American Prospect - This was the last issue of The American Prospect magazine before the 2004 elections. I was thrilled that AP had liked my previous work for them so much that I got to "graduate" to doing a cover for them, my first for any magazine.

They asked me to try and think of something over the weekend, since the deadline for this piece was very short. I was stumped for a little while, so I went out for a run at night, something I hardly ever do. After jogging a couple miles or so, I had a germ of an idea in my head, something about splitting the cover and using the backgrounds to represent what each man was doing during the Vietnam War, which was a bulk of the cover article. I thought it was original, creative, and visually arresting; the only problem was it would probably make a lousy cover--while being very clever, it wasn't something that someone passing by could grasp within seconds, the #1 purpose of any magazine cover, so you by it, instead of, say, Paintball Enthusiast or Highlights.

So I tried to come up with a variant of the original idea--I drew up a bunch of placards, filled them with the slogans of both sides, and put it together. I showed it to AP and while they really liked it, they did ask for a few changes that ultimately made the piece much better--get rid of the hard line separating the candidates, make them much angrier, and more confronting each other. They also suggested adding some placards to the front so they could add their text, a suggestion that I thought was just great. I reworked it, they loved it, and it was on newsstands shortly before the election. Don't blame me, I voted for Kodoss...

This other piece was the simplest thing I've done for AP, a spot illustration for a small article about the Bob Woodward/Judy Miller debacle over Valerie Plame's identity. I didn't have a lot of space to work with, so I knew I had to keep it simple and clear. Trying to cram in two portraits plus their respective newspapers (an element I wanted in from the beginning) was daunting. But then it occurred to me; since the article was about how both these newspapers let loose the quality and accuracy controls on this particular story, I realized we were dealing with the same problem across the board. So I dedcided that Woodward and Miller would be presented as two halves of the same coin. Their visages are famous enough that even showing only half of each wouldn't hurt their recognizability.

Soon after I found relevant editions of both papers (headlines concerning the invasion of Iraq), and layed them in back, slightly transparent so they didn't fight the reporters for dominance of the piece. It all fell in place very easily and smoothly--I think the entire timeline from asking me to do the piece to delivering the final was less than five days. The magazine loved it and it appeared in their January 2006 issue.


Pitt Med - "Put A Band-Aid On That Incision" - I've done a few jobs before for Pitt Med magazine(the University of Pittsburgh's medical publication), but for one reason or another they never ended up getting published or were the kinds of thing that I felt should've been put up here.

Luckily, I did two pieces in a row for them that are the best things I've done for them so far. This first one is about a Dr.Gellar who is pioneering a new way to perform surgery with the least amount of invasiveness possible. The magazine sent me a giant portrait of Gellar doing his thing, but wanted me to come up with a way to convey what he did.

So while I did a straight-up portrait of Gellar, I turned the mountains of equipment around him into a clean blue outline to give that sort of high-techy feel without getting bogged down in the specifics. It gave the piece the kind of feel I was looking for, and kept Gellar as the focus of the eye. Pitt Med liked it too, and after just a few revisions here and there (fading one part out so the text could be laid in and be readable, etc.) it ran in their Spring 2008 issue.


Pitt Med - "SWAG" - This was for a separate article for the same issue of Pitt Med, about the piles of free stuff pharmeceutical companies send out to doctors while pitching their products.

The magazine told me the angle they wanted, and left it to me to visualize it. I sent them a few ideas, mostly involving looming mountains of crap, but it was the last one I came up with that really struck them--an anonymous doctor's office, trash can stuffed to absurd proportions with junk.

I was familiar with some of the typical stuff--pens, hats, clipboards, etc. But Pitt Med gave me a whole list of crazy items, like umbrellas, teddy bears(for pediatricians, of course), clocks, post-its, even Slinkys!

I rarely ever do illustrations that don't feature people, so I'm always happy to do something a little different.


Business 2.0 - This was for an article with the umbrella title "The Titans of Tech", profiling Ed Zander, a executive who specializes in taking over failing businesses and reinventing them.

I submitted a couple of ideas fairly quickly; and while they liked the likeness they wanted something more associated with "transforming" someone or something, like a bodybuilder. I suggested a riff on one of those Charles Atlas ads from the back of seemingly every comic book in the fifties. They agreed and soon after I reused the original likeness I had created and added the new, goofy background (I used myself as reference for the "before" guy).

Since the whole piece was reminiscent of what you'd see in a comic book, I smoothed out a lot of the detail I normally have, and added a thick outline around Ed, to give him a slightly more comic-book feel. At the last minute I added the "See the Amazing Results!" button to give the piece an extra little nudge of humor.

The piece turned into my one of my personal favorites, and it appeared in their July 2003 issue.

Charles Schwab On Investing Spring 2007- This was a really fun assignment--an illustration for four people shooting arrows to accompanying an article on retirement saving. They had to be men and women of diverse ages.

I had originally designed the four of them aiming in all directions, in a kind of Charlie's Angels-action pose. I used red and orange as the colors, and I came up with what I thought was a really exciting piece.

It turned out to be a little too exciting--the a.d. told me that since this was an article about retirment savings, using deep reds was pretty much a no-no. And top of that, the article's layout had been designed as such that everyone needed to be aiming in the same direction. Check and double-check.

So after a little rejiggering of the people, and the picking of some more neutral colors, I had this piece, which everyone was pleased with. I was also asked to illustrate a couple of arrows that were interspersed throughout the article, and some of those hay-strewn target blocks you see at archery competitions, which the arrows heading for.

All in all it made for a nice, cohesive look for the article, and I'm very pleased how it came out.







Charles Schwab On Investing Fall 2007 - My second piece in just a few months for the specialty magazine Charles Schwab On Investing.

Like I do with sports, I get a lot of work about the world of business, even though, like sports, I have hardly any knowledge of it. Luckily, the projects I get to do for On Investing are always an interesting challenge for me to do--I don't get just asked for a portrait; they have me try and visually sum up an article and make it attractive and compelling visually.

I will say, this was one of my smoothest jobs yet--when I read the summary of the article and what the magazine was looking for, this image pretty much immdiately popped into my head, and the final result is very close to that initial burst of inspiration. This piece appeared in the Fall 2007 issue, and as you read this I'm working on a piece for their Winter issue.










Charles Schwab On Investing Winter 2007 - My third piece for the magazine, and definitely my most challenging.

For an article on how a lot of people are working past age fifty-five, the magazine needed a shot of five people walking down a street--a nurse, a businessman, a chef, a gardener, and a cop--all of them over fifty-five, crossing a street.

That was a lot to cram into a small space, so one of the first decisions I made was to do the city in a monochromatic color scheme to help the people not get lost amid all the detail. I ended up shooting my Dad in the role of the businessman, and a very aged-up Darlin' Tracy as the gardener(boy, did she enjoy that).

It turned out to be one of the most challenging pieces I've ever done for a magazine, just for the amount of info that had to be conveyed. I was very happy with how it came out and since I'm working on another piece for On Investing, obviously they were too.


Charles Schwab On Investing - Fall 2008 - Each assignment I get from CSOI is always different from the last, which is a nice challenge. For this illustration, they gave me the basic idea but it was up to me to visualize it, in terms of positioning and color.

So after some composing using props and models (yes, that's me with a different head attached), I had all the lighting figured out and it was just a matter of balancing the colors to make sure the individual items popped out.

It all came together quite nice, I thought, and it's one of my favorite pieces I've done for the magazine (I'm working on another one right now).


Charles Schwab On Investing - Spring 2010 - This piece was for an article about older people who are taking advantage of a new provision that allows additional contributions to 401K-type retirement funds. Hence, this illustrations has two older people running past someone younger on their way to the retirement "finish line."

I usually don't add heavy outlines when I have multiple figures in one picture, but in this case it really looked good to me and helped separate them from the background person (who I faded just a touch for extra effect).


San Diego Union-Tribune Night & Day - March 2011 - This is the cover to the March 17 edition of Night & Day, the free entertainment magazine that's part of the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper.

There's a new production of Cabaret starting up in San Diego, starring a local theater actress named Karson St. John playing what is usually a male role, that of the emcee. So I was asked to illustrate Ms. St. John in the traditional outfit of the character, using a monochromatic palate.

There wasn't much in the way of reference of Ms. St. John in costume, so I had to sort of splice different elements together and then add in the appropriate clothes. I came up with a couple of different poses, and the magazine settled on this one, with the Emcee looking directly at the viewer.

Once I had that established, putting together the final was relatively painless. It looks very smooth and very slick, and the art director made it even better by coming in closer and cropping the image a bit. All in all, I think it came out pretty well!


Western Standard

11.25.04 - This was the first piece I did for the Canadian news & events magazine called Western Standard. It was an article about a "radical" new way of voting that is growing in popularity in some provinces. In the article it describes this new way as somewhat of a gamble, hence the Rubik's Cube metaphor.

The job came in on Thanksgiving (not a holiday in Canada, of course) so I had to scramble to get it done over the weekend. Once I found an actual Rubik's Cube I was able to see what one actually looks like rather than relying on my childhood memories.

5.16.05 - This was a surprise.

This was my second assignment for Western Standard. Apparently there is some big scandal going on up north, involving this group of politicians. They had asked me to do a riff on the famous "Sopranos" image, substituting the officials for the members of the family, with a very specific order of importance.

Since the layout was already done for me, this piece became more about time management--eight portraits had to be finished in just a few days, and then sized and put all together. I finished up the cover fairly quickly, and even with the various directions of light hitting all these faces, I thought it all came together fairly nicely. The magazine was pleased, so much so they had decided to include a pull-out poster of the image (with fake credits) inside the issue itself. Cool, I thought, and sent it off, moving onto the next thing. Then it got interesting.

A few weeks later, I was told that the cover caused a bit of controversy up in Canada. As far as I could figure out, another politician from this party was angry at the magazine, and said it was a slur against Italians (It was? Gee, I'm half-italian; I wish I had known to be offended). This guy even went around holding press conferences with a big blow-up of the cover. Then all of that caused a reverse-controversy, with people saying this guy was trying to deflect the real point of the cover and story, etc. All this spread like news about TomKat, and there were like dozens of articles (some TV, some print, some online) about my little ol' cover! I even got contacted by one or two Canadian news agencies about it.

This whole thing got big enough that they decided to make t-shirts and full-size posters of the image, which you can buy here (though god knows why you'd want to).

5.8.06 - My second cover for the magazine, for an article on environmental and political activist Maurice Strong. They had wanted a classic propaganda-style recruitment poster look. I didn't have the luxury of reading the article beforehand, so I didn't have much to go on besides what I could find on the internet. After a few quick articles, I found myself actually agreeing with a lot of Mr.Strong's views and goals, and frankly I was a little concerned about illustrating a cover for an article that I gathered was not going to be complementary.

Since I didn't know whether the article was an honest critique of his views, or an attempt at cheap character assassination of someone who doesn't share your political views. We have lots of that here in the US, they must up north, as well. I hemmed and hawed about the assignment wondering how I'd feel putting down someone I think didn't deserve it. Ultimately, I decided that I could still do the assignment without using any specific cheapshots in the artwork. That was a compromise I felt I could live with and still be able to be professional.

Like those communist propaganda posters, I was going for tilted axis', simplified colors, and, most importantly, a vision of a Bright Shining Tomorrow (if you're trying to sell someone on a political movement, you gotta promise the Bright Shining Tomorrow). WS had specifically asked for some sort of crowd shot to represent the Canadian populace, and after some research I realized I could render them in a rough black-and-white, xeroxed-copy kind of way. Frequently people putting together propaganda posters didn't have lots of resources at their disposal, so they had to make due with a lot of basic elements. Not only did this idea speed up the process, but when I layed them in I saw how well they contrasted with the rest of the cover.

I submitted a rough that was pretty close to what you see at left. I had to reduce the size of most of the elements to fit more cover copy, and there was a little more fiddling with it after I turned it in. Overall, though, I thought it was still a striking piece and makes for a nifty cover.

5.21.07 - This is my third cover in three years, and by far the easiest one I ever did.

They had sent me the cover article--about how there's a growing demand for elected, not appointed, judges--and hoped I could come up with something over a weekend(this was a Friday, and they needed final art on Monday!). I read the piece and thought it over for a bit, and then this mighty-hammer-of-Thor type image came to me.

I wanted something simple, graphic, and a little blocky, like all those classic Saul Bass movie posters(Anatomy of a Murder, Exodus, etc.). After messing around with some color choices, red seemed to work the best, and just a few moments after submitting a rough, I got the go ahead--no changes--from the magazine. Success!

I put it together, and sent it in first thing Monday. When I saw the version used for the cover, which they did amend a bit by combining the formerly two-red-boxes into one big one(I'm guessing to help have the cover copy read easier). Not a big deal, though I still preferred the original version. Oh, well. I'm still happy with it and think it looks pretty cool.

e:namtab29@comcast.netp: 856.261.2265 • all material © 2012 Rob Kelly