Jenny first emailed me early in 2017 after she had seen some of my illustrations shared on Facebook by some of my favorite people on the planet, photo-geniuses Ben & Erin Chrisman (www.chrismanstudios.com). She inquired about a commission and had "a pretty specific idea in mind." Specific = good. I like specific. So over the course of the following emails, we discussed a scene wherein her 1 year old would be conducting an orchestra of animals. Some of the specifics:
"I would love it to be at Carnegie Hall (where we go often and where his dad played)."
"It would be great if they were playing Mahler's Symphony #5 (one of our first dates and his favorite symphony) which has specific orchestra layout and instrumentation."
"Finally, I have only some specifications on the which animals play what, and the rest would be free form."
With the specifics laid out in broad strokes, the next step was my attempt at researching the piece and proposing this seating chart. (Being a band geek growing up proved somewhat helpful.)
But I was wrong. Like way off. So Jenny walked me through how it should look and I was then able to use a YouTube video of a concert performance to fine tune the seating. And then once that was all figured out, we needed to make a decision on the perspective. Do we go head on? Aerial shot from upper right? Upper left? Should we be looking from backstage or from balcony? If from backstage, we get a frontal view of the baby/conductor. But we'll only see the backs of most animals. And if we go from the audience POV, then the baby's back will be facing us. Agh!
Don't worry. We figured it out. And once that was all squared away, the next step was... drawing chairs. Lots of chairs.
Then filling those chairs with animals, creatures and arming them with their appropriate instruments. And making sure to remember simple rules like every instrument in the front row has to be part of a pair.
Then came ink. Lots of ink.
I'm not sure why there is a longneck violin floating above the orchestra, but I will assume I was just sketching out a violin to make sure I remembered what a violin looks like.
This is a good place to mention several of the animals (like the gator playing bass drum, the little whale playing the glockenspiel and the fox on the tympany are all much loved stuffed animals of our baby conductor.
And finally the paint.
Click on any to see full size images. That should have been obvious.
Sometimes projects are rushed. Sometimes they are dragged out. In this case, there was no rushing involved. Jenny was INCREDIBLY patient and that resulted in some substantial additions. The longer I work on something, the more I can play around with ideas, try things out, let ideas develop etc. The most notable example here is the whale on the triangle. It wasn't until the 11th hour that the upper left portion of the picture was filled out with that big feller. Surely you wouldn't miss him if you never saw him, but if I remove him from the frame now, the piece looks incomplete.
Worth noting: When working on pieces like this, soundtrack is essential. Over the many many hours I spent drawing/painting this, I listened almost exclusively to 1) The Tim Ferriss Show, 2) the Moana soundtrack, and 3) Hamilton.
This project was so much fun - and getting to meet and know Jenny was an added super perk! I think I say it every time I post something new so forgive any redundancy but I just love the fact that I get to work with adults who are working really hard to not act like adults. Getting excited over giant whales playing the triangle, pissed off looking pigs, and hidden Rudolf's is the world I live in and there's nothing better than getting to work on things like this with people who appreciate the same ridiculousness. Jenny, thank you so much for your creativity, your patience and your beautiful family. Such a joy to do this with and for you!