Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box

Recently, I was given the opportunity to create cover art for an upcoming issue of Mathematics Magazine, which is published by the Mathematical Association of America. My brother, Walter Stromquist, is the current editor of the Magazine, which might explain why I got the project (pure nepotism).

My job was to create an illustration related to one of articles featured inside. Working from summaries Walt sent me, I had to come up with an idea and then bring it to life in visual form. All this meant working in a way I don't normally and with unfamiliar subject matter. Quite a challenge!

Here's my illustration that will appear on the April cover. It refers to an article discussing how to draw an hyperbola using a pencil, a straw, and a string. The pattern on the male's sweater refers to another article about spacing checkers on checkerboards. 

Because I'd never worked in a comics frame style, I needed to research that particular kind of drawing. I studied a variety of comic strips to see how heads attach to bodies, how people are portrayed in profile, how depth is shown in such a simplified format, how mouths look open and closed, and facial characteristics. I realized that the special challenge of the comics style is to reduce complex visuals to basic lines, patterns and compositions without losing information, clarity of message and expressiveness.

It was a really fun project and I learned a lot! 


  1. Awesome!! You rock with paper!! (not scissors) ;)

  2. What fun, your whole comics series! Responding to the next thing around he corner.

  3. Yes, this whole series is interesting (and what fun to get to design a magazine cover with hidden allusions as well as more obvious ones).

    I don't have much drawing talent (although I've learned a little about perspective and proportions, perspective being easier for me). I've often studied cartoons and other pictures to see what it is that makes a certain set of lines evoke a particular object or facial expression. So it's interesting to read about your process here.