Skip to content

Illustation Essay

February 12, 2018

University of Toronto Mississauga Magazine and Hambly & Woolley

Here are a few spots done for the University of Toronto Mississauga Magazine and Hambly & Woolley for a short story about a woman's experience praying in a stairwell at UofTM.

You can read the story here.

AD: Taylor Kristan

The Weekly Standard

A few more Casual column illustrations for Philip Chalk at the Weekly Standard.

 

March 23, 2017

T Brand Studio for Guinness

I did a few more illustrations for T Brand Studio and Guinness this month, to appear in a paid post in The New York Times. These pieces went along with quiz questions relating to Irish pubs and Guinnes. Above are two of the five commissioned illustrations, though the quiz question that went along with the illustration on the right was nixed, so that piece didn't see publication. It was a fun little series. I got to draw a goat riding a tricycle!

You can read the post here, and see more of the illustrations on my tumblr here.

 

Apple Magazine

A recent piece for Alberta Health Services' Apple Magazine about eating well to get well after surgery, as well as the piece as it appeared in publication. Turns out doctors are recommending surgery patients to eat more than was recommended before, both before and after surgery. More food always sounds good to me!

You can read the article (and the whole magazine) here.

 

 

This is a column illustation for Apple Magazine from last year, for an article about helping people with MS become more active.

AD: Amy Sawchenko (for both illustrations)

 

The Weekly Standard

 

 

Here are a couple of recent illustrations for the Casual column in The Weekly Standard. Always a pleasure working with the Standard's AD, Philip Chalk.

 

T Brand Studio for Guinness

Wrapped up 2016 with some work for T Brand Studio and Guinness. This was some of my first advertising work, and it was an exciting change of pace from editorial illustration. The piece above is part of a series done for a timeline highlighting key moments in Guinness’ history, which can be viewed here.

 

November 17, 2016

MoneySense - Are You Covered?

I was fortunate enough to get to illustrate for MoneySense before they cease their print publication at the end of year. This piece accompanied a column about insurance and making sure you and your loved ones are "covered" in the case of misfortune. This piece appears in the November issue.

ADs: John Montgomery and Erin McPhee

 

War Cry - Christmas Spirit: Lost & Found

Roger Selvage of War Cry, the Salvation Army magazine contacted me back in July to commission an illustration for their Christmas issue. The article was a touching personal essay about new parents and their daughter who was born with spina bifida just before Christmas.

Larger image and a photo of the spread can be found on my tumblr.

AD: Roger Selvage

 

The Globe and Mail - Facts & Arguments - Poetry Night

Here's a Facts & Arguments illustration for the Globe and Mail from earlier in the summer, about a poetry night in Tweed, Ontario.

AD: Ming Wong

 

The Globe and Mail - Facts & Arguments - Four Year Watch

I'm partial to this piece as my fiancée modelled for it, and I didn't need to characterize the figure, so it ended up being an illustration of her for the most part (though she's a brunette, not a redhead).

This was for a crazy Facts & Arguments piece about a woman who sent her broken watch to a repairman and then got it back four years later! You can read the essay here.

AD: Ming Wong

The Globe and Mail - Facts & Arguments - Various

A selection of Facts & Arguments illustrations for The Globe and Mail done over the last couple of months. Clockwise from top: "My Life as a Mountie", "What Not to Say at a Job Interview", "My Year in France is Over", and "Ghosted at 60".

ADs: Ben Barrett-Forrest and Ming Wong

 

June 16, 2016

3x3 and American Illustration

 

 

Two of my illustrations received Honorable Mentions in this year's 3x3 Illustration annual! "Navigating the Tech Jungle" for Scientific American and "My Grandma, the Teenager" for The Globe and Mail. The latter was also chosen for inclusion in the American Illustration 35 online archive. Thanks to ADs Michael Mrak (Scientific American) and Ming Wong (The Globe and Mail)!

 

June 16, 2016

The Globe and Mail - Facts & Arguments

A woman shares her childhood memories of the local corner store, where the owner, Mrs. Miller, would impale IOU chits on a paper spike in lieu of payment, though not without a stern look or two.

 

June 7, 2016

The Globe and Mail - Facts & Arguments

A bride-to-be struggling with anxiety, OCD, and intrusive thoughts for today's Globe and Mail.
AD: Ben Barrett-Forrest.

 

May 23, 2016

The Globe and Mail - Facts & Arguments

A couple of recent pieces for the Facts & Arguments section of The Globe and Mail.
AD: Ben Barrett-Forrest.

 

May 12, 2016

Westchester Magazine

"Just Out of Reach" for Westchester Magazine. AD: Robert Supina.

 

April 5, 2016

The Weekly standard

"Got to Give it Up" for The Weekly Standard. AD: Philip Chalk.

 

February 17, 2016

The Globe and Mail

"Breaking Up is Hard to Do" for The Globe & Mail, Facts & Arguments. AD: Ben Barrett-Forrest.

 

Older ->

 

The drawings of the late-nineteenth-century English illustrator and author Aubrey Beardsley are so sexually charged that even a critic as generally snobbish and patrician as Kenneth Clark, in accounting for his youthful fondness for them, all but described the works, in a 1976 essay for The New York Review of Books, as autoerotic visual aids. Calling the drawings “a kind of catmint to adolescents,” Clark wrote that they “suggested vice . . . with an adolescent intensity which communicated itself through every fold and tightly drawn outline of an ostensibly austere style.” He added, “I like to think that my interest was not only sexual.”

Beardsley did not think of himself as a pornographer—he thought of himself as a fine artist and a dandy. He ran with the British Decadents, who worshipped beauty. They were inspired and amused by the antics and the art of the American expatriate James McNeill Whistler. They grew up in a post-Romantic era and were stimulated, visually, by the works of the Pre-Raphaelites. They hung out, most notoriously, with Oscar Wilde.

But the era of dandy decadence was short-lived. Oscar Wilde was arrested for “gross indecency” (that is, homosexuality) in 1895, and imprisoned, following his famous trial, shortly thereafter. He died in 1900. Beardsley died two years before, of tuberculosis, having also been tarnished in the Wilde scandal—his friendship with Wilde was considered suspiciously close, causing him to lose his job as art editor for The Yellow Book, a quarterly he co-founded. Edward Burne-Jones, the last of the great Pre-Raphaelites, died the same year, and Whistler died in 1903. As the new century came on, these great figures of the late nineteenth century burned out.

Something of that tension between past and future is visible in Beardsley’s work. It is the art of a dying era peering, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, into the next. For all the prancing and bravado, Beardsley’s art was really about finding something in which to believe—and if Beardsley came to believe in anything it was the deep black line. Shading held little interest for Beardsley, and color fascinated him not at all. The black line and white space were all he needed.

That faith in the strong black line is everywhere evident in a gorgeous new two-volume catalogue raisonné_ _of Beardsley’s work, published by Yale University Press and edited by Linda Gertner Zatlin, who also provides helpful commentary for each drawing. Thumbing through the catalogue, which is structured chronologically, it’s obvious just when Beardsley found his line, and therefore his style: May, 1892. That month, Beardsley made a drawing called “Incipit Vita Nova” (“New Life Begins”). The drawing is darker and less defined than Beardsley’s later work, but all the elements of his mature genius are suddenly present. The drawing shows the head of a woman next to the body of an angry, misshapen fetus. The woman could be a figure in a Pre-Raphaelite picture. But the fetus—as the title of the drawing suggests—is something new. Zatlin calls the drawing “an act of rebellion against the Pre-Raphaelites and a link to the Symbolist avant-garde.”

When Beardsley created “Incipit Vita Nova,” he was not yet twenty years old. He was impatient with the world and searching for a voice of his own. The glaring eye of his angry fetus says as much. But why is the little creature so angry? His mother appears to be a lovely woman; she’s simply given birth to a freakish offspring. That Beardsley identified with this odd creature seems certain. In an interview, he once claimed, “If I am not grotesque, I am nothing.”

That fascination with the grotesque comes through in much of his best work. Look, for instance, at one of his more successful early drawings, called “The Kiss of Judas,” in which a chunky dwarf kisses the arm of a beautiful maiden. (The dwarf could, actually, be a grown-up version of Beardsley’s angry fetus.) In this drawing, Beardsley’s style has reached maturity. Great areas of space are marked out by simple, fluid strokes of the pen; the pool of black that makes up the maiden’s dress has a seemingly infinite depth. Breaking up that pool is the naked white body of the Judas, outlined in just a few strokes, cherubically innocent from the belly button down, and positively menacing about the face and head.

Beardsley had discovered a simple style by which he could deliver complex images of the grotesque. His technique was hybrid. He looked backward, studying medieval woodblocks and Renaissance drawings—he once claimed he got the inspiration for the blackness of his black line from a passage in Boccaccio: “The grass was so green that it was nearly black.” But, in creating his black lines, he also looked forward, to the emerging technologies of his own age. As Zatlin notes, “Beardsley showed the way to bring art to the public speedily and with a lowered cost of production: he exploited the photomechanical technique known as ‘process’ or ‘line-block.’ ” In line-block, drawings were photographed and then transferred directly to a zinc plate, from which unlimited prints could be made, without losing the clarity of the original drawing. This new technology allowed Beardsley to create mass-produced imagery that jumped off the page. In his masterpiece, “The Climax”_ _(1893), an illustration for an edition of Oscar Wilde’s “Salome,” Salome floats above a pool of black ink, cradling the severed head of John the Baptist in her hands, poised for a final kiss. The coils of Salome’s hair drift upward toward the top of the drawing. Salome’s hovering body and John’s disembodied head pop out of the white at the center of the page—and line-block printing preserves the drawing’s urgency.

Explaining his drawings once, in an interview, Beardsley said that there was “nothing new” in his technique, “except my idea of the value of the line.” Artists, he explained, “are in the habit of using thin lines to express backgrounds, and thick lines to express foregrounds.” His idea was that one could create a better effect “if the background and foreground are drawn with lines the same thickness.” With that simple concept, Beardsley essentially wrote his own chapter in the history of drawing. His influence on the look of Art Nouveau, and then on early modernism, is hard to overstate. His thick black lines fused the graphical ideas of the past with the techniques and subject matter of a new age just on the horizon. As to subject matter, there’s no question that the odd and ambiguous sexuality of his Salome drawings, for instance, was just what the times demanded. Zatlin, referring to his illustrations for an 1893 edition of Sir Thomas Mallory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” writes, “The hermaphrodites, effeminate men, sexual women, transvestites and voyeurs that parade through these and other drawings . . . reveal Beardsley’s awareness of the redefinition of genders and the sexes, of the new field of sexology, and of Krafft-Ebing’s terminology.”

Beardsley’s transvestites and hermaphrodites are still marvellous to look at, but the pleasure is considerably amplified when one notices his witty references to Botticelli, Dürer, even Holbein the Younger. Like other modern artists, Beardsley is in constant communication with the past. (When Ezra Pound first wrote his famous dictum “make it new,” he was citing a proverb inscribed on the bathtub of an ancient Chinese emperor.) His firm black line was supple and flexible enough to move with the fashions of late-nineteenth-century London and to stand alongside the woodcuts by the great medieval masters. Beardsley lived as a fop in a foppish milieu. He died at twenty-five. But he found, and left for us, a line that could hold.