yes. you heard that right.
if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you're no doubt familiar with what I was calling "ApronGate", though you might not know how it started or why I was involved to begin with... and if you don't follow me on Facebook or Twitter, what are you waiting for?!
My dear husband has been working a very strange 4-midnight shift off and on the last couple weeks, which means, we have affectively turned into OwlPeople. Not a big deal really, since we tend to stay up late anyway, and the only difference is that now we dont HAVE to get up early either. So when I woke up late morning Monday, and checked my phone for emails, i wasnt surprised to see that I already had 15. These things are normal. What wasn't normal was to see that one of the messages came from the email address: "City Hall"... uh oh.
I read the email and found out that the woman writing it had gotten my name from the city's mural registry, and that she was coming to me with a very "special project". The special project was pretty vague, but from what i could gather, the Mayor needed an apron painted for a charity auction; the subject matter was open but with a Baltimore theme and the deadline was tight. I wrote back to say i was interested and would like more info, and thus began a string of fast paced e-convos (thanks Blackberry!); next thing i knew, i was headed to City Hall... i had security clearance and a special parking spot waiting for me behind the otherwise padlocked barricades.
I waited to meet my contact, and replayed a number of episodes of The Wire, where pivotal scenes took place in the very spot I was sitting. I tried not to feel weird that when I went through the metal detector, the man who checked my bag found a bag of popcorn, 2 granola bars, my wallet and an apple in my bag (look, i'm hypoglycemic, you never know when you'll need a sugar pick me up). After some time, my contact came to greet me and I was shuffled up to a big fancy conference room to meet with the PR folks. It was there that i learned that there were clearly two very different kinds of aprons being planned here... the kind i thought i was going to make and the kind they now seemed to want me to make. I took notes on all the different topics coming at me and tried to imagine all the ways i could fit all those themes on one little apron... it didnt seem promising, but i wanted to do right... its the mayor afterall.
It was here that i also found out the deadline was tighter than i'd first thought... not Friday, but Wednesday. wow.
I was given the Mayor's official portrait (an 8x10 glossy), which i was pretty sure I wasn't going to use (as i'd explained-- there's already enough debate over what to put on it to begin with; could you imagine what would happen if i also had to get her likeness to her (and everyone else's) liking?). I told them I'd have a sketch by that evening... fingers crossed.
i went home, apron in hand. A few hours of angry, unproductive sketching passed interrupted by distractions, Mason, snacking, napping and TV judge show watching. Eventually, things clicked and I came up with two different versions of a design--- hopefully different enough that they'd be able to choose between them easily. At midnight, I emailed the images to City Hall.
we, the OwlPeople, woke up the next morning and i found, surprisingly, that i had no emails from City Hall... i began counting down the hours. I had class at 4pm and was, on top of a bunch of other feelings, pretty excited I had such a bizarre job to share with my Illustration 1 students... THIS is what an illustrator's life is REALLY like, kids! Finally, at noon, I got a message that they'd chosen the more "Maryland-y" scene... I was a little surprised, because it wasn't really what i typically do, but I figured it would be relatively easy to paint and I should just get excited about it. I couldn't start painting just then because we had some family errands to run before class... good thing I waited too, because at 2pm I got a "stop the presses!" email saying the Mayor herself had chimed in and her vote was for the other image; the one with the two figures... the one with the "sorta" mayor figure depicted in it.
Way to be progressive, Mayor Dixon! good choice.
And so, it was time to officially begin.
I took the apron to class, and used it as a teaching tool (see kids, sometimes you get totally wacky jobs that just make for good stories!), and used the big tables to spread the apron out and draw the basic sketch in, in white prismacolor pencil.
when i got home, i spread the apron out to photograph it (i'm a big fan of bringing you "in progress" shots), and Mason had to investigate. Now you might be wondering about the readability of the sketch... looks kinda hard to see, right?
well, here i've played with the contrast in Photoshop... helpful because now you can see the drawing. But not helpful in allowing me to make a very critical point: working on red fabric is TERRIBLE for your eye balls. Don't believe me? Here's the unaltered red:
Are your eyes bleeding yet?
So, here it is photoshopped a little. I painted some Tuesday night, but the combination of the long day and the bright red was making my head hurt and after not too long, I had to call it a day. Wednesday morning I had a doctor's appointment, and with a 5:30 deadline, I came home from the doc with exactly 5 hours to work.
Ordinarily, totally doable, but this fabric was like a sponge for both moisture and color. I was painting and repainting the same area within 15 minutes. I honestly thought I wouldn't finish it. It occurred to me at one point, that there was a good chance I would bust my hump to get it done, deliver it by 5:30 and that it might just end up living in City Hall overnight anyway because it wouldn't be able to be delivered to the charity until the following day anyway. I eagerly awaited a deadline extension and every time my phone would buzz, I'd check the email like a kid on christmas... but alas, no extension. Nope, the Mayor HAD to sign it today, because she wouldnt be in on Thursday. So back to obsessing I go.
I was supposed to call my contact to let her know when i'd be arriving (so they could get me clearance and whatnot again), but if i stopped painting i'd be wasting time, so i just moved along without worrying about that part. And, at 5:25, I was drawing the finishing touches (a rather annoyingly small and precise version of the city seal)... and at 5:30 on the dot, I was asking my dear husband to clean up after me, as I was rushing out the door, wet apron slung over my person, and materials for that night's class on my shoulder.
And, at 5:40, I pulled into the City Hall parking lot, called inside, and handed over the Mayor's Apron.
Quite possibly the weirdest job I've ever taken... for now.
I hope she likes it.
I hope it fetches a pretty penny at the auction.
Take that Larry King! (he has one in it too, apparently).