It was eight years ago, I was fresh-ish out of college and a certain someone happened upon an ad for one of my dream job positions (Side note: Love you, Mom): The chance to draw and design professionally...I had only dreamed about this since I was making gradients in MS Paint and Claris Works, pixel by pixel back in ‘92. Sound strange? This is why this is my dream job.
I had admired the Reporter, especially the cover art, ever since I could remember. Now, with my associate degree in media arts from the Santa Fe Community College, I made my move. I managed to get an interview and with tie on neck, I sold my skills in front of a group of people including my editor and now friend and SFR’s publisher Julie Ann Grimm.
Through what I can only imagine was a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring speech about pixels, I managed to eventually earn a position in the top three of potential art directors. It was game on!
I accepted the challenge of creating an illustration for the next week’s cover with only two days notice. I was le nervous, but I put in a solid 12 hours of quality work. The one we all liked best became the cover for the story “Jewel Duel” on Nov. 13, 2013.
When I found out that I got the position, not only did I immediately break a camera, I was excited! But in all honesty as an artist, I was more excited to have my illustration on the cover. I had dreamed of this moment for so long; the chance for my art to be seen by thousands of people at once was an incredible feeling. For months, I was in awe that my art was being delivered on the regular to the masses. And all the stress, typography and layout design was just a beautiful bonus.
Although I grew to appreciate the many other facets of my job more and more, that original feeling still sticks with me. My favorite covers include:
- “Fuera Trump,” Aug. 10, 2016: I had a lot of fun making this piece from clay, which taught me how to draw Trump for future projects (lots of them, it would turn out). Nothing like getting your hands dirty.
- “The Candy Man,” Nov. 8, 2017: This CandyLand parody game board illustrated the downfall of Sen. Phil Griego, convicted and jailed of violating conflict of interest rules.
- “Dark Window,” Dec. 12, 2018: To accomplish this cover about a police shooting of a mentally ill young man in Santa Fe, I had to watch the graphic video over and over to accurately show his last moments. It was very intense and has always stuck with me. I believe it was a successful cover because it shows how over-the-top police can be with their weapons and tactics.
I now have 500-plus cover illustrations under my belt (some better than others, no one is perfect), but I still get that certain special feeling with every creation. Over time, the feeling has transformed a bit. I realized that writers and I not only entertain with our work at the Reporter, but more importantly we produce stories that truly help others. And on my end, a properly illustrated cover and good inline art has the potential to transform or educate someone for the better. Now that has my become my goal, and that gives me the most pleasure. I am in awe and humbled that I have the hope of creating riveting, sad, funny and weird art far into the future. And it’s all thanks to you. I hope you can continue to help us keep the hope alive.
This letter from Anson Stevens-Bollen is part of a series about Friends of the Reporter, a new model for supporting our journalism mission. Visit sfreporter.com/friends, to make a one-time or recurring donation or via check at PO Box 4910, Santa Fe, NM 87502. The New Mexico Local News Fund will match up to $3,000 in donations received through the end of 2021. Our website and weekly print edition each Wednesday remain free to all readers.