Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Baltimore Magazine

A few weeks ago I was asked by Baltimore Magazine to do a full page about the HBO TV series the Wire.

The editorial suggested that the series creator, David Simon, was doing a sort of disservice to the city by choosing to focus on its gritty underbelly rather than on the prosperous, beautiful high-rises and really good things that have happened for it in recent years.

The tough part in an assignment like this is communicating the writer's message briefly without making his or her opinions my own. For example, I don't know David Simon of the Wire personally and I don't have any grudge against him, so I wouldn't want to make something that I would be uncomfortable with him seeing. I have enough enemies in Hollywood.

I think my solution was pretty good and that the editors chose the stronger of the two sketches.

Below are two additional images from the process, both my final line drawing and the inked version. I was asked a while ago if I have a step between sketch and ink, and I replied that sometimes I do and sometimes I don't, depending on the complexity of the illustration. You can see from the tight pencil drawing that I was careful to map our my proportions and “perspective” (I use the term loosely) so that when I did the ink drawing I would have room to play without worrying about it getting away from me. For the likeness I drew directly in pencil and inked on the board.

In other Baltimore-related news, I'm going to be listed as a contributor in this same issue of the magazine, complete with a photo and a biography-blurb.

Thanks for reading,



Jed said...

Another excellent image and a great sollution, though I'm still not crazy about your colors. You keep leaning on the same basic palette, and I'd like to see you be a little more adventurous with color.

As for the Wire: I understand that you don't pick your stories, but the Wire is an amazing show and is incredibly well written. It doesn't have a responsibility to BE Baltimore, or to represent Baltimore as a whole. The Wire focuses on a strata of society that we don't commonly see. Drug culture is a culture, as is law enforcement culture, and in the show we see the lives of inner city kids who are subjected to both on a regular basis. We see dock workers struggling to make ends meet, and newspaper journalists struggling in a business that is in rapid decline, and teachers who are struggling to teach despite underfunding and the artificial goals set by standardized tests. We see politicians who are more focused on their careers than they are on helping the community. I think there is real truth in all of this.

It's also a work of fiction, and a TV crime drama. Crime dramas are about crime, not good public works, or (beautiful???!) high rises. and it's not a TV crime drama's job to portray anything but a rivetting story. But the Wire is much more than this, and the writing is of a quality that is above and beyond anything else on TV, and maybe any TV show that has ever been on TV .

Again, the Wire is not Baltimore, but I do think the Wire is doing a SERVICE to Baltimore in portraying people who don't ordinarily have a voice.

I also reccommend Simon's books, Homicide, and The Corner--these are works of journalism, and portray real events in the lives of real people, again, giving a voice to those who are seldom given one.

This said, I would have taken this illustration assignment in a heartbeat. It's not like your drawing Joe Camel, and like you said, your sollution was pretty neutral. It's a fun image to look at.

Mike Lawrence said...

Frank, your work is fantastic and your blog is very inspiring the aspiring illustrator. I love it when pros like yourself post your artistic process and offer advice about the illustration world.

sophan said...

very, very awesome!!!!

josh said...

hi frank!! the graphic buildings rock my socks off. also....I love the wire.

Jon Han said...

awesome piece frank.. keep kicking ass.

George Cwirko-Godycki said...

i love the stubble and hairy arms, cool buildings also, i just like everything

Ramses said...

Fantastic composing and perspective!