Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Time to breathe, not to rest

What a crazy month this has been. I swear, this is the first opportunity I've had to write anything in the last 10 days, and it's just a short break before handing in more sketches and taking part in weekend festivities.

Here is a (quick and grammatically messy) recap of the last couple weeks:

Friday, July 10: While in Rochester helping my sister move, I got a call from Serino Coyne, an ad agency in NYC that handles all sorts of Broadway plays. They loved the piece Lion on the Mound, and wanted me to do the illustration for the Neil Simon plays Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound. They mentioned that the time frame for the preliminary image was pretty tight, but of course, I jumped on the opportunity. Who in their right mind turns that down?
Monday, July 13: First phone conversation about the piece at noon. They wanted a tight color comp by Wednesday (yikes). Hung up the phone and started calling around for models. Left the studio, took some reference shots of the first 13-15 year old boy I could find, but he looked too old. Came back to the studio, played a little dress-up and took photos of myself in the proper poses. Glad I made some knickerbockers a couple months ago. Still nothing great to work with yet. Ran 15 miles. Got on the phone and arranged for a second 13-15 y.o. boy to pose the following morning.
Tuesday, July 14: Woke up, took some reference shots of the new model (thank God my kindergarten teacher mother knows a lot of families with young kids). Got to the studio and started drawing. Finished drawing by noon. Then started painting. Got further drawings done of the faces and was done by 11pm.
Wednesday, July 15: Set up my camera equipment and lights. Took shots of the color comp, emailed it to Serino Coyne. They liked it. Went to Norwalk for supplies.
Thursday, July 16: The producers of the play liked it too. Except for the young kid's face. Not quite right; needed to look more like the young actor in the play, which I wasn't anticipating. Older guy's face was fine. Final needed to be done by the 29th (yikes).
Friday, July 17: Adjusted the kid's face in Photoshop, but it still wasn't right. So, I changed gears and redrew the face from the reference I shot of myself, as the face needed to be longer and narrower. Got it to Serino Coyne, but not in time for them to show it to the producers. Couldn't stay idle the entire weekend, so I got together what I had and transferred the drawing to the final canvas. I spent the weekend drawing the bodies, the hand-lettering, and everything else but the young kid's face.
Monday, July 20: Got an email in the morning: the face still wasn't right. I redrew. Sent it back. Normally, I'd start painting the faces first, as they are the most critical and inform the rest of the piece, but I couldn't do it in this case. So I masked off the area on the final canvas where the kid's face would go and spray-fixed the pencil marks so the turpentine wouldn't wash them off. With no better place to start, I started with the difficult hand-lettering. Around the end of the day I got a call from the Creative Director at Serino Coyne. The face still wasn't right, so I got verbal instructions on what to fix. Went home and drew a new face. If this wasn't right, I would have been lost. Submitted it to them. Ran 12 miles.
Tuesday, July 21: Continued work on the lettering and lamp post. Splashed some color on the bodies. Continued painting what I could, desperately trying not to do the painting completely backwards, starting with the feet. At just the right moment, I got the email that the kid's face had been approved. Stopped painting and started drawing right on the final canvas.
Wednesday, July 22: Masked off what I had already painted with tracing paper, so the mask wouldn't touch any of the wet paint. It was basically a huge mask on the entire canvas, with only a hole around the fresh drawing of the kid's face. Spray-fixed the face and took the mask off. Painted for the rest of the day exclusively on the face. If I hadn't gotten it right, the project would have been toast.
Thursday, July 23: Second-hardest and second most critical part: The older guy's face. By this point, I had begun waking up at 4:30am, working till 5pm, grabbing dinner, going for my daily run and getting to bed by 9pm.
Friday, July 24: Hardest parts were done; now I just had to paint my butt off. Started with the kid's clothes and worked down the body.
Saturday, July 25: Finished up the kid's clothes and moved onto the older guy's shirt. By this point, I was using the fast-drying oils called Alkyds and mixing it with the fast-drying medium called Liquin. I needed to be done by Monday so I could varnish the piece on Tuesday.
Sunday, July 26: Finished up the clothes, made a few touch-ups.
Monday, July 27: Painted the shadows under the bodies and made final adjustments. Ran 18 miles and took an ice bath to heal my legs.
Tuesday, July 28: Varnished the piece.
Wednesday, July 29: Took the train into NYC. Dropped off the painting. Done.

I'm beat, but really quite excited. I'm very fortunate that Serino Coyne found my work, liked it and had the confidence in me to hire me for the job. The creative team there is extremely friendly and professional. They had a great deal of patience in working with me and the producers to get everything the way it should be. The piece will appear in a NY Times advertisement on August 9th, and the posters should hit Broadway in the fall. Go see the show! I'll post more information when I know it, and will post images of the painting when it gets back from being scanned.

Now I have to submit sketches for my next two Magic Cards and prepare to make another trip to Boston for the Magic Grand Prix, where I'll be signing more cards and selling more work. What a month!


  1. Congrats. 1.5M copies will be in circulation. Great break and I'm glad that you made the most of it!

  2. That is awesome! Great news.

    Good luck this weekend showing off the Magic Cards!

  3. Nice story and from what I can see, nice job on the art.

    I'll have to wander over to Times Square to look for this in the fall. It will be quite the thrill to see your work in 50 foot form on the side of a theater as someone who knows you and has had an opportunity to watch you grow as an artist.

    I can only imagine the feeling you'll have seeing it. Congratulations!

    Any idea to the extent they are going to be advertising? Is this going to be everywher? Buses, subways, trains, newspaperes, etc?

  4. Thanks guys. I'm stoked. But I really have no idea about the nature of the advertisement, other than the NY times advert. I hope its a wide-ranging ad campaign, but I don't know how much the producers have allocated to promotion.

    In the fall, it will take some self-restraint not to stand outside the theatre and tell everyone who passes, "I painted that."

    Postscript: Neil Simon saw the painting and approved. Don't know yet whether it met with the other producers approval.