Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Super Bowl Halftime – Big Apple Style

We Got Your Super Bowl Half-Time Right Here
Unfortunately, the Super Bowl never comes to New York City otherwise you can be sure nobody would be drifting into the kitchen during halftime. Here are some out-of-the-box half-time shows, NYC Style;

Cartoon Caption Contest
Erectile dysfunction usually strikes a cord and incites healthy open conversation (more than once I've used it as an ice-breaker at parties). My rough sketch of NFL pharmaceutical sponsors having an erectile dysfunction inspired a few drawings to be sent my way and I'd like to include a couple of the best. The following is from freelance illustrator, Larry Roibal, who ironically, paints romance covers (any covers where a guy is throwing a ball through a tire?). Larry provides play-by-play with his roughs;
"Short of letting them float away, they couldn't figure out how to get them off the field without upsetting the censors..."

"We thought of deflating them, but the sponsr wouldn't hear of it."

Actually, there was a third drawing which climaxed the sequence but even I had to draw the line and censor the drawing, or at least the caption. So here's the drawing minus the offensive caption. (Yes, I will entertain the best punchlines, which will be voted on and give the original answer in a future post. No entries later than halftime of the Super Bowl when the winner will be announced at midfield before the start of the third quarter. The winner will receive tickets and be flown immediately to the game and later interviewed live (kinda) on this blog. Participants must be freelancers and cannot be members of my family, related to Larry Roibal or employees of Viagra, Performex, Cialis, Levitra or Time Warner Cable.)

Intially, my idea for a better Super Bowl halftime show was for the US government to postphone Hussein's execution until halftime but I find the idea, in hindsight, offensive and glad that Prince will be performing instead.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

A Fish Story;

A weird illustration of mine is in today’s (Saturday, Jan. 27th) New York Times sports section. It was a lot of fun but the best part was having my friends help me figure out an ending for the cartoon. The drawing is the Greenberg Grab, a method in fly-fishing to landing a fish. The Times give me free rein to do what I want, something I'm very grateful for (and as a result, my best work in the past few years have been for the Times).

When I first turned the job in I got an e-mail saying, thanks, the art director and editor loved it, your talent is staggering…or something to that effect. Shortly after that I got another e-mail explaining that a higher up at the Times found my cartoon offensive and I would have to change the last guilty panel – the angler trying to catch the fish in his pants.

I leave to send out a missive to friends asking for suggestions for that last panel, the Greenberg Surprise. This included my friend Len, who is very funny – a connoisseur of jokes with a colorful background in humor (having once hosted a comedy show on NPR and has a brother who is a famous comedian). My buffet brother,* John, is also very funny and like me, a freelance illustrator. But he’s not just any illustrator but one of the best in the country and his work is seen everywhere. His most visible piece is his poster for Broadway’s The Odd Couple (his art can be enjoyed at I also asked my next-door neighbor (in Pennsylvania), an accomplished expert fly fisherman who I consider not just a friend but spiritual guide (he’s got a whole Zen thing going on). And, finally, my brother, who was extremely helpful as a sounding board for the jokes in my upcoming snowman book. So quite an eclectic group of advisers for this stupid little drawing.

Their fish stories were as varied as there are ways to prepare fish; the menu included…fish going into his shirt or instead have the fisherman catching a boot…or a fish sandwich…have him using a remote control to catch the fish, have the fish catching the guy…have the fish eating the guy…have the fish opening a can of beer for the guy, and finally…add a female assistant. But the most common suggestion was to have the fish biting him in the butt.

In the end I came up with this idea (in the shower while role playing) and the conservative solution is seen here as it appears in the Times today. Thanks to all the help and fun I had using a focus group to do this assignment.

By the way, I used Corel Painter IX. After geling the pen tool layer, I used the watercolor tool for wash.
*Spring Garden Seafood All-You-Can-Eat Restaurant in Hamlin and The Country Buffet

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What Not To Wear

2007 © Bob Eckstein

Traditionally, freelancers need not wear anything behind their computer monitor so I’m the last person who should be pontificating on fashion but Full Frontal Fashion Week is upon us and the VCR is already warmed up. It was the subject of my latest TimeOut cartoon but not without a lot of hair pulling with as many revisions as changing hemlines last season. I kept on fighting for jokes no one else got including a joke having the fashion police make models do weigh-ins by having them sit on and pop balloons before they’re allowed on the runway. Instead the editors wanted to run a sketch I doodled in their office that I thought was pure crap. I was actually in there pitching a piece about Superbowl halftime shows including a parade of floats called A Tribute to Erectile Dysfunction. Here are some of the rough sketch outtakes.

Another halftime idea was to have a midfield demolition derby of New York City cabs with miked-up drivers to broadcast obscenities in 8 different languages.
2007 © Bob Eckstein

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Who Needs a Timeout?

2007© Bob Eckstein

This week’s TimeOut cartoon is about plaNYC [sic], New York City’s plan on how to deal with our growing population problem and the strains it has on our infrastructure (until August 2006 I didn't know [sic] meant intentional misspelling). The report stated that by 2030 rush-hour would last all day and just walking midtown could take days (I provided 6 different solutions for sidewalk congestion including double-decker cafe tables. Please let me know if you spot any in your city.). Before any cartoon is published it gets looked over by a few editors and comes back with changes and concerns – often legal ones when using real celebrities and such. In the case of this cartoon, I had one panel where I suggested we speed up sidewalk traffic by making it mandatory for all slow walking seniors to wear online skates.

This blog will focus more on freelance writing once my illustrating binge ends and time allows (I’ve been working on assignments until sometimes 4 or 5 am – and not sleeping late but starting at 9 am the next day). A couple of nights ago I began work on the cover of my snowman book, creating 35 covers in 8 hours, many with original artwork and typefaces. There's a really helpful, entertaining website called Book Covers where published covers are critiqued by visitors, many who are presumably in the biz. My creations covered the full gamut of moods and styles. Here are a couple of examples;

2007© Bob Eckstein

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Sunday, January 7, 2007

Freelance Illustration Lesson 6; The Elements of Style

While I was a student, and later when teaching, there was an understanding that illustration students should (or must) embrace one style as to not confuse clients (and reinforce the work’s sincerity...among other reasons). Art directors don’t want surprises and anticipating ahead what the finish will be like makes their job a lot easier.

That practice is not very practical today…nor necessary. The same thinking applies now but it’s possible (and actually wise) to create other careers parallel with different styles. Clients don’t need to know you have other styles – as long as they know what they’re going to get when they hire you. The argument, “be true to thyself and work, blog, blog, blog” is a romantic notion that has nothing to do with business and applies to artists but this is about freelance illustrating.

Above is a good example of what I mean. From assignments I had over the holidays (top left; detail of a parody of a 19th century illustration for Trader Magazine, top right, a logo for a London “outsider art” bakery, bottom left detail of a cartoon about overpopulation in the Big Apple, bottom right piece about taming wild portfolios for Money Adviser). OK, if no one is going to say it, I will – you’d never know this was all done by the same hand.

(By the way, this was why Freelancer’s Lament was not regularly updated in December as I was working around the clock. I even missed my annual Vegas trip.)

Christmas without Vegas feels strange and eerie. Speaking of style, here's a shot from last year’s Fremont Experience Holiday Musical. I watched this R-rated spectacle with stunned silence among a handful of Mexican families who bopped along to the traditional Christmas classics sung with untraditional lyrics, unaware of the double entendres and the improvised lyrics.

This week’s TimeOut cartoon had my favorite item cut from the final but here it is to be enjoyed…for anyone you knows the reference and knows who disgraced gossip columnist Jared Paul Stern is. Thanks for taking a look and visiting my blog.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Stephen Colbert Ushers in the New Year

Welcome back to all visitors. For most freelancers the holidays are pretty grueling – editors and art directors give assignments before they start their vacation with the intentions for having finishes waiting for them when they return. Each year I do a full page editorial for Newsday. This year's was made up of 48 celebrities who made the news in 2006. Due Christmas day, I take on this particular job each year because of the gratitude I have for this art director – he gave me my first break letting me draw in this haphazard style (twenty years ago when I started at Newsday as a "kid").

So I worked late Christmas eve like Bob Cratchit (heck, the Newsday art director was working Christmas day). I spent two days drawing the likenesses going directly to final and redoing only those who looked nothing like the person. I decided 50% was going to have to do considering the pressing deadlines of the other 9 jobs I was juggling.

From the "Foot-in-Mouth" float

From the Divorce float

For an interview about my snowman collection click here.

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