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John Torreano, Clinical Professor of Studio Art, NYU

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Phantom Income .... or?

When I was working as an illustrator, one of my positions was as staff illustrator for the weekly newsletter of a major international law firm. At the same time, I was also working on a freelance basis as an illustrator for the New York Law Journal, a daily newspaper. Between the two jobs, I had to produce a minimum of four legal-themed drawings every week. Sometimes I did not receive an assignment until the day before the drawing was due. This necessitated many all–nighters to produce them. Generally, they were not easy concepts to draw either. (How I envied those other artists who got to illustrate puppies, flowers, or sailboats.)

One assignment was to illustrate a story on "phantom income." As in many other instances, I didn't even know what phantom income was. So I had to figure out what the term meant before I could even start drawing. After some research, I found out it is taxable income which does not generate cash flow. Even with my minimal grasp of finance I knew that this was always bad, never good. "Great," I thought,"How am I supposed to show that?" I decided to play off the phantom part of it. At the time Phantom of the Opera was having its moment. That Phantom was a familiar image, recognizable to all. So I appropriated that image for my phantom. To develop this pastiche, I added numbers to the face for the income aspects; a dollar sign became his bowtie. I added sharp discernible teeth between the eight and the one on the creepy side of his face to make him even more bad looking. Then I finished it with a couple more dollar signs in his hair.

I dunno....numbers on his face....frightening teeth....I'm beginning to get a little nervous. Does that remind me of someone else? Maybe I was not drawing on Phantom of the Opera after all. There is a one, a two and a three right there on his face. Uh oh ... I think I resurrected 1-2-3 Man through his offspring–Son of 1-2-3 Man!

I am going to add a pipe and a hat right now and find out for sure.

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