Archive for October, 2009

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin

October 31, 2009


2009 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species (24 November 1859) and the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth (12 February 1809). I painted this portrait of Darwin as a demo for the students of the Illustration Academy. Darwin is a hero to me not only because of his brilliant discoveries that changed the face of modern science and anthropology but also because he dared to publish his ideas knowing full well the criticism he would surely face. A few years ago I saw a Darwin show at the Museum of Natural History in New York. The simple elegance of the examples in that show are a profound proof of what simply can no longer be denied.

Google Chrome

October 23, 2009


I have recently been publicly criticized  for a decision to contribute an image to the Google Chrome portfolio initiative. Please see
I was contacted about this project several months ago and the following is my opinion after much thought . I’ve never presumed to tell anyone how they should run their business, and I’ve never confronted anyone about any of their project choices.


1. Because I think that full credit with a link to my website (and millions of potential hits a day) plus a statement about me and my work is a good exchange for a non exclusive use of a single image. And by using an image from my archive I do not have to make any image that will probably otherwise languish in a folder somewhere with no further life. Some things I do for prosperity, some for posterity and some for promotion. This is for promotion.

2. Because I don’t think money is the only currency. I look for opportunities to get my art into the culture. To me that’s what illustration is all about. This is not an issue of morality but simply being practical. It’s business. And it’s to an audience vastly larger than any magazine or book.

3. Because I’m an independent contractor, not a victim and don’t automatically assume that everyone is trying to screw me. Nor do I make business decisions based on peer pressure. I consider each project separately and carefully and weigh the pros and cons of what I’m getting, making sure it’s commensurate with what I’m offering.

4. Because I know a paradigm shift when I see one. Darwinism says survival isn’t about being the strongest but rather the most adaptable. Longevity in this field requires flexibility and open-mindedness . In this new information age we are witnessing changes that are as monumental as those of the industrial age. I think that what we as illustrators do is great, and I think we should be out in the larger world, not solely existing in our clubs and associations.

5. Because print is unfortunately increasingly redundant as a medium and I think l for one need to develop an alternate strategy for making art, making money and getting my work into the public.

6. Because allowing Google to use an image in trade for hundreds of millions of web hits doesn’t mean I’m FOR free copyright. I’m not. I disagree with the free content zealots of the world . I simply don’t see this as black and white issue.

7. Because Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons and Karim Rashid see the value in this project. And Vivienne Westwood. And Wes Craven. And Kid Robot. And Kate and Jack Spade. And Dale Chihuly. And many others who have said yes to this initiative. All understand the value of this kind of exposure.

8. Because I’d rather get the millions of website hits and autonomy with an image that’s my idea and my execution (not heavily art directed), than treat this as an anonymous advertising job with art direction ad nauseum for money but without credit (as most ad jobs are.)

9. Because I remember how sadly ineffective the Conde Nast cancellation campaign was. And after the Tasini victory we now see even worse magazine and newspaper contracts. Because Google is infinitely larger than Conde Nast and the New York Times, and trying to fight them in my opinion is a waste of time and energy. Energy I’d rather use to make art. Because I use Google dozens of times a day, for a myriad of functions. Because Google has mapped the world, mapped the oceans, and has as their express mission to help with the issues of climate change, global public health, and global poverty. We have WAY bigger things to fight on this planet than each other.

10. Finally, illustration by its very nature is about compromise on some level. I’m rarely 100 percent comfortable with who I work for. To what degree do I agree with the editorial content? How many publishers have had ethics different from mine? How many trees have been cut to make the paper to print the magazines I’ve worked for? How toxic are the inks? How much have the magazines I’ve worked for contributed to climate change? The only thing I know for certain is there will be more and more changes in this industry. And I’m going to try and navigate those changes. I’m going to do my best to swim not sink.