a journalist on television once bragged that journalism was the best career for a curious mind. his own books were his evidence. they touched on everything from botany to boxing. being a journalist, he said, allowed him to educate himself again and again on anything that captured his interest.

i liked two things about his interview. first, it touched upon my belief that everything is interesting when given enough attention. second, i felt included in his boasting because being an artist allows me to study whatever i want. being an illustrator means new subjects are offered all the time. and many of them are tailormade like this one.

the art director of cicada magazine commissioned these illustrations for a short story called Here's Looking at You, Kid. i could hear the excitement in his voice as he described the plot to me. it concerned a boy whose family lived next door to a drive-in movie theatre. Casablanca was one of his favorite movies. dialogue and scenes from that film appeared throughout the story. so, i knew why the art director was so excited to tell me about it; one of the first postcards that i'd ever sent him was a painting i'd done of humphrey bogart and lauren bacall. he knew how thrilled i would be about this assignment. staying up late sketching scenes from old movies is something that i might otherwise do for fun.

besides drawing scenes from Casablanca, i had to collect reference materials for the main character, his home, and the video store where he worked. his home is based on a beautiful old house just across the street from my apartment. its second story windows were the first i imagined because i remembered them reflecting light in interesting ways. i assembled this drawing from several photos that i took of an indepedent video store down the street from my apartment. i changed the posters though. the dog on the far left poster is buckley from the Royal Tenenbaums. the man browsing videos behind our protagonist is jean-michel basquiat.

the final joy of this assignment is this portrait of ingrid bergman. woody guthrie wrote a song about her. i think about it so often when i feel happy. it goes like this:

ingrid bergman, ingrid bergman, let's go make a picture on the island of stromboli. ingrid bergman, you're so perty. you'd make any mountain quiver. you'd make fire fly from the crater, ingrid bergman. if you'll walk across my camera, i will flash the world your story. i will pay you more than money, ingrid bergman. not by pennies dimes nor quarters but with happy sons and daughters and they'll sing around stromboli, ingrid bergman.

© 2003 rama hughes