IA Talks to Gawker Art Director Jim Cooke

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[A Bride on Acid Answers All of Your Trippiest Wedding Questions – Illustration by Jim Cooke]

Things have been much more visually stimulating over at Gawker and its various identities, thanks to the efforts of Illustrators Tara Jacoby and Sam Woolley and Art Director/Illustrator Jim Cooke. What’s more, last April (2014), Cooke – on behalf of Gawker Media – put out a call for a “staff illustrator” as part of an effort to further ramp up their use of illustration (the position was soon occupied by Tara).

Here at Illustration Age we always strive to celebrate the people, publications and organizations that embrace the use of illustration, which is why last week we interviewed Tara Jacoby about her experiences as a staff illustrator for just under a year, and today we’re excited to share our conversation with AD Jim Cooke about the role of illustration at Gawker.

JCILLUSTRATION AGE: In April of last year, you put out a call for a “Staff Illustrator” for Gawker Media. What was the reasoning behind this? More specifically why seek out an in-house type of arrangement vs. commissioning an individual artist for each article?

JIM COOKE: To answer to this, I think it would help to give you a little background. I had been working for Gawker Media as Deadspin’s primary freelance contributing illustrator for a while (beginning in 2006). Then in January 2012 I was hired full-time as the Art Director and illustrator for Gawker’s gossip-driven sites: Gawker, Deadspin, and Jezebel.

I worked in that role for two years creating as many illustrations and images as I could for those three sites daily, usually upwards of a dozen per day, until we decided to expand the art to contribute to the other GM sites as well.

Last year, it became clear that the role of art was becoming more important to the company. As my workload was increasing, I put out a call for a staff illustrator to join me. There are a few reasons why a staff illustrator was attractive, a large one being the rapid pace of a blogging media company. There are times when a piece may need to have an image created for it within an hour or less. Publishing here works so quickly that a post will develop from the germ of a writer’s idea to a finished piece complete with an illustration inside of a few hours. Our art team of myself, Tara, and another staff illustrator Sam Woolley do this several times in a day.

I found that to do this job, it helps to be closely familiar with the voice of the company, the personalities of the writers, the demand to create good and smart work quickly, and to have a keen recognition whether to approach a piece as silly, serious or somewhere in between. When we decided to expand the art team, I felt that hiring another full-time illustrator to fill that role would have its advantages over working within the conventional process of finding and commissioning freelance illustrators for each piece. It’s a more streamlined process. We work side-by-side, and are able to receive a request from one of our writers and begin the conceptualization and creation of an image immediately.

18yif09m5wxy2gif[“Can I Say Twerk?” A Miley Cyrus Glossary for Whites – Illustration by Jim Cooke]

I found that to do this job, it helps to be closely familiar with the voice of the company, the personalities of the writers, the demand to create good and smart work quickly, and to have a keen recognition whether to approach a piece as silly, serious or somewhere in between.

IA: Could you tell us about the most important qualities you were looking for in an artist, and what eventually drew you to the work of Tara Jacoby?

JC: The illustrations that I’m most attracted to lately are ones that are almost style-less. I’m drawn to visual metaphors, smart and clever solutions to a problem. I try to keep my own work unbound by a “style” and that allows me to approach each piece fresh and decide what the best treatment is for it. I may draw, paint, scribble, use flat vectors, or work with photos and typography on any given piece.

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[How to Hit On Girls in the Club (Or Not) – Illustration by Tara Jacoby]

[Tara’s] work is very bold and strong. She draws excellently but not laboriously. Her use of color is exquisite and I think her voice fits in very well. It’s feminine, but can sometimes be wickedly sharp.

That said, Tara has more of a defined style to her work, as most illustrators do. When I hired her I was mainly looking for someone with a strong editorial sense, a knack for problem solving, and someone who could take direction and whose style would fit in well with what we had already been doing. Her work is very bold and strong. She draws excellently but not laboriously. Her use of color is exquisite and I think her voice fits in very well. It’s feminine, but can sometimes be wickedly sharp. One of the biggest reasons I hired her, however, is that it was clear when I met with her how much she wanted to work here. She was hungry and determined and that goes a very long way with me.

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[Don’t Forget to Tip Bill Cosby’s Rape Jar – Illustration by Sam Woolley]

IA: Your regular use of illustration is very refreshing in today’s world, when so many publications rely on stale and lifeless stock imagery. What do you see as the role of illustration across Gawker Media’s various identities?

JC: Thanks. I came from a background in illustration and I guess when I started I saw the heavy use of stock images as boring and thoughtless. It’s gotten a little better, but it really wasn’t that long ago when it seemed that most internet publications had no illustrations at all and were sacrificing good artwork for speed and economy, in many cases that still may be true. It seemed lazy to me and I’ve felt that with some effort and creativity it didn’t need to be that way. Thankfully, Gawker Media has recognized this too and has allowed me to do some things that I’m incredibly proud of here. For a media company with the daily output we have, I do think we’re unique in that sense.

I think the role of illustration at Gawker Media is to work arm in arm with the editorial staffs. We have some uniquely talented and creative writers, funny and smart and they put so much into their pieces. They deserve much more than to slap a stale stock photo atop their work, and it’s our role to match their efforts. A smart and carefully made image can add a great deal of value to each piece. Something funny or something blasphemous, something weighty or something clever, something to complement and to add to the piece rather than simply fill a space at the top of the page. The culture here at Gawker encourages taking chances and being irreverent, and that is a philosophy that I embrace and always try to push as far as I can. Our images and our content can occasionally tread into blue subject matter, but I’m very comfortable working in that space. Oftentimes, an image can get as much attention as the written piece itself.

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[Fed Up With the Slutty Girl Scouts? Meet the Conservative Alternative. – Illustration by Jim Cooke]

IA: Could you describe the typical creative process of developing an idea or an image for most of your articles? How much creative input do you allow the illustrator, especially given the short turnaround time for these?

JC: The first thing that happens is an editor or writer will send me the draft of a post. I’ll read it intently, and then I’ll either work on the image myself or pass it to Tara or Sam. In those cases, I’ll let them pitch ideas to me and we’ll work together to decide on a solution. Often, I’ll be struck by an idea that seems right and they’ll work on that. Other times they’ll have an idea or a quick thumbnail sketch and I’ll have them run with it. The idea/conception process can be very quick, and this is where the advantages of having illustrators on staff are most evident. From idea stage to finish is usually a very streamlined process and this enables us to work quickly.

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[Answering a Question No One Asked: 13 Years of Williamsburg in the NYT – Illustration by Jim Cooke]

IA: What has been the response, both internally at Gawker Media and from your audience, to the regular use of illustration?

JC: The response has been pretty good! I think the fact that the art department here has expanded over the last few years is a sign that the editors and writers appreciate having our kind of attention paid to the visuals on their posts. Tara and I both managed to get pieces accepted into the SI annual show this year, which is nice. As far as audience reception goes, they are mostly very kind to us in the comments and on twitter. In a culture where a commenting readership can often be merciless, I’ll take it.

Thanks again to Jim Cooke and Gawker Media for their contributions to this article.

Filed under: Interviews

Posted by Thomas James on 02/16/15 under Interviews
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Editorial Submission :: Hattie Newman

Post by Chloe

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Hattie Newman is an image maker and set designer based in London. Her work has a fun, quirky, illustrative style which creates a narrative. Her work has featured in many editorials including GQ, The Guardian and Stylist magazine.
If you would like to see more of Hattie Newman’s work, please visit her portfolio.

 

Posted by Chloe Baldwin on 02/15/15 under editorial submissions
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Pick of the Week for NOISE and This Week’s Topic

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It’s Illustration Friday!

We’re excited to announce this week’s topic, but first please enjoy the illustration above by Camila Barrera, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of NOISE. Thanks to everyone else for participating. We hope it was inspiring!

You can also see a gallery of all the other entries here.

And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic:

SLEEP

Here’s how:

Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).

Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.

Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).

Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the participant gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!

Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to keep up with our exciting community updates!

HAPPY ILLUSTRATING!

Posted by Thomas James on 02/12/15 under artists,weekly topics
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Comics Illustrators of the Week :: The Hernandez Brothers

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The Hernandez Brothers, Gilbert, Jaime & Mario, are trailblazers of modern graphic storytelling. Premiering in 1981, their personal comics anthology Love and Rockets spawned from healthy doses of classic superhero/Archie comics, undergrounds like Zap, and punk rock music of the late 1970’s. Their stories are character driven, semi-autobiographical, complex, and sometimes surreal. They are their own 3-man “Miramax” of the independent comics industry, cranking out bunches of original, unconventional material each year.

This week marked the release of Love and Rockets Volume 3 #7, published by Fantagraphics Books. After the original run of 50 magazine-sized issues, and a 20 issue, comics sized Volume 2, fans now get to look forward to a new 100 page soft cover book each year. Most stories from the series end up in their own collections(usually with extras), like with Gilbert’s epic Palomar story-line, and Jaime’s chronicles of Maggie & Hopey.

The influence of Los Bros. Hernandez can be seen throughout the U.S. and abroad at the multitude of comics conventions, and zine-fests. As Kirby, Ditko, and Eisner laid down the foundation for modern mainstream comics, so has The Hernandez Brothers’ work done for the modern independent cartoonist.

You can follow the latest updates on what’s next for the Hernandez Brothers, and Love and Rockets at their facebook page here.

Also, Gilbert Hernandez has recently started a new weekly comic strip at VICE.com here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

Posted by Andy Yates on 02/12/15 under artists,cartoon,comic,illustrationfriday,pen/brush and ink,weekly topics
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NOISE by Otto Steininger

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Submitted by Otto Steininger for the Illustration Friday topic NOISE.

Posted by Thomas James on 02/12/15 under artists,weekly topics
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IA Talks to Tara Jacoby About Her Illustrations for Gawker

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[Very Blessed New Mom Wishes She Had Been Warned More About Blessings – Article]

You may have noticed something happening over at Gawker media.

Things have been way visually cooler over there for the past year, thanks to the efforts of Illustrator Tara Jacoby and Art Director/Illustrator Jim Cooke. Last April (2014), Cooke – on behalf of Gawker Media – put out a call for a “staff illustrator”.

We’re looking for a graphic design and illustration junkie with an editorial focus. You can read a post, conceptualize an interesting visual solution, and execute an image that will make that post better…within an hour or two. You are clever and have a keen sense of humor, and your portfolio reflects this.

Tara Jacoby turned out to be the perfect choice for the job. Her work brings just the right balance of humor, wit, and humanity to Gawker’s incredibly wide range of topics and compelling headlines. Here at Illustration Age we always strive to celebrate the people, publications and organizations that embrace the use of illustration, and next week we’ll be sharing our conversation with AD Jim Cooke about Gawker’s motivations for doing just that.

But first, we think it makes sense to start with the images themselves, so we’ve collaborated with Tara to highlight some of our favorite illustrations of hers and also take the opportunity to pick her brain about her experience working with Gawker over the past year. Enjoy!

lfiwl9seowdwk7qwseaf[How to Get Your Sex Tape Off the Internet – Article]

portrait1.jpgILLUSTRATION AGE: What inspired you to answer Gawker’s call for an in-house illustrator?

TARA JACOBY: I had been working as the graphic designer at the Society of Illustrators and freelancing. I’d looked to change gears and focus on illustration and considered going freelance full-time. To be honest, I had no idea Gawker was hiring. A friend had sent me the link twice before I even read it. When I actually did read it, it felt like the stars had aligned. I had to have it. This job was tailor-made for me. So, I applied immediately.

Sometimes the job feels too good to be true. I cannot believe that I’m excited to go to work everyday. You know when people say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”… well, they were right!

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[Here Is What It’s Like to Do a ‘Soup Cleanse’ – Article]

Fun (after the) fact: Jim had me come into the office for a trial day after my interview. I completely blew it. He sat me at the “smelly Deadspin table” and I sat there silently freaking out and frantically sketching ideas, reading and re-reading the assignments as my career hung in the balance. I basically had an eight hour anxiety attack. I still can’t believe that he hired me after that.

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[Why You’re So Horny During Your Period – Article]

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[Twenty Days of Harassment and Racism as an American Apparel Employee – Article]

IA: What’s it like to work under rapid-fire deadlines on such a regular basis?

TJ: Well, had you asked me that in June, my head might have exploded from all of the pressure. At first, I was completely stressed out. I tend to overthink… let me see… well, everything. The first couple of weeks I was waking up at 4:30 every morning just to mentally prepare myself for the day ahead. I basically drove myself insane. I think I hid my neurosis pretty well? I’m not sure. All I knew was, Jim hadn’t canned me yet, so everything was copacetic.

Now, I actually think it’s refreshing to work under rapid-fire. You don’t have time to overthink anything. And being a perfectionist, I feel like this really helped me loosen up both technically and creatively.

Overall, I love it. Typically, each one of us does 3-5 illustrations in a day, depending on how busy we are. That doesn’t include the other more design-oriented images we make. The three of us are constantly working. By the end of the week we can’t even remember all of the things we’ve done. Over a course of 7 months, I’ve done roughly 500 or so illustrations. I’ve never been so productive in my entire life.

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[You Prefer to Date Fat Guys So You Don’t Feel So Bad About Yourself – Article]

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[When You’re a Black Woman, You’re Never Good Enough to Be a Victim – Article]

IA: How much creative freedom do you feel like you have on these illustrations?

TJ: The organization as a whole is encouraged to be bold and honest. Nick Denton once said, “We are beholden to no one.”  That holds true for the art department as well. We can draw whatever we want with no apologies. That’s the beauty of working for a truly independent media company. They are always challenging you to push the limits and speak your mind. I’ll admit, sometimes we do get a little carried away, but that’s not a terrible thing.

If I think that something might be going too far (or not far enough), I’ll ask Jim and he’ll point me back in the right direction. When Disney Dudes’ Dicks came out I was very concerned about offending the Disney loving masses, but Jim gave me some sage advice: “If you’re not offending someone, you’re not doing it right.”

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[How to Keep Photos of Your Naked Body Off the Internet – Article]

wgig8eidorh8qtvuemyh[Disney Dudes’ Dicks: What Your Favorite Princes Look Like Naked – Article]

IA: To end on a light note, many of your illustrations deal with sexual themes. What does your mother think about that?

TJ: My mom rules. My whole family does. I could draw pretty much anything and they’d support me. They always have. After the first couple of weeks, they all just accepted that if they ask about my job, they better be ready for some NSFW art. I’m lucky to have a family with a few loose screws and a great sense of humor.

Thanks to Tara Jacoby and Gawker Media for their contributions to this article. Stay tuned for our conversation with Gawker Art Director Jim Cooke!

More places to find Tara Jacoby:

Filed under: Interviews

Posted by Thomas James on 02/12/15 under Don'tMiss,Featured,gawker,Humor,Interviews
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Eric Petersen is the Shirt

Petersen Shirts

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Eric Petersen’s work is great. I think we can all agree on this. However, when you take his images and recontextualize them as all-over printed t-shirts, they very quickly jump from great to insane. I wish that I could pull one of these off, however I tend to wear kaftans to cover up my insanely great love handles. If you tend towards t-shirt wearing, you should go for it. As an aside, neither I nor IA have any connection to this product. Just sayin’.

Filed under: Stuff

Posted by Mark Kaufman on 02/11/15 under apparel,Don'tMiss,Featured,graphic,Stuff,tshirt
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NOISE by Melanie Elfert

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Submitted by Melanie Elfert for the Illustration Friday topic NOISE.

Posted by Thomas James on 02/11/15 under artists,pen/brush and ink,weekly topics
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Rosie Harbottle :: illustrator

Post by Alice Palace

Rosie Harbottle is an illustrator based in Devon in the uk, and she has a BIG love of pattern, colour and type. She hand draws or paints everything before scanning and playing around with colour and composition to create beautiful artworks like the badger, bunny and owl below…

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See more on her website

Posted by Alice Palace on 02/11/15 under Alice,art for sale,artists
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Whimsical Illustrator Nate Williams

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Nate Williams’ website is abundant with whimsical illustrations full of playful characters, beautiful patterns, textures and unique color palettes. His work has appeared on a variety products ranging from coffee packaging, pillow cases, tote bags and children’s books. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Bryna Shields on 02/10/15 under apparel / products,artists,children's art,design,IF Kids,packaging,pattern
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