Poetry magazine has featured cover art by Maira Kalman, Milton Glaser, David Byrne, and other greats, thanks to Winterhouse Studio. A lot of readers ask us how cover art is chosen for the magazine, and the answer is: one way or another. This month we’ll give you a peek at the process and how we came to feature the work of an unwitting Sam Martine, with the following dispatch from Alex Knowlton at Winterhouse. [The illustration above is the source for December's cover composition.]

I was an illustration and drawing student of Sam's, and fellow instructor, at the School of Visual Arts. Even after he stopped teaching Continuing Education, and I stopped teaching entirely, he let me attend his undergraduate drawing classes. We became friendly over 25 years. I would sometimes have breakfast with him and two other illustration teachers. I was in his drawing class the morning of 9/11/2001 and we only knew that a plane hit one of the towers when class started at 9:00 AM.

Anyway, for a long time he invited me out to his house in Long Island to meet his wife and see his paintings, but it kept getting postponed, mostly because his wife had a rare illness, and eventually died. When I finally went out there, I was really surprised to see that Sam did these pen and ink doodles from his head that covered several sheets of poster board. Surprised because I thought he only worked from life with pencil or paint.

The poster board was preprinted with assignments for a graphic design problem-solving class taught by the Media Arts Chairman department head at SVA, Richard Wilde. The assignments were described on the top of the sheet, followed by a series of rectangles with captions. In each rectangle, the students were to design a solution to the caption, within the overarching design assignment. When I asked Sam why he drew on the preprinted side instead of the blank back, he said it was more interesting to work around and on top of the shapes and typography, and they were just doodles he did while watching television, anyway.

He let me take any drawings I wanted, and I did, including some of the doodles with the idea that they could make for a nice Poetry cover. I submitted a few without telling him (many cover rounds were rejected previously and I didn't want to talk about the submissions unless something was picked). He wasn't crazy about the part I selected. [It took a personal note from the editors to persuade Sam to let us publish it.]

I also took several drawings and paintings and digitized them for his site:

Sam Martine is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts and has an MFA from C.W. Post. Early in his career, he worked for the famed Lester Rossin Studio in New York. Illustration clients include ABC Television, Ballantine Books, CBS Television, Grey Advertising, IBM, Panasonic, and Pfizer. For decades, he taught illustration and drawing at the School of Visual Arts, Pratt Institute, and Marywood University. He continues to paint, draw, and study French.

Originally Published: December 20th, 2010