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You may have noticed something happening over at Gawker media.
Things have been way visually cooler over there for the past year, thanks to the efforts of Illustrator Tara Jacoby and Art Director/Illustrator Jim Cooke. Last April (2014), Cooke – on behalf of Gawker Media – put out a call for a “staff illustrator”.
We’re looking for a graphic design and illustration junkie with an editorial focus. You can read a post, conceptualize an interesting visual solution, and execute an image that will make that post better…within an hour or two. You are clever and have a keen sense of humor, and your portfolio reflects this.
Tara Jacoby turned out to be the perfect choice for the job. Her work brings just the right balance of humor, wit, and humanity to Gawker’s incredibly wide range of topics and compelling headlines. Here at Illustration Age we always strive to celebrate the people, publications and organizations that embrace the use of illustration, and next week we’ll be sharing our conversation with AD Jim Cooke about Gawker’s motivations for doing just that.
But first, we think it makes sense to start with the images themselves, so we’ve collaborated with Tara to highlight some of our favorite illustrations of hers and also take the opportunity to pick her brain about her experience working with Gawker over the past year. Enjoy!
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ILLUSTRATION AGE: What inspired you to answer Gawker’s call for an in-house illustrator?
TARA JACOBY: I had been working as the graphic designer at the Society of Illustrators and freelancing. I’d looked to change gears and focus on illustration and considered going freelance full-time. To be honest, I had no idea Gawker was hiring. A friend had sent me the link twice before I even read it. When I actually did read it, it felt like the stars had aligned. I had to have it. This job was tailor-made for me. So, I applied immediately.
Sometimes the job feels too good to be true. I cannot believe that I’m excited to go to work everyday. You know when people say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”… well, they were right!
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Fun (after the) fact: Jim had me come into the office for a trial day after my interview. I completely blew it. He sat me at the “smelly Deadspin table” and I sat there silently freaking out and frantically sketching ideas, reading and re-reading the assignments as my career hung in the balance. I basically had an eight hour anxiety attack. I still can’t believe that he hired me after that.
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IA: What’s it like to work under rapid-fire deadlines on such a regular basis?
TJ: Well, had you asked me that in June, my head might have exploded from all of the pressure. At first, I was completely stressed out. I tend to overthink… let me see… well, everything. The first couple of weeks I was waking up at 4:30 every morning just to mentally prepare myself for the day ahead. I basically drove myself insane. I think I hid my neurosis pretty well? I’m not sure. All I knew was, Jim hadn’t canned me yet, so everything was copacetic.
Now, I actually think it’s refreshing to work under rapid-fire. You don’t have time to overthink anything. And being a perfectionist, I feel like this really helped me loosen up both technically and creatively.
Overall, I love it. Typically, each one of us does 3-5 illustrations in a day, depending on how busy we are. That doesn’t include the other more design-oriented images we make. The three of us are constantly working. By the end of the week we can’t even remember all of the things we’ve done. Over a course of 7 months, I’ve done roughly 500 or so illustrations. I’ve never been so productive in my entire life.
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IA: How much creative freedom do you feel like you have on these illustrations?
TJ: The organization as a whole is encouraged to be bold and honest. Nick Denton once said, “We are beholden to no one.” That holds true for the art department as well. We can draw whatever we want with no apologies. That’s the beauty of working for a truly independent media company. They are always challenging you to push the limits and speak your mind. I’ll admit, sometimes we do get a little carried away, but that’s not a terrible thing.
If I think that something might be going too far (or not far enough), I’ll ask Jim and he’ll point me back in the right direction. When Disney Dudes’ Dicks came out I was very concerned about offending the Disney loving masses, but Jim gave me some sage advice: “If you’re not offending someone, you’re not doing it right.”
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IA: To end on a light note, many of your illustrations deal with sexual themes. What does your mother think about that?
TJ: My mom rules. My whole family does. I could draw pretty much anything and they’d support me. They always have. After the first couple of weeks, they all just accepted that if they ask about my job, they better be ready for some NSFW art. I’m lucky to have a family with a few loose screws and a great sense of humor.
Thanks to Tara Jacoby and Gawker Media for their contributions to this article. Stay tuned for our conversation with Gawker Art Director Jim Cooke!
More places to find Tara Jacoby:
Filed under: Interviews
You know what the best thing about having interns is? You can get them to do your work for you have the privilege of teaching them what you know, and watching them grow professionally. This week, we bring you a special Linked Up, written by publicity interns extraordinaire, Alexandra McGinn and Hanna Oldsman. Be sure to check back next week for my (awesome/hilarious) Q & A with them.
I think I may want to move to Japan and make pizza. [Reuters]
The Good News: Thanksgiving isn’t a reason to break up. The Bad News: Christmas comes shortly after Thanksgiving. [Popfi]
I’m more of a Garamond type of girl myself. [Not Cot]
If you’re still in a candy coma from Halloween it’s time to let the goods go.
The Shining’s not so scary in Lego form. [Flickr]
Obama the Grinch Steals Christmas In Tea Party Picture Book [Gawker]
Commute via holograph? Yes please! [Wired]
C the difference? [Virtual Linguist]
Van Gogh would have bought an iPad. [BBC]
Which literary character is a Facebook addict? [Salon]
I want to talk about YA books for girls in the 1980s. Books like Anastasia Ask Your Analyst, and The Girl with the Silver Eyes.
Besides PBS and the Thundercats, these books were pretty much the only media I had available during my nerdy nerdy youth. And since I hadn’t been sentient for too long, so they had a disproportionate impact on my social development.
I wasn’t alone. The fine ladies at Jezebel (One of those Gawker media blogs. I’m usually against ‘em. This one, however doesn’t suck.) do a recurring feature called Fine Lines, which is UNCANNY in its ability to suss out YA books from my misspent youth.
I checked out an average of 14 books a week from two different local libraries, thanks to my geek parents. Most of the books I read were comic anthologies like Peanuts, Bloom County, Garfield and (odd for a 12 year old) Doonesbury. However, the books that really got through were the ones like Island of the Blue Dolphins, or From the mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankeweiler.
Fine Lines has them all, lovingly glossed and tinted with a healthy dose of grown-up lady perspective. Go. Go now. Read and remember. You were not alone.
By this time next week, retired Gawker writer Emily Gould's long essay "Exposed" will have been batted around every literary blog in the neighborhood. Her writing about blogging has already stirred up six-hundred readers.
No matter what you think about the whole over-blogged debate, you should read it. It's an intimate look at how the writing world works nowadays, and the prose is pretty addictive.
When you are finished reading, you should turn off your computer-screen.
We've spent all week writing about writing, and then we spent more time reading comments written about writing about writing. None of it will fill your writing note-book. Go find something beautiful in the real world. Write about that.
If you need some writing therapy, check out this YouTube clip over at Elegant Variation. It's novelist John Berger introducing his book about art--Ways of Seeing. Around the six-minute mark, Berger looks at a gorgeous painting in a Renaissance chapel. He reminds us to slow down and think about the cosmic frame that used to surround these works of art--an amazing lesson for our over-blogged imaginations.
Watch the video here: “Behind its image is God. Before it, believers close their eyes, the don’t need to go on looking at it. They know it marks the place of meaning.”
Happy snowy Friday to all! Grab a cup of hot cocoa, snuggle up with a blanket and your laptop and start surfing these links.
Don’t look now but your media job may just be running for the hills.
Sing it loud Egan so Steve Jobs can hear you, books are not dead!
The Best of the Bookers.
Curious about art theft? A reformed stolen-art dealer tells all. (more…)
On this awesome mention in Gawker. Yes, I thought about buying the T Shirt; but then I wondered, would I have the balls to wear it?
.... how about wearing it to the Newbery Dinner? (Of course, I don't have my ticket, so it's not a possibility. But imagine if we all wore one...)
A woman who used to write for Gawker reveals that “….I deemed [someone] an “utterly ridiculous twit.” I called Jessica Simpson a “young skanklet,” and I shamelessly crowned an obnoxious publicist the “Most Abhorrent New Yorker” of that week. I even suggested that one middle-aged tabloid editor, known for her over-the-top coverage of celebrity body “flaws,” should look into buying an underwire bra.”
But she starts out the article about her past life as a blogger by complaining, “I’ve been called a bitch, a hack, a wannabe, a fake and a freak, but never once to my face. In fact, I doubt that even half the people insulting me ever uttered their words out loud - the jabs were all served up online, where acting like an outraged lunatic is de rigueur. Ask anyone who writes anything online, and they’ll have a story to tell about the sheer meanness of the virtual world. Here’s mine.”
How is being called a fake or a freak worse than calling someone a ridiculous twit? She did have worse things happen to her, like having someone post her home address and cell phone number. But I still think this is partly a case of the pot calling the kettle black. There are real people behind the words we throw around, and we all need to remember that.
What do you think? Read more here.
When will people start treating the most talented bloggers like real literary figures?
The journal n+1 has a smart look at the rise of the website Gawker, giving each of the founding authors a critique that would make any literature professor proud. It's a valuable lesson on the evolution of webby style of bloggers like Choire Sicha:
"Like a Method gossip, Sicha had a natural fluency in spin and slipped almost lyrically into the voices of the subjects he intended to critique. When he felt that these subjects, out of restraint or lack of imagination, hadn’t pushed their blurbs far enough, Sicha obligingly did it for them ... At times his insults and his humor, in the language he imitated, were so subtly placed that they could be missed completely."
Still, not everybody can be as mean as they are. Myself included. Dan Blank has an interesting article about a kinder, gentler model for web writing, the enthusiasm-driven approach.
He uses stereo equipment writers as his model, showing how amateurs and experts share the stage in this bustling web community. Check it out:
"Never lose site of the key elements that the audience is passionate about. To build community, start small and focus on the one item that gets people excited. For all the time I spend with my stereo “hobby,” it is still all about the music." (Thanks, Chris Webb)