Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bernie Madoff for the New York Times

This is a finished painting that I did this past week for The New York Times. Sadly because of a number of issues (luckily none were my fault) the "editor" decided to use a photograph instead of my painting. I will try to explain a bit of what happened because I feel there's a lot of people who read this blog that want to have their work published and will eventually work with art directors and editors. What happened to me this week, happens and can be expected, it's frustrating to say the very least.

After seeing my sketch, the final art that is attached above was approved by the art director and editor. Before this final painting, I had to reduce the size of Bernie Madoff's nose several times, which is understandable, that sort of thing can be expected. When I handed the final in, the a.d. loved it and was excited about how the final turned out, she said the only thing she can see that might need changing is the "nose", yet again. About 45 minutes after I handed in the final version I got a call from the a.d. saying that the "editor" doesn't want Bernie to be wearing glasses? Please note that he had glasses on in every sketch and painting I did before he saw this final. Also, the editor wanted the nose trimmed down even more!

Long story short, I went back to the painting and did another version . . . I painted the glasses out and re-worked the eyes. I also trimmed the nose down for like the fifth time, and it no longer looked like Bernie Madoff!

After handing in the new version (which I won't post) The A.D. informed me that the "editor" doesn't think the eyes are quite the way he wanted so instead of printing the final painting that you see above, they're going to run a photograph. I think that the editor was afraid of offending Bernie Madoff, afraid of what he might do if he saw this painting of him in the New York Times?

Like I said above, these sorts of things can and do happen. For the record, I still get paid and through everything I was able to remain civil with the art director. She was very cool throughout the whole thing, the problems were not caused by the art director but by the "editor". The "editor" is the person you as an artist will have the most trouble from, not the art director.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all editors are evil or difficult to work with. As an artist, we must learn to work with these types of situations and handle it in a professional manner. Editors are just doing their job. I find though that there's usually not much communication between the artist and editor . . . the a.d. plays the middle man. This is were things can be frustrating for everyone.

Below I will share briefly about my other drawings and sketches. I started this job on Wednesday and final was due Friday before noon.

This was my first sketch of Bernie Madoff. I like this sketch a lot, has good form and exaggeration while keeping a strong likeness. The purpose of this sketch was only to get a likeness. In fact, when I did this sketch, I hadn't yet talked to the a.d., I was just getting a head start on the likeness, trying to get to know my subject a bit.

I was first told that they'd like something a bit "creepy", full body pose . . . so this is the first sketch that I did for them. Notice that I had to reduce the nose size. I also changed the eyes so that they look towards the viewer.

Turned out that this was "creepy" and they'd now like to do something that's more subtle.

This is my rough sketch for the more subtle version. I thought it would be cool to have him sitting on a bench almost like a "secret spy" as if he knows something that no one else does . . . still a bit creepy, but more reserved.

Guess what? They liked this and approved it to go to final!

So this is my painting which I spent about 7 hours painting. I was very happy with how this piece was turning out, I like the pose and was happy with my painting. I emailed it to the a.d. to share how it was coming along. She wrote back and said that the editor doesn't think this is "creepy" enough that it needs to be more sinister. So we're back the the "creepy" thing again! And so I had to start over again from scratch . . . the next version I worked on is attached above, Bernie behind a computer, in the dark.

This was an awful lot of painting and drawing that won't see print. While being frustrating, I did learn quite a bit and I'm proud of the work that I did. I'm also a little tired and require a nap today, as I had to pull an all nighter on Thursday to finish the "Bernie-computer" painting.


Jon Moss said...

Sounds like you got a real bum deal with this one Jason and certainly it seems you adopted the right attitude in remaining calm and composed throughout, though quite how you managed it I dunno and its testament to yourself and reflective of the experience you have I guess.
But its an eye opener and a really worth while post.

Enjoy the rest, make the most of it as no doubt it'll be short!

Brad Cantrell said...

Next time you should hand in more rough sketches to find out what their idea of "creepy" is, thats kind of a vague theme. Thats the problem with anyone who manages an art project is that they think they know what they want, but they really dont and you end up wasting time just trying to find out what they want.

richard said...

Thats very very good, I love the hair and skin detail.