Upfront: The Main Difference


If you're reading this at a newsstand (just buy the magazine, will you buddy?), leaf through our neighboring journals of political opinion. Those that aren't laden with column after column of grey ink generally illustrate their articles with flattering PR-office photographs of our "leaders" or an occasional sketch or cartoon. Art work is rare. (The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and The Progressive are notable exceptions.)

We patrons of the arts at REASON are another exception. Illustrations and photographs, some in vivid life-color, are sprinkled throughout the text. Presiding over REASON's grooming since 1984 has been Art Director Laura Main, a product of the arty California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo.

A few vital art statistics about Ms. Main: Her favorite artists are Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Francesco Clemente. Her favorite writers are William Kennedy, John McPhee, and Milan Kundera. Her favorite voice is William S. Burroughs. Her favorite directors are David Lynch and Roman Polanski, and her favorite movie is Lynch's Blue Velvet.

Each month, Laura and the editors sit down to determine how our articles might best be illuminated. Laura comes prepared with a set of suggestions—"When I read an article, I try to think of the most emotionally riveting image it contains"—and her compatriots sometimes offer contrary ideas. For this month's cover, Laura suggested the overall style and the central soldier image, while map-loving Marty Zupan contributed the idea for the background.

Laura then assigns work to the artists, giving clear instructions that nevertheless permit a fair degree of creative latitude. Illustrations usually take two to three weeks to complete, though an elaborate cover may take longer.

Regular readers will notice that Laura's developed a stable of 10 or 12 semiregular REASON illustrators and a few photographers, most of them young turk Californians. She tries to showcase a new artist every month; this issue, for example, introduces cover illustrator John Hull, whom we hope to see more of. "So many magazines have gone to straight photographs," says Main, "that our illustrators see REASON as a great place to show their work."

For the record, Laura's favorite covers are those of June and July 1986: the former was Fred Warder's cartoonish depiction of statesmen Bush and Kemp as "Miami Vice" cops; the latter, a Bill Boyd photograph of Thai model Pom Pongsapipatt. Honorable mention goes to October 1985, which featured, coincidentally, Laura's boyfriend (and fine basketball player) Mark Teresa.

Creating art on a budget often means finding models in odd places. Laura discovered Pom waiting tables in a Santa Barbara restaurant. For last month's Investments column, she got REASON's print broker David Tilove to ham it up with his Mercedes. She's recruited friends, relatives, and Venice Beach punk teenagers to pose for REASON.

Main, like the rest of us, is flawed and all too human. She draws unflattering caricatures of REASON staff members and often swears false oaths around the office, the most common being, "I promise to pay you back tomorrow."

But Laura's verve and joyous living of life keep the workplace and the magazine popping. And despite her thing about Blue Velvet, she pledges that severed-ear frescoes will remain conspicuous by their absence from our pages.