Some artists call the computer "the devil's television", but your computer can be an angel, especially when clients seem to give us less and less time to be a genius on a project. "We don't want art, we want it Thursday!" Elizabeth Ashley said that, and it still rings in my brain every time editors leave for Martha's Vineyard while I stare at a blank piece of white paper as the air conditioner ices up. But hold on! How'd we get to THIS...
... from THIS??! The assignment was about business marketing strategy for a trade show magazine. I was asked to create a portrait out of this PR photo of Mark Stevens -- in-demand speaker, frequent guest commentator on Fox Business News, and author of (I swear!) Your Marketing Sucks, Your Management Sucks, and the recently published Your Company Sucks. You can check them out on Amazon. In spite of his apparent great success, I felt that his photo didn't really give me much to start with. Pretty typical. And dig those showbiz shirt cuffs! But I couldn't help feeling there would be a bit of the old alchemy and showmanship and seeing-into-the-future in Mr. Stevens' delivery, so I thought of Coney Island and magicians and magic posters -- three things that I go nuts over. When's that plane due back from Martha's Vineyard? I better get moving, but before I started drawing, why not zero in on that face and make that photo look more like the all-seeing all-knowing Stevens the Great!
I wanted him to be dead-on centered, like the Tilyou Coney Island face. To begin with I'm going to use just one side of the face, flip it and mirror it. Then start pushing and pulling on his main features. Hey, plastic surgery is fun! Nurse Photoshop, hand me that scalpel. The crowd is gathering as he mesmerizes them about turning marketing into money.
This old poster hangs in my living room. Alexander (whose real name was Claude Conlin) was quite the showman, and had truckloads of these things printed up. Years later, thousands of the unused posters fell into the hands of another magician, Lon Mandrake, who changed his name to Alexander rather than pay for posters of himself. He toured for years as "Alexander," and I guess no one ever really cared that much about it. Anyway, you can see here the direction that my sketches might be headed.
Time to start drawing on paper. Coming along. Some artists will say that the first idea is usually the best. Not necessarily, and it's why I don't like to show editors lots of ideas, although it's a nice short meeting if everyone agrees on the safe and familiar -- which is often the weakest idea.
Now we're on the right track! I stole (excuse me, these days artists say: "appropriated") the lightning bolts from an old magic catalog of mine. For some reason, the AD had brought up the "eye" on the pyramid. You know, like on the back of the dollar bill. Perfect. What we're on the verge of here is Mark Stevens, the all-seeing Marketing Mystic. Oops! The AD informs me that they don't like that eye thing afterall. But I'm still hot to go "Alexander" all the way and get a turban on him and some color going!
Wow! Here's a tight color drawing, complete. I can't wait to start inking. Mr. Stevens, you're coming through loud and clear! It's moments like this when I run to the bathroom mirror and say, "Lou, you're too too much!" Uh-oh, hold on a sec -- an email from the client. Something about another meeting they just had... lose the cockamamie turban, will ya, Lou?
No time to fret, there's always that deadline to take your mind off your troubles. Time to put on a stack of Fats Waller, and ink into the night. I'm really pleased with the final result anyway, but I still love the turban version the best. By the way, did you know that the term "deadline" comes from a line they used to draw around a prison, and any prisoner seen beyond it would be shot? Sounds close to home. I should have listened to Alexander. He knew!