A Weekly Affair
Artist Tony Gleeson celebrates nearly a quarter-century of great PW covers and illustrations Saturday at Century Books
By Tony Gleeson 05/23/2013
To be in any relationship for nearly a quarter of a century is pretty remarkable, you must say.
That’s certainly true in personal relationships. It’s just as true in the journalism business (i.e., the Pasadena Weekly’s world) and the illustration business (i.e., my world). Anywhere people stick together for 25 years, through the good and the bad — it’s news. So there’s something special about the PW and TG approaching their silver anniversary.
I first walked into the old PW offices on El Molino Avenue in early 1989, looking for some new editorial assignments to stretch my creative muscles. At the time, there wasn’t much cover art being used at the PW, and editor Dan Hutson surely thought I was a strange bird for even sticking my head in. But we both must have had a feeling, because by April, we had created our first cover visual together, for an article on working mothers entitled “Mommie Dearest.” From that point, they kept calling me back, and we kept creating those cover images.
The art direction — often originating with editors like Bill Evans or Kevin Uhrich or even publisher Jim Laris — was adventurous. I was encouraged to open my arsenal of graphic tools. There were posterizations, cartoons, even a comic strip (“Women in Business,” May 31, 1991). For awhile I became de facto cover artist for the special dining guide issues and developed all manner of letterform designs.
Enter digital tech. Editorial blossomed, as did a new succession of art directors. The cover features continued to be venturesome. I was afforded the opportunity — and often encouraged — to push the envelope.
There was a Rose Queen with an automatic weapon; politically-oriented articles on Dennis Kucinich, Lyndon LaRouche and Mayor Bill Bogaard, all of which came with a rather sharp point; the “Let Us Pray” 2004 election cover showing a sanctimonious Bush and Cheney about to be crushed by a Kerry piano (can’t win ‘em all). There was the infamous exotic dancer shaking her derriere for the “Really Hard News” feature. There were still Dining Guides and Best of Pasadena issues, and several items that called for a poster-like approach. Lighter features covered luxury theaters, Civil War re-enactors, dumpster pirates, celebrity jailbirds, Christian truckers, an aging Elton John, and a proposed statue for a local boxing legend.
And, of course, there was the in-house faux PW cover to celebrate editor Uhrich’s big five-0 birthday.
Almost every one of these covers has some story or other behind it (maybe in another 25, Kevin will give me twelve or so pages to tell them). The collective art directors who have driven the process, including Micheal Swank, Richard Garcia, Joel Vendette, and now Kent Bancroft, deserve a lot of the credit as well. Every one of them has provided insightful direction without stalling the creative flow.
They’ve all made me look better.
My lovely wife Annie and I have been married for 37 years now, and at anniversary time, we keep saying the party isn’t over yet. I kind of feel that way about the PW and me, too.
~ Tony Gleeson
“Covering the Story: Cover Art of Tony Gleeson, 1989-2012” opens at 8 p.m. Saturday in the upstairs gallery of Century Books, 1039 E. Green St., Pasadena. Call (626) 796-1703.