Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Creative Inspiration

illustrations copyright J.Pittman, 2008

I got a little more time on the Christmas catalog cover as the publisher needed more time on their end. So, I think it might be nice to record the process from sketch to finish. The client is selling outdoor/wildlife gear. They still have to decide the actual items to feature on the cover so I've simply indicated generic packages and goods in the sketch for now. The concept, of course, recalls the familiar Santa scene from "A Christmas Story" with a wildlife slant, like having Santa in camouflage clothing. The challenge is to give just enough of an impression of the idea that inspired the illustration, but then take it another step to make it an alternate reality. In one of his children's books, Maurice Sendak once drew a chef who was patterned after Oliver Hardy. It's an interesting vehicle to give a surreal air to the story your illustration is conveying.

I enjoy the sketch phase of an illustration the most. It's the place where you can be director, actor, and cinematographer all in one. The close-up sketch shows a little more detail in the characters. That's my puppy, Artoo, as Santa's elf. I like to incorporate personal things like that for my own amusement. In illustrations over the years, I have included pets, friends, and family. I suppose that's a little like Hirschfeld including "Nina" in his drawings.

Speaking of Hirschfeld, I was fortunate enough to meet him before he passed away when I won my first Reuben division award in NYC in the mid-90's. We also presented him with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award that year. He was in his 90's at the time, had recently married again, and was just as sharp and bright as a 20-year-old. When we have our National Cartoonists Society meetings, it never ceases to amaze me how I can be talking to some of our members who are in their 80's and 90's, and it's like conversing with a kid fresh out of college. One of the nice things about our profession is the impact that creative work has on keeping your mind alert and youthful. It's a special blessing for which I'm thankful.

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