“Know your limitations “ is an important bit of advice that I tell my students.
I have seen others produce work within a time period that I find impressive and awe-inspiring; I have always been keenly aware that speed is not one of my fortes. So when Mark Maltais from Rolling Stone asked me to produce 8 illustrations in 2 weeks, from start to finish, the only thought that ran through my mind was “Impossible” in a French Canadian accent. Our drawger mate Thomas Fuchs has impressively done this gig (on more than one occasion I think). This year has brought me many challenges that forced me out of my comfort zone. While I didn’t want to rule out the assignment entirely, I still felt very ambivalent whether I could actually accomplish it. So I called a good friend, Ellen Weinstein to be a sounding board. Ellen reassured me by saying“You can do it, you may just need to approach it differently.” I agreed that a more distilled approach than my typically detailed work would be vital in this case. Working backwards from the deadline, I laid out a time sheet that factored in how long I could spend on research, roughs and painting for each portrait. My goal was to have an even level of finish for each piece, so pacing myself was key to keeping my energy and creativity up for the entire duration. The pace reminded me of a cycling tour I did in Vermont where I cycled 60 miles a day for 6 consecutive days (some days with 5 miles continuously uphill). The pace for this assignment meant I would also have to loosen my perfectionist expectations, when the allotted time was up on a certain piece, I had to leave it and move on to the next, and tweak details if time allowed on the back end. I could not have completed this many illustrations within this time period without the help and support of my husband and creative partner (and lapsed illustrator) Balvis Rubess. He helped me with various components including research and digitally tweaking and completing the illustrations. And Balvis cooked me fabulous meals.
Balvis’ work can be found at balvis.com
Each portrait of the musical artists incorporated a conceptual element that reflected the content of their Playlist. Oddly, the one I that I was most reticent to work on (Miley Cyrus) ended up being the most fun. I told Mark I cursed him for making me look at reference photos of Miley.
I think the rapid problem solving skills that I apply during critiques on a weekly basis as an illustration instructor helped me execute these ideas and sketches so quickly. The final piece, the portrait of Ulrich was completed at 3 pm on May 1st, and three hours later (with a rigorous personal clean up in between) I was at OCAD U toasting our illustration thesis students on their amazing Graduation Exhibition, and partied with students and faculty until the wee hours. You can see their work at : ocaduillustration.com
There are many factors at play when you are under the gun working on a quick deadline. One of the key factors for me is the support of the client and art direction team. Mark Maltais and Joe Hutchinson were tremendously supportive with expeditious communicative responses and encouraging feedback throughout the process. It was such a delight and pleasure working with them. Thank you for the fantastic assignment.