture that you got on the background on this one though.

thomas pitilli said...

Oh and the spots are really good, especially with the time constraint.

james flames said...

thanks man. in general i agree with you - i know where my biggest strengths lie, and that's with the comic-books style you said. and likewise, i know my weaknesses. but, since this is a regular monthly gig, i'd prefer to explore as many styles as i can while keeping the core of my strengths (or defeating my weaknesses - which is why i appreciate your comments). i fear becoming repetitive or predictable - and i really love experimenting like this.

i was reading some of the very first posts i did from a year ago, there was one where i posted some paintings i did at the art students league. i was just getting into painting, and i was saying how uncomfortable i felt just using color and form, instead of relying on strong line-work. so i had started to incorporate the two, and tho i knew i was still very fresh to it, it gave me a better reference and made me more comfortable.

now, a year later, i feel much more comfortable with painting and color (tho i know i have a long way to go), and i realize that the two (painting and line-work) can coexist quite nicely in my work. so this cover was a continuation of my experimentation with this 'new' media. but that's also why i made sure to make the line-work very prominent on this one, cuz it would've gone nowhere without it.

i'm curious what you'll think of the newest cover - i'll post it this week. i think it might be a better balance of the two styles.

thomas pitilli said...

Yeah, I totally think your getting the hang of the paints and incorporating it into your art very nicely. I don't think this one was your strongest, but the idea that your trying new things out with every cover and not pigeon holding yourself is awesome. I also don't know how you do it every month, I just did that New York Press cover (which I will post soon) and I realized how much pressure there is for an idea once you know it's going to be on the cover.

H. Stewart said...

I like the cover, naturally (what's not to like?), but I really like those illustrations as well. Great dueling shot, straight out of B. Lyndon.

james flames said...

hey man - you totally called it. i pulled out my barry lyndon dvd and watched some chapters to get a feel. gotta give props to my man kubrick!
good eye hank!