Monday, April 09, 2007

New Yorker/Mass Mutual Mini Takeover...and me

It's been TOO exciting recently, but I think I can tell you all the news about my latest illustration project which will hit the streets TODAY, Monday, April 9th.

Through my agents, Friend & Johnson in New York, I received word that the New Yorker magazine were wanting to look at my book in connection with a special project they were planning with a single advertiser - a "mini takeover" of the ad space in the magazine. This would be similar to the Target takeover of the New Yorker 2 years ago, where they used about 10 illustrators who created imagery for all the ad space in the entire mag.
You can imagine my heart leapt when I got the phone call saying that I had the job and that it was to be me and only me doing the illustrations - I think I may have screamed as well...and maybe danced a little too.

Here's the low down: The New Yorker team had shown my work to the creatives at Mullen advertising in Boston, whose client, Mass Mutual, were doing the mini takeover. After looking at several illustrators, they eventually chose me!
It was straight to work as the schedule was pretty tight. But, hey, I'm a British Illustrator - we get brought up on tight deadlines.
Firstly, there was a conference call with all the Mullen and New Yorker people to establish the way the job was going to go - a verbal brief if you like. I was working with Tom Kelly and Trey Phillips at Mullen, with Tracey Maidment as the senior art buyer.
Wayne Kogan and Angela Gaudioso were keeping me right from the New Yorker end.

It was established that Mass Mutual wanted a narrative which would run through the whole magazine along the lines of the new "We'll help you get there" trademark tag line of theirs. Tom and Trey were keen to develop a storyline that showed a character dealing with lots of obsructions or barriers at the start of the story, that prevented her from sorting out her financial needs, but eventually overcoming them, taking action and getting the help she needed.

There were illustrations of all sizes to do - full pages to little 1/6th pages, so these sizes (sometimes quite awkward dimensions) had to be considered carefully in order to make the most visual impact with the story.

I quickly developed a female character, whom I named Stella (easier to type than "the Mass Mutual character", I think you'll agree). She was in her early 30's, looked confident and sassy, but was incredibly BUSY. She needed to look like she could deal with all the problems thrown at her and still come out on top.
Next, I created a colour scheme which would help the narrative along - I felt this should incorporate the Mass Mutual corporate blue, which is a lovely colour anyway.

There was lots of discussion about what the barriers should be - some sounded great on paper but didn't work so well in image form and vice versa. We also wanted to get a good range of "cinematic' shots in, using scale and perspective: something I love to work with in my compositions anyway, so this was fun.

So, the final illustrations were a mixture of life-like "barriers" such as having a tantrum throwing toddler to deal with to a more dreamlike sequence showing out of control piles of paperwork, where even the buildings are teetering towers of paper.

Look out too for the Mass Mutual logo which was incorporated into the illustrations - that was fun doing that!

The drawings are all ink on Fabriano paper - scanned and composed in Photoshop, where the colour was added too.
I also use a few pre-scanned collage elements, so that the colour is not too flat.
Some of the files have about 60 layers - massive!

I don't want to go into much more detail, as I think the illustrations tell the story themselves - so GO BUY THE NEW YORKER ON MONDAY!
Please feel free to ask me questions here, though!

More news about this items can be found on:

In the meantime, here are some of the ink drawings,initial sketches,rejected roughs and final roughs...I'll post the finals later today after the mag has been published!
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