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.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Cartoon Network 20th Anniversary

I was asked to participate in a group show celebrating Cartoon Network's 20th Anniversary, curated by Mark Murphy.  A great list of artists have participated, and I had the pleasure of working on a tribute to one of my favorite CN shows, "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" 

It is an unusual challenge to draw characters that were designed by another artist, while still keeping some of your own personal voice. I'm selling prints of this image in my store, and the original will be for sale at Comic Con this summer. It will also hang in the Cartoon Network headquarters in Atlanta. 

A few details of the critters below.