Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Red Lobster Crab Fest: a Facebook infographic story

A few weeks ago GREY contacted me with a unique idea to create a Snow Crab 101 infographic for Red Lobster's Facebook page. Given the chance to illustrate the life of a snow crab and work with an amazing company such as GREY, I was fast to jump on the opportunity.

GREY sent me a word document rich with researched details and a rough idea to use as a starting point. They wanted a "how to eat" section to accompany the main art, and since the main usage of the piece was Facebook, a roughly 8 x 10 inch dimension was the target size.  Tight fit for the goals we wanted to achieve but a challenge I was looking forward to.

I sketched out a few fast layouts and chose to go with a sidebar for our how-to-eat information. We wanted to have a snow crab as our dominant main art, and I wanted it to tie-in with the main art so it didn't feel separate on the page. GREY was pretty open with layouts, so knowing this was a strong idea I immediately went into sketching a tight rough:

Shooting reference – a great excuse to steam up a few crabs:

Again, when working with clients who are getting constant feedback from their clients (in this case – Red Lobster), I feel the tight pencil roughs save a lot of time on production for all involved. This also gives everyone a piece of mind looking over the details while not leaving anything a surprise later in the game.

I had the opportunity to write the text, so I add the copy and their fonts during the rough sketch phase so the client can read through the sketch and see exactly what we want to show. They edit the copy while I work on the final renders and design tweaks, allowing the page to develop together smoothly.

As the illustrations come together, I switch the rwketches with new art and make any text edits that are noted. During this process we cut-cut-cut, to keep the layout from becoming too text heavy. Soon the piece is ready to go:

The final was published on Red Lobsters Facebook page very shortly after. It got a lot of traffic and customer conversation – a win-win for all who was involved.

A special thanks to the talented GREY New York creative team and Red Lobster for giving me the opportunity to eat snow crab and dive into this. You were an absolute pleasure to work with.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Posters for Tornado Alley

Have you ever looked at your vehicle and thought:

"I wonder if I could drive that into a tornado and survive"?

I have (yes I'm serious) although my thoughts are more fueled by curiosity then science. For Discovery's Storm Chasers star Sean Casey and the researchers of VORTEX2 it's a reality. Armed with a camera and research equipment, they drive customized vehicles into the heart a tornado in the IMAX film Tornado Alley. If you haven't seen it, I definitely recommend it.

When Big Screen Films contacted me with an opportunity to create an infographic poster for the feature, I jumped right on board! The idea was to diagram the two heavily modified research vehicles, highlighting their key features of science and survival. The kicker with these was I had an opportunity to see both vehicles in person, and meet their teams to answer my questions.

The first vehicle up was Sean Casey's Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV-2) – a vehicle modified to park inside a tornado and film with an IMAX camera. Armed with a camera and sketchbook, I met the team at The Museum of Natural History in Manhattan for a early screening of Film, spending some time climbing around the truck and talking to the crew.

Once the movie was over, driver and team crew member Marcus Gutierrez took me for a ride through NYC, which was definitely one of the highlights of the gig. Living here for almost 8 years, I know there are few things that turn the heads of New Yorkers, but people literally ran out of the road when this beast drove through. I'm not sure what rates they charge storm chasers for parking in the city:

A few days later I visited VORTEX 2s Doppler on Wheels (DOW) vehicle at the Liberty Space Center in Jersey City, NJ. The DOW 7 team was extremely helpful answering my questions and curiosities. 

After seeing both vehicles in person and taking hundreds of photos and notes, I immediately got to sketching our layout. The original plan was to put both vehicles in the same poster. I really wanted to have a few pop-out details along with my cutaways, to pull the viewer into the key features.

Since the TIV and DOW teams were doing the copy, I made room with dummy type to fill so they can work while I render the art. I find this is a tactic when the text is coming from an outside source, allowing the design and art to progress while giving others time to write. Its not an exact science, but in most cases there is usually only minor cutting and design adjustments at the end of the process. I feel the key to this being successful is having detailed rough drawings, so clients can see exactly what we want to show. The tighter rough will also save time with edits later in the process, since the experts will see if something is off early in the game. When this is noted I adjust my art as I work. Both teams did an excellent job with the text, making the information brief, yet adding details that are interesting to readers. 

Working on the final art. I always say, there's no such thing as too much reference:

As the pieces come together, I replace the rough sketches with the finals:

Andy Wood had the idea of illustrating our headline, which I dove right into. I think it definitely adds a nice touch to the piece:

 We also had the opportunity to break both trucks into separate posters, which made two nice options and aired out our layouts a bit.

And there you have it… Illustrating an IMAX movie poster. I've had a lot of cool gigs over the last ten years, but this one is definitely up near the top. A special thanks to Big Screen Film's producer Andy Wood and Director of Strategic Partnerships Deborah Raksany. They are an absolute pleasure to work with! I'd also like to thank the TIV2 crew – Sean Casey, Marcus Gutierrez and Brandon Ivey and VORTEX2 DOW team for showing me the vehicles and putting up with my infographics nerd questions.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Here's a recent spread for February's Issue of Field & Stream illustrating why right now may be the best deer hunting ever. I have a confession to make – I love illustrating maps. There's something about it as an artist, possibly wired in us from the cartographers of the past. Not that I'm related to any of my knowledge. If I was though, I'd be one of the first in line to ship off to new lands with my brushes and parchment. The trip would be short lived, since I'd probably get thrown off for paying more attention to the water then the land, hiding any place that looked like a good fishing spot.

Other happenings; I have a new portfolio site in progress and close to completion. It will feature a lot of new work, as well as sketchbook area and a few motion graphics. It's long overdue.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I've never been one for true defined New Years Resolutions, but I do keep a list of goals each year, broken down into categories: personal, professional and adventurous. I've been pretty lucky in the past with all three, but rarely am I able to accomplish one on the first day of trying.

Fishing cabin

2011 changed that for me. When I hit the alarm button on my cellphone, 6 a.m. January 1st, I was starting the second day of a two-day steelhead fishing trip on the Salmon River, N.Y. I went up with two good friends, with one goal in mind – hook and hopefully land my first steelhead. Thanks to their help, we did exactly THAT the day before. In fact we did much more, hooking nine and landing two as a group.

My first steelhead; Dec 31st, 2010

Day two started with a lot of hope and anxiety. As I shook my slight whiskey-induced headache over a cup of coffee, I had high hopes of landing at least one more.

We fished early Saturday morning hard, with zero results, but found the fish by early afternoon with each of us getting in on some action.

First fish of 2011

One of the highlights happened when Collin hooked a huge fish while his line paused on his backcast. The fish ran hard down river resulting in a pulled hook, but such is life on a steelhead river. You fish hours of quietness and in one split second, you're zero to 100 bracing a giant fish running for the horizon.

Collin hooked up

Collin's steelhead; early afternoon Jan 1st

At 4:00 p.m. we found ourselves working a deep hole that held fish earlier in the day. Knowing there was only one last shot for a trophy fish, we stood in the cold-numbing water casting away. I dug into my fly box, and tied on a large black woolly bugger, figuring if anything is hiding deep, it will be hard nosed to pass up a big dinner offering before nightfall closed in.

Dave's steelhead; 12/31/10

I let out a cast upstream, and fed my line deep into the pool. When a fly drags the bottom of a river, you feel a "tap tap tap" pulse through your rod, but for me it was a "tap tap pause". Out of instinct I set the hook has hard as my fly rod would allow. For a moment, it felt like the entire river bottom was awakened – alive and confused. I raised my rod and gave more pressure and realizing it's predicament the beast shot for the surface, throwing walls of water and head shakes in an attempt to spit my fly back in my face. I was hooked up... zero to 100 like so many others.

This one was different for me. Not only was it the biggest trout I ever saw, but by far one of the biggest freshwater fish I ever hooked on a fly rod. The fish made a run down river, ripping line off my spool – drag singing and reel handle cracking against my knuckles. All I could mumble was "big fish... big fish". Luck was on my side. Rather than run downriver, where he surely would have lost me, he made a costly decision, and turned 180 back upstream to stick it out in the depths of the pool. I nearly lost him on the gamble, loosing contact with the slack in my line on his turn, but the hook stuck.

Collin has a lot of Steelhead experience.
He explained to me how steelies use highways
to travel in water that may look like dead water.

Here we had our standoff. Each time I brought him up, Dave attempted a tail-grab, but the fish saw his approach and retreated back into the bottom of the pool. Each time we let out an agonizing gasp. There's no way to put into writing the feeling of fighting a big fish. The exhilaration is balanced on a thin line (as delicate as the tippet attached to your fish) of winning and loosing. In a flash your either throwing high-fives or starting a lifelong story of the one that got away. After a few torturous minutes of this back and forth, the fight was on our side with a trophy fish in our grasp.

The fish was by far my best on the fly, and a trout I dreamed of as a young fisherman. After we snapped a few pics, we released him back to his hole, where I'm sure he'll never touch another black wooly bugger ever again. Of course, that won't stop me from paying him a visit and trying – every single time I fish that river.

A shot out to Dave Holler, and Collin Cochrane for company on the river, experience, and team work. I also want to thank Rob Ceccarini at Orvis for his advice, gear and recommendations. His fly recommendation was by far the hottest fly on the river for us.