Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Mother Jones - FDA Brain Drain

Illustration for Mother Jones Magazine

A) Mother Jones asked me to illustrate an article about the Bush administration's handling of the FDA and the subsequent exodus of disillusioned workers. After reading through the entire article, I came up with a litany of thumbnails, but refined the concept and image until I ended up with a single sketch.
B) Since color played an important symbolic role in the piece, I sent a color sketch to the AD.
C) A clean line drawing that was drawn with graphite on bristol board, transferred via lightbox.
D) A progress shot of the illustration in photoshop. I'm mostly figuring out values rather than color, blocking in gradients and highlighting certain areas to create the proper effect. At this stage, I've already scanned in some watercolor texture.
Final) Even though my sketches tend to be pretty tight in terms of concept and composition, I try to leave space for exploration and invention in the finish. The giant pills, the 'patriotic' background, and the masks were all decorative touches that I came up with in the final moments in order to drive the concept home.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for enlightening us some more with regard to your process and technique. It's quite fascinating how you work, and the mastery you have of traditional linework and more modern tools a la P/shop. Great illustration...again.


1:59 AM  
Jed said...

James--I think this is one of your more sucessful pieces. I love the wet media look, and the touches you've added work well. It's brave, after you've already resolved a drawing, to make such major additions to the composition, and they work well, and really serve to enhance both the image and the message. Were these additions a surprise to the AD, or did you have to get them approved first?

Once you get to step B, it looks like you've painted the water in place with some kind of opaque paint. Am I assuming right?

I like the simple composition--the worst thing I can say your guilty of sometimes is putting in too many details--but because you draw so well, often it's these busier images that I enjoy spending time exploring. But for something like this, a simple, beautifully rendered composition seems to be the best and most successful sollution.

I also appreciate the fact that this image doesnt scream "computer" in the obvious way that often I tend to use the computer in my own work. It's something I'm trying to move away from, and I like the compromise you seem to have hit between wet and dry media, and CGI.

2:41 AM  
Anonymous said...

hi james,

its great to see your "work-in-process", which ended with a realy beautiful illustration!
so therefore, also a big thanks from my side!

might i ask you please, how do you handle it (in photoshop, see step: c into d), to change the fine "black" graphite outline into a "white" outline, without losing the charme of the stroke or the quality in gerneral?

oh boy, how many times i asked me that question, but so far, without any good result.
could you give me a hand please? great thanks in advance!

greets! … joe

3:13 AM  
Pietari said...

Nice indeed! I kind of like that colored sketch version too, it has my favourite colours beige background and strong red.

What is your work resolution in Photoshop, before the final piece?


4:35 AM  
adam said...

What size/style graphics tablet do you use/recommend? I dig the elephant mask – Bravo!

11:02 AM  
Process Recess said...

detlef - thanks, I hope to return to more traditional media soon, but photoshop keeps surprising me.

jed - thanks for your insightful comments. The AD approved up to step B, but I kept the piece in layers in case the new additions were too much. In Step B, the color was painted in photoshop.

joe - there are a variety of ways to change the quality of the line. The easiest is to delete out the white in your line layer by selecting the alpha channel in grayscale.

pietari - I usually work at 450 - 600 dpi at final size, though that can be a bit excessive. It's good down the line when I need to print larger images. Great work on your site - I can see you referencing some good artists!

adam - I'm using an Intous 3 6 x 8" tablet.

3:55 PM  
Jed said...

Pietari--maybe this isn't the ideal place to mention it since this is James' forum, but you have a beautiful line. I enjoyed looking at the work on your site.

Ever do comics?

You can e-mail me if you want, so as not to horn in too much on James' blog.

5:22 AM  
Jed said...


5:23 AM  
Gil said...

Hello, sorry for my poor english, i only want to say your work is awesome.
Thanks to share your work-in-process, it's sush a beautiful artwork. A big feast for my eyes.

1:25 AM  
Anonymous said...

thanks james! … i will try it.
greets! … joe

6:29 AM  
Anonymous said...

this is great
will you ever sell prints of this one?

7:06 PM  
Process Recess said...

anon - I will keep your comments in mind when I update my print catalog. Thanks!

12:44 AM  
Lee-Roy said...

hi james,

just discovered your blog. terrific work and this is a great image. i love the additions of the elephant masks, they make the behavior of the "wrestlers", if you will, seem all the more maniacal.

i also have a couple technical questions.

1) on deleting out the white in scanned line-art: I usually use the wand-tool on various settings, but it doesn't always work very well and can become tedious. I'm trying to figure out how to delete the white by selecting the alpha layer. I never use the Channels panel (pardon the rhyming).

2) what do you mean by scanning in watercolor texture. Do you do a wash and then scan it in and manipulate it? I think it's a great idea. I've stopped using material paints as well, due to photoshop, but it can really lack that "material" or textured feel.



5:12 PM  
police said...

你好 james,



5:55 AM  

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