Sunday, February 5, 2012

Illustrating the Apocalypse

Since my typical workday involves drawing comics and staring at teeth, it's always a welcome change of pace when I get to work on an illustration project. When the client is The New York Times Magazine, it makes the process even more exciting. Check out my illustration with the accompanying column by the brilliant Adam Davidson here. 
How does creating an illustration differ from my usual cartooning process? Every time I draw a new comic, I'm faced with the same looming question: What on earth should I draw about? I have to settle on a subject that strikes my interest and write a script that suggests sequential images or brainstorm images that compel me to write. 

For the most part, I'm my own editor, though I show my finished comics to my twin brother and my wife before they go into print. My twin brother will give an honest assessment if it's good or bad, and he'll point out what I should have done to make the comic better. Since we lived together for twenty-plus years, it's like getting an unbiased view from myself. My wife will tell me if it's good or bad, but also if it's something that "ordinary people" will understand. "Ordinary people" being the portion of the world that doesn't share my genetic code.

To illustrate this article, I was given a draft of the text of the column along with some guidance from the art director about what he and the editors envisioned for the illustration. While creating comics is an internal process, illustrating involves reacting to someone else's work. The illustrator adds visual interest to the work, reflecting its message while (ideally) adding his or her own unique style and personality. The art director plays the crucial role of guiding the process: suggesting ideas, editing, answering questions, and finally, approving the illustration for publication.  I came up with three rough concept sketches for the article, which focused on the possibility of an economic apocalypse:

They chose the first rough, and I employed my pencils, sable brush, india ink, and Prismacolor marker to create the illustration below. After scanning and adding color in Photoshop, retouching the linework, and tweaking the colors (all in consultation with the art director), the illustration was complete. You can pick it up on newsstands today!


  1. The New York Times, wow that's a great acomplishment, congrats. It's a great illustration. I like the rough with the different currency too.

  2. Congratulations on that! Pretty cool to be featured in the New York Times I imagine! I really like the currency one too, although they are all neat! So creative!

  3. The New York Times, wow that's a great acomplishment, congrats. It's a great illustration.

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  4. Oh that is super cool Grant!! Congrats on that. How did they find you? Just random call out of the blue?

  5. I'm a total stranger who doesn't know you at all, and even I was impressed. In fact, I'll be dropping you an email if I can. I really thought the illustrations made the coming horror, well, undeniably grim.