The Americana


I’m working on another Flickr set of public domain images—this time, ones from The Americana: A Universal Reference Library Comprising the Arts and Sciences, Literature, History, Biography, Geography, Commerce, etc., of the World, Vol. 21 (Triennial Act–Vivianite), edited by Frederick Converse Beach (New York: Scientific American Compiling Department, 1912).

Extracted, cleaned up (as best I could; most of them suffered from a particularly nasty pink-and-green moiré), captioned, and tagged for your pleasure. Go forth and repurpose them in peace.

I’ve downloaded a lot more old encyclopedias to cannibalize after this one. Idle time is the only constraint. Watch this space!

Other public domain Flickr sets:

Another sliver of history


I’ve been working on cleaning up another set of public domain images and posting them to Flickr, and my plan was to unveil them all at once when I’d accumulated a nice, fat stack comparable to this earlier collection. I’m really, really busy this month, however, and I’m afraid I won’t get back to this project for a while, so here’s an aperitif, in the meantime: Selected illustrations—editorial and commercial—from the San Francisco Call, which was published from 1895 to 1913. The newspaper came to my attention via the famous Alberto Forero, who posted a great illustration of hands to his massive collection of Flickrized antiquities back in January. I asked where he’d found it, he sent me the link, and there went my next week and a half. Thanks a lot.

This newspaper—which I’d never even heard of—published so many fantastic illustrations during just the first month of 1900. Take this gorgeous full-page gangster by Methfessel, for example; or these dissolute gamesters by Cahill; or this fluid sketch; or the adorable torpedoes above. And don’t even get me started on the advertisements for quacky gadgets and rather dubious medicines.

I’m still adding captions, tags, and URLs, and eventually I’ll post more images to this set, but I wanted to at least begin to release these into the wild. If you like this kind of stuff, be sure to check out Alberto’s many awesome photo sets. Just don’t blame me if you lose a couple of days or weeks down in that rabbit hole—remember, it’s all Alberto’s fault.

Who you gonna call? home page, February 19,  2008: Brother’s Keeper

I’ve been swooning over Matthew Woodson’s work at for months, so when a story landed on my desk that actually involved a ghost, I knew whom I wanted to ask to illustrate it.

I love the simultaneous attacking/comforting embrace of this ghost, as well as the little details like the texture of his hair and the pattern of the living boy’s sweater vest. In fact, I like it so much that I printed it out large and stuck it on the wall behind my desk. You can see an uncropped, larger version of the image on the story page: Brother’s Keeper (scroll to the bottom).

I’ve already asked Matthew to do another drawing for us, so watch this space . . .

My friend, the Wizard

DVD covers art directed by Eric Skillman

My friend and fellow club member Eric Skillman, an associate art director at the Criterion Collection, has been interviewed over at They’re rather in need of a proofreader, but Eric’s intelligence and charm nevertheless come through.

For example I’m looking over the DVD’s on my desk —[Aikira Kurosawa’s] “Drunken Angel”, which is one we did with Jock (The Losers, Green Arrow: Year One, Faker). There’s a scene towards the end of the film where the characters are wresting around and the Matsunaga character knocks over into some cans of paint, and the paint spills in an artful kind of way and what was his black suit gets covered in white paint, so its a sort of a transformative moment where he’s rebelling against the Yakuza influence, which is represented by the snazzy black suit that he’s been wearing and he becomes purified in that scene. We took that and said that sort of scene and idea is what we want to riff off of. We took that to Jock, along with this idea that there’s this sump thing in the middle of the town that’s full of mud and its like this sucking hole that the center of town is being sucked down by the Yakuza influence, so we said maybe give us a backdrop of this muddy, crappy, sumpy grossness then a slosh of white paint with the character sort of crawling through it, and then he took that and abstracted it one step further and did his thing and then that became the cover.

Do freelance artists usually get notes like that?


The Wizard Q&A: Eric Skillman, by David Paggi, posted 2/11/2008.

To see more of Eric’s work (other than at your local video store) and to read a lot more about his design process, see his fine, upstanding blog: Cozy Lummox.

A thin slice of history

image thumbnails from English Literature Flickr set

I was looking for a particular image (which I did not find) on Google Books last week, and I stumbled across this fabulous tome: English Literature: An Illustrated Record in Four Volumes. Volume II: From the Age of Henry VIII to the Age of Milton. Part II, by Richard Garnett and Edmund Gosse (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905). It has illustrations on nearly every page, most of which are title pages from the books under discussion. Some are gorgeous, some are appalling, nearly all are interesting. And they’re all well within the public domain.
Continue reading “A thin slice of history”

Rhinestones and Pickles home page, January 7, 2008

Tuesday’s story by Jessica Apple about her wacky-wonderful grandma required a wacky-wonderful illustration. And who better to do that, I thought, than Martha Rich, whose daily paintings at Freedom Wig are so . . . well . . . you just have to go look at them. I’d been wanting to hire Martha for months, but this was the first story to come up that I thought really needed her.

See the whole painting and read the story on the site: Repeating History.

I confess that I Botoxed the wrinkles on the woman’s face a bit—we received word that Bashy, the subject of the story, was in very poor health, so I thought a more tender representation was in order (though I’m sure this looks nothing like her, anyway—I didn’t ask for any reference photos).

If you’re in L.A., go see Martha’s show at La Luz de Jesus gallery. It’s up until January 27. And if anybody wants to buy me Good Girl Pie, I’d appreciate it.

Toast the new year with bubbly!

Happy New Year!

Here at my office, we’re celebrating with fizz, per tradition: our first story of 2008 is about seltzer. home page, January 2, 2008: Seltzer

Today’s illustration is by the delightful Vanessa Davis. I had to crop her drawing closely to fit it on our home page—and, of course, there’s that nasty brown stripe with the type over it—so do visit the story to see the complete piece: Eli Miller’s Seltzer Delivery Service.
Continue reading “Toast the new year with bubbly!”

All illustration, all the time home page, December 4, 2007: Hanukkah 1

Happy Hanukkah!

I hope you’re not getting sick of all these posts about illustrations, because I’ve got a whole week’s worth to crow about, and not a whole lot else. is publishing a story about Hanukkah on each day of the holiday, and we decided to (a) get each one of them illustrated, and (b) have an image of a menorah (or, more specifically, a Hanukiah, as I learned yesterday—thank god for Wikipedia) on the home page, which will change each day as a new story is posted. Continue reading “All illustration, all the time”

Hot Hahn home page, 11/30/2007: Hot Rabbis

Through the magic of technology, even though I am "on vacation" I can happily inform you that today Nextbook posted this hot new illustration by Samantha Hahn, proprietress of the blog Maquette and frequent guest on Moldawer in the Morning, the Moldawer in question being her husband. Do go look at the version on the story page, as it differs from that on the home page in several ways (not least being its not having type slapped on top of it): The Girls’ Guide to Hot Rabbis and Tattooed Chefs.

If all goes as planned, Samantha’s second illustration for Nextbook will appear on Monday, so keep your eyes peeled.