• Frank-viva-hero-1
Illustration

We speak to illustrator Frank Viva as he completes his fifth cover for The New Yorker

Posted by Bryony Quinn,

Next week’s cover for the New Yorker will be Frank Viva’s fifth. This ongoing commission and “career highlight” is part of a larger body of highly communicative design work that Viva and his studio (Viva & Co.) produce. We spoke to Frank about the upcoming cover – a striking and playful piece featuring a golfer with a misguided confidence in his own swinging abilities – and the singular nature of cover illustration…

  • Frank-viva-1

How did it your first cover with the New Yorker come about and how scared/confident were you?!

When Françoise Mouly – the cover art editor at The New Yorker – first called me, I was so shocked I jumped up and hit my head (rather badly) on my desk lamp. I survived. Was I scared? Yes, but once I put on some music and began working, I forgot about everything else and just got on with it. Since then, we have worked on five New Yorker covers  and a children’s picture book called A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse. This title is for TOON Books – a line of cartoon-based children’s books she created – now an imprint of Candlewick Press. It comes out this fall.

What can you tell us about this latest cover and the insight into its making?

Although the current New Yorker cover has a golf theme, apart from lugging my grandfather’s clubs around when I was kid, I know nothing about the game. The protagonist is a proud professional-looking guy that takes a big swing with all of his skill and power – and he misses.

The frame is frozen at the exact moment that he (along with the dog and the crow) is expecting to see the ball fly through the air. Before they notice, the viewer sees that he tipped the ball, sending it no more than a foot off the tee. I had trouble getting the stance right and went through five rounds to nail it. All the while, Françoise was very happy with the first iteration and – in the end – pulled it back to something close to the first (which was the best of the lot). Sometimes I get lost.

How does your approach to a cover commission differ from other editorial spot illustrations?

While there might be a request for a theme, the cover artists come up with the ideas. Spot illustrations for most magazines provide visual support to a written piece (which isn’t to say there’s no room for ideas, but it is a different process). To put it another way, because many covers for The New Yorker have a kind of narrative, the role of the artist is similar to that of a writer with Françoise filling the role of an editor, helping to shape the piece.

  • Frank-viva-ss-2

    Frank Viva for the New Yorker © Copyright Viva & Co.

  • Frank-viva-ss-

    Frank Viva for the New Yorker © Copyright Viva & Co.

  • Frank-viva-ss-1

    Frank Viva for the New Yorker © Copyright Viva & Co.

  • Frank-viva-ss-3

    Frank Viva for the New Yorker © Copyright Viva & Co.

Portrait9

Posted by Bryony Quinn

Bryony was It’s Nice That’s first ever intern and worked her way up to assistant online editor before moving on to pursue other interests in the summer of 2012.

Most Recent: Illustration View Archive

  1. List

    Lawrence Zeegen has never been one to mince his words. The illustrator, writer and dean of design at London College of Communication has recently launched his new book Fifty Years Of Illustration which he co-wrote with Grafik editor Caroline Roberts. It’s an impressively ambitious undertaking with the duo condensing five decades into 1,000 images by 240 illustrators from 30 countries. Lawrence admits it’s a “pretty personal selection” but one that aims to “represent the movers and shakers across each decade according to the work I believe was instrumental in shaping the discipline.”

  2. List

    Growing up in a family of doctors, Swedish illustrator and paper-cut artist Petra Börner secured her first commission (illustrating medical journals) through her surgeon mother, which might go some way to explaining why her work is so reminiscent of botanical diagrams in biology textbooks. Petra’s principle subject is the flora and fauna of the natural world, which she creates using paper cut techniques so intricate and painstakingly-detailed that they scarcely look like they could be real.

  3. List

    Alright, we admit it – Peter Judson has made a lot of work we’ve been really into this year, and he’s had the props on the site to prove it. But why should we be made to contain ourselves when he keeps producing illustration of this calibre? Why, we ask you?

  4. List

    If, like me, you spent many an hour in your teenage years gazing absentmindedly at Larry Carlson’s experimental website Medijate, you’ll no doubt be similarly transfixed by The Landfill from the very talented Santtu Mustonen. Stitching together a “collection of unused sketches, leftover drawings and rejected ideas from forgotten projects” to a mesmerising soundtrack by Tuomas Alatalo, Santtu created a hypnotic animation that’s a work of art in its own right.

  5. List

    As the man who gave form to the twisted genius of Hunter S. Thompson, British illustrator’s Ralph Steadman’s latest project seems like a perfect fit. Ralph has worked with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan to illustrate some limited-edition Blu-Ray covers for a special boxset of the series due out early next year.

  6. List

    Having just re-read Sammy Harkham’s 2012 anthology of short stories Everything Together I was stupidly excited to find out he’s just got himself on Tumblr and uploaded a small but growing archive of work both old and new. Included in among old covers of Kramers Ergot, book jackets for Kafka anthologies, Bonnie Prince Billy album covers and bits and pieces of rejected work are original drawings from his ongoing graphic novel (and surely future masterpiece) Blood of the Virgin, which he’s also selling to fund further work on the project. I for one cannot wait to see this project massive volume finally realised. Keep at it Sammy!

  7. List

    This top image by New York-based illustrator Karan Singh caught my eye on purely aesthetic grounds; it was only when I delved a little deeper that I discovered the interesting story behind the work. Karan was one of several artists commissioned by Ogilvy New York to work on the IBM US Open Sessions, whereby LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy created a series of tracks based on data gathered at the tennis tournament.

  8. Main2

    I came across the work of Matthias Geisler over on Booooooom the other day and was reminded that we hadn’t posted something like this in a while. Matthias’ work is a swirling blend of spirits and creatures that are created with meticulous use of pencil crayons and water-colours. Is it me or are watercolours real in at the moment? All the cool kids seem to be using them.

  9. List

    If you’re feeling a bit bleary eyed this morning, grab a cup of coffee and take a look at Goncalo Viana’s beautiful illustrations to wake yourself up. Rich with colour and charming detail his work has a wonderful texture to it, as though you could reach out and actually feel the deep pigments he’s used.

  10. List

    Before I write anything about illustrator Nicolas Delort I feel like full disclosure is necessary; between the ages of 11 and 14 I spent all of my pocket money collecting and painting Warhammer models and most of my saturdays hanging out in Games Workshop, which means I’m predisposed to LOVE epic fantasy artwork, like Frank Fazetta, Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo.

  11. Main

    It’s comforting to see the resurgence in the physical aspects of music. There was a moment a few years back when gig posters and witty, well-crafted promotional material seemed to be confined solely to the world wide web, which made every poster that was actually printed on paper something of a novelty. Not any more though: we’re receiving and finding so many illustrators now whose portfolios are chock full of variations on the humble gig poster and they are brilliant. Today we thought we’d champion this theme with Dutch illustration student Douwe Dijkstra. His visual interpretations of bands such as The Growlers and Losers are taking the stylistic qualities of early 1990s gig posters and infusing them with a modern style to make some seriously nick-able printed matter. Keep up the great work, Douwe!

  12. List

    On the morning that David Cameron is giving a press conference on the UK’s future role in Afghanistan, Scott King’s latest book seems even more significant. Anish & Antony Take Afghanistan is a graphic novel that Scott sees as “a critique of the deployment of public art,” which satirises how far we’re prepared to enforce our cultural values on others. Through Scott’s writing and Will Henry’s illustrations, we follow as Anish (Kapoor) and Antony (Gormley) try and bring cultural regeneration to the war-torn country.

  13. List

    The London-based French illustrator Malika Favre has had another big year, adding even more breadth to her already impressive portfolio of work. In the summer she was invited to Tenerife by a Spanish design collective called 28ymedio to take part in its Illustrated Journey project, which aims to “help fight the economic crisis in Spain by promoting the Canary Islands and bringing a new stream of tourism.”