The making of Bob Staake's New Yorker cover

My friend Bob Staake posted a video that shows how he illustrated the cover of the latest New Yorker. He still uses Photoshop 3.0 and Macintosh OS 7!
staakenycovesr.jpgI suppose I have a pretty unusual way of working -- at least that's what my illustrator friends are always telling me. I start by creating the most basic shapes and then refine with details as I go. To me the process feels completely normal. I look at that stark white space in front of me and can see the entire fully completed image in my head. Maybe I'm just lucky that way.
The making of Bob Staake's New Yorker cover


  1. the method is incredibly simple and bizarre. i’d love to see what bob could do if he became accustomed to using adobe illustrator.

  2. The graphic quality and, the Zen simplicity makes this cover effective (IMHO). People relate very well to metaphorical, ideogramatic messages.

  3. Awesome and all that, but I’d imagine Cory would have a field day with the copyright notice on the bottom of his site:

    All imagery on this site remains Copyright © 2008 by Bob Staake or the individual copyright owners. You are not allowed to cut and paste or use the imagery on this site without the expressed, written consent and approval of Please read our complete copyright notice. All Rights Reserved.

    On the copyright page, its even more pointed:

    Unless otherwise indicated, Bob Staake remains the owner of the copyright to the images contained herein. Any imagery not owned by Bob Staake but artistically created by him for any client or third party may be posted on this web site, for promotional purposes, in order to attest to potential or future clients Bob Staake’s abilities as a cartoonist, illustrator, designer, and/or artist.

    You are not permitted to copy, reproduce, republish, upload, post, transmit, modify or distribute, in any manner, any textual or graphic material on this web site without the expressed consent of Bob Staake. Using any Bob Staake imagery, cartoons, graphics, designs or illustrations on commercial or non-commercial web sites without permission of Bob Staake is prohibited.

    (emphasis mine)

    I remember running across his stuff back in the early 2000s, and he even had a lame javascript right-click preventer to try and keep people from “stealing” anything by saving it to their computer.

  4. I really liked the little movie (and seeing the artists’ process.)

    I have to say, I just can’t get into that big band presidential music though. I remember hearing all that type of music at the DNC in Denver. It had sort of a hollow ring, I thought. Remember the Clinton convention back when they played Fleetwood Mac? I mean, it’s a little cheezy, but it beats the oompahpah music.

    I’m looking forward to the upcoming Bruce Springsteen for Obama performance.

  5. LOL, the music hardly seems presidential to me. It’s a marching band version of “Be Kind to Your Web-footed Friends”.

    As for Bob’s style, hey if it works for him, no one should complain. What was the last New Yorker cover YOU illustrated?

    At least he’s using PS 3.0, which supports layers ;-)

  6. To the disemvoweler of #5, if I may: I for one detected irony in that post, and through that lens saw the comment as germane to the discussion thread. But then, one person’s thoughtful analysis is another person’s trolling.

  7. fantastic – although when I first glimpsed it as thumbnail on my iPhone I clearly saw the elephant and the donkey were happily nuzzling and spooning each other, in a loving cozy nose-to-trunk embrace. even the donkey ear appeared soft and gently reaching over to caress the elephant’s head. It wasn’t until I zoomed in and could see where the donkey’s nostril is that I realized that the donkey’s contented smile is actually a frown.

    I think the double-reading ( whether intentional or not ) makes this elegant simple illo extra special.

  8. Love Bob Staake’s work (particularly in the Washington Post, but sadly not as much anymore).

    Though the copyright thing is a bit unnerving in its language and scope.

  9. FYI, It’s not “OS 7″. It’s “System 7″.

    Apple dropped the “System” prefix for “OS” with OS 8.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must retape the bridge of my glasses and then polish my slide rule.

  10. I read an interview where Staake acknowledged that the days of using obsolete software on obsolete computers was nearing it’s end, but he has yet to make the switch to CS3 on an Intel Mac.

    I’ve tried to decode his method, an odd way of sculpting shapes via addition and subtraction using the marquee tools. It still baffles and amazes me. I’m pretty sure he could do the exact same thing he’s doing on a newer version of photoshop.

    Oh and #8: He doesn’t use layers! Watch the other videos, which show the entire process in PS.

  11. @13: Maybe if you had mentioned that you could tell from some of the pixels that the image was photoshopped, the censors wouldn’t have been quite as trigger happy? Or maybe we’re all going to start needing bold-font tags around everything…

    Anyway, neat video, interesting insight into creative process.

  12. Is commenter #8 joking? That is “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” by John Philip Sousa. Doesn’t get much more patriotic than that, even if the (non-Sousa-penned) lyrics about ducks are more firmly planted in the public consciousness.

  13. I met Bob Staake back in ’99. Our Illustration Major had just started to require computers as part of the curriculum.. but most of us were versed in PS 5.0 at the time. He did a demo for us (in PS 3.0 I believe), and we remarked that layers might be helpful in his method.

    He looked up, mortified, “I can’t even THINK in layers.” So.. I’m not surprised.

    That all being said, his work is everywhere, and though it reeks of Illustrator, it’s good stuff and that’s all that really matters.


  14. Nelson.C@13: “Ouch! I was joking; did the snark tags not make it through?”

    No. Tags don’t show up, even fake ones. If they had shown up, you wouldn’t have been disemvoweled!

  15. Mark @19: The problem was, they did show in the preview, else I wouldn’t have posted it in that form. Another one for the non-existent Technical Issues thread!

    1. Another one for the non-existent Technical Issues thread!

      Lecture: When you use pretend html and preview it, the underlying code is transformed into its visible representations in the preview box. If you submit from the preview box, your pretend html disappears. If you’re going to preview, go back and submit from the previous page, where the formatting is still visible.

  16. #19 – Th dsmvwl bttn s sd t frqntly rnd hr. nd thr’s n frm fr fdbck n th mddng. Pls, whn mdrtrs mk mstks thy gt t dlt thr ffndng psts, thy dn’t gt dsmvwld thmslvs. (xcpt whn thy wnt t mk pnt f t.)

    n ny vnt, ctlly cm t sy tht Systm 7 nd PS 3 s ndd fntstc cmb. Lcks blls nd whstls, sr, bt th fndmntls r ll thr. Tht cmb s wht ct my tth n. (Pls Qrk Xprss, nt mch fntstc bt tht thgh.) Thr’s ls smthng mrvls bt th ld-schl Mc “Systm”s tht hs bn lst n th bg trnstns snc.

  17. forum for modding is long standing moderation thread. As to trigger happy disemvoweling: Modding is work, people make mistakes, the benefit of the doubt cuts both ways and I myself count it gentlemanly behavior when an inadvertent sword cut is graciously ignored.

  18. I did artwork published in The New Yorker, on
    the back of my illustration fee check I also signed
    away my rights to use my own photographic illustration
    by signing my pay check the rights
    of my artwork went to Conde Nast.
    It’s written under your signature line.

    Some talent providers (formerly known as artists)
    just cover that light gray type contract
    proviso away from the back of the check with a gel pen.

    So I assume this illustrator must get permission
    from Conde Nast to use his creation as well.

  19. #23 – Tkn, y mn th plcs thrd whr TNH t n pnt sd th mds wr “mpntnt” bt sss brght p n fdbck? Th ggrssv md styl t BB hs bn ntbl snc ts ncptn. gv t th bnft f th dbt fr lng tm. ‘v sn t mny cmmnts swrd-ct fr lttl rsn; pntd t t hr bcs f th frqncy, nd th ndlssnss f th hvy hnd hr strck m. (My pnt bt mds gttng t hd thr rrrs, nlk th plbs, rfrs t psts cpl wks g by ntns. cmmntd n t whn sw t, chck my cntrbs fr th lnk.) nywy, Srry t th rst f th thrd fr ths mt-BB stff.

  20. Don’t fret, Nelson C. Your comment is easy enough to decipher disemvoweled, and it’s amusing enough taken as snark or as obnoxious. Deliberately amusing in the first case, Inadvertently funny in the second.

    (Anyone else make a special effort to read the disemvoweled postings to see what all the fuss was about?)

  21. @ 26:

    m, dn’t rd dsmvwld pstngs: t brcks p th cmmnt gv nd tk n blg.

    dsmvwlng scks – nd bngbng s prr fr th prctc; bt t’s m wn hbbyhrs.

  22. Harsh @25: Responding in the moderation thread.

    As to myself, I’m not complaining. I’d just rather be thought an innocent fool than a malicious one. It’s a character flaw.

  23. Harshlanguage, you’re off topic, you’re refusing to take hints from the moderators, and you’re not being very amusing about it.

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