I'd like to take this opportunity to present a piece of artwork that I was commissioned to do for a charitable organization; the Muscular Dystrophy Association (M.D.A.), for their annual Awards Ceremony in 1997.
I say "commissioned" but I accepted no payment for it - this artwork was donated to their cause for their usage free of charge.
Most people know the MDA as the organization with whom world-famous actor and comedian Jerry Lewis (and his "Jerry's Kids") is affiliated - most notably with their annual fund-raising telethon.
Representatives from the MDA offices approached me and asked that I produce a piece, after seeing some of my work elsewhere, to be used as the cover for the program book as well as for the invitations of their annual Gala Event dinner.
The theme that I was presented to work from was called "Night of a Thousand Dreams", representing the fulfillment of the goals, hopes and wishes of the many children who deal with Muscular Dystrophy's neuromuscular diseases.
Taking that theme to heart, I worked up several different concepts - but kept coming back to the image of children, unfettered by any challenging "handicap" or ailment, literally flying as high as they could.
Sadly, as usual, the deadline for this was pretty short. I don't think I had more than a week or so (two weeks at most) from the day that I was contacted to the day that it was due.
Still, I think it worked out fairly well.
This is the final piece that I submitted.
(The finished, printed cover is further below)
Wanting to keep the general feeling of the piece light, free and full of dream-like innocence, I worked in a children's book style of simplistic forms.
Also, I opted to obscure any details of faces by back-lighting the children via starlight.
This helped to eliminate any off-chance of accidentally coming close to anyone's actual likeness, or offending anyone by not representing any ethnic "type".
It also suggested an open, empathic nature to the piece, so that the children could sense, more than actually see, themselves - and identify with whichever body they wished.
The absence of much detailing maintained a feeling of pure form and lightness of being.
More "spiritual body" than physical form. Their dream-selves taken flight.
The artwork was drawn in my oft-used manner of black pencil finishes over blue pencil roughs on vellum-finished bristol illustration board.
"Old-school" rub-on, dry-transfer stars of varying sizes were dispersed across the background.
I could have drawn the stars in by hand, but having the uniformity maintained via the dry-transfer decals aided in keeping the piece balanced.
While in the design stage, I experimented with font styles and placement, and when I found what I liked, I typeset the text of the piece on a separate layer of paper (making sure to keep registration marks aligned for the printer, thus ensuring that the text wouldn't be misprinted).
Finally, I was asked my opinion of what single color to be used in the printing process.
(I'm not sure if the printer volunteered their services free of charge or at a discounted rate, but still, single-color printing would ensure a low cost).
We all felt that blue was the way to go - helping to maintain the "cool night air" feeling of the artwork.
This is what the final printed piece looked like.
(without my copyright "branding" of course)
The gently windswept hair and garments, with the blue-tinted, muted colors, suggesting a cool night's air as the children rise, unencumbered, to great heights.
Inside the program, the image would be reproduced several times, in "5th" color metallic inks of bronze, silver, and gold - to coincide with the sections within the ceremony where awards were bestowed.
The following year, in 1998, the MDA offices contacted me and asked if I would let them use the piece again. While I would have been willing to produce a new image, they all loved this one so much - it being requested by multiple people, that they wished to reuse it for that 2nd year.
Honored, I agreed.
In the career of every artist, the likelihood of being asked to do "pro-bono" work (or even "work-on-spec") is a certainty.
However, whether one agrees to do free work for other professional agendas, it is always good and rewarding to do so for a worthwhile (and/or quite possibly charitable) cause.