Hi, everyone, I'm actually in process of transferring my blog to my main site at shortdivision.com, so bear with me and, in the meantime, check out my new, incredibly heartfelt "hire me" page here.

Also of note is that today Flux Theatre Ensemble unveiled a new logo I designed with direction and help from the company's creative partners. More on that later. For now, all I'll say is that I do not necessarily want to be a logo designer when I grow up, but there is a certain amount of satisfaction in the finishing.

Check it out in context at the newly relaunched Flux website.


The Briny Smell and Clinky, Decayed Sounds of Inspiration

If you enjoy the (promising, then boring) title sequence for "Boardwalk Empire" you'll hopefully love this. Near Astoria Park is a small area of waterfront near which residents show off their hot rods and nit-pick at sparkling engine parts. There's a particularly impressive T-bird that shows up regularly.

Hell Gate Bridge (also called Robert F. Kennedy Bridge) in background.
On the other side of the riverside railing lies the East River in the shadow of the Triborough Bridge, and, while pretty nice, no, that's not such an awe-inspiring thing on its own. But there's a detail that caught my attention for a full half-hour. The beach is practically covered in half a color wheel's worth of trashed glass. Every soothing tint of blue and green is there, worn down to something soft and then manhandled into millions of little petals. Seriously, they're shaped like petals. The process is constantly on view: bottles being broken up by the tide and then smoothed down little by little.
It sounds like a wind chime.

The pummeling picks up around 3 p.m.

The shards take on a mossy aspect, blending in very well with the larger boulders.

See? Petals.


Book. Cover. Club. Yes?

Yes. Philip Cheaney, one of the cleanest-working and exciting illustrators I personally know, recently invited me to participate in something that has already grown near and dear to my heart—like that baby squirrel you tried to save when you were a kid, but without the life-and-death issues—and it resides here.

The Book Cover Club is a venue for illustrators to test themselves in areas of narrative clarity (or deliberate, mysterious obscurity), design, speed—all of those things we're doing every day but are more fun to do together.

You might have seen selections from the project featured on Flavorpill NYC, in an article titled "20 Amazing Reimagined Book Covers."

My first submission, based on Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (first published in German in 1924 and published in English in 1927) is below, with a few digital process images to show how tweaking color all day gets you nowhere.

The final image:

The initial drawing was set quickly. I knew I wanted to show the main character smoking his thoughtful cigar, but also, perhaps, questioning the components of time and space, as he so often does throughout the book. Much of the narrative occurs through his extremely inward perspective. The mountain itself is merely the setting for the sanatorium where he is staying with his cousin, filled with yellowing, tubercular patients. The magic occurs inside his own mind. So I decided to let his outline mimic the profile of the mountain. It's not super obvious, but it's there.

I really liked the coloring at left, and in hindsight maybe I should have kept it, but it didn't really say what I wanted it to say at the time, which was that here is a man whose inward mind and separation from the world, insulated childhood, etc., are about to be shattered by outside forces that he can't daydream away.

Here, at near left, is a failed attempt to address his fascination with the passage of time in the cigar smoke. Once I decided to not try quite so hard to convey specific things and prioritized atmosphere instead, I had my final.

The first of many, hopefully improved, similar exercises.


Ajax in Iraq: a large idea on a small scale and in print.

The Ajax in Iraq postcards have arrived from the printers, and I'm relieved to see, in person, that the concept is working. When the first two of three cards are placed side by side, this is what you see:

Click to view larger size.

After receiving approval of the sketch from the highly creative and driven team at Flux Theatre Ensemble, I fell into the coloring process, using the same palette that was used for the postcard promoting Flux's February production, the wild and wonderful Dog Act.

The primary focus on this card is, again, the main character and, in particular, the eyes. Flux's Season Four slogan is "Don't Look Away," broken down this way on their site: "Our fourth season explores the cost of a society remaining always vigilant. In our see-something, say-something world, what happens when we're always on guard? What is our responsibility to those keeping watch? And what happens when our defenses are breached?"

In my view, this language takes an internalized look at a post-9/11 but present-"Patriot Act" world, focusing on the individual struggles of characters whose lives operate within black-and-white structures. For a static image, this puts the brunt of the heavy lifting on the emotional link between the subject and the viewer. The main character of Ajax in Iraq—certainly the most vulnerable character—is AJ, an American, female soldier currently deployed in Iraq. It was important to make her face the first and last stop for a viewer seeking the emotional message. I made use of shadowing to enhance the light that falls across her, and kept the area behind her free of distractions.

Secondary challenges included: making sure the graphics and lettering are obviously a part of the wall while maintaining legibility, keeping the various details clean and contained so that the message shines through, and leaving room beyond the bleed so that the final card, which will promote the final play of Flux's fourth season, is ensured a seamless beginning. At left, a view of the card midway through the coloring process, with the palette visible for access by the eye drop tool.

Below, the final card. Thanks goes to everyone at Flux Theatre Ensemble for their encouragement and trust as the project goes forward and to playwright Ellen McLaughlin for inspiration. Tickets for Ajax in Iraq, opening on June 4 and sure to be directed with earnest intelligence by August Shulenburg, are on sale via Flux's home page.

Click to view larger size.