Hanoch Piven
My Work
Sometimes a good sketch is your kiss of death.
posted: September 18, 2009
Sometimes you can't beat your sketch

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Hansen Smith to do a portrait of Tim Gunn for LA Times Magazine.
The truth is I even did not know who the guy is...sorry America.
Anyway, as a consumate pro, I did my research and faked being (and eventually became) very familiar with the subject matter.
A couple of days later I sent a sketch.

Sketching in my way of working has always been a problem.
In the old days I used to send a little doodle, which mainly suggested the objects I was going to use, thus it was more of a conceptual sketch to stress the general direction of the piece.
As the years went by I started using a digital camera to shoot the sketch as it is on the work table, meaning the sketch already includes the real objects, sometimes combined with crude pencil or marker lines. I always retouch and clean it up a bit on photoshop. Sometimes at sketch time I won't still have the real objects so I'd use a quick image from the web just to show the direction.
While it makes it clearer for me (to see if it will really work or not) it has become dangerous because:

A: editors tend to treat my sketches as finished pieces, and therefore are bothered by things that shouldn't bother them at sketch stage...
B" because the sketch might look to the untrained eye as a finished piece, editors might fall in love with it and prefer it to the finished piece.

'B" is what happened with LA Times. They loved the sketch and my whole project was then to try to duplicate the sketch.
I tried and I tried but there was really something in that sketch which captured Tim Gunn in a way that I admit, the finished piece didn't.

Eventually they asked just to print the sketch. It seemed at first like a disaster to me (not enough pixels, crude lines, digitally duplicated objects, bad photoshop work, all the NO NOs.!) but then I relaxed about it...and that is thanks to Janet my wife who said: "so what? why can't an unfinished sketch become a final. you did that sketch after all?". and the truth is that it works with the subject matter of 'the process of creativity' or something like that...
I managed to somehow improved some minor details but what printed was pretty much what they saw as a sketch.

oh well. I'm fine with it...(as long as it is clear THAT was a sketch...)

Original sketch
The 'final' they liked less.
The piece as it printed.
posted: September 11, 2009
The discussion in Felix Sockwell's page about sources of inspiration made me go back and remember what exactly jumpstarted for me the way of working I have been doing for almost twenty years now. It is a good excuse to talk in general about inspirations too.
As a Junior year student at SVA in 1990, I haven't done almost any collage before. My main interest were Caricature and Illustration but due to my own frustration with my 'performance' in these fields, and my 'advanced' age (was already 27) I switched to major in Graphic Design. An independent Caricature class with Sam Viviano, a Mad Magazine illustrator and nowadays, the AD of Mad, was the only real illustration class I was taking that semester. (that was a suggestion of Richard Wilde the head of Graphic Design). Working with Sam one on one led to some deep introspection and to some experimenting which produced my first collage piece. I have a very vivid recollection of the sort of images I was looking at or admiring back then.
Andre Fran├žois was a major favorite of mine at the time. I loved the dialogue between object and painted line in this image. The fact that there is only one 'object' makes us really understand its essence, its reason to be there, and thus the message is so clearly communicated.
I kept borrowing from the library a book of Tulio Pericoli and kept looking in it. Sam Viviano and I were examining this amazing Beckett caricature and it hit us that the coat seemed to be made on a different piece of paper and glued on top. That led Sam to introduce the term 'collage' to our talks for the first time..
I found this poster in the Picture Collection of the Mid Manhattan Library (shhhhh I stole it and still have it here with me, ok ok less dramatic than that, I did pay the fine) I was totally amazed by its minimalism. With so little, so much is said here. Once I saw it I said: I can get likenesses with little information too! I'm going to try that on Saddam Hussein.
During the late eighties the images of Sandy Skoglund were in every poster and postcard shop. I loved them and had postcards of them pinned to the wall.
As someone who had trouble controlling a complex palette, I was attracted to the limited yet exact use of color. These images also created an emotional story with quite a simple idea.
Also, looking at Skoglund's work, the whole idea of hierarchy of elements and colors became clearer to me. Guy Billout as my teacher had a lot to do with me understanding it. Guy is the Master of guiding your eye through a page exactly to where he wants it to go!
Also I got to see a couple of shows of Skoglund in Soho. I still love her work.
God knows how but with all those images in my head and with the strike of luck of a box of matches being there at the right time, (and remember this is the time RIGHT BEFORE the First Gulf War) within 2 weeks I think I came up with this first caricature collage.
Perhaps the biggest luck of all was also having the right teachers around at the time: Sam Viviano, Guy Billout, Carin Goldberg as a Graphic Design teacher, Jack Potter as an amazing Drawing teacher and Richard Wilde not only as teacher but also as an enthusiastic advocate of me developing myself as a caricaturist while majoring in Graphic Design.
How often?
posted: July 3, 2009
How often do you get to stand with your 2 children in front of a wall filled with your art?

This was shot (thank you Nurit!!) this past Tuesday in the opening of Faces, Inside and Out, an exhibition in which I am participating in The Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.
The work on the wall was a collaborative project with Mesila Studio, a Sustainable Design Studio in the cool Florentin neighborhood in Tel Aviv. It was a lot of fun working together. Check out their site.
posted: May 25, 2009
A little while ago I got notice that 'My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks' won the Chickadee Award
chosen by the children of Maine.I am so damn proud that 2997 kids voted for my book!
Nothing better than kids liking what you do!

Last week in NY I finally received the physical award (a nice print of a ...chickadee) and it was a good opportunity to share it with my lovely editor Annie Kelley at S&W Books.
Annie has edited both this book and What Presidents are Made of, which are my two most commercially successful books. (she's not only a lucky charm but much more)
As a matter of fact Smelly Dog started with an idea Annie had sent over to me. So without her this book wouldn't have existed, and even then it would have been less good without her close monitoring.  We have always worked very well together and even though now we are in the midst of working on another book and she is driving me nuts, (not letting me cut any corners), I still like Annie very very much!!
Thank you Annie for everything!
(just give me a break every now and then...so what if no one gets what I wrote?)

The "Award" itself.
My 3 minutes of fame in Houston
posted: May 18, 2009
Ok so I'm in Houston doing two days of workshops,
and this morning was invited to visit the morning TV show at FOX.
I made Maddof of..
posted: May 1, 2009
Bernie Madoff made for Time Magazine's 2009 100 List.
The guy at the stationary store didn't quite get my motivation for shredding dollar bills with his shredder... Ma-dear wife Janet made the cute little money bags for me.
Read here the accompanying article by Michael Moore

What Cats are Made of
posted: March 5, 2009
My friend Nick who was a book editor in London in the eighties told me once that in those days, there was a joke saying that since three very popular themes for books were: Cats, Blacks and Lesbians, book editors wanted to make a book about a lesbian black cat in order to score a bestseller.
Nick told me this when he found out I was working on a book about cats, accusing me of trying to make a buck... MOI?? (Well I do have a black cat on the cover... but he is very private about his life)
So What Cats are Made of is finally out. (I finished it a year and a half ago!!) It presents different breeds of cats underscoring the special traits of each one of them.  (Did you know that the Savannah cat loves to play in water?)
It also has some interesting feline facts I didn't know before. (that is until my great editor Ginee Seo told me) It was great fun working with Ginee and with the big wonderful lady, Art Director Ann Bobcush.  5 Feline Facts YOU didn't know!
1-Cats don't have a collarbone.
2-Cats cannot taste sugary foods.
3-A cat night vision is about six times better than a human's.
4-Cats have thirty two muscles which control the outer ear. (humans have 6)
5-A domestic cat can sprint 31 miles per hour
        Oh and Nick left the editorial world long time ago, moved to Spain and is a great outdoors walking tours guide.
The Persian Cat. (is made out of Glamour)
The Savannah (my daughter Ana made the swimsuit) is made out of Guts.
The Siberian (a great hunter, is made out of Toughness)
The Sphynx, a breed that does not have any hair. (and finds it hard to keep his body temperature)
Woody Allen for Esquire UK
posted: February 18, 2009
I have always had a difficult time doing a portrait of a person which I feel I have previously 'done' (a portrait of) well.
 Such is the case with Woody Allen. I felt that the portrait I created in 1995 captured pretty much the essence of Woody Allen, the Icon. The portrait, originally created for Haaretz, Israel, appeared later on in many other publications, was the cover of a Society of Illustrators Annual and the back cover of my monograph in Israel.
So when David McKendrick at Esquire UK asked me to try a new Woody, I was very reluctant at first, feeling I have done exactly what I wanted in the old portrait and wouldn't be able to come up with a different view.
So in order to make it easier on myself I decided not to strive for any 'larger than life Iconic view of Woody' (whatever that is)  but to show the current, older Woody and be more topical dealing with the context the article was talking about: Woody's new European film opening in London, and how he has quit NYC as the preferred setting for his movies.
While I swear I tried many other options for the nose, I couldn't help but re-use a banana. There is not a better nose for Woody. Its scientific.
A detail
The old Woody Allen from 1995.
Elections in Israel
posted: February 10, 2009
Tsipi Livni made for Maariv in August 2008 before she won the leadership of Kadima positioning herself as the 'Clean Politics' candidate.
  Today Israel chooses its next prime minister.
Sadly enough there have not being any great leaders in the area for a number of years.  I doubt if Tsipi Livni will be any different, but if the alternative today is between Bibi Netanyahu and Livni, I certainly hope Livni is elected even though the numbers are not on her side right now.
Who knows perhaps with a woman in charge something might change in this crazy part of the world.
...some days later after the election outcome is known... Its interesting that people are commenting about the results in regards to votes for Right Wing or Left Wing, while for me the results were that more than half of the voters clearly voted for moderate non-sectorial candidates, (Netanyahu, Livni, Barak).
So the results showed there is a clear majority to the sensible moderate center which these three can represent.  If only logic reigned in Israel, that is....

January 20th 2009
posted: January 20, 2009
Celebrating today.
I think most of us illustrators have been doing Obamas right and left. This was an assignment from David McKendrick at Esquire UK. Every month they do a second limited edition cover for the subscribers. So while their main cover had a photograph of Obama, this other one was just pure illustration. No type added.
Hopefully Obama will deliver and hopefully not only to the US but to the whole world.
Good Luck!!