I imagine that finding a cover for My New American Life posed, at first, a bit of a problem. I’m not sure that “a comic novel about an Albanian nanny in New Jersey during the Bush-Cheney years” automatically brought an image to mind. At some point (maybe I am imagining this) I heard rumors that the Albanian double-headed eagle was being considered.
Around this time, I was asked to interview the painter Will Cotton for a food magazine. He is famous for lavish paintings that often combined confectionery with live nude girls. I think he also did the art direction for a Katy Perry video.
As I was looking around his studio in Chinatown, I saw that he’d hung up several vintage pinups, for inspiration with an upcoming project. Something about it gave me an idea. When I got home, I Googled “vintage patriotic pinup.” Within seconds, I have a half-dozen choices to send my publisher, from which they picked this image. It’s everything I wanted: funny, sexy, bright, brash, and goofily patriotic.
—Francine Prose, author
The design and approval process for My New American Life was relatively painless. For starters, it’s a very entertaining read, a satire about an Albanian immigrant trying to adjust to life in the suburbs of New Jersey. So that made it easy to work on. Also, the author, Francine Prose, had a specific type of imagery she wanted to use on it. I wasn’t aware of this until after I’d read it and started working on some ideas, so I did one round of comps that I showed to the editor and publisher. There was one that everyone sort of liked, but at this point the editor had let us know that the author had something else in mind she wanted us to try, so they decided to keep that one as a backup.
The images Francine Prose wanted us to try were from a collection of WWII pinups. Once she sent us the book of paintings, the cover was designed fairly quickly. I went through a few different images in the book that I thought worked the best, and tried various type solutions with them until we ended up with the final.
I’m pretty happy with the cover. I do remember being a little bummed that we didn’t end up using something closer to what I had done in the beginning, but in retrospect I think this is a much more appropriate design for the book as well as the author.
—Jarrod Taylor, designer
Jack Wittrup has left us his autobiography, not in words but in his paintings, prints and drawings.
Hundreds of oil portraits, many more portrait sketches to arrive at the concept showing how he approached a painting, his school notebook with sketches and several early paintings during his school years, many charcoals and conti [sic] crayons, and hundreds or more landscapes tell us the story of his life until his death in Florida in 1987.
Wittrup began his artistic career at age 11, when he began selling editorial cartoons to newspapers in his hometown of Chicago. He received his art education at the Chicago Art Institute, the American Academy of Art, the Chicago Academy of Art and the University of Wisconsin.
From the University of Wisconsin he was called into the Army Air Force, where they kept him in New York City and Santa Fe, N.M. In New York he painted posters for Uncle Sam and in Santa Fe, N.M. at the Army Air Force Hospital rehabilitation and convalescent center for recovering war victims.
From there he established an Advertising Art Studio with a partner relationship in New York City and had many successful years illustrating Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Royal Crown Cola, Jello, many beer and car companies including Schlitz, Ford and Chrysler and his famous Santa Claus.
He won many awards and prizes. Then along came television.
That is the time Wittrup fulfilled his long desire to become only a fine artist and established residence in Boca Raton, Florida. He quickly established himself as a leading portrait painter throughout the United States, and had one-man shows in New York, Palm Beach, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago, and Santa Fe.
Jack Wittrup was commended by the Senate of the State of Florida, for his distinguished achievements in the field of art and for his outstanding contribution to the cultural enrichment of the people of the state. Wittrup was an instructor himself at the Norton Gallery of Art, Boca Museum of Art and the Broward Art School.
In the Everglades where he went to paint very early in the mornings, his love of nature made him see the beauty and color in the Everglade grasses, hyacinths, waterways, and alligator nests, where lots of people only saw mud and weeds. And Morikami Museum grounds with pink and mauve water lilies and Japanese carp were especially fascinating to paint.
—from “Artist Jack Wittrup Leaves a Painting Legacy,” Boca Raton News, October 30, 1989