Q&A with Erik Shveima: Drawing The Times every day
He’s worked late evenings, once by candlelight. Life got busy with a new job and a hectic schedule. Still, artist Erik Shveima has never missed a beat, even 186 days into the year.
On Jan. 1, Shveima began a yearlong endeavor to create a drawing inspired by each day’s front page of the Los Angeles Times. He posts his daily art on his blog.
His personal project, part artistic challenge and part homage to ink-and-paper media, is still going strong -- Shveima says he’s just started drawing in his fifth sketchbook.
We caught up with the artist near his half-year mark:
Well, I’m still doing it. I haven’t missed a day, I’m happy to say. That was part of the thing, just keeping on top of it, and being persistent about it, and making it happen. I think it’s coming along fairly well. Recently, I switched jobs, and things have gotten busy. I have a little less time to devote to it, or the time I’m devoting to it, I’m much more tired. But I feel like I’m still able to find really interesting things in the paper and try to address them in the drawings.
Have you ever come close to missing a day?
I’ve had a couple of near misses. There was a time when it was nighttime, and I wasn’t able to start, and I lost power. It was all crazy. I basically did the drawing by candlelight. And then it was a near miss in a sense that since we also lost power, I couldn’t post (on the blog), so I really couldn’t do anything. I had managed to get the drawing done, but I ended up posting the next day.
I had some days of intense work where the work has just piled up so much that it was really hard to carve out some time to even look at the paper let alone try to figure out some coherent drawing.
That’s part of the interesting thing for me for this project, because it is uneven. I’m not doing the same-caliber drawing everyday and that’s just because it’s a reflection of where my life is at the time.
No. Not at all.
Occasionally, I wish I could have a day off, if I could just not have to worry about one more thing in a day. But I never regret taking on the project. I’ve actually had a lot of fun doing it.
Do you have a new favorite piece since February, the last time we interviewed you?
I kind of like the one I did where there’s a baby eagle on the cover. The headline was Heart Angeles, and there’s a baby eagle suspended over a podium. There’s kind of a run around there that I felt like I was getting some good drawings.I don’t know if that’s the favorite favorite, it’s like the favorite in this batch. I think of them in groups, because I do them in sketchbooks, so each sketchbook is like a chapter in this project.
I noticed a lot of recurring words. There are a couple of deaths for sure -- that comes up all the time. I’ve drawn "death" so many times this year, just the word.
There are definitely repeating words. There seem to be favorite words in headlines, because all the text I draw is pretty much from the headlines. I don’t really get much into the text of the articles. I try to keep it all what’s immediately visually accessible if I’m looking at the whole page.
There are also a lot of smoke plumes on the front page, which cracked me up. I feel like once or twice a month, there’s going to be a big plume of smoke or a big cloud of smoke in some context -- there’s a forest fire, or what’s going on in Libya or whatever. So I draw many plumes of smoke.
And then obviously there’s always a lot of personalities on the page. I think I’ve drawn Obama for a while, but in January and February, he was never on the page. But now he’s sort of popping up again, so I feel like I get to draw him once or twice a week.
I really enjoy working in the strip advertisements. In some cases it becomes the whole thing. I really enjoyed the Bijan ads for a while, they were cracking me up -- then I found out recently that he passed away, which made me really sad.
Sometimes you have sort of like a folded leaf that I sometimes work in, and sometimes I ignore it altogether. I don’t let it rule what I want to do, but if it seems to work with what I’m doing, then I’ll add pieces of it in.
That’s sort of the fun of drawing the pages -- if there was a big article that we’re starting to drain the oil reserves, and there’s all these ads for this movie that basically glorifies cars. Sometimes they look funny together.
What is the first thing that you notice when you pick up the front page? Has this project changed the way you read the paper?
The first thing I’ve always noticed is the central photograph at the top of the page. My eyes are usually drawn to that. And then I just sort of work out from that. I’ll read all the headlines as a group and get a sense of them.
In terms of how the project has changed the way I read the paper, I’m definitely reading it as a much more visual thing. I’ve always kind of done that, and that’s partly what inspired this project, but now it’s really like I just look at it as a whole object and then gradually letting it come into focus, letting things pop out and come into focus, and see how they all connect, or don’t connect. Sometimes nothing seems to connect at all, so I have to figure out something.
Do you find that you’re reading stories mostly in the paper or online?
I get it from the paper. I do actually read the paper; I definitely try to get through as much of the first section as I can. I read Calendar too, and I love the Sunday comics; I always read them.
And I do get news online. I think we all do at this point. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t get at least some of their news online, so it’s a combination of all of these sources.
-- Jessica Lum