WATCHING NOT WATCHING: MAD MEN
To celebrate the final season of the cultural phenomenon that is Mad Men, we spoke to WNW Member #1218 David Saracino, a huge fan who has illustrated all of our favorite stylish characters. David fondly looks back on Mad Men with us: "Honestly, because of how well the show is made and written, they could all be greedy, womanizing alcoholics and I'd still watch it---oh wait." We also asked David to release his inner soothsayer and offer bold predictions for how the era will end: "I don't want to read too much into the ghosts Don's been seeing, but..."
How'd you get started as an illustrator? And how have you seen your work change over the years?
I've drawn all my life, so when college rolled around I majored in illustration, and landed my first paid editorial gig junior year. Ever since then I've worked with editorial and advertising clients on both coasts doing a variety of work, ranging from conceptual illustration to product development. My work has changed (and continues to change) quite a bit over the years. I started-off working strictly traditionally, watercolor and colored pencil / ink, but as I started getting more and more work, learning to work digitally proved much less time-consuming. Initially I was scanning in my final drawings, color-correcting them, editing them, then finally coloring them, which also became a pretty big time-suck. I eventually invested in a 21" Wacom Cintiq, so now I work digitally start-to-finish. It's been the saving grace to working with tight deadlines and round after round of last minute edits.
Do you tune in and watch Mad Men weekly or do you binge all at once? And other shows?
I do watch it live! Before I had access to cable tv at my apartment, it was so important that I watch it live that I used to watch it at a bar with cable. To be perfectly honest, I don't totally hate commercials. I've enjoyed commercials ever since I was young, always loving the funny ones, clever ones, etc. It's also pretty fitting to watch the commercials during a show about advertising, right? Also, I kind of love the annoyance of having to wait another week to see what happens next---I feel it really adds to my watching experience. To be fair though, when a new season of a show I like is uploaded all at once onto Netflix or wherever, I'm definitely guilty of binge-watching the hell out of it. Guess it depends on the show.
What is it about Mad Men that draws you in?
Definitely the time period and production value. I'm a huge fan of midcentury design, and the show's attention to detail is outstanding. I know a few people who had a hard time getting into the show and gave up on it because none of the characters were "likeable" enough. Honestly, because of how well the show is made and written, they could all be greedy, womanizing alcoholics and I'd still watch it---oh wait.
Upon seeing Roger's 'stache, did you immediately declare, "I have to draw that"?
Absolutely. I drew Roger and a few others last year, but I wanted another shot at him. I feel like I'm editing and redo-ing a lot of my work recently---not sure why---but his new 'stache definitely gave me an excuse to give him another go with the 'ol tablet. John Slattery's likeness is surprisingly difficult to capture, so adding a mustache to an already difficult-to-recognize portrait made me keep second-guessing his features. I'm pretty content with how he turned out, but who knows what will happen when I look back on it in a week.
What's your take on the start of the final season?
Looks like it's back to business as usual for Don and Roger, not that I'm surprised. I'm glad we're seeing Ken's story focused on a bit too. Not to mention the start to a possible/probable love interest for Peggy. Was a little surprised from the complete absence of Meghan, but I'm guessing we're going to see a little more of her. All in all, I'm pretty interested to see how they're going to fit in everything they need to wrap up in 7 episodes.
Bold predictions for how the era will end?
I don't want to read too much into the ghosts Don's been seeing, but my girlfriend and I agree that we think Don's going to kick the bucket by the end of the season; especially when he witnessed that song and dance number by Robert Morse in the mid-season finale last year. I'm not sure what's going to happen to the firm, it could either be sold off and completely absorbed by McCann, or have lead creative be taken over by Peggy; she's definitely proven herself to Don.
Do you think a new show about advertising will quickly fill the well-shined black Oxfords of Mad Men?
I really hope that there isn't an insurgence of shows that take on advertising. They definitely won't stock up well, especially if they don't devote the time and effort to crafting such a production. The actors deliver such incredible performances, all in a very cinematic environment, and I doubt that can be outdone for now.
Is Mad Men, and television in general, a source of creative inspiration or escape for you?
Most definitely, on both accounts. I'm very right-brained, and really get lost or caught up in cinematic experiences. I've historically gotten heavily invested into dramas, whether they be film or on tv, since they're inherent to beautiful cinematography. They definitely provide me a source of creative inspiration, as I almost always need to draw the main characters of a show or film immediately after watching it. As to them being an escape, I love getting caught-up in a good story and I tend to tune everything else out while I'm watching something I'm really into. I've been really excited about how much better tv has gotten over the last 5 or 10 years; it really seems like I get to watch a mini-movie in every episode.
What other shows or films do you recommend to the WNW community?
I was recently recommended by a friend to watch The Jinx on HBO, and I was not disappointed. I'm also a big fan of documentaries and whodunnits, so this was a shoe-in. I really enjoyed Tina Fey's latest straight-to-Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (illustration featured in The New Yorker), and I've just recently caught up with all of Louie on FX. I was floored by True Detective S01, and after the teaser trailer for S02 I lost my shit. In terms of recent films I enjoyed, I think the Oscars hosted a bunch of really outstanding films this year. Birdman was incredible, and was shocked it got subbed for Best Picture, and I really enjoyed Nolan's latest Interstellar; although I think that's one that you really had to see as large and as loud as possible in 70mm in Imax.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Nothing else really, other than thanks so much for taking the time to ask me about my work and interests, as well as featuring me on Watching Not Watching! I hope you enjoy my work, and keep in touch to see who I've been drawing.