Former Artists Share the Best—and Worst—of Times

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Sara Green, art director

My favorite covers I did were the Green Issue cover with the stencil on newspaper from 2007; the “New Anxiety” cover with the cop illustration; the four letterpress covers from the mayoral election; the Spring Guide with a picture of Ben Franklin called “Screw Fatso”; and the title-less one with George Bush tied to a tree. One of my favorite photo shoots was the Sexy Food cover. Photographer Jeff Fusco and I locked ourselves in the conference room for about four hours with two cameras and 20 to 30 fruits and vegetables trying to find sexual innuendo (communicating about it was slightly awkward).

I still like the idea that we made four letterpress covers for the election because we didn’t know who would win. We actually made them on a letterpress, which was neat, and a reference to old political posters I remember getting lots of angry voice mails about the Screw Fatso cover, where we had drawings on Ben Franklin’s face.

A couple things I loved at PW were Fusco’s energy and the way his presence took over the one day a week he’d come into the office.

The photo shoots were also great, particularly the street games photos and the holiday animals shoot where we set up a mini-seamless to shoot Liz’s hamster stuffing corn pellets into his cheeks while wearing a yarmulke. Yeeeeeesss. That was the ultimate. That cover actually got a lot of angry phone calls too, because everyone thought it was a rat. That’s so insulting to Liz’s hamster. I hope he got over it.

And another thing that I think was generally great about PW then was Tim: He was pretty phenomenal at cultivating young people, and really helped us all excel in ways I didn’t even realize till years after I’d left.

Jay Bevenour, illustrator, editorial cartoonist

One of the great things about working for PW as an illustrator/cartoonist was the amount of freedom that I was given to do the kind of work that I wanted to do. Art Director Jeff Cox always trusted that I would come up with good ideas for cover illustrations, and in turn, I trusted that any alterations that he suggested would improve the work as a whole. I’d say the same was true with working with Liz Spikol and Sara Kelly, who were in charge of approving cartoon ideas.

I think that the most memorable responses that my work received were for the cartoons that appeared inside rather than my cover illustrations. Over the years I heard from a few of the regular subjects of [my weekly editorial cartoon] Hoagie Dip, who were good sports about whatever critique had been delivered that particular week.

Probably the strongest reaction to my work was in response to a double-page spread commemorating the 20th anniversary of the MOVE bombing. I remember jumping at the chance to have so much space and freedom to work with, but soon after agreeing to take on the subject, I realized that there wasn’t a whole lot of hilarity involved in all the fire and bombing and people dying and losing their homes. Eventually, though, I think I found a way to create a commentary on the events of that day that was just about on the borderline between judicious and ridiculous, which is what I tried to do every week.

Alfred Jones, art director

Most embarrassing moment? Spelling “Philadelphia” incorrectly on the front cover and having it end up on David Letterman. Must have been good PR for Dawn Staley, who was featured on that particular cover. Just look at her now.

Jim McHugh, illustrator

 I loved doing the Top 5 of the Moment [column] every week. As a self-proclaimed pop-culture junkie, it really kept me on my toes. Jeff Cox was my favorite art director to work with, for the Weekly or for any periodical. He had a great sense of direction for the illustrations, and at the same time allowed a lot of creative freedom. I got to work with many of the Weekly writers for Top 5, and each of them had such a variety of topics to pick from, giving me a lot of material to work with. It was a great experience as an illustrator. One of my favorite covers to do was the “Black Panther” cover (Sept. 6, 2000). I think it was my first cover for the Weekly. It was for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ story about his father being a Black Panther and how he, the writer, was apolitical. I had a few sketches for Jeff but the first sketch I did (a Black Panther throwing his giant fist up into the air) was the one we both liked. I can still picture that solid crimson red background on the cover in the bright yellow PW boxes on street corners all over the city. For me, that was when I felt like I had made it as an illustrator.

Another one of my favorite covers was the split Allen Iverson cover (Dec. 27, 2000). I did an illustration of him in his uniform on one half of his body and in rap gear holding a mic on the other half. Iverson was on the cover as PW ’s “Man of the Year,” as he was a star on both the basketball court and in the rap world. The latter got him in trouble with some gay and lesbian groups due to the nature of his lyrics … but the Sixers were winning the NBA Eastern Conference, so Philadelphia had a  love/hate relationship with Iverson.

Jeff, Fusco, photographer

I have several particularly good memories from my time at PW, like hanging out on drug corners with Steve Volk, spending a summer shooting street memorials with Kate Kilpatrick, and shooting portraits of people who made a difference with Kia Gregory. I spent seven straight nights out with Jonathon Valania covering the music scene, which was a blast. And just being around the late, great Steven Wells was always inspiring. But my favorite bodies of work, personally, was a 52-week photo column I did with Cassidy Hartmann, inspired by Tim Whitaker, called the “Out of Towner.” For that year in 2006, Cassidy and I would shoot portraits and interview any notable actors, musicians and artists she could rustle up that given week. Every week was an adventure, from hanging out with Jeff Daniels in his tour bus, talking politics with James Carville, or eating pizza with Ice Cube in the TLA dressing room. We fended off rabid Alice Cooper fans, and chatted with Sean Lennon in the alley behind TLA. Cassidy would ask their thoughts on Philadelphia and I would take a portrait.

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1. Paul Milller said... on May 4, 2011 at 11:30AM

“Great stuff. Illustrator Jim McHugh is so talented -- you should use him more often!”

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2. Anonymous said... on May 4, 2011 at 12:03PM

“really miss seeing mr mchugh's covers & illustrations... always a good interpretation of some tough articles... not to mention, always good to see something a little different looking. so much illustration looks all the same. his is something a little more involved”

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3. Steve said... on May 4, 2011 at 02:19PM

“I did some interior illustrations from about 1993 to 1995. Jill (MacDowell?) was the Art Director, and she was great to work for. This was the pre-internet era, for all intents and purposes, and I wasn't working digitally at that point, so if I couldn't drop off my art to the PW offices during the day, I'd bring it by in the evening and slip it under the building's main door for the crew to pick up the next morning. My art was never lost, but I was always nervous the day after a dropoff, until I got a call saying my art was received intact.

I also did one cover, for a special Summer issue. The concept - a nubile young lady putting on a bikini from a clothes line stretched across two buildings, as men and boys ogled her - was given to me by Jill, though all the hate mail was addressed to me! I didn't mind, though - it was a cool feeling to know that my work was out in the world, being seen by people all over the Philly region.”

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4. used cars said... on May 16, 2011 at 02:50AM

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