In this continuing series, Utne Reader Art Director Stephanie Glaros explains the process behind an Utne Reader illustration.
One of the most important things I’ve learned during my tenure as Utne art director (and in life in general) is to trust my instincts. A good example is my most recent collaboration with David Gothard. I asked him to illustrate the article “Criminal Minds,” which suggests that brain scans can identify children who may become killers. As always, Gothard submitted several smart ideas at the sketch stage. I asked him to provide a couple more, based on feedback from my editor, who found the initial direction too “dark.” Gothard gave me two more options, both “lighter” in tone. My editor chose one, and I told Gothard to go ahead with final art. Almost immediately, I knew it was the wrong choice. While a fun visual solution, I felt it didn’t match the tone of the story. But I ignored this feeling, in the interest of keeping things moving along on a busy Friday afternoon (I normally work with 15+ illustrators each issue, and don’t have much time to second-guess my choices).
The next morning, that nagging feeling didn’t go away, so I called my editor at home and asked if we could reconsider our choice. I pointed him back to my initial favorite, and he conceded, knowing from past experience to trust his art director when it comes to art (go figure). Luckily, Gothard hadn’t begun work on the final illustration, so a quick email to him got the project back on track. Not only do I think the final illo is perfect, it’s also my favorite from Gothard (and that’s saying a lot, as he has done exceptional work for me).
Since its inception in 1984, Utne Reader has relied on talented artists to create original images for stories that express powerful emotions, brilliant new ideas, and humorous storytelling. Browsing through back issues of Utne Reader is like a tour of “Who’s Who” in the illustration world. Artists like Gary Baseman, Brad Holland, Anita Kunz, Bill Plympton, and Seymour Chwast have graced our pages over the years, to name just a few.