During the last five years while working on my MFA, I regularly sought to stretch myself by taking on work outside of the school assignments. I generally did one or two extra projects per semester, and the practice helped me grow as an illustrator.
Many of these projects used photographs instead of illustrations, depending on the function of the cover or flier and the amount of time that I had available for production. Whenever I used photographs, I treated them as if they were illustrations. I made sure the overall composition fit with the mood and message that the project needed. Often I would change the photos. Working with design like this has helped me create illustrations that interact with the project design in unique and meaningful ways.
As I have said before, when I create my covers, I keep four things in mind:
Meaning: What visuals are most appropriate and interesting within the content?
Audience: Who needs to be attracted to the content the most?
Fine Art: How can I raise the quality of this cover?
Clarity: The title must be readable and attractive. Characters and situations must be accurate. Period.
If time is a hindering factor, I still try not to scrimp on the above principles. Many may wish to overlook the fine art principle, but a fine cover usually implies quality content, not mediocre content.
A friend of mine asked me to create the cover for her masters audio project. She dramatized the life story of Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand. The project was well received, and has been a mile-marker in my illustration journey. I studied old pictures of Richard and Sabina, getting models with similar facial structures to pose for the characters. I tried to capture their life struggle in visual form. Through the project I developed a great admiration for the Wurmbrands.
The cover also signaled the end of an experimental style that I had developed. I would create two color layers, a black one and a white one. I would erase and paint in the mask of the top layer to create a monochromatic painting. Then I would use multiple adjustment layers to color the painting in. The style has potential, but can take a long time.
A friend from Africa asked me to create the cover for his interactive DVD, the culmination of his communications masters. For this he provided all the photographs, and I merely played with the design. I wanted to make it look educational and interesting.
A Palestinian friend asked me to create the cover to her communication masters project, an audio documentary on Arab Culture. The most important concept was to illustrate the traditional elements of society being mixed and contrasted with the modern culture. I chose the yellow and blue colors, because those colors are prevalent within the culture, and because they are complementary colors on the RGB color wheel. The effect is very powerful and engaging.
A good friend asked me to create this cover the day before it was due. I worked it in around other projects and made it work. While I wish I could have improved the images, it succeeds to capture the haunting emotion of his drama.
A friend created a documentary on abortion. I emphasized the themes of attack and trauma with the target overlaid on the baby's head. The harsh black, red, and white color scheme accentuates the difficult subject matter in the video.
At the end of the summer of 2006, I took a reasearch trip to New York, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, to investigate the life and art of Eugene Iverd. I knew a little about the man when I started, very little. By the time I was done, I had seen three dozen of his original paintings and poured over records from his life. At the end of the trip, I wrote a paper on him and other forgotten illustrators from the late twenties and early thirties. This was the cover.
In 2006, I made a flier for the Campus Church's single's retreat. The leaders created the theme and I fleshed it out visually.
The back of the flier continued the theme and presented the essential information in an interesting way.
This is the front and back for the 2008 Single's Retreat flier. The front is a composite illustration, meshing together personal photographs and stock photography.
This year I am publishing a portfolio that comes out early in the holiday season. I am using one of my favorite Biblical paintings as the art. If you would like a portfolio, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.