On Monday, May 4th, I was delighted to receive an email from Village Voice Art Director Ivylise Simones, asking if I'd like to draw cover art for the Voice and the Voice's Summer Guide section for the week of May 11, 2009. I've drawn covers for pretty much every alt weekly paper in the US, and I've drawn a heap of spot illos for the Voice since the mid 1990s, (in fact, I think my first professional illo assignments outside of SCREW Magazine came from Florian Bachleda at the Voice in the very late 1980s). However, this would be my first Voice cover, and I must admit that this assignment got my pulse quickening just a tiny bit.
The folks at the Voice were looking for a single drawing that could function both as the front cover, and as the cover of their pullout Summer Guide section. In addition to the Summer Guide, this issue would feature a story about NYC's mayor Mike Bloomberg butting heads with the United Federation of Teachers, and their idea was to work Bloomberg into a idyllic Central Park scene as an ice cream vendor. Their plan was to run the full illo on the Summer Guide cover, and to isolate and enlarge vendor Bloomberg for the paper's front cover. My first sketch shows Bloomberg in the vicinity of Central Park's Naumburg Bandshell, surrounded by a small handful of colorful summertime frolickers. To work in the UFT angle, our kindly Mayor dispenses popsicles to school kids while a grumpy teacher scowls nearby.
After checking out the first sketch, Voice Production Designer Justin Reynolds emailed to say that they liked the first sketch, and asked if I could widen the panorama, make Bloomberg less prominent, and give the viewer more than just a small handful of colorful summertime frolickers. My concern was that if Bloomberg was to become a smaller element in the illo, he might end up looking fairly shitty when enlarged for the paper's front cover. I suggested that instead of one illo being used for both covers, I would draw the "cast of thousands" illo for the Summer Guide cover, and draw a separate illo for the front cover focusing on Bloomberg and the kids. While I was making more work for myself at the same rate of pay, I felt that this was the best way to avoid having the front cover end up looking like shit. This was Wednesday, May 6th, and the deadline was Monday the 11th at 11 AM. The timing was a bit tight, but there was sufficient time left to get both drawings done.
The new sketch for the Summer Guide cover, (now with two heaping scoops of colorful summertime frolickers) was immediately approved.
The sketch for the front cover, (focusing on ice cream vendor Bloomberg) went through a couple of revisions, the most crucial of which featured Ivy's idea that Bloomberg should face the reader. I thought this was a fine idea, since it places the viewer in the role of one of the kids clamoring for a popsicle. This sketch was approved on Thursday, May 7th, and I got started on the final art, which would be finished at 7 AM on Monday the 11th, after four days of round-the-clock drawing.
There were a couple of minor revisions to the final art for the Voice's front cover: my original final version featured a deep red background, which Ivy felt would not print well. She suggested a light blue or yellow background, and I thought the light blue worked quite well, perhaps better than the deep red. The Bloomberg logo was deleted from the ice cream cart to make room for cover lines, and we were done!
What a thrill it was to finally draw a Voice cover! Many thanks to Ivy and Justin.