Portfolio Day

Final poster pink

I was excited to get the opportunity to illustrate the posters for this year’s National Portfolio Day events hosted my my alma mater the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University. These are events where high school students show up with their work and meet with admissions reps (like my awesome friend Elizabeth who set me up with this great gig!). I remember showing up to one of these warily some time in 2007 or so, and getting to work on the poster feels like coming full circle. The layout was done (very nicely) by Laura Burns. Thanks for looking!

final poster blue


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I spent the first couple of weeks of this month traveling around Peru! It was somewhere that i’ve always wanted to visit and it still completely surpassed my expectations. We visited Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Valle Sagrado. I tried to make a point of sketching for a few minutes every day. Keeping a sketchbook while traveling is the best way I know of permanently comitting things to memory, as well creating my own souvenir. I brought a Strathmore Tan Toned sketchbook, various pens and Pro White, which is basically white-out, to add hi-lights.  You can view the images larger by clicking on the thumbnails. Thanks! 

Also, I’ve made a couple of these available as prints in my Society 6 shop. 


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World Cup Part 1


Some of you may have heard that there has been a little soccer tournament going on in Brazil. Between watching as many games as possible and churning out illustrations for Howler, the World Cup has firmly taken hold of my life. Here is most of what I’ve donesince the tournament started. Above is cover art for the latest episode of Howler Radio, about the agony and the ecstasy. Below, in order: Adnan Januzaj, one of many players of unclear nationality playing in the tournament. Spectacle and Counter-spectacle, about watching the games while being aware of the corruption and human rights abuses that were involved in putting on the tournament. Suarez, for a piece that Hitomi Inoue and I conceived and wrote together. And a commemoration of the USA’s shock victory of Portugal in the 2002 World Cup.


Riot Gear_small




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CUP 360

A few months ago I got an exciting call to contribute to a new line of packaging for Chipotle. Jonathan Safran-Foer was curating a series of short stories and essays to be printed on cups and bags, and each piece would be illustrated. I was given a story by Malcolm Gladwell about an experience with Old Order Mennonites .


After a little bit of back and forth we settled on this sketch, focusing on the barn-raising. final art_NM
A full color version I worked up before the decision came out that the cups would be brown and white.


And the final piece! Read the full story and check out the rest of the pieces here!

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No Place Like Home

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I had the chance to work on another project for The National Humane Society’s Animal Sheltering Magazine. This one was about the challenges of living with pets in the city. It was a pleasure to work with AD Rebecca Hallenbeck again.
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Santiago Berneabau

BerniephotoHappy New Year! Here is a fun little thing that i got to work on for the latest issue of Howler. As you can probably tell it’s a folding paper model of Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Berneabau. Designing it was a fun challenge and unlike anything that i’ve done before.

Working with Howler has been an absolute pleasure. It’s a young magazine and they are extremely open to doing cool unusual stuff. This project, like many of the things I’ve made for them was my own idea. As an illustrator i’m unfortunately often at the end of the line creatively, and many people come to me with already formed ideas that they would like me to execute. This is of course fine and i’m grateful i get to do it, but it’s a real treat to be able to come up with something myself and see it all the way to fruition which Howler has been allowing me to do. The fact that the subject matter, soccer, is something I love makes it all the sweeter.

Also, on another note. I’m going to try to post here more often this year. Recently i’ve been taking on some larger scale projects which i’m not allowed to share until completion, if at all, which leaves me with little to post. I’m going to try to post some more personal work, get back to sharing sketchbook stuff and hopefully come up with some process posts and things of the like. If there is anything that you would be interested to see or read about please let me know!


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Pleased to say that I’m going to be producing a weekly visual for Howler Magazine’s various print and web offereings. Howler is a new soccer magazine that is putting out one of the most beautiful print editions around with a focus on unusual longform stories about the beautiful game. As a lifelong fan it ‘s a dream job to be able to work on something soccer related each week. Check back for more!

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French badasses

Balding french badasses


I rarely mention it here but i’m a pretty obsessive soccer fan. I wanted to do some practice on portraits last week and decided to draw a couple of my favorite players. Cantona and Zidane (who my dog Zizou is named after, not the life aquatic). Both are balding french badasses.

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In the last few weeks I had the pleasure of working on a massive new banner that was just unveiled at the corner of State st and Adams on the Chicago Loop. The mural which is about 2500 sq feet depicts a surreal parade of aquatic animals winding it’s way through downtown Chicago. Commissioned by the Chicago Loop Alliance and art directed by the brilliant Tristan Hummel, this was an absolute honor to work on. I was amazed at how receptive the CLA was to my most out-there ideas. I really felt like the rug was going to be pulled out from under me at any moment but sure enough the final mural was officially unveiled this morning. I cant thank Tristan and the CLA enough for having the vision to make this happen and trusting me to produce it.

The announcement was covered by ABC7 news in Chicago here. Problem: tree obscuring part of the mural. Solution: BRING IN A HELICOPTER (!!!)

I also did a Q&A with the CLA discussing the production of the mural, a bit of my background and the value of public art. I’ve included that conversation below.

Here at Chicago Loop Alliance, we have the privilege of frequently working with exceedingly talented, motivated, and creative young artists. Noah MacMillan, creator of our latest public art project, Float, is clearly no exception.

Float is now the largest mural in downtown Chicago, and can be seen wrapping around the Century Building on State and Adams from anywhere on the nearby streets. With the public announcement of the project this morning, we think it’s the right time for everyone to get to know Noah. So enjoy our Q&A below and meet the man behind the mural, Noah MacMillan.

Q: Noah, tell us about yourself. What’s your favorite thing to draw? What work from your past are you most proud of?

A: “I always have the most fun when I’m figuring out something that I’ve never drawn before but there are subjects that I always find myself coming back to. I love drawing animals, architecture, any kind of complicated machinery. I basically draw like a 12 year old boy with a slightly better understanding of composition and color.

One project that I’m particularly proud of was a collection of illustrated creation myths from around the world that I made for my final college project. I did a bunch of research and chose about 15 stories from all different cultures to draw. I learned a ton while working on that project about selecting the right moments to illustrate and really refined the techniques I’m using in my work now. The images wound up getting a bunch of attention online and were eventually published by Smithsonian magazine. (You can see a selection of them here).

Q: You’ve said before that Float was created completely digitally. Tell us a little about the process.

A: I think of my work process as about half digital and half old-school. I hardly touch a computer (except for finding reference images) all the way up until I’m ready for the final coloring. I do all of my concepting, sketching and drawing by hand with pens and paper and a lightbox. I find that computers get in the way of my thinking so I stay away from them until I’ve already made all the decisions.
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Q: Why work with that medium?

A: That’s just what I’ve come up with for making images in a predictable way on deadline that still have some looseness. It’s always changing and hopefully I’ll be doing things totally differently in a few years.

Q: You’ve previously described Float as “aquatic animals floating through a coral reef of Chicago” in a “surreal parade.” Beyond the beauty of the concept itself, why depict Chicago in this way? Is there something unique about Chicago that made you want to do this?

A: The incredible architecture all over the city was definitely something I was thinking about. The parade of sea creatures was actually an idea I’d had floating around (ha!) for a while but deciding to make it Chicago and include some specific buildings and existing public art pieces made it so much stronger.

Q: As you know, Float is located at a very busy intersection in the Loop. Thousands of people will walk by every day. How did the publicity of the piece affect the way you thought about the project?

A: The biggest difference in terms of thinking was trying to keep in mind that this thing would be viewed from 100 feet away. I looked at a lot of murals and graffiti to get a sense of how much detail looks good, what looks too empty and what sorts of details get lost at scale. The pressure of knowing how public it would be was great for me. It made me want to focus on making every element as good as it could be instead of focusing my energy on one part and letting the rest be secondary (the Octopus still kind of steals the show though). The only part that really stressed me out was when I’d make a tiny ink smudge or mistake and think: “well, that’s going to be 14 feet tall”, but that’s what photoshop is for.

Q: This mural enlivens a busy intersection by directly integrating the City of Chicago with the art world. As the artist of this project, what kind of value do you see in connecting the art world with the public in this way?

A: I love public art. One of the things that first got me excited about art was riding the DC Metro and seeing all the incredible graffiti along the red line. I always looked forward to that part of the ride. One of the main reasons that I gravitated toward illustration instead of gallery art is that I wanted to make things that would go out and live in the world. I totally believe that public art can make a city a better, richer place to live. I visited the mural last week and it was so much fun to be a fly on the wall and watch people react to this new piece of art in their neighborhood. Folks were stopping to look and taking pictures and I saw a little girl trying to identify all the different kinds of animals, which made my day.  I think Millennium Park is the ultimate example of how great public art can be. There are people all around the Bean enjoying it all the time. As an artist, I’d rather have that than have my work on the wall in a gallery or somebody’s house any day.

Q: Do you see a future in these kinds of projects in Chicago or other cities in the United States?

A: I hope so. Cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore have done a lot with adding murals particularly in neighborhoods that don’t always get enough attention. It is a really easy way to make a huge difference in how a space feels. Building a new park can take years and millions of dollars but a mural can go up over the weekend for almost no money. I think they can have a similar effect in making people proud and excited about their public spaces. From an urban planning perspective public art is a great value.

Q: Do you see yourself pursuing this kind of work in the future?

A: Yes! Totally! As much as possible. Call me for all your huge crazy mural needs.

Q: Anything else you want to say about the mural or the project in general?

A: Just thanks to the CLA for having the idea and choosing me to execute it! Seeing the mural in person last week was the most rewarding experience of my career so far. I’ve said it before but I think that my drawing this thing pales in comparison to the fact that you guys had the audacity to imagine this massive piece of public art and actually figured out how to make it happen. I’m totally grateful to have been a part of it.”

Thanks again to Noah for sharing his creativity with the Chicago public, and we hope to see more of him in the future!


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