All I can say about this work is that I can’t talk about this work, and that I want for the stars to align, so that everything here can be made, and I can talk about it.
This comic is my tell-all diary.
Cosmoramama was made for HANDS gallery in Oakland and will be open from February 2018-May 2018. Everything in the space references a single VR scene. Everything is for sale. And it turns out it might be illegal to sell any of it. IDK. You decide. Here's what we put in the fliers:
COSMORAMARAMA is the artist's portrayal of a landscape imagined and constructed in Virtual Reality. It features a range of polished steel, bronze, silver, resin, and nylon sculptures, with delicate fabric tapestries layered over fluid steel forms, and the digital environment from whence they all were derived. The physical and virtual work together paradoxically to create an environment one can never perceive in its whole.
Allsbrook often spends more time in a headset than she spends awake; she identifies with user interfaces. She, and many others like her, have demonstrated art in Virtual Reality as a use case—but this is already the winter of VR. In the space of a couple of years, and several corporate reorganizations, her world has begun to disappear around her. But can it really be said to be her own world? Maybe not: according to Facebook and Google’s licensing agreements, all assets generated using their direct VR creation tools cannot be owned by their creators.
Virtual reality was not the first product to use artistic context to create commercial value —the creator of the panorama made social, immersive tech with the express intent of charging admission. A collection of these diverse panoramic perspectives, which make up a geographically transcendent environment, is known as a Cosmorama.
Wesley Allsbrook is a commercial artist who came to the Bay Area to work for the now shuttered Oculus Story Studio, at the height of the VR boom in 2015. While at Story Studio she drew and art directed the animated VR film Dear Angelica, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, featured at the Venice Film Festival, awarded at Raindance, and nominated for an Emmy. She has made VR work for The Discovery Channel, Felix and Paul, Google, Maria Bello VR Productions, Porsche, Warner Brothers, and more. She lives in Los Angeles and works everywhere.
I love drawing for The New Yorker. I've typically worked with Deanna Donnegan on music or cultural pieces, or pieces for the web. I've worked with Chris Curry once. It's my dream to work for Fiction here. But till that time...
"Wide Awake" was an exploratory comic about my time living and working in magical San Francisco.
It's best if you read it on your cell phone.
Hope you like it.
I always enjoy the freedom of working with Nadxi Nieto. This short comic for Tiny Crimes is no exception. I love the idea of combining autobio and true crime as a genre. Also, I'm in very good fiction company. Here's how Catapult describes this collection of short stories:
Tiny Crimes gathers leading and emerging literary voices to tell tales of villainy and intrigue in only a few hundred words. From the most hard-boiled of noirs to the coziest of mysteries, with diminutive double crosses, miniature murders, and crimes both real and imagined, Tiny Crimes rounds up all the usual suspects, and some unusual suspects, too. With illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook and flash fiction by Carmen Maria Machado, Benjamin Percy, Amelia Gray, Adam Sternbergh, Yuri Herrera, Julia Elliott, Elizabeth Hand, Brian Evenson, Charles Yu, Laura van den Berg, and more, Tiny Crimes scours the underbelly of modern life to expose the criminal, the illegal, and the depraved.
This section is called SooJin Buzelli, rather than Asset International where SooJin is employed, because she is more important as an art director than any company could ever be. SooJin gave me my first paying job as a student in her husband, Chris Buzelli's, class. She is my longest standing client, and I consider her a friend. She has the respect and affection of every illustrator she hires, because she allows them to be themselves within the context of a magazine about money. Her approach to her subject has inspired many others to give control of metaphor to the people who they've hired to illustrate. Her approach to life straightens my spine.
In 2015, Inigo Quilez wrote QuilI, the tool with which I drew every line in "Dear Angelica", co-written and directed with Saschka Unseld, written and developed by Angela Petrella, and made by the good people at Oculus Story Studio. Dear Angelica premiered at Sundance 2017.
I will always draw flat, but making work in VR has changed the way I think about drawing, and has made me better. I cannot imagine not working in this way.
In April 2017, I made this work for WB's Wonder Woman for SXSW in partnership with Google's Tiltbrush. I really like Patty Jenkins. I mean, I really, really do. This is activation art, but it's Wonder Woman, and, at least for a little while, Gal Godot followed me on Instagram.
In July of 2017 I worked with Discovery's VR team (large thanks to Griffin Harrington and Kim Pazourek, and the entire team at VR Scout) to recreate a race between Michael Phelps and a great white shark off the coast of Seal Island in South Africa. There's a video of me talking about it on YouTube. All the comments say that I look like a gay hipster. Want to guess who won?
I've worked with the Marshall Project and Lisa Iaboni twice. Both were feature pieces, and both were collaborations with other non profit news sites. This piece, "An Unbelievable Story of Rape" written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, made in collaboration with ProPublica, won a Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting.
Here's some art for the programs of the SF Curran's run of Danai Gurira's Eclipsed, Directed by Liesl Tommy and performed by Ayesha Jordan, Joniece Abbot-Pratt, Akosua Busia, Adeola Role, and Stacey Sergeant. This is a play with an all-female cast about the impossible choices left to the women of Liberia during Charles Taylor's regime. Many of you will remember reading about Black Diamond in high school. This is that. My thanks to Sunra Thompson for the work and the design. I include scans here because they show off some of Sunra's context, and also how well things printed on this paper.
After the play, Greg Backstrom took me back stage to meet the cast. All had very kind things to say while I sputtered and acted like anyone who's ever met an actor. They signed my program. I most enjoyed my conversation with Akosua Busia and her daughter. We were doing the thing where you say where you're from. She's from Ghana. I told her North Carolina. She said "Oh, I know that place. Very well. I played a lot of slaves there."
Then we laughed for different but completely related reasons.
In October of 2017, Twitter hired me to help them celebrate our ten year anniversary with the hashtag. On the internet, we're all married! This one was about trending entertainment. Not my concept, but I got to draw icons as characters, so I was kind of happy.
Tilt Brush frequently and generously employs me for small contracts. This was just a small project to see whether I could get some of my flat characters and scenes to translate into a VR context for an activation at VR LA. It works alright. Mostly I'm glad that they let me do what I like, more or less.
This was the first published piece that Barrie and I made together. We sold it to Irene Gallo at tor.com in 2014. It won a silver medal at the Society of Illustrators. I had always wanted to make something about the last man and woman on earth. At first he suggested that the woman be convinced that her husband was unfaithful. But we pivoted to a story about dissatisfaction and changeableness, and uncomfortable compromise in the face of inevitable, incontrovertible facts. Who would like to take a bets on whether either of us will ever be married?
Barrie Potter and I made this via text at 3AM one night when I was hiding in North Carolina. We were talking about that Degas painting, "Interior", and that other one "The Star". You'll notice in the background of Star what is obvious in Interior. The dark shoes belong to an abonee--a "subscriber"--a patron who paid to sleep with the dancers of the Paris Ballet. I've always wanted to make this revenge piece about the things you see through other people's eyes.
This is a selection of work that I've made since 2014 for the New York Times. Like many people, I began working on the Letters page, then moved on to Opinion and Book Review. I've worked with Brian Rea, Nicholas Blechman, Aviva Michaelov, Alexandra Zsigmond, Matt Dorfman, Nathan Huang, Arem Duplessis and several others who I'm neglecting to mention out of forgetfulness, rather than feeling. Working here is always a pleasure and a privilege. There are some people for whom you make your best work, and I have met a few of them at the Times. They know who I am, and they hire me to make what I like.
Here you will find Diane Johnson's Book Review piece for Marilynne Robinson's "Lila", Jenny Wilkinson's Op Ed about justice for rape survivors at universities, An op ed from Eric L. Adam's about his life as an officer and as a black man in the wake of Eric Garner's death, Michelle Goldberg's Book Review cover on Susan Faludi's "In the Darkroom", Eliot Ackerman's piece about women in the Marines, Sadhbh Walshe's piece about womens' roles in the Easter Rising and Curt Stager's Sunday Review cover on climate change. Reading this list, you can see how perceptive and intelligent my Art directors have been in their use of my work.
This year four other illustrators and I were commissioned by Zejian Shen to illustrate a piece of the Ramayana in accordion-comic form. This work was made to accompany the Rama Epic exhibition, which will be at the Asian Art museum from October 21. I'm white, and they let me work on this piece. Which is pretty cool. And I think it's not just cool, but okay because the Rama Epic is full of archetypes and myths that we can all relate to. The museum wants everyone to come see the show and see themselves.
They gave me Ravana's abduction of Sita. I like seeing Ravana as a tech prince with many emoji faces. And San Francisco is a lot like Lanka. Very beautiful, and full of demons.
Here's a short comic that began as a riso printed menu to a 5 course meal for chef Tessa Liebman's Methods and Madness series. Barrie and I put on white clothes and lipstick and papered an entire room white, then inked the place while Maya Tanaka shot us and dinner was served. Then, it snowed, and everything that happened in the comic came true within the following year, exactly as prophesied. My toes are still cold, my skin is peeling, and I wish you were here.
I worked with OZY in 2015 and 2016. These were made for pieces about modern feminism in China, and for a tech philosophy series.
These are crops of some, though by no means all the illustrations for a Grimms Fairytale book, art directed by Tyler Freidenrich. A servant eats a dish made for a king and is suddenly, magically able to converse with animals. This allows him to have many new adventures, and eventually to become royal himself. Everything happens in threes, and everything good happens in this story because someone ate or stole something belonging to someone else.
These are pages from that comic I was pitching with Barrie Potter in 2015. We sold it at the end of that year, then we unsold it in 2016. Time, and "personal reasons". It's very sad, but I did so much on this project. For a while, almost 2 years, it was everything to me. I'm sure that Sophie will keep floating to the surface for the rest of everything, like themes do. For now, she can hang out here. I'll be happy to see her again, soon.
This is a selection of the work I've made by the good grace and inspired spirit of Irene Gallo at TOR and tor.com. She always takes care to give me pieces about women, urban fantasy, and impossible-to-visualize metaphor. Her love of Sci Fi and Fantasy, her approach, and the fact that she's been hiring me since 2007 makes her one of my favorite Art Directors.
In 2012, my friends and I left ICON7 and began making image and phrase libraries that we would mash together to make stream of consciousness gag comics for a blog called "Extra Bitches". Many clients saw the link to this blog on my site and wrote to me specifically to tell me that they would not hire me, and that they found the title of my blog offensive. I don't believe that they read the blog itself, but I could be wrong.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Leo Jung, Creative Director at California Sunday, Inc. at a student conference about process at CCA. He asked me to illustrate this set of images to accompany Kat Southerland's performance at the recent Pop-Up Magazine event in Chicago. Her story is about a young girl from the south who moves to Chicago as a creative punk looking to find herself. She finds herself in a nightclub. She eventually moves to the east coast, experiences a few hardships, and finds herself back in Chicago, again. Thanks, Leo!
I've worked with Len Small at Nautilus three times since the summer of 2013. Nautilus hires some of the more beautiful art for science that I've seen. I read it for the pictures. This piece, by Gillen D'Arcy Wood was about how the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Tambora gave us Gothic Literature. I redid the cover four times.
Here's a selection of drawings made for various Medium/ Matter pieces. Cli-fiction, sexting, motherhood... All directed by Erich Nagler.
This was the second piece that Barrie and I had published, and the last. We pitched it to Len Small at Nautilus. We were thinking about art, technique, and technology. And trying to make something for a science magazine. This fight between Kubrick and Vermeer is one that I've had again and again with friends, family, and colleagues throughout my life. So what we made here was true, if also made to attract a client.
This piece was a pitch for a serialized New York bar review comic. Aside from the work on Nervosa, it was one of the first complete things I ever made with Barrie Potter. A thing happened to me where I moved to New York with my soon-to-be-boyfriend to be illustrators together. The recession had just hit. I became an illustrator, and he became a dishwasher, then a barback, then a server, and then a bartender at a place in our neighborhood: The Manhattan Inn.
He went on to train Barrie on the same track. Adam is now quite a singular bartender at one of the most well known and respected cocktail bars in Manhattan. But the years these two men spent at the Inn are ones that I will remember as some of the darkest of my adult life, and in the lives of everyone I met there. This place was a vortex of fatalistic hedonism that cheerfully drowned the talent and potential of every person working under its roof. The story of death in the service of drunk brooklynites is eternal. Alcoholic victims were an obsession of Barrie's, and what we wanted here was for our main character to be always trying to solve a mystery that he was too drunk to remember, while allowing our readers to tour new bars and retreading an exhausting social roster of usual suspects.
I'd still make it. Funnier, more stylized, but I would do it. I pitched it to Lucky Peach, The New Yorker, The Times... I pitched it to Vice and was roundly rejected by Nick Gazin, art director and butt blogger. His email to me began "How old are you and where did you go to school?"
There are days when I think I should have sent him a picture of my ass instead.
Drawing for smaller design firms can be so rewarding. Kate and Erin are a dream to work with, and have cheerfully paid me in BBQ and introduced me to their families. They take care to bring me work that I can stand behind politically and visually. If you're in Texas, hire them. Also, you don’t have to be in Texas. They design for everyone.
This selection of some of my work for them includes Sarah Hepola's feature "Blackout" for Alcalde (Which was honored by the Society of Publication Designers in 2016), a poster for The Gaslight Baker Theater's production of "The Uninvited" by Tim Kelly, and album art for Deadman's "The Sound and the Fury".
These piece are quite old, from 2012. Working with Danielle Campbell on this set about body dysmorphia was significant for me in my career. It was the first time I can remember being assigned a subject I truly cared about. I’m keeping them here for their sentimental value.
I've worked for McSweeneys, Lucky Peach, and Grantland from 2009 on various projects. It's always a privilege. My work on Issues 42 and 44 is my favorite. Some of Issue 44's work, all black and white sketches for fiction, is pictured here.