Sunday, January 10, 2010

Seeing Spots

A few years ago, I helped my good friends, Molly Ryan and Dan Levinson, redecorate their bathroom. "Bathroom", one would say - a simple feat. Not so, in this case - Molly and Dan are two immensely gifted traditional jazz artists, living happily in a charming Manhattan apartment - surrounded by books, music, historic photographs, instruments and a lifetime of truly precious artifacts. Molly came to me with the idea of transforming the bathroom into a "Trip Around the World" - bright red, with illustrated vignettes featured on every wall. I jumped into the project eagerly, of course.

Initially, I figured upon painting the scenes directly on the walls, but after some deliberation, I realized that creating the illustrations one at a time on paper, and subsequently applying them to the surface, made more sense. In other words, they would be done as Spot Illustrations - an industry term for small drawings used to "fill in" a printed story/article. They add flavor and interest - exactly what I wanted these to do for Molly and Dan's bathroom.

The pieces were drawn in waterproof inks on bristol, cut out with X-Acto blades, and finally affixed to the wall with a truly wonderful product, Mod Podge. This agent creates a strong, waterproof, wrinkle-free effect, permanently bonding the paper to the wall. Along with the illustrations, Molly picked out some wonderful maps, reprinted vintage postcards, shipment labels and hotel stickers... the overall appearance was delightful.

I've included three of the illustrations here - playfully representing Egypt, India and Switzerland. There were others (including France, which is shown in my second blog entry), but these three are particular favorites of mine.
The third may have something to do with the fact that my fiance' is an accordionist, and dirndls are an inherent element of the polka scene... call it a wild guess.

I think that I have something of a fondness for spot illustrations - they are direct, clean, precise and capture the message in a concise package. Many of my earlier drawings could be defined as spots - they feature strong images on white bristol backgrounds. I've come to greatly enjoy more environmental/situational work since, but my heart still sings at the creation of something so pure as a good spot.

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