Continue reading to see how this week's cover evolved into an art show.
Friday: As art director of the Mercury, part of my job is to design/curate covers every week. The day the tsunami hit the coast of northeastern Japan I was teaching a class at Wieden+Kennedy 12 (advertising/art school/experiment) about designing covers. We were making fake covers about different fun issues like "The Burrito Issue." (Which isn't too far off from a typical issue of the Mercury, is it?) While talking and thinking out loud with the students I realized that the next weeks cover should say something about the anguish Japan is facing. So I canceled the cover I had Mike Bertino working on and started over again.
Saturday: I woke up and got to work painting a black wave engulfing a red sun. I couldn't stop watching the aerial footage of the tsunami taking over the land. The more I watched the more I could see people down there trying to drive away from the black wave tugging burning houses and a whole city along with it. I started thinking about what the coast would look like after the water slipped back to sea. That's when words began to fail me and all I could do was make art to express how I felt. The black wave I was painting shifted into the form of a big sad fish.
I wanted to help, but I didn't live in Japan, and I didn't have much money to send. I did however have some used screen printing equipment, so I thought I would make a quick and dirty print set to help raise some money for Surfrider Japan.
Sunday: I realized that I wasn't the only artist who had been hit with this sense of urgency to do whatever I could to help, so I started organizing an art show called Black Wave Red Sun. Grass Hut gallery was kind enough to host the show on their website.
Monday: Back at work, I repainted the cover about twenty times at my desk using sumi ink and water until I got it just right. Editor-in-Chief Wm. Steven Humphrey came over to discover the mess I'd made at my desk (ink was all over, even on the keyboard and the computer screen), but he didn't seem to care—he just wanted to get this cover right. We consulted, making the red sun bigger, and then smaller, and then just the right size, paying special attention to the size and tone of the wave. This week's cover is what we ended up with.
Every artist I invited to be in the benefit art show said yes. One of the artists I invited, Ty Williams, wrote back saying "this disaster in Japan hits me very personally as I lived not far from the impact zone a year ago."