Business travel and life decisions kept me away from IW for the past couple of weeks. The next few posts will cover the illos that appeared during that time. We apologize for the inconvenience; service credits will be issued upon request.
In his decades of work for the op-ed page and other high-profile venues, Brad Holland has rarely produced an illustration without a dark cast to it, both visual and psychic. This smoky, mottled portrait of JPII—accompanying not just Prof. Pelikan's article, but a whole page of mullings on the Pope's life—is more benign than Holland usually gets, if not quite reverent. It eloquently alludes to the Pope's benevolent warrior aspect, the trait that seems to have made him so emotionally powerful and hard to assess.
Damn, looks like I snoozed and losed on this entry, since the full-sized illo is no longer available and there was never a permalink for the article (here's the abstract). Maybe because it was a regional-only piece? Anyway, I like indie comic artist David Heatley's carnivalesque imagining of a New York City Winter 2014 Olympics. It's clear here that Heatley digs folk art: he joyfully breaks free of scale and perspective and fills the canvas with a crazy quilt of decorative motifs. He makes a great, surprising choice for this subject.
Tipping a hat to baseball's season opener, Sunday's graphic was less an Op-Art than a trip to the Smithsonian of contemporary visual culture. Choi Hoon's baseball comics are brand new to me and it's hard to tell from these single-panel excerpts what his complete strips are like. Plus, while as a baseball ignoramus I was grateful for author B.R. Myers' explications of each panel, they're a weird way to read gag comics. Though my cluelessness leaves me humor-impaired, I can't help but admire Hoon's cartooning--the guy just draws funny. His gags draw on everything from a traditional Korean laborer's rig to the flying bike scene in E.T., all with a formidable economy of expression. So what's the latest American product whose makers should start worrying about globalization? I'd say it's Tank McNamara.
Op-Art regular Lauren Redniss represents the high-water mark in the op-ed's acceptance of narrative art: the comic as gestalt rather than sequence. Idiosyncratic while sticking tightly to her formula, Redniss creates poetic set pieces from the New York scenes she is sent to cover. For Friday's slice of life at the International Auto Show she takes a typically subjective view, making absurdist hay from the spectacle of hotrod dreams in a city where cars are mostly sources of irritation. None of her interviewees says anything especially pithy, her people are glancingly observed and her cars look like they were jacked from Rorschach blots, and yet the whole thing works. Redniss' handwritten text and loose drawing style belie her compositional skills, so that elements that bump awkwardly at first glance come to hang together once you finish reading and relax your eyes. It's kind of like the moment when you've been hanging out someplace way too long, your feet are tired, the crowds have worn you down and you're just about to go grab a taxi when you scan the room, take in one last impression, and that's the picture you retain of that day for the rest of your life.
Photo or illo? I suppose it doesn't matter. Anyway, what a thrill! I have that very same lightswitch in my apartment, and goodness, there it is on today's Times op-ed page! I hope it doesn't get too uppity from all the attention. Seriously, couldn't anyone think of a more interesting image or treatment for this piece? Contributor John Fulbrook has a long and impressive track record as an editorial designer and I hesitate to question his judgement, but this is a perfect example of a pic that would be great paired with the right title text (as in a book jacket or magazine cover) and just looks like nuthin' by itself.
Scale shifts are a common trope of the op-ed illo. Often they're used to project a sense of overwhelming force (a huge foot coming down on the scene Terry Gilliam-style, a giant hand reaching out to help in a disaster) or dimunition in the face of historical momentum (someone standing on the shoulders of a giant). Today Michael Klein uses scale shift to convey a more balanced relationship. It's the intimate positioning of the two figures, one climbing up the tie of the other, that breaks the mold and gives the picture its disarming and playful air, making an otherwise conventional business-theme illo worth a longer look.
Tim Lane illo number three is the most conventional in Friday's triad. It's nothing fancy, but the shape of the exhaust cloud flows beautifully into the outline of the trees. And if hybrid cars were available in models as lithe and sporty as the one in this drawing, they'd be the perfect automotive remedy for liberal guilt AND midlife crisis!
Illo number two in the Tim Lane triad accompanies the most enterprising article in Friday's energy futures roundtable, explaining and promoting gasification technology, whereby plants capture energy from fossil fuel burning but store the CO2 byproducts underground and away from the atmosphere. Lane's small illo borrows conventions of technical drawing, with its pipes and mystery boxes, but disrupts the diagram with extra loops and that black oil-spill-shaped cutaway framing everything. Is he telegraphing obscurity, contamination, or just the complexity of any proposition to curb environmental despoilment while we continue to consume at full tilt? It's beyond me.
I'll say it right off: Tim Lane is one of my favorite print illustrators working today. Along with his periodic appearances in the Times, I watch for his posters and buy any issues of his comics I can find. (Re: the latter, fans of postmodern pulp auteur Charles Burns would do well to seek out Lane's Happy Hour in America.) So a day like Friday, with not one, not two, but three Lane op-ed illos, is a joyous one here at I.W.H.Q. What I love about Lane's work is his eye for grotesquerie and surrealism combined with incredible precision of line. On the op-ed page, he doesn't generally concern himself with responding directly to the article. It's like he free-associates from the article and comes up with something that he just really wants to draw. At least, that's what he seems to have done in today's lead graphic. While his theme of technology eclipsed by nature is not incompatible with Kenneth Deffeyes' article, nothing points to an oil derrick grown over with antlers. (Tree branches? Nah, antlers!) The piece is arrestingly tight: the gentle curvatures of the branch-tips, the carefully rendered junctures of machine and organic matter, the contours of the snow-covered ground, everywhere Lane sweats the details, it pays off in stare-worthy spades. The other two drawings are not as impressive, but continue the theme of machinery gone wild. More about those in the next two posts.