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And Lo– A Miracle In The Desert

August 20, 2015

My assignment: an illustration for The Delicious Dozen: The 12 Best Coca-Colas I Ever Tasted.

Here’s the opening line:BlankVertSpace.4pixels

The best one – ever – was handed ice cold and dripping through the window of a car so beaten-up by Texas that I couldn’t tell the make or model.BlankVertSpace.4pixels

Here’s the final:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

illustration final car stopped in desert hand from window offering cold Coke thirsty guy gratefully kissing bottle cow skull snake hot sun buzzards perched on cactusblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

The assignment was for Coca-Cola Journey, the company’s online magazine and social media site. It’s a beautiful example of a brand using content marketing to win fans and engage followers.BlankVertSpace.4pixels

Writer Charles McNair‘s essay had me laughing from start to finish. He started out as
a baby, and claimed he was actually weaned on Coke (“I followed her like a shark. After months of constant pursuit, Mama needed relief. Coke was it.”)

Childhood memories included his grandfather bringing him a little green snake in a Coke bottle (he didn’t drink that one), and surviving junior high football practice in August (“I drank two after each practice. I didn’t make the team, but I didn’t die.”

I made a few sketches as I read through his entertaining memoir.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Coca-Cola sketches baby prefers Coke to milk bottle football player kid cooling off in Coke cup baseball bat Coke bottle Tower Of Pisa leaning snake charmer kid snake emerging from Coke bottleblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

Wait– what’s the Leaning Tower Of Pisa doing in there?? (“I played baseball in Italy. Third base. Verona Arsenal.”)BlankVertSpace.4pixelsBlankVertSpace.4pixels

But it was that opening vignette that cried out for attention: marooned in the Texas desert, while hitchhiking to New Orleans…BlankVertSpace.4pixels

After five hours, vultures circled… When a vehicle got close, I stepped to the asphalt, stuck out my thumb. I gave a cheerful I’m-not-an-escaped-convict grin… After eight hours, I finally thumbed a ride…

As the Samaritan pulled his anonymous make and model to a blessed stop, I hustled up to jump aboard. A hand with a cold bottle of Coca-Cola appeared out the window. He’d already popped the cap. That was the best one. Ever.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
guy in desert dying of thirst buzzards on cactus car stopped hand emerging from window with ice-cold Cokeblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

Here’s another take. The rescuer “sold Beltone hearing aids for a living, the inventory
piled around his ankles in the floorboard.” There were tell-tale signs of other stranded hitchhikers who’d used rocks to spell out their names. Maybe they thought the rocks “would help notify next of kin.”blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
car stopped in desert hand from window offering cold Coke thirsty guy gratefully kissing bottle cow skull snake hot sun buzzards perched on cactusblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

Editor Jay Moye and I agreed the sketch was too busy. Here’s the revised sketch, which dramatically improved the focus.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
revised rough sketch car stopped in desert hand from window offering cold Coke thirsty guy gratefully kissing bottle cow skull snake hot sun buzzards perched on cactusblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

The final had to fit into a 604 by 337 pixel space. That’s a long horizontal and a very tight vertical. I needed to make some adjustments.

I made the car longer and used two cacti instead of one. I also left myself generous margins so I could fine-tune the fit.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
uncropped flattened illustration car stopped in desert hand from window offering cold Coke thirsty guy gratefully kissing bottle cow skull snake hot sun buzzards perched on cactusblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

I used a thin black rectangle, set to the desired dimensions on a separate layer in Photoshop, to help me center the image before cropping it.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
preparing to crop illustration car stopped in desert hand from window offering cold Coke thirsty guy gratefully kissing bottle cow skull snake hot sun buzzards perched on cactusblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

Here’s the final again. The cacti create the illusion of height, even though they’re quite short. The size of the Coke bottle is exaggerated, but in a pleasantly comic way.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
illustration final car stopped in desert hand from window offering cold Coke thirsty guy gratefully kissing bottle cow skull snake hot sun buzzards perched on cactusblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

Ice-cold Coke to the rescue– now that’s branding and social media at its best. Mmmwah!blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
thirsty guy kissing cold Coke bottle detail image car stopped in desert hand from window cow skull snake hot sun buzzards perched on cactus

blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

    *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Ever tried to promote your brand by asking fans to share a story about it?

Do you have a vivid memory that involves a well-known product or service?

Ever looked up and seen vultures circling overhead– and you’re the only one around??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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I also invite you to get updates. Just click the Get Updates button in the sidebar below the Portfolio Thumbnails, or click + Follow in the blog menu bar.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

If you’d like to buy prints or greeting cards, click on any of the large preview images in the sidebar below the Get Updates button.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

When Art And Rock ‘n’ Roll Collide

How Honey Ryder And The Prisoner Wound Up In Wyatt Earp’s Mustache

Eyes In The Night: A Street Corner You Don’t Want To Hang Out On
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footer for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact informationblank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2015 6:42 AM

    I did enjoy this, Mark! Now I want a fizzy beverage and it’s only early am! Love your mind and your art funny man.
    Have a splendid day. I will be sipping a fizzy beverage as soon as I hit Post 😉
    am:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 21, 2015 11:44 AM

      And a fizzy beverage you shall have, my dear AM! I’m juggling a dozen oranges as I type this, and as soon as they’ve been agitated to a proper degree of fizz, I’m gonna put ’em in a vat, stomp ’em good, and pour you a glass of the best. Of course, someone as fresh and perky as you doesn’t really need an Orange Fizz– I’d say you’re good to go!

      You’re also good to me– thanks for your lovely comment!! : )

      Like

      • August 21, 2015 5:44 PM

        I’m thinking of burping to the ceiling with all the fizziness – hey, did I see that somewhere 😉
        You’re very funny and now I must add kind and thoughtful – though funny folks always are in possession of warm hearts and fizzy drinks!
        Thank you – Mark
        am:)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. August 21, 2015 10:36 AM

    y observa no es publicidad pero siempre en nosotros vibrara esta magica bebida plagada de recuerdos de juventud

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 21, 2015 12:22 PM

      Google Translate tells me your comment translates as: “And notes is not advertising but always a thrill us this magical drink plagued by memories of youth.”

      I’m going to rephrase that, and guess this is closer to what you really said: “And note that it’s not advertising, but making us happy by using the product to magically conjure up happy memories of our youth.”

      Hi, Nel! I think you very deftly summarized the whole idea behind social media and content marketing; namely, to avoid any direct sales pitch, and just create a pleasant association with the product so the person is more likely to think of your product when he has a need. That’s it exactly!! : )

      Nice to see you, thanks so much for your visit and your comment! : )

      Traductor Google me dice que su comentario se traduce como: “Y las notas no es publicidad, pero siempre una emoción que nos esta bebida mágica plagada de recuerdos de la juventud.”

      Voy a reformular eso, y supongo que esto está más cerca de lo que realmente dijo: “Y tenga en cuenta que no es publicidad, pero que nos hace felices por el uso del producto para conjurar mágicamente buenos recuerdos de nuestra juventud.”

      Hola, Nel! Creo que muy hábilmente resumidos la idea detrás de los medios sociales y el marketing de contenidos; es decir, para evitar cualquier argumento de venta directa, y acaba de crear una asociación agradable con el producto por lo que la persona es más probable que pensar en su producto cuando tiene una necesidad. Eso es exactamente !! : )

      Encantado de verte, muchas gracias por su visita y su comentario! : )

      Like

  3. August 26, 2015 12:26 PM

    ey amigo mark hace dias no veo publicaciones tuyas… amigo considerame tu seguidor y fiel…

    (Hey friend mark for days not see yours publications… consider me your friend and faithful follower…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 27, 2015 9:40 AM

      Hi, Nel! Thank you, my friend, for that lovely comment. I’ve been busy on some projects, and have not had time to do a blog post– sorry to disappoint you, faithful follower!! : )

      I often do quick single-image posts to my Facebook page, however– you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/markarmstrongillustration. Something to look at while you’re waiting for your lazy friend to do a blog post! Hope you’re well and having a nice summer! : )

      Hola, Nel! Gracias, mi amigo, por ese hermoso comentario. He estado muy ocupado en algunos proyectos, y no he tenido tiempo de hacer un blog post– siento decepcionarte, fiel seguidor !! : )

      Hago a menudo mensajes de una sola imagen rápidas a mi página de Facebook, sin embargo: usted lo puede encontrar aquí: https://www.facebook.com/markarmstrongillustration. Algo que mirar mientras estás esperando para su amigo perezoso para hacer una entrada en el blog! Espero que estés bien y tener un buen verano! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  4. August 26, 2015 10:24 PM

    Hello, my favorite illustrator! I’m drinking a refreshing Coke right now. I give it up … I buy it and start drinking it again … I give it up … I buy it again … I give it up … I buy it again … (I think this is what’s meant by “the circle of life”).

    Fabulous illustration! I LOVE this one! You captured Mr. McNair’s words perfectly, and I love the little green snake lapping a drink. Did you accept payment in Coke? 😉

    Hope you are well and enjoying your summer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 27, 2015 1:29 PM

      Is there any way to describe how happy you and your comment made me? Words fail me, as the inarticulate dictionary once said… : )

      Maddie!! What a wonderful surprise to suddenly find you here! I lit up like a Christmas tree, and who cares if it ain’t the season?? Absolutely delighted am I, hearin’ from you always does me good. Thanks for all the kind words, and for puffin’ me up like a bullfrog! I knew you’d notice that thirsty little snake. Sorry about his grandmother– not as fast as she used to be, and I guess she picked a bad time to cross the road… : (

      Yes, they did pay me with a frosty Coke. How cold was it? Well, my tongue got stuck to it, and I hadda call the fire department, but I’m OK now… : )

      We’ve had a few all-day rains here, but overall, it’s been a beautiful summer in NH. I’ve been busy lately, work-wise, which is always good for me, at least according to my truant officer. Please tell me you are well and happy, because I simply won’t have it any other way! Thanks for stopping by and giving me a tremendous boost, pop, pop, fizz, fizz!! : )

      Like

      • August 27, 2015 11:26 PM

        I am very well indeed. When I’m away from blogging, I miss my online friends, and I miss you an extra helping. You and your posts always make me smile, and I’m glad to get back here and see what you are up to. You never disappoint! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 28, 2015 3:35 PM

          I’m blushing furiously, and feeling quite euphoric– thank you, dear Maddie!!

          Like

  5. August 29, 2015 10:33 AM

    Mark … Loved your takes on the funny memoir. The editing – less is more – was spot on. I might have been hesitant to accept that ride, but would have gladly grabbed the soda (My preference, however, would be a Pepsi.) 😉

    My memory involving a well known product involves a hot beverage and Kraft Marshmallows. (There’s only kind, right?) When I was a Girl Scout, I invited a boy I liked to go ice skating with us. He didn’t tell me that he had never ice skated before and twisted his ankle when he attempted to do so. Being the gentleman he was, he still went with me and enjoyed the refreshments that were served – hot cocoa and marshmallows roasting over an open fire. Sweet!

    Like

    • September 10, 2015 7:47 AM

      My dear Judy! Lovely to see you, and do forgive this late reply– blush! Yes, the old Coke vs. Pepsi conundrum. I’m surprised there isn’t a little box to check off on that on job and credit applications!

      Thanks for your kind comment, and I loved your beverage reminiscence. Hot cocoa and marshmallows roasting on an open fire– beats chestnuts any day in my book! A guy who accepted your ice skating invitation tho he’d never skated before, and persevered despite a twisted ankle… one thing’s clear: the lad was smitten! Good man, sweet indeed! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  6. September 9, 2015 7:23 PM

    Nice illustration! It reminds me of some old comics I used to read. I wonder if I still have them…

    Like

    • September 10, 2015 8:33 AM

      Thank you for your kind comment, Coralie, it’s nice to meet you. Ah!– old comics!– where do they all disappear to?? I had a million of ’em when I was a kid. OK, hundreds. Guess they got the toss at some point, which seems a shame– they were an important part of my education! : )

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

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