It's always an honor to be included in the American Illustration book. I'm thrilled to have this personal piece selected this year. Bjorn Borg's "playoff beard" superstition. This year’s distinguished jury included Lindsay Ballant, former Creative Director, Foreign Policy; Sarah Garcea, Art Director, Inc. Magazine; Walter Green, Art Director, Lucky Peach; Anne Ishii, Owner, MASSIVE GOODS; Wyatt Mitchell, Creative Director, The New Yorker; Oliver Munday, Graphic Designer, Knopf/Pantheon Books; and Eric Skillman, Graphic Designer, Criterion Collection.
It's always an honor to grace the pages of Communication Arts. A big thank you to the judges for selecting this cover from The Norwegian of Journal of Medicine, AD. Emma Dalby:
Kristine Brogno, design director, Chronicle Books Children's PUblishing, San Francisco, CA Darhil Crooks, creative director, The Atlantic, Washington, DC Kenna Kay, creative director, Nickelodeon, New York, NY Edel Rodriguez, illustrator, Mount Tabor, NJ Jim Root, creative director, Cramer-Krasselt, Milwaukee, WI
I am featured in the latest edition of Illustration Now! "TASCHEN's regular Illustration Now! series brings you the latest, groundbreaking work from the world’s most exciting illustrators." The book is edited by Julius Wiedman with an introduction by Steven Heller. You can check it out here.
After landing in Moscow and being graciously driven to our hotel, David and I promptly dropped our bags and walked twenty minutes to Red Square for our obligatory first tourist photos. The brightness and vibrancy of St. Basil’s cathedral was a wonderful surprise, the first of many. Moscow itself is massive and with most signage in Cyrillic, a challenge to navigate. Fortunately we were well guided around and crammed in as much as we could during the days I wasn’t teaching, visiting the Pushkin Museum, The State History Museum, Contemporary History Museum (a personal favorite due to the large collection of constructivist items), beautiful parks and of course the Moscow Metro where each station is a work of art itself.
I was invited to give a talk at the ad agency DEPOT. The audience of art directors from the firm was also very engaged and had lots of questions about my work and process. After my presentation, we shared pizza and conversation where I had the opportunity to ask about the design industry in Moscow, it was a wonderful exchange. Big thank you to Ekaterina Lavora for arranging it and for the press covering my visit.
I also enjoyed having lunch both days with some of the students and having the opportunity for casual conversation, along with the help of my translator, Anton. Our hosts took us out to dinner and yes; some vodka was consumed, but not too much since it was a school night. It was in the evenings after class that we had the opportunity to see the sights including the monument, which marks the actual border between Europe and Asia with Yekaterinburg being on the Asian side.
On the flight home, I tried to imagine my grandparents and great-grandparents on the Atlantic crossing from what was then Russia to Ellis Island. My grandfather made the journey by boat solo at the age of 15. He was one of 12 children and the second to arrive on American soil. He began working as a tailor right away having had 6 years of experience as an apprentice in the small village he grew up in. He saved enough money to send home for the next in line to arrive and so on. My two great uncles that stayed behind met their untimely end at the hands of the Nazis. As a child, my grandmother would tell me stories of her own childhood, hiding in the forest from the Cossacks. It sounded like tales straight out of Fiddler on the Roof. She managed to escape from the Pogroms to New York with my great grandparents. Eventually they all made their new homes in Brooklyn, long before it became synonymous with writers named Jonathan or Girls. Reflecting on all this, it still seemed incredulous that I had to endure my flight without a little pillow or a watchable movie.
A heartfelt thanks to Eugene Kuprienko and Anton Mosyagin for the invitation and Katerina Rogacheva, Valeria Simon and Zhenya Kiverin for taking such good care of us in Moscow. And a very big thank you to all the students who participated and made it such a wonderful experience. I returned home inspired and ready to return to the studio and the fall semester to begin.
For me, the four-day conference was a culmination of two years of planning, and with it a tremendous investment of time and creative capital. Since the conference, I have been enjoying attendees’ blog posts, all incredibly positive. It was a very positive experience for me as well. I got to meet and work with talented individuals, some of whom I had not met before. I also got to make some important creative decisions that helped shape the conference: the choice of Portland and the different venues, (Portland Art Museum, The Benson and The Crystal Ballroom) were selected by our terrific Vice-President, Robert Brinkerhoff and myself along with our Director Mark Heflin in our initial site check in the Fall of 2012. I established our theme of Work + Play which everyone was on board with, asked the tremendous talents Carson Ellis and Paul Buckley to establish our visual identity, (which I wrote about earlier) and worked with the hardest working board in show business.
I had the honor of delivering the Opening Address of the conference and introducing our opening keynote speaker, Paula Scher. I had a visual presentation that at first used the metaphor of an animal evolving, adapting and persevering to describe how illustration continues to change. Stated, “It’s a helluva time to be an Illustrator. This sentence under differing conditions will have different meanings.” I showed the various disciplines that illustration has “bred” with, using the animal metaphor: journalism, design, animation, public art, gallery work, comics, publishing, surface and product design to show possibilities. I also introduced our theme of Work + Play. A number of people have asked me to post my talk but I am hesitant to do so. It was composed to be heard and seen, not read and I don’t want to decontextualize it. I may however rewrite the thoughts as an essay. Although I have given many talks about my work and myself, delivering the opening address of a conference as its President is a unique experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the ICON stage, which in hindsight, was the only time during the conference when I wasn’t multi-tasking.
There were a lot of managerial tasks and logistics that were far less fun but absolutely necessary, that we all engaged in. It’s the skeletal structure that supports everything else. Besides our committee jobs, everyone on the board also produced sessions and workshops, Increasing our workload. With multiple story lines occurring at once at a feverish pace, it felt at times like a Scorcese movie- if all the action of a Scorcese movie took place within emails and conference calls. There were also great moments of celebration. Getting great speakers on board was always a thrill, as was the resolution of a nagging problem, large victories and small victories. The morning I woke up to see we had sold out the conference, creating record attendance with the last ticket going to Matt Groening was a three time zone, virtual dance party for all of us.
Thyra Hartshorn, our fantastic Stage Manager not only had conference experience but she works with ballet companies and theaters and was able to bring all that expertise to work with Jason on the ICON stage. As I spoke to her during our interview, she was already one of the team. Thyra also helped work out the logistics for our mural project led by Brian Rea. I must add that there were many conversations between Thyra, Owen, Jason, Mark and myself and with Brian as well. For as many discussions as we had and even with looking at sketches, we had an inside joke that the scale would be off and the sets would look like the Stonehenge set from This is Spinal Tap. It was anything but. I was completely blown away by the grandeur of Jason and his crew’s stage and the mural created by ICON workshop attendees and Brian on site. Both are deserving of their own posts because I cannot do it justice here.
Thursday was a beehive of activity in PAM. Downstairs, the roadshow exhibitors and sponsors were getting set up and in the Grand Ballroom, Jason and his crew were moving the stage in. Brian and the mural workshop artists were creating the mural onsite, Owen and Thyra were running tech and sound checks and the dancers for The Circus Project were practicing their routine. I asked their director, Jacki Ward, early on if some of the performers could be in street clothes and enter from the audience, they not only agreed to that idea but the women did their research: they were discussing Photoshop and sketchbooks as they rehearsed. It was one thing to envision this all in my head but another to see it really come together. I stepped out to watch our banner being hung and got choked up, it was really happening.
Paula Scher was as expected, brilliant! She crafted her talk specifically for our audience and delivered so many pearls of wisdom. I wish I could see it again myself. One of the many points she made that resonated with everyone was on not quitting, if a relationship goes south to see it through and turn it around. I am paraphrasing but it was filled with wit, wisdom and beauty. I was thrilled when Paula Scher accepted my invitation to be our opening keynote speaker. I have loved her work since art school and knew she was a great speaker but never had the opportunity prior to ICON to meet her myself. She returned on Friday to attend the talks and told me she had a great time. My admiration for her is only deeper now because she is as warm and funny as she is wise and incredibly talented, a true giant in the industry in every sense of the word.
Except for my final wrap up duties and working on the transition to ICON8, I have come to the end of my two-year journey as ICON President and four years as a board member. It was a ride that was simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. Even now, my head is still spinning with “you know what would be great for ICON” thoughts, it’s going to be a hard habit to break but I will happily leave that for the next board.
Much of the exhaustion comes from the narrative of my own life. My father passed away last year, halfway through my two-year term. He was not a young man but the loss was profound and it was a life-changing event nonetheless. It also marked the beginning of what would be a yearlong struggle to secure care for my mother, who is pretty much in a wheelchair and needs support to remain at home. Anyone with aging parents knows what a full time job it can be to deal with lawyers, social workers and emergencies. I never took any time off or backed away from my duties during any of it. If anything, it helped to have something big and positive like ICON to focus on. In turn, because of the big, emotional issues in my life, I was able to have clarity and perspective in making the many decisions that were required as President. My husband, David Flaherty jumped in and took over handling the many issues with my parents, freeing me to focus on work, ICON and teaching, I am forever grateful for his support and generosity.
In his closing keynote, Damian described how OK Go’s videos wouldn’t be noticed if they were actually professional dancers. It’s because they pour their hearts into making this special piece of choreography as a gift to their audience that they resonate so much. I can say it’s the same for us as ICON board members. We are not professional conference planners. Most of us in fact find ourselves doing jobs that are far afield from our normal areas of expertise but we are pouring our hearts and souls into creating this special thing as a gift to you.
ICON is a non-profit organization, the board is all volunteer and unpaid (I was surprised how many people thought the contrary), we have no speaking fees, and this includes keynotes. In fact, many speakers cover their own fees as a contribution. Our workshop presenters covered their own travel and got a pass as compensation, our volunteers cover their own travel as well. Carson Ellis, Paul Buckley and Brianna Harden donated their immense talents to creating our visual identity. Mark Heflin, our tireless director gets a salary but it is slave wages for the amount of time he spends on it. Not to make this all about the Benjamins but it’s important to note the spirit of generosity and commitment everyone brings to the process, it’s truly a labor of love by all. It’s a victory shared by everyone connected to past, present and future ICONs that we broke all attendance records and that ICON8 was so well received. It’s a victory for everyone who loves illustration that so many people, nearly 700 in total wanted to spend their time and money on a conference devoted to illustration.
It was a privilege to serve as the President of ICON and work so closely alongside my fellow board of directors. I couldn’t be prouder of my job as President, my fellow board members and what we accomplished together. I’m excited now to turn my focus to other things. I am also looking forward to ICON9; I’ll be the first to buy a ticket and cheer on its success.
Final curtain call for the mighty ICON8 Board, Advisors and Director: ICON8 BOARD
- Ellen Weinstein — President
- Robert Brinkerhoff — Vice-President
- Melinda Beck — Advocacy & Workshops
- Matt Sundstrom — Technology & Design
- Susie Ghahremani — Bookstore & Road Show
- Jason Holley — Stage and Event Production
- Rod Hunt — European PR & Development
- Mark Kaufman — Public Relations
- Rick Lovell — Education
- Owen Smith — Programming
- Katherine Streeter — Secretary
- Esther Watson — Bookstore & Road Show
- James Yang — Treasurer & Sponsor Relations
- Mark Heflin — Director
- Melanie Reim — Volunteer Coordinator
- Marc Scheff- Logistics Coordinator
- Martin French- Board Advisor
Sam Weber, illustrator extraordinaire, interviewed me for his podcast, Your Dreams My Nightmares. I often listen to Sam's podcasts while working, so it was fun to be a guest on the show. Big thanks to Sam for the invite. You can listen here.
I am always honored and thrilled to be in American Illustration. This image was used as a cover for nine papers nationally for Village Voice Media on the topic of Gay Bullying. It is great to see the topic get the attention it deserves. A big thank you to Mark Heflin and the jury which includes: Jordan Awan, The New Yorker; Sergio Baradat, United Nations Postal Administration; Chad W. Beckerman, Abrams; Joele Cuyler, Real Simple; Jennifer Daniel, Bloomberg Businessweek; Grace Lee, Priest + Grace; and Alexandra Zsigmond, The New York Times.
I am incredibly honored to have an 8-page feature in the March/April issue of Communication Arts. I started reading the magazine while a student at Pratt Institute and it’s been a dream of mine to be profiled by CA ever since. Sue Apfelbaum wrote the story and did a really nice job of summing up my career until now. A huge thank you to Rebecca Bedrossian, Managing Editor, for making this dream come true.
I was commissioned by actor, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. to create art for his personal wine label. After initial sketches, he requested that I make the penguin's butt bigger, one of my favorite client comments ever.
A postscript to this trip is my delay home due to the powerful storm that hit the east coast. My flight to New York was cancelled and I was stuck in Houston for three days until I could return home. David was back in New York, our neighborhood in a blanket of darkness due to major power outages. At the time of this post, the city remains in turmoil with all of downtown in the dark. We are temporarily at a friend’s apartment who generously offered shelter during this time of need.
My friends in Mexico, having endured a difficult election recently themselves have been watching with great interest the developments here. Through our many conversations, I was reminded of how much we all have in common. Everyone wants safety and comfort for their families and friends, an infrastructure that works, an empathic government to support us. What we share is so much stronger than what divides us.