The last time illustrator Shane Johnson partnered with Smithsonian Magazine, it was to honor the scientific achievements of physicist, Francis Halzen. “I knew this project demanded a different visual approach,” laughs Shane. To convey the grittier content, he chose rougher, heavier inks and flat, limited color. “I came up with a different palette for each illustration, using texture to create visual interest,” he says.

A woman runs through a crowd of protesters, for Smithsonian Magazine by illustrator Shane Johnson

The illustrations were commissioned to accompany an excerpt from a novel set in the chaos and conflict of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Shane selected the three passages he felt were the most vivid and engaging, and began with rough thumbnail sketches before moving on to tight pencils and then final art.

A woman cares for an injured protester, for Smithsonian Magazine by illustrator Shane Johnson

Three weeks later, the project was complete and the riveting excerpt was published in Smithsonian Magazine earlier this month. Shane is currently working on several classroom magazines for middle-schooler kids and recently finished an activity book for fans of Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 animated series. You can see more of his editorial and commercial illustration work here.