A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by Daniel Nyari and Marc Scheff to do two drawings for an illustrator-initiated project intended to highlight some of the people, concepts, and institutions responsible for the 2008 Financial Crisis. It’s a simple format; a deck of cards, each with a unique illustration and idea. The level of talent that Daniel and Marc accumulated for this project is staggering, and I’m humbled to be a part of it. Check out the main site for the project here: 52shadesofgreed.com

I’ve written a little bit about my personal experiences with the last five years in this post from awhile ago, but I don’t think I did a good job at conveying how it really felt. So, you know how when a large moment comes around, either one that cleaves huge paths in history, or one as simple as when you realize you love someone, you kind of just feel it? In your gut, or on your skin, or even an itch on the back of your head. David Rakoff described it better than I could: 

“Have you ever had one of those moments when know that you’re being visited by your own future? They come so rarely and with little fanfare, those moments. They’re not particularly photogenic. There’s no breach in the clouds to reveal the shining city on a hill. No folk dancing children outside your bus, no production values to speak of— just a glimpse of such quotidian, incontrovertible truth that after the initial shock at the supreme weirdness of it all, a kind of calm sets in. So this is to be my life.”

I remember sitting at my work desk, a space heater in tow, watching the market numbers fall in real-time. I was supposed to be working on small editorial piece, perhaps about a concert, or maybe a local celebrity– but all I could do was watch these numbers decrease in value, negatives get highlighted in blood red, and bar graphs dip like one of those undersea topographical maps. I’m just an illustrator– I didn’t really have a sense of the totality of what it all meant. I thought briefly about what it might mean to me in terms work opportunities, but honestly, I was thinking mostly about shortages. Would I have enough to eat? Pay rent? Could I afford enough gas to just get the hell out of there if I wanted to? I thought about my family, and what it would mean to the supposed stability that they had worked their entire lives to build.

And all of that contributed to this sense of, well, weightlessness. Of free falling. As if you were walking along, and somebody somewhere just flipped a switch that turned gravity off.

Nowadays, I can see, with the unusual clarity of hindsight, that this helpless feeling was the result of the poor decision making, avarice, and unbridled selfishness of a distant few, a culture of greed. While we were floating, doors were being closed to us: investments and savings were being slashed, homes were foreclosed on, and jobs were terminated. “So this is to be my life." 

And for what? Why? 

If you’re not angry about it; well, quite frankly you should be. Regardless of age, belief, or political affiliation, we all got screwed, every single one of us. And it’s not getting better. We continue to kick the can down the road.

Get educated and get involved. Help by spreading the word on this project! Reblog/tweet/yell from your windows please!

The project is many things, but in the barest form it is a fully illustrated deck of playing cards. I art directed this project with Daniel Nyari in collaboration with the Alternative Banking group. We have 28 artists and 55 pieces of art. It is an incredible collection, and a wonderful display of what we can create together.

This is also a story about a unique collaboration between illustrators of all stripes and levels of fame to say something important about the world. Illustrators as teachers, as engaged in politics and social welfare. Illustrators teaming up, becoming more than individuals and more than servants to other peoples’ messages. We created something out of nothing, and it is already a success.

This is so damn good. 

52 Shades of Greed is a deck of cards decked out with some of the best illustration I’ve seen for a while, all highlighting the worst of the worst involved in the 2008 financial crisis. Appearances by such “luminaries” as Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, and Tim Geithner are mandatory, of course. 

[T]he 52 Shades of Greed deck offered editorial illustrations of everything from the “bad guys” of the financial crisis to harmful legislature and accounting tricks, the second deck will focus on solutions, alternatives, and steps everyone can take to begin to clean up our current economic environment, and to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

I must say, the folks at Alternate Banking Group—an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street—have really raised the bar in intelligent and thought provoking artistic resistance. Not only did they manage to wrangle an incredible group of talented artists to create these cards, but if you go to their website, they elaborate even more on these figures and themes, thus further educating the public about the details of the financial crisis. 

Another one by Denman Rooke

The best part of all this, is that there is a sequel: 52 Shades of Progress.

52 Shades of Progress will include illustrations of the heroes who have stood up for Main Street, opportunities for direct action, crucial legislation, innovative economic thinking, ground-breaking social projects, and more. The deck will be accompanied by a companion online gallery featuring many of the original artists, as well as new ones.