Beware of illustrators brandishing textures

USA Weekend magazine, which has a distribution of 23.7 million, has warned 300 of it’s distributing newspapers that a racial slur inadvertently appears as part of the background of an illustration in an upcoming addition. This is possibly an illustrator’s (and Art Director’s) worst nightmare.
New York illustrator Santiago Cohen says he didn’t see the slur in his collage before submitting the piece to USA Weekend magazine.

“Cohen says he uses various things in collage, including sheet music and other text. ‘I don’t usually intend for it to have a separate meaning. I use it as texture. As an artist, I concentrate on the visual impact.'”

Eeek! Poor guy. That’s the kind of notoriety that nobody wants.

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22 Responses

  1. says:

    You’ve got great illustrations! 🙂

  2. i actually took me a few moments to find it. i guess when you look at art objectively and not for minute details one might not notice. sucks to be him today.

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  4. That’s always something to think about when illustrating something. What is the intent of the illustration? What kind of feelings does this illustration bring?

  5. That’s always something to think about when illustrating something. What is the intent of the illustration? What kind of feelings does this illustration bring?

  6. That’s the first thing I noticed on the front page of my local Sunday paper, the notice for this insert’s removal. I didn’t investigate, but after reading your entry, I can certainly agree that it’s attention unwanted!Whether one wanted to make a statement or not, everything has to be scrutinized….I don’t know what to think.

  7. Poor guy indeed. His work is lovely, and that must be such a shock.

  8. Well, that’s the vaguest news report I’ve ever heard: “there might be a slur of some sort in there that people might not like, maybe….just so you know…” poor bugger!

  9. says:

    I don’t know. Maybe this is a case of there’s no such thing as BAD publicity. I had never heard of Santiago Cohen before but because of your link, I clicked on over there and checked him out. Could be good for business.

  10. Here’s another link, that has close-ups of the actual illustration:
    The n-word is pretty glaring. I feel sorry for the illustrator, but he really should have seen this…

  11. I found the word in the middle of the forehead of the brown skinned person. It leads me to question whether this was actually a mistake. Why did he select the background text, that he did? It down’t seem to have anything to do with what the article is about. I feel that artists are very detail oriented and everything that goes into their work is intentional. I just don’t buy that guys story.

  12. says:

    I found it twice and I wasn’t even looking that hard. Considering the tone of the material it was gathered from, you’d think he would have stopped to read it over.

  13. that’s horrible for that poor guy
    but it’s interesting, we always get told in uni to be so anal about what’s in the picture, every little bit of text because people read the words in your picture.

    how true.

  14. But don’t you think that there’s no such thing as bad publicity? This guy was unknown to me until this and if Art Directors think it was unintentional and not to be repeated, he stands a chance of being used by them….

  15. It’s pretty obvious, but only once you know where to look.
    Call me sceptical, but I don’t think the n-word appearing in that exact location (smack bang in the middle of his forehead) was accidental. Either the illustrator was being deliberately racist, or more likely, that particular bit of text was put on that spot simply because it seemed appropriate at the time.

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  18. says:

    As a photo editor for a magazine, I have seen a lot of slip ups. I actually emailed this illustrator and had a little exhange. He feels horribly about it, and I believe him. I have seen worse things happen by accident.

  19. There is no such thing as bad publicity.

    So they say…

  20. says:

    Just for the record, I know Santiago well and he is the nicest, sweetest guy. There is not a racist or malicious bone in his body. He clearly was so focused on the image that he did not look at the words in the test he used, and there is no doubt that this was an embarrassing but human mistake.

  21. Cringe! Poor guy.
    Once I had to compile a word find for one of our children’s licenses, and there, right in the middle, was a very bad swearword that had formed itself out of the words and random letters I’d used to fill up the grid.

    Luckily I caught it, but it taught me to glean left, right, up, down, diagonal from there on. Awful!