Art Direction: Greg Kozatek
I was asked to illustrate the landing page for a friend’s queer satire online magazine, The InQueery. The publication assumes the voice of a gay research corporation, who publishes “research” of their findings, which range from ways that queer people hold their iced coffee to designing a chair that accommodates the needs of gay people, there's talk of aqueeriums, gayzeebos and so much more.
In line with the supposed corporate aspirations of this research corporation, Greg, the art director and co-founder of The InQueery asked me to visualize its headquarters. He asked for the actual architecture, as well as tiny portraits of the staff of the magazine and visual references to the (then to date) 25 published articles, as a celebratory marker of the project so far.
"Wimmelbilder" is German and literally translates to crawling/busy images and it refers to the specific tradition in illustration where a large area is drawn, usually including characters doing a bunch of different things, a famous example being "Where's Waldo" (or maybe you're more familiar with your local translation "¿Dónde está Wally?", "ウォーリーをさがせ!", "Où est Charlie?" 👴)
A Wimmelbild is what I first had in mind when Greg briefed me on this idea and on researching this image making tradition I came across a more specific, technical variant called "Cutaway". As shown below the name is self-explanatory and just describes the idea of cutting away layers of something in order to see what's below. They are often used to lay out complex machinery, anatomy or industrial processes. Probably especially before the time of 3d software visualisation.
I wanted to land somewhere between the two. A lot of Wimmelbilder conjure up a comfortable children's book/story time feeling and lend themselves to humor. The cutaway would be more of a reference to the "corporate" veneer of the whole thing.
In this first step I concentrated on a basic sense of the building itself, providing rough areas that could house the specific subdivisions, labs and offices referenced in the text. I'm trying to land on a "quirky office" look. It's also where I try to figure out the general composition in the drawing/aesthetics sense.
Now that there's an idea of what room could be assigned to what story bit I begin to give each segment a more concrete shape and cutaway-window into the room. This is probably the most architecturally-minded stage and I have to concentrate a little in order to not get lost in making it too realistic. I want it to feel like a real space but I don't want to have to worry about fire codes which is where my mind would naturally wander if I'm being honest.
It looks quick and snappy in these gifs but in reality at this midpoint I'm buried hours, or probably days deep in the image already. I'm switching back and forth between being a draftsperson and mentally moving through this space and imagining it being filled by all of The InQueery's content and spirit. There's no specific hierarchy, I just circle around the image and add bits and pieces of information as I go along.
Now that a sketch is finished and all the elements are established I start coloring. I'm working as one would with a lot of traditional mediums. Large to small, light to dark and starting with local colors that are based on a color palette the art director sent with the brief. Lots of purples and pinks. I use a lot of complimentary greens for framing, in line with the general amount of contrast and clarity I'm trying to establish.
I like that in whatever I work on usually a little bit of my personal life's day-to-day will likely show through somewhere. In this case I had just recently been gifted a really beautiful book of Constantin Brâncuși's work. I've always enjoyed his work but a few particular images ended up slipping into the courtyard sculpture as I only realized when looking back on the finished picture.
I also wanted to share some art direction bits all of which was the best kind where everything just improves the image and storytelling. Not the kind where someone tries to force two varying creative perspectives into a single thing.
Like how the office section's paper storage ended up way too realistic and it just had a bunch of boxes and a printer and instead Greg came up with this little gaming oasis as this is a frequent topic of the magazine. Now instead of the cliché of a supply closet office make-out the new context reveals a more complex narrative.
Again the bland office space being enriched by someone amongst the cubicles having a weird plant habit. Also some queer iconography and tiny details from the magazine are sprinkled on top.
Iced Coffee is a frequently reoccurring theme throughout the magazine and worked well as a detail to pull together the content of the building's rooftop.
I loved working on this and am so thankful to Greg for asking me to collaborate with The InQueery on this project. If you're curious about the magazine or my other work find us at:
Thank you for taking an interest and probably for patiently waiting for these enormous gifs to load 🐭