Wednesday, December 19, 2012

War Deck

I found this great War deck in some things I had collected from my grandmother's farm house, and played a game with my son the other day. This is the very deck I spent hours playing with as a child, and really was struck by how great the illustrations are. Great colors and weird choices made all around. They are of a certain era to be sure, but I think they are really great.

Anyone recognize the illustrator?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Life at The Society

It has been a very busy season- closing a new kids book along with a hectic semester of teaching. But before this is a distant memory, I wanted to share some thoughts on a profound distinct honor I experienced this year, chairing the Society of Illustrator's 55th Annual Show.

The very first time I learned of the world of Professional Illustration, (outside of a Norman Rockwell calendar in my 5th grade classroom), it was in the form of the Society of Illustrators annual, specifically Illustrators 38. I was a sophomore in college and I still remember it had this amazing Brad Holland on the cover.

Other than wanting to make drawings every single day, I had no exact idea of what I wanted to do with my life as an artist. Comics seemed plausible, but then... there was this book. Given to me by my professor at the University of Kansas, Barry Fitzgerald, this volume changed the course my life.

Holding it in my hand, it was like the Rosetta Stone. Immediately it began to translate all of my interests and passions into a clear language. I poured over each page and wrote down names - a few weeks later I gave up my uni-ball micro pens and started dry-brush painting, just like Brad.

That annual, and the ones that followed it year after year, opened endless visual doors to new work, new artists and, more importantly, new kinds of ideas.

I spent several years admiring illustration from the distant golden shores of the midwestern wheat fields before I moved to New York for graduate school in 2001. The very first time I went to the Society of Illustrators building, was for my inaugural class with Marshall Arisman in the MFA Illustration program at School of Visual Arts in New York. As you can imagine, this experience, to me, felt like being give a tour of St. Peters by the Pope himself.

As I left that building that night, totally amazed by the images just casually hanging on the walls in every nook of the place (is that a Cornwell in the corner over there!?), I remember thinking to myself, "If I can hang an image in this place just once, I'll be proud of my career." Based on everything on those walls, and in those annuals, it seemed a remote and distant notion at best. But, on the way home, I walked down 5th avenue and I wasn't discouraged, my passion for illustration felt so alive.

I entered the show for years, seven years in fact, including the student competition, before I got into Annual 46. I won my first medal in Annual 48. Now, Annual 55 represents my 10th straight year I've had work in the Society of Illustrator's Annual Show. I'm so grateful for that place and that I've been able to be a part of it in some small way over the years. If possible, I feel more humbled by the work on the walls than on my first visit. The magical experience of becoming a successful working illustrator has given me such admiration for the greats both past, present and future (in the case of some young illo-stars out there). There is much to look forward to in the next ten SI Annuals.


This year, I'm thrilled to have eight drawings in the show, posted below.  (If you're wondering, the chair does NOT get to vote on what gets into the show, all selections are made by the jury. If I had any sway, I'd have 25 pieces in the show.)

The first show is opening January 4th, 2013 at The Society of Illustrators. Hope to see you then.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Salmon Problems

Thanks to SooJin Buzelli for calling me for this project, which will run in Plan Sponsor magazine. I finished this project back in August, but it is just hitting the newsstands now. This article is about the benefits of mutual funds paying out in a steady stream of income, rather than in a single lump sum.

Sometimes I'll set arbitrary limitations on my ideas, just for fun and variety, so for my sketches this time I constrained the variables by only sending ideas that had animals in them. SooJin picked my favorite!

A few details of the big salmon-  every good illustrator should love drawing fish. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Moving Image Category

The Moving Image category was created several years ago at The Society of Illustrators Annual Show, and I'm pumped to have something to enter into it this year. If it gets in, I'm going to do a live performance of beer bottle drawing at the opening. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Where, The Why and The How

The Where, the Why, and the How from ALSO on Vimeo.

Had the enormous pleasure of working with Julia Rothman on her book that pairs the mysteries of science with art and illustration, "The Where, The Why and The How" and I wanted to share the amazing book trailer.

She had a great design team animate my illustration- and I'm totally in love with how it came out. Buy this book on Thursday!

If you want a look at the original project post, it shows a bit more of my process.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Un-Fortune-ate Cover

I had the great chance to do the cover of Fortune Magazine this week.- with a small exception. They killed it for a different version of the art. But, Fortune keeps a blog full of their rejected art. Great stuff that never made the final print.

They hire three illustrators to do final covers and then the editor picks the one that fits the news and attitudes of the piece. This may seem draconian, but there are several high-profile timely newsweeklies that use a similar process.


To visually demonstrate being rich in America, we had great fun taking J.M. Flagg's classic Uncle Sam and crossing him with Gordon Gekko from Wall Street- then crank up the bling.

 Beyond the concept, it was an enjoyable formal challenge to draw jeweled and diamond studded clothing and accessories. I'm going to send this to the Romney campaign and see if they are interested.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

August Lectures

For all you Saint Louis readers, I've got two events coming up in the next few weeks.  I'm going to be showing my work and talking about illustration at The St. Louis Artist's Guild next week, Tuesday August 14th, 7pm.

John Hendrix
August 14th @7 p.m.

2 Oak Knoll Park 
St. Louis, MO 63105


The Read: St. Louis folks have invited me to speak with Deborah Hopkinson, who worked with me on two children's books, A Boy Called Dickens, 2012 and Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, 2008. 

Deborah Hopkinson and John Hendrix
Friday, August 24, 7:00 p.m.
St. Charles City-County Library

Spencer Road Branch
427 Spencer Road 
St. Peters, MO 63376


Both events are free, hope to see you there! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fist Fight!

A new drawing from American Cowboy magazine (yes, that exists).

So, what is the greatest bar fight in western movie history you ask? The jury comes back with the epic 10 minute brawl from SHANE (1953) starring Alan Ladd and Ben Johnson.

After watching the movie again, I took some shots of the fight, which moves from one-on-one, to five-on-one, to two-on-twelve! One great tongue-in-cheek moment is the directors have a kid watching the fight, casually eating a candy cane. Just before the decisive blow, the action cuts away to the kid biting his candy cane, mirroring the crunch of the bad guy's cheek bone being pulverized. Amazing. 

This is one of those images that I got right with my first tiny sketch thumbnail. (Don't tell my students that this happens sometimes). I did other sketches, but this time, the first one was the best. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Road Scholar- Beer Run

I have the great job of drawing for NPR's Peter Sagal when he writes his Road Scholar column for Runner's World. This month's column is about a Beer Race, which is exactly like it sounds. You drink beer, then run a lot, and drink more beer. It didn't end so well for Peter (not to mention you're disqualified if you yak up the booze.) 

Inside baseball: For the drawing above, I wanted to see what would happen when I drew final art with a bic pen instead of my normal inking tools. Always trying to get closer to the energy found in my sketchbook. I missed the dark black I get out of india and microns... but still fun. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

ICON7 re: Email Videos

My friend and fellow board member, Kyle T. Webster and I had the fun job of coming up with some short interstitial videos for ICON7. Kyle came up with the simple concept of seeing an interaction through an email window between art directors and illustrators. Based on his first test (which made me laugh out loud), I wrote some scripts. We had such a blast putting the final versions together a few days before the conference. In the board room, WE thought they were hilarious. Jaime Zollars thought they we're "ok."  

They are embedded below, but run a bit small, you can see them full size at the ICON YouTube home page. 

The first six ran at the conference (and we have two director's cut bonus episodes that we made but didn't use). Thanks to Kyle for this collaboration. Couldn't have done this alone. 

These two we didn't use during the conference- but we still laughed writing them. The bar was low. Very low. 

We tried to poke fun at BOTH art directors and illustrators. So, please don't end our careers, angry art directors. We'll take that perfect fudge brownie assignment, promise! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"This IS Culture" - ICON7 President Keynote

Finally back from the incredible experience of planning, running and sort-of attending, The Illustration Conference in Providence, Rhode Island... June 13-16th. As the President of the conference, I had the great honor to start the entire conference with an address. I've heard so many wonderful comments from folks who wanted to share it with others who weren't there. Anytime you have a chance to start a conversation with your entire industry, it is exciting, but I had not anticipated the overwhelming response to my thoughts on the nature of illustration and the future of our fate as image-makers.  So, below is a transcript of my opening address, with some of the visuals I used as well. But first, a thanks to all who came to ICON7 and those who were so encouraging about the work the entire board put into it to make it an amazing experience.

President's Address: June 14th, 2012

ICON7-  Providence, Rhode Island 
John Hendrix

Illustrators, let me ask you this, when you are at a party, and someone asks you: “So, what do you do for a living?” What do you say? 

“I’m a freelance artist.”
actual translation: He’s unemployed.
or you say,

“I make drawings for newspapers and magazines.” 
actual translation: She’s an editorial cartoonist.
or you try,

“I’m a commercial artist.” 
actual translation: He’s in advertising. 
or what about,

“I make picture books for children.” 
actual translation: She went to art school, now she’s a Kindergarden teacher.
or maybe,

“I make graphic images for the web and print.” 
actual translation: He’s into porn.
or if you say

“I’m a contract creative employee that is hired to make conceptual and narrative images on an irregular basis for a flat fee based on the  circulation of the publication coupled with the general size the image will cover in the magazine that somehow add visual metaphor to the theory presented in the text that I’m assigned, subject, of course, to approval by an art director and/or editor.” 
actual translation: Look for someone else to talk to, NOW. 
and if you say:

“I’m an illustrator.”

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Norman Rockwell, or painting while smoking a pipe. But, illustration is more than that today. So, sometimes our culture seems to misunderstand our job, and we, the illustrators, can’t seem to find a way to accurately summarize its importance, and the only word we really have for it conjures cliched images from the good ol’ days.

So, what is illustration?
So, what exactly, is illustration?

Let me come back to that.

I teach illustration at Washington University in St. Louis, and in recent years, we’ve seen a growing number of students in art school choose to study illustration and design over the studio arts. I’ve talk to other educators and this is happening in art schools all across the country. Why is that?

Clearly it isn’t because the studio arts have no value, because they do. But, I 
believe students are drawn to our field because illustrators and designers are tangible contributors.  The vast visual tapestry of our culture is being defined by graphic image makers, and incoming students encounter those things in their actual lives, and they really want to participate.

My colleague D.B. Dowd, who spoke at ICON6, said it this way:
“Visuality is the currency of the 21st Century.” 

Said another way, with the number of screens and surfaces in our lives multiplying by the day, the need for images is growing exponentially.

In fact, despite our occasional queasiness with the word illustration, it doesn’t take much work to find examples of image makers shaping our cultural experience... from magazine covers, to comics, to storybooks and movies.

Do NOT let people tell you that this stuff is pop-culture, this IS our culture.

We shouldn’t define ourselves by our method of payment and where our work is seen anymore... but by what it is doing. The old distinctions of the discipline don’t describe us anymore. What I’m saying is that the category isn’t as important is it’s role.

So, what is illustration?
Illustration is NOT just images... Illustration is storytelling.
Illustration is NOT a media or a style, Illustration is communication.
We are saying something to our world.

The theme for this weekend, is Drawn Together.  Over the next three days, you’re 
going hear from some people you know, and many you don’t - and much of our conversation will be about what we are saying and who we are together.

It is time for illustrators to stop thinking of themselves as Han Solo, bragging about how fast their ship did the Kessel Runbut embrace being a contributor to the Rebel Alliance. (He was much happier after he let go of the idol of his solitude, by the way.) 

I want to challenge us to stop seeing every other person in this room and in our field, as competition- and to embrace the collaborative nature of illustration.

Even when drawn by a single artist, Illustration is inherently collaborative.

It takes disparate elements, text and image and does not make a jumbled frankenstein, but a new thing- a whole that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. What I love about illustration is this stark humility- it is willing to subvert itself to deliver it’s content.

Look at these images: Do you see merely media or technique? No. You see a beloved character, a rich story, a concept, an idea.

Illustrators should define themselves by their 
communication and collaboration with their culture.
Be proud of that. You are a contributor.

Jillian Tamaki, who you will hear from later in this conference, put it this way on her blog:

The payoff is so exciting, you’re not just a consumer of culture anymore, you’re a contributor. Illustration at its best, injects a bit of beauty and insight into a visual landscape that is so often vapid, crass, and garish. Illustration is powerful precisely because it is commercial. ...Most people could probably describe to you their favorite comic or cartoon or album cover or picture book from childhood, regardless of whether or not they are creative. 

Let’s abandon seeing illustration as an artistic discipline- and see if for what it is: A powerful, profound, and unpretentious shaper of our visual lives. 

Personally, I don’t just work as an illustrator because I believe in it as an industry with a viable and vibrant business model (which it is by the way), I believe in illustration because I believe in the power of images.

Drawn images have the power to shape a young imagination.

Drawn images have the power to show us what we don’t want to see.

Drawn images have the power to put a face on an epic story.

Drawn images can bring comfort in the midst of disbelief. 

Drawn images have the power to shape our very history.

To think of yourselves as anything less than a lethal cultural chisel is to undermine your role, not as a "commercial artist," but as an artist.  You are all artists. Embrace it.

I’m so glad you’re here this weekend. Join me, ... lets draw something together.