Celebrating Entrepreneurs

Earlier this Spring, Square contacted me for an event in London to celebrate a partnership with the Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (Tern), which supports folks who have come to the UK and are trying to grow a small business. They wanted giant portraits for the stage, and sought me because they wanted an artistic coherence unobtainable with mere photos. Great gig, lovely people and cause.

Mr. Usman Khalid runs  Haven Coffee , which is run by and helps refugees

Mr. Usman Khalid runs Haven Coffee, which is run by and helps refugees

Ms. Naglaa Sadik provides Arabic translation services

Ms. Naglaa Sadik provides Arabic translation services

Happy Groundhog's Day!

Groundhog’s Day has always been a big deal in the Rathke household; Dad never let’s us forget this major holiday. So this year I made an animation for him and everybody else, that the day should not go unheralded.


Happy Birthday Virginia Woolf!

A few years ago I created a line drawing of Ms. Woolf for Intelligent Life (The Economist) Magazine. More recently I decided I’d like to see a bit of color and texture with this portrait. I incorporated a William Morris print, which really lends a nice atmosphere, I think!


All Hail Sister Jean!

Hooray for a lovely new monthly gig with Chicago Magazine, for whom I will create portraits of local worthies and get to add a bit of animation; FINALLY! First up, the lovely Sister Jean, Loyola University's men's basketball chaplain (do all the teams have their own chaplains??)


SHARP - the key

Okay here is the long-overdue (according to people who are writing in to me) key to the superb women on the cover of SHARP, by Michelle Dean. I'm so glad you all like it enough to write!

L to R (not counting spine): Janet Malcolm, Mary McCarthy, Rebecca West, Pauline Kael, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, Joan Didion, Dorothy Parker

L to R (not counting spine): Janet Malcolm, Mary McCarthy, Rebecca West, Pauline Kael, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, Joan Didion, Dorothy Parker

Dr. Martin Luther King + Tavis Smiley

A few months ago I got a commission to draw Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for a Tavis Smiley event that was to be held Monday in Dr. King’s honor. Mr. Smiley was very particular and sent me very specific notes:

"It's really really lovely! I think the eyes are not quite there yet. I'm not an artist, but I am a collector, and folk tend to get everything about MLK right - except for the eyes. I dislike the national monument in DC for this very reason, the artist didn't capture the eyes. In the pic I sent, his eyes are more pensive, more piercing. I also wonder about the angle, the direction of his gaze. In the pic he looks to be deep thinking, which is why I chose it. A "what's on his mind"  kind of thing. In her sketch, he's just looking at you, like a portrait. So, again, it's the eyes. Otherwise, I love it!”

After I made the needed changes, I got this note from him:

“We're cooking with fish grease now! Love it! Let's roll! Tell Kathryn I'm sending her a big hug! Thank you!”

So wasn’t that nice? But then, whoops! Mr. Smiley fell out of favor, engagements cancelled… sigh…  Here is how it would have looked on the little booklets:



also, coincidentally, I illustrated a whole book of limericks for Garrison Keillor around that time. Day after I submitted the invoice he got canned. I am of course all for #metoo but crazy how it has affected me adversely!

Guardian Book Review!

Dream Job! Sarah Habershon, wonderful art director at The Guardian, asked me to draw Salmon Rushdie for the cover of the Sunday Book section. What a face! The book skewers the New York money culture that made our current president possible, so she wanted me to include his image somehow. I told her I'd really hoped to go the next 4 years without having to draw him, but I guess that's being unrealistic. I had the idea to present him in a snow globe with black snow, I'm quite tickled with it.


Alaskan Air Magazine contributors

I finally got to draw Seattle's preeminent, omnipresent chef, Tom Douglas, for Alaskan Air Magazine. It was fun because I do enjoy his restaurants and am familiar with his face. The first prelims include a bit of color, at the request of the AD (Margaret Elson):

Tom Douglas Prelims

Tom Douglas Prelims

She thought a bit less color would work better:

Tom Douglas, second version

Tom Douglas, second version

At this point Mr. Douglas himself got to review the portrait, and commented that it looked a bit "cat-y" Ha!

Tom Douglas - Final version

Tom Douglas - Final version

the problem, it seems, lay in the crease above his upper lip; it was giving a feeling of felinity. So I removed that, replaced it with some moustache hairs, and voila! Here is how it looks on the page:

animated line for JP Morgan

End of last year JP Morgan contacted me to help to create an animated short for their philanthropic giving division. The art director just sent me the finalized cut, and says it was a huge success: people loved it and year-end giving was way up as a result. Isn't that wonderful; everybody was a winner with this project! Follow link and scroll down their page to see film...


The Year of the Liar

Well you would have thought we'd gotten to a point in civilization where we could all agree that lying is an inherently bad thing. That if you were caught in an error of judgement, and were presented with evidence, that you should and would own up, instead of doubling down, Especially if you are in a position of authority.

I decided to see what our forefathers: previous presidents, founding fathers, etc had to say about lying, and it has inspired me to create a series of animated gifs...

2016 Artists of the Year

This was a commission from City Arts Magazine. Every year they commission me to draw portraits honoring Seattle's worthiest artists of the year. The good folks here represent the best of Seattle’s culture in many ways; Dance, Music, Film, Visual arts, activist posters, activist culture (Amelia Bonow’s ‘Shout Your Abortion’ movement, Natasha Marin's 'Reparations' project)

Lower left to lower right: Dave B, Donald Byrd, Amelia Bonow, John Criscitello, Tariqa Waters, Shannon Perry, Nate Gowdy, Natasha Marin, Christopher Paul Jordan, Clyde Peterson

Lower left to lower right: Dave B, Donald Byrd, Amelia Bonow, John Criscitello, Tariqa Waters, Shannon Perry, Nate Gowdy, Natasha Marin, Christopher Paul Jordan, Clyde Peterson


I am tasked with arranging these folks in a way that they are mildly interacting. In previous years I have arranged them having cocktails around a piano, draped in and around a restaurant booth, etc. This year I have them arranged in a nod to Vanity Fair’s Annie Liebovitz academy award winners tableaus. Rather than taking/engaging with one another they sit together and gaze out at the viewer. I think it works really well. Congratulations Everybody!


Let the animation begin...

So I have a broken arm. It's my non-dominant arm, so could be worse, but I had to resign myself to a lot more time lying down (way more comfortable than sitting up), which meant iPad, which meant why not hone my animation skills?! Perfect excuse. So get ready for a series of postings of animation explorations. First up, Roald Dahl:




Huge thanks to The Stranger magazine for the excuse/opportunity to draw Prince. I felt a huge weight of responsibility with this one; there are SO MANY adoring, grieving fans here in Seattle... I had to get it right!

Audible Range/ Moby Dick

These are for "Audible Range", a new editorial area on Audible which "will divulge on all things about listening, voice, and storytelling".


The piece for which I created these illustrations was written by a woman who has a deep love for audio books, inspired by her inability to read with proficiency due to Dyslexia. She specifically relates how an otherwise tedious car commute was utterly transported by listening to all of Moby Dick. For image inspiration I seized on the jumble of word forms created by Dyslexia, which formed the turbulent sea setting for Moby Dick.


Here are two very different commissions that went on to be a couple of my favorites last year, and the subjects for both are named Wally!

The first is of the late great designer, Wally Olins. I was not acquainted with him, but a designer in London reached out to me to see if I'd like to create a portrait of him, to be accompanied by portraits from the same reference material by other illustrators, which would then all be culminated into one source and distributed to art directors. it was a worthy and interesting cause; I love the premise of being able to compare illustrators in such a definitive way. Here is what I came up with, along with the reference material supplied to all of the artists:

as with all my portraits, I redirected his gaze out, to engage the viewer

as with all my portraits, I redirected his gaze out, to engage the viewer

The second Wally is Wally the beloved pet. I don't normally do pets, but back in November I was trying to come up with a way to raise money for KEXP (the best radio station in the world) and it occurred to me that I could create pet portraits at a price point that would draw a lot of interest. Boy did it! I was overwhelmed by the response. And it was a bit heart-breaking, as many commissioned were for pets who'd been recently lost. This Wally fell in to that category. I was so happy to bring these folks a bit of joy to remember their pals, as witnessed here: