Inspired by retro vintage knee-hugger Christmas pixie elves made in Japan and glass indent ornaments from the 1950s and ’60s, this Christmas card illustration shows Santa’s helpers making the holidays sparkle.
Austin-based keyboardist Basil McJagger commissioned an original illustration for a CD cover for his musical act The Basil Trio, with him on the Hammond organ, a guitarist and a drummer. Like me, he appreciates Mid-Century Modern style, and he was looking for a retro-inspired image that would evoke the early 1960s and portray the groovy vibe and cool stylings of his music. I chose a harmonious color palette of verdigris and various sepia shades and subtly incorporated basil leaves in the admiring fan’s cocktail.
Also from my “Rock Art” series is a triptych entitled “Mid-Century Modern Entertainment” that visually brings to life three songs: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” and Van Morrison’s “Moondance.”
Unwilling to bid adieu to the Mid-Century Modern visual aesthetic that I love so much, I was intrigued by the idea of extending those design motifs another decade to songs from the early 1970s. I also wanted to explore merging three individual songs into one scene, in this case of a nightclub.
Stairway to Heaven
Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress
Another work from my “Rock Art” series is a triptych entitled “Psychedelic Beach” that visually brings to life three emblematic, feel-good rock songs from 1966: The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” In this trio of illustrations, I wanted to continue my exploration of merging three individual songs into one scene, as I did a few years ago in a triptych depicting a nightclub scene.
The visual treatment for this triptych was inspired by 1960s pop culture, beach party movies and poster art from the San Francisco Bay Area. I also drew inspiration from social trends emerging at the time, including the second wave of the feminist movement, peace activism, the concept of the Age of Aquarius, and hippie and psychedelic culture.
I’m a Believer
Tomorrow Never Knows
This design of a super-cool hipster soybean cartoon character celebrates healthy virtues with a whimsical Spanglish play on words. “Soy” means “I am” in Spanish and the word “cool,” obviously, transcends language, as does the fun retro styling we love so much. What’s more fun than a versatile vegetable with a Vespa?
These two illustrations are partially inspired by Huichol spiritual beliefs and legends, with important symbols reimagined in a harmonic pattern.
Spirit guides (represented in this design by the half-man/half-deer figures) are intermediaries between the spiritual world and the human world. They appear in dreams and visions to Huichol shamans (mara’akame), who follow their spirit guides and serve as ambassadors to the gods for humans.
One Huichol legend tells the story of how daylight was created (several variations exist, but I was inspired by the version related by Ronald A. Barnett in the e-magazine Mexconnect). When people realized that fire alone could not illuminate the world, they chose a magical boy to help them create daylight. The boy played a game with a hoop and arrow that made the Sun God appear, but he was too close to the Earth and burned everything. The snake people then flew up to the sky and tried to eat the sun, but that did not help. So the people implored Great-grandfather Nakawe to raise the sun. He asked the four cardinal directions to help him lift the sun. As he did so, he asked the people where they wanted the sun, and when at last they were happy, he secured the sun so that it would stay at that elevation forever, giving them light without burning them.
Here are two more illustrations in the series of Huichol-inspired designs that explore the symbols behind the Mexican indigenous group’s spiritual beliefs, deities, significant forces of nature and important themes such as the concept of nierika, the gift of sight.
Animals & Sun God
Fundamental to Huichol rituals, ceremonies and daily life are numerous spiritual beliefs, for example, that the Sun God (Tayau) rules the heavens and brings warmth and illumination to the world, and that his wife, the Mother Goddess (Tatei Werika—the eagle) rules the sky and all living things. Huichols also believe that they descended from “wolf-people,” that two serpents surround the world, and that deer serve as spirit guides for shamans. This illustration is a tapestry interweaving various symbols of Huichol spiritual beliefs.
Creation of Peyote & Corn
Corn (ikuri), deer (maxa) and peyote (hikuli) are important symbols that transcend mere subsistence for the Huichol people and enter the realm of the spiritual and the divine. One Huichol belief is that Grandfather Fire (Tatewari) helped the deer create peyote and corn. The snakes in the center represent Grandfather Fire.