Entries in Book (5)




I've had the chance to relax and reflect this summer, always a healthy combination, right? Isn't that what summer should be?

September has hit me with a wave of responsibility and new work. I will be taking my son Jacob to University next week. He is going to Lakehead, in far-flung Thunder Bay, for a combined Outdoor Rec and Science degree, complete with an academic scholarship. New adventures, and real excitement for him. A mixture of nostalgia, anxiety and pride for Mom and Dad.

I got a call from Greg Klee last week to illustrate a book review for Jonathon Franzen's new book, Purity. I didn't have much to go on, but having read The Corrections and Freedom, I know it's going to be a great book. It's about a young woman's journey, looking for her father, and her relationships along the way. Obviously, with Franzen's attention to detail and finger on the zeitgeist of society, it's much more than that. So I wanted to capture that feeling of starting a journey, searching for something. Technology plays a role in driving the story, so I pictured her on her cell phone, in an urban environment where the story begins.

I'm looking forward to the fall, the routines and challenges. Also finding the time to read this book!

Here's a few process shots, taken while I was inking the final. I love drawing detritus.


Here's a parting shot - I framed this print, from my collection for my friend Ruth Gangbar. This used to hang in a local hangout and breakfast joint called Chesterfields. It's a nice tribute to past, preserved, framed and ready for the future.




Life on Mars

Growing up I dreamed of being an astronaut. They always send up scientists and engineers. Why not an artist? Someone who could observe and document the experience on a personal level? Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has been taking a series of amazing photos from the space station, capturing some of the amazing vistas of earth that can only be seen from space. An inspirational document of our planet.

Watching the unmanned rovers poking and probing the surface of Mars looking for signs of life has been amazing. I find the images of snow and ice and from the satellites circling the planet to be beautiful and captivating. When you get down to the surface of the planet, however, it gets very cold and bleak and barren. Imagine waking up on that cold and distant planet every day. So remote and inhospitable. Like the moon with an atmosphere. Could humans survive on Mars? If we go, chances are those who do will never come back. Could you live there for a year, or a decade? Or for several generations?

I loved working on this story, it asked those questions and came up with a lot of surprising answers, and unusual twists. Take the time and see for yourself.

I have had the priviledge of working on several other covers for Irene Gallo is always a treat to work with, these stories always take my work in new directions.


Juggling Type and Dancing Bears

I always enjoy adding lettering into my artwork. This cover for Anvil Press' Valery the Great allowed me to design the title type, layout and illustration. This book just hit the shelves and has been receiving great reviews.

I got the call from Rayola designs last fall. Working on a book cover is always an exciting challenge, like jumping into a pool of endless possibilities. The book is a collection of stories, one of which centres on a young woman who performs on skates with a Russian dancing bear. I wanted to capture a retro, small-town circus feel in the type and the illustration.

Here's a brief synopsis:

Valery the Great is a crackling, electric collection of dark humour that follows the bizarre and beautiful lives of its protagonists. Sometimes sweet and gentle, sometimes sharply sarcastic, the unique narrative voices in this collection are always powerfully touching.

I was given some suggestions by designer Clint Hutzulak. Here are some of the thumbnails submitted.

I was asked to 'weird things up' as much as possible by the client. How awesome is that? To emphasize the mythical nature of the bear, I used a map of the constellations as a backdrop, putting it in place of Ursa Major. I used a simple colour scheme and added in playful elements.

Here is the illustration with the type sketched in.


I was told by the author the cover was everything she could hope for. Everybody wins.

“The writing is lively, like good gossip at a journalists' watering hole or a fighters' hangout. McCluskey is a vigorous, colourful and often humorous writer, with a sharp and sometimes wicked eye.” -- The Globe and Mail.



I've been called it before. I prefer to be known as an illustrator, but I started out as one of them, so I understand where the name comes from. I'm talking about being a cartoonist. When I began drawing, cartoons were a great way to express my ideas. I drew strips and dreamed about doing an independent comic book series. There are so many amazing cartoonists out there that influenced my art. My work in the college newspaper led to paying gigs and I realized that there might be a way to make a living from this.

Drawing cartoons is a great way to add a narrative to the pictures. Setting up a panel teaches composition and layout skills. You have to be fast and adaptable. Over time, I realized I didn't have the patience to stick with a given set of characters and a given style over time. I wanted to have the freedom to explore new ideas, techniques and directions. The thrill of deadlines and the constant input of ideas from editiorial illustration assignments drew me into becoming a full-time illustrator.


That's not to say I don't do cartoons, I haven't left them behind, I have a lot of fun cartooning. I host The Monthly Prince Edward County Comix Jam (last Wednesday of the month at the Acoustic Grill) and work on books and assignments in cartoon style.

I have worked with Doogie Horner at Running Press and with Josh McDonnell on epic volumes like Sci-Fi Baby Names and First Timer's Kit: The Safe, Effective Way to Loose your Virginity. My latest project for Running Press is The Fart Dictionary. Written by Scott Sorenson, it's an A to Z compendium of fart definitions. A fart for every occasion, if you will.


When you get an assignment like this, the first question is: How do you draw a fart? There is plenty of cartooning shorthand for facial expressions and emotions, and movement and profanity, but a fart? I started sketching - scribbles, clouds, but wanted to keep things classy. A flourish, a sophisticated calligraphic swirl, would do the trick.

I was also limited to two colours on this project. It's the kind of thing that sounds like a restriction, but working in a limited palette requires better design and smarter use of what is available. I choose an acid orange and black combination. Josh agreed.

The Fart Dictionary - available at fine bookstores everywhere.


Crime Wave

I was neat, clean, shaved and sober and I didn't care who knew it."

That's when the phone rang.
Getting work via email these days takes all the drama out of assignments.

"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window."

No, it was actually Dave Bamundo from the Wall Street Journal. The topic was crime, and we talked about creating a good Noirish image for an article on a wave of new Crime novels and imprints.

"I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room. "

In truth, I went to my studio and got to work. An overnight deadline and a looming trip to New York the next day.

"Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon."

When I woke up the next morning, the assignment was done. No one was harmed or lying in a pool of blood on the floor. Dave B. got his artwork and I was able to work in a new genre.
- apologies to Raymond Chandler.