Society Annual Book 55


I finally received my copy of the Society of Illustrators Illustration Annual 55!  I am so honored that the judges felt so strongly to include so much of my work in this year's book.

Sometimes, it is hard to take in things like this. I remember when I first started staring dreamy eyed into my copies of the Society Annuals and wondering if I would ever have the fortune to get accepted into such a prestigious book. I was such a fan then of so many artists and am still a fan of current artists now, that every time I am included, it makes me light up and be extremely grateful.

I think part of my surprise every year is that for the first 10 years of my career, I never really got these sorts of recognitions. Partly because I never really entered (duh) but when I did, I probably didn't enter enough...and I am honest with myself; I really sucked. I was still figuring out myself and my place in art for a long time.

A very special thanks to the Society and all the judges! :o)

Here's a snapshot of the Pollution Series hanging at the Society. Unfortunately, it seems not all of my paintings made it into the book that were accepted. I assume for space reasons. I didn't get around to taking shots of the Air Force paintings.

Don Giovanni

Halfway through the season, next up for the Vancouver Opera is Don Giovanni!

In a previous post, I put up a short TV spot for Tosca made by Giant Ant in Vancouver to promote the opening of the season as well as the entire season's posters. Now, they've created a TV spot promoting Don Giovanni.

It is a thrill to see my work animated and I am honored that the Vancouver Opera made me part of it. Thanks again, Annie!

Agent T

For a few evenings, I sat on the couch with a brand new sketchbook and a random pile of markers, pens, pencils and charcoal. I wanted to see where my mind and the use of these materials would take me. Over the last few years, I've been complacent with personal work. I've been finding myself concentrating on commissioned work heavily which I am grateful for but missing out on the experimentation process that I always loved and what has helped me continue to grow as an artist. As a result, I've felt somewhat uninspired more times than I prefer to be. We all get uninspired occasionally - that's part of the gig. But it becomes a hazard and really can kill momentum especially if it continues over long periods of time.

If you're churning out piece after piece for client work and not spend an equal amount of time (in my opinion) creating work and experimenting for yourself, you may end up being more and more lax in your work which will translate into your business. Further, while I think being an illustrator is the bee's knees, it does get tiring treating my creative life continuously as a sort of commodity. I am under no illusions of how people out in the world view art or illustration, even some clients unfortunately. I, of course, view it much more personally and put my life into this and not in a 9 to 5 way.

Over time, remaining enthusiastic about working sometimes wanes - and this could be the death of an illustrator. No matter if the subject matter changes daily and the stories and projects of varying interests pass the drawing table, if you feel like you're just hacking and slashing away daily, you're going to die as an artist. That's why I need to do this sort of thing.

At least this has been my thinking lately - and it really hasn't anything to do with this kick ass woman, Agent T. I have no idea why she is Agent T right now or if it will even develop. I've had a great time creating this series and I learned *SO* much from doing these few. It was the first time in a while I was geeked up about messing around in the sketchbook.

"Agent T - The Next Gig"

(Click on the image to view larger version to be able to read the story.)

New York Times

On Christmas Eve, I received a call from Art Director Peter Morance at the New York Times to do a job for him - actually, two - the first one being due this past Friday. The other piece will run next week. I just got part two of this story so I have to get on it.

The story was about people who have a heart issue called 'a-fib' which can be lethal if not taken care of. You can read the story here:  "With A-Fib Rhythms, Higher Odds of Stroke"

Alien Implantation

"Alien Implantation" | 11"x14" | Mixed

"While she was amused thinking she would have a virgin birth, she started to accept the reality that it was actually an alien implantation."

What can be more beautiful than a pregnant woman...and spaceships? Could it be the Baby Jesus? ;o)

A personal piece I've been thinking about for a while. I've also been thinking about adding more graphite to the final product. It's only something I've toyed with in the past and have been building up the guts to do it in a real way.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and happy holiday and I will see you in 2014!

Vancouver Opera

With Tosca opening this past weekend, I am honored and privileged to present, after nearly a year under wraps, my paintings for the Vancouver Opera. The operas are Tosca, Albert Herring, Don Giovanni and Don Carlo. I would like to thank Doug Tuck and especially designer Annie Mack for making this experience exciting and wonderful. I didn't know much about the opera so I had to take a crash course on it but also study the performances that I was going to work on. After hours of watching DVD's they sent me and getting schooled in the history and meanings from Doug, I dove into the project with a newfound respect and excitement for the artform.

To create a single image from seeing such intense operas is quite daunting. Trying to encapsulate the mood and the subject matter in one image from operas that provide unlimited visuals isn't very easy. I am grateful that Doug and Annie were there to talk out the possibilities of each image and pare it down to one solid piece of art that hits the heart of the piece. It was a wonderfully collaborative effort.

A couple of months ago, there was an added angle to this project when the Vancouver Opera decided to create TV spots for Tosca and Don Giovanni. An animation studio in Vancouver, Giant Ant, did an absolutely stellar job taking my original painting for Tosca from the files I provided them to create a powerful 15 second spot that blew my mind. Don Giovanni will begin production in a few months.

Below are a fraction of the sketches I did for the project. These were the one's that I sent the client.

As you can see, Tosca and Don Carlo were the pieces that we went back and forth a couple of times discussing exactly what they were looking for. I think they felt those two performances were the most important because Tosca is a powerful opera that opens the season and Don Carlo is an elaborate production that the Vancouver Opera hasn't put on in 30+ years. The Albert Herring and Don Giovanni work, they felt I got it right in the first round and selected from these initial sketches.

One of things Annie wanted to do which is different than past posters is include the text right on the art with the art being a separate entity. In the past, the art was either completely separate from the text or composed with the text as part of the art. I initially didn't feel too good about that as I want to compose the art in its proper space and let the designer work out how to deal with text. In this case, there needed to be monstrous space in the art to accommodate the type.

I decided that if this was the case, then I wanted to do the lettering along with it. Annie was excited about that and let me have free reign with the type and listened to some suggestions. You can see in these sketches that I was thinking about the text as I was composing some of the ideas. I was getting a feel for the type of lettering I wanted to do.

Originally, I wanted the text to be a sort of script. Annie and I deduced that we needed to make sure it was legible and we were worried that script would be too problematic so I went with a print-style version. I do wish some of these layouts came to fruition though. The center sketch wth the two eyes in the top row I thought could have been interesting.

Here is a selection of finished drawings that I used for the paintings and a sort of color treatment and layout option for Don Carlo that ended up being a direction that the rest of the posters ended up being designed.

All pretty much stayed the same except for Albert Herring. About a week ago when Annie was finishing up the layouts for the posters which were only just finalized (nearly a year after these sketches), Annie realized that Herring wasn't going to work. So I did some of my digital magic to pull the head and hat off the art and recreate the background to make room for the lettering and information.

Here is the collection of final posters with the final type. I don't think there is too much of a need to show all the lettering studies. In a nutshell, I used pencil, charcoal, ink, ink stopper, chopstick and other 'pens' to write the titles over and over...and over again. When I found two or three for each opera that I felt best convey the opera but that could work collectively together as part of a series, I sent selections to Annie to choose from.

I am extremely pleased with this series and speechless of the honor to be able to create work for the Vancouver Opera. I've already been getting nice notes from folks up in Vancouver who have seen the Tosca posters and advertisements. Good luck to the opera and the new season and thank you again Doug Tuck and Annie Mack for your trust, wisdom and the wonderful experience.

SF Weekly Process Film

Painting the SF Weekly Cover from Scott Bakal on Vimeo.

Recently, I've been able to do a better quality render of the process video I did some time ago for the SF Weekly cover that was housed on the magazine's website. That version is pretty blurry.  It's still soft because it was filmed as a test at a low quality and I really didn't expect it to go public but it is much better overall. If you haven't seen it before, here it is!