Saturday, January 19, 2008

Office lovin': an editorial assignment.

Let me preface this.

It's not uncommon for illustrators to cringe when enlisted by a client who already has a concept. The fear is that said concept will not hold an incredible amount of aesthetic appeal or involve inspiring imagery, and may be altogether toothless. In defense of cringing illustrators everywhre, this in not infrequently true.

Often, these ideas come from our more corporate clients, or at least clients whose clients live in a corporate culture. It's a tricky working dynamic to begin with, since as a whole, we illustrator types don't really cohabit that world.

This recent job, for instance, was completed for HR Magazine, for an article about Human Resources departments requiring romantically involved coworkers to sign contracts with regard to their relationships, pledging to indemnify their employer should the relationship sour. I haven't actually been in a human resources office since high school, when applying for a summer job at a local nursing home. The phrase "human resources" even creeps me out a little; the thought of an employer referring to personnel by their species–under the category of "resources," like oil, or livestock, or semolina wheat–seems to me one step up from "cannon fodder."

I also didn't get to read the article. I still don't know if the "love contract" was being purported as a good idea, a bad idea, or a complex issue pitting one entity's need for professional productivity against the devaluation of human emotion and the intrinsic need for companionship, love and sex. All I got was a blurry stock photo of three people in business casual dress sitting across a table from each other, smiling rather innocuous stock photo smiles, and a bit of instruction as to who would be who in my picture and what they were doing.

So first off...

I decided the couple involved was deeply, naively, in love. And that, like exchanging class rings, meeting the parents, moving in together and signing a marriage license, signing a corporate "love contract" was another right of passage in our culture's constantly evolving expectations of normal romantic entanglement and perhaps even generate a heartfelt "awww" from onlookers.

Back to those cringing illustrators.

Personally, I kind of like those jobs the rest of my ilk dread...not that there haven't been some real clunkers. But I like working with people. I do enjoy trying to find that little bit of art that can wiggle in within small parameters. And I like sharing credit if something works, or maybe I like not being solely responsible if it doesn't. (I hadn't considered that last on before. I do hope I'm not that shallow, but I'll gladly spare myself the self-examination.) I enjoy having to consider my audience, and making things "good" examples of what they, say, a painting of a human resources desk and some good old fashioned office love.

The relativism of it all appeals to my moderate temperament and populist world view, I reckon. When my artsy elitism gets out of check, I can suddenly feel small and outnumbered in the world at large. This could be because I've never been the type to take off my shoe, pound it on a lectern, and expound red-faced with flying expectoration and vigor. I'm not without passions, but I usually make a much better devil's advocate that ideologue.

That was a long preface. Anyway, above is my sketch for the illustration, followed by the oil painting, all of which fell under a turnaround of just under a week.


Sarah said...

NICE!! I love the young defiance in face of the weary HR exec. I was an HR Ass't in a past life, and can attest that it's all too easy for those folks to see the other employees as chattel. Of course, that's what they're paid to do... that, and avoid lawsuits.

Adam said...

Thanks so much, Sarah. I'm oh so glad to hear it comes across that way.