Archive for the ‘illustrations’ Category



Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Recently designed a couple of posters for some bike events that i’d like to show off. One is for a ride taking place this weekend called Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo. It takes place over three counties in Pennsylvania, Luzerne, Lackawanna, and Wyoming (“Lu Lacka Wy Co”) and is more or less 100 miles long (Hundo). I’ve ridden it the last two years and I’ll be at it again on Sunday. These posters were printed by Ralph Stollenwerk at Pinkbikeralph here in Philly, and they look so good. They’re only available for riders, and have already sold out.

The second ride takes place in the fall, up near Williamsport PA and is called Keystone Gravel. It’s about 65 miles, and was the center of my favorite weekend on bikes last year. “Chainsaw” Donnie Breon puts this one together, and got in touch with me looking for a flier. I’d originally designed these two posters with Lu Lacka in mind, but when we went with the map idea instead, I told Donnie I had a better idea. There is a “his” and a “hers” and they look good hanging on the wall next to each other. These two are for sale on Etsy, together or separately, and will be printed by me mid-summer.

Here is a link to an album of pictures I took last year at Keystone Gravel.

And lastly, here’s a picture of me just after finishing Keystone Gravel last September, taken by the mighty Abe Landes of Firespire Photography.

Friday, April 7th, 2017

The Noisy Night review in the New York Times Book Review is out today, online, and will be on your porch in print tomorrow morning. The review was written by the amazing Sophie Blackall, last year’s Caldecott winner, and I’m thrilled. This is the first review in the NYT for a book I was part of, and I’m pretty happy that book readers everywhere will be eyeballing my drawings this weekend. Mac Barnett wrote just a few words in this manuscript, but boy are they the right words, and Noisy Night was a joy to illustrate.
Last week, at Books of Wonder in NYC, someone asked me whether I like working with other authors best, or whether I prefer to “have total control.” It’s hard to answer this, since it’s not really the right question. The biggest part about working on a book that I didn’t write is that I’d never have come up with a book like Noisy Night in my lifetime. So working on other authors’ books is a chance to get out of my own brain-hole and into someone else’s for a bit. But the truth is, I had more control over the look and function of this book, that Mac wrote, than I do over some books that I write and illustrate. This is partly because the books I write are typically part of a series, and there are certain aspects to a series revolving around branding and a set “world” that I have to confine myself within. The other part of this is that Mac writes a script, and then he’s done. We never really “collaborated” and he never told me what to do either directly or indirectly through the editor. I had 179 words (143 if you take out the small bit of stage direction Mac provided), and I had a few months to turn these words into a 32-page picture book. All that stuff in the middle was mine to make (with a lot of good advice and guidance from Anne Diebel, the art director on Noisy Night).
When Anne and I first started thinking of the form this book would take, we kept running into a few specific issues that made it an interesting challenge. Foremost, the book takes place in a 10-story apartment building. This means that the story goes up as it unfolds. First floor to second floor and so on. Now, a book opens left to right. We turn the pages horizontally. So, how do we make a book go up, as it inherently is a horizontal medium?
Of course, the first idea was to turn the book around 90 degrees. But 90 degrees clockwise, or counter-clockwise? Clockwise was out, since then we’d be reading the book down as we turned the pages. Counter-clockwise would at least have us turn the pages “upward” as we go along. I have to say here that I’m not a big fan of gimmicks like this. I read a lot of books to my kids when they were young, and I watched them read a lot of books as well. And when we had to turn books vertically, I always felt like it was a crutch. Plus, I feel like it makes the book unwieldy for such little people. Nevertheless, I gave it some thought, and if I were writing this book for that format, that might have worked. But I didn’t write it, and the way that Mac did, it didn’t lead to a natural page-turn that would have worked with a vertical format. For example, starting with the first bit of text:

What’s going la-la-la above my head?

A man is singing opera above my head.
What is going ma-ma-ma above my head?

We begin with a boy in bed hearing a noise above him. He asks “What’s going la-la-la above my head?”

The answer is “an opera singer,” but we don’t know this until we turn the page. When we make that turn, we see the opera singer (“LA LA LA!”) and we get the answer from the boy, on the floor below the singer: “A man is singing opera above my head.”

The next line, “What is going ma-ma-ma above my head?” is asked by the opera singer. Since he was busy going LA LA LA previously, we need a new page for this. Vertically, we would have to turn the page again, leading to a new (vertical) spread. Which would be pretty cool (if I liked such things…), but would double the length of the book as well. The way it’s written, we don’t need a new page-turn here. All we need is a new page. A shift of perspective from the boy’s response (“A man is singing opera…”) to the man now hearing something (“What is going ma-ma-ma…). A gutter is enough to separate one from the other, and in fact, to me, ties them together and adds some funny kinetic movement to the page (imagine it animated — or better yet, don’t imagine it). The gutter would also be a big problem with the vertical format, as each of the characters would fall into it somewhere. And with the voice balloons being the main text location, a lot of important stuff would fall into that gutter. A baby’s head. A crow’s face.
In the end, it just created a lot of unnecessary problems which outweighed benefits. Not to mention, did I mention this, I just don’t like having to make a kid turn a picture book vertically, anyway.

The solution we went with, shifting that perspective each page, clicked into place the moment I laid it out in a series of thumbnails. It created the rhythm I was looking for, and by using color, I could differentiate each story of the building from one another. They each got a color palette, which we could then use on the cover in the building windows as well.

This is before I decided to use the endpapers to help tell the story, but it does show the page patterns and colors.

I think my favorite part of making books, other than the fame and fortune and reviews in the New York Times, is this process of solving these weird problems, and constructing the form of the book before we even get to the illustrations. Finding the rhythms and patterns and motifs that make the story work. I know my rhythms, and when I write, I write to my strengths. But an author like Mac isn’t thinking about how the drawings will work, and probably not how the book will work. He’s focusing on the words alone, and the story they make. And the words that make Noisy Night are words that would never have been put together in my own imagination, and Noisy Night is a book I’d never have made on my own. What a treat.

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Philadelphia Weekly

Back in the year 2000, I was asked to design two alternate covers for Philadelphia Weekly’s election issue. This issue would go to print on Tuesday night election night, and be in newsstands on Wednesday morning. One was to depict Bush winning (note the family car on its way to Canada) and the other would show Gore (the marching band with the guilty Nader voter). I recall being on the phone that afternoon with the art director, Jeff Cox, and him telling me the fear was that we’d get to midnight and still not know.
Well, most of us remember how that turned out. I woke up the next day hungover from the late night Florida surprise to find this third cover in the newspaper boxes around town. Jeff had to throw it together in 15 minutes when it was clear that the election wasn’t over. I remember being bummed that my cover would never see the light of day, and thinking that elections couldn’t ever get any worse than that one, and now the whole thing just seems so quaint.
I’m with Her.

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Received an email this morning that Tinyville Town Gets to Work got into the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show. I’d forgotten to enter the show entirely this year (I know, how do I even make a living at this?) but Abrams entered the book for me, and it was one of three Abrams books that was selected. I couldn’t be happier.
My books have been in a few times in the past. The first two Everything Goes books got in, as did the fourth Brownie & Pearl book and The Boy Who Cried Alien. It’s been a few years for me, however, and it just makes my week that Gets to Work will be at the show in October.

We have to choose one spread to hang. These are my favorites. Thoughts? (click to enlarge)

Tinyville Town Gets to Work

Tinyville Town Gets to Work

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Frank Einstein and the EvoBlaster Belt

The fourth book in the Frank Einstein series is hitting bookstore shelves on September 6, and I got a box of the lovely things in the mail this week. This time, the focus is on biology and evolution. Frank, Watson, and the robots are camping while doing their science thing and saving the world from T. Edison and his simian sidekick. Four down, two to go.

Frank Einstein and the EvoBlaster Belt

Frank Einstein and the EvoBlaster Belt

Frank Einstein and the EvoBlaster Belt

Frank Einstein and the EvoBlaster Belt

Frank Einstein and the EvoBlaster Belt

Frank Einstein and the EvoBlaster Belt

Frank Einstein and the EvoBlaster Belt

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

If you’re thinking about being all cute and romantic this Valentine’s Day, who can think of a better way to do that than with frog cards drawn by yours truly. Go get ’em at a nice paper-goods store near you, or order them (quick!) from Peaceable Kingdom.

Brian Biggs peaceable kingdom

Friday, November 6th, 2015

I drew the cover for the first Tinyville Town book today, called “Gets to Work!” It’ll be published in about a year by Abrams/Appleseed. More info here as we go through time together.

Tinyville Town Timelapse from Brian Biggs on Vimeo.

Soundtrack by Dance Robot Dance

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Tinyville Town, Brian Biggs, illustration

This is a statue depicting the founding fathers of Tinyville Town. The town was founded in 1830, when an English fisherman and a German goat herder each happened along the same rise along the Orange River at the same time. What this statue doesn’t depict is the simmering tension between the descendants of the German settlers and the descendants of the English settlers over who was there first. This issue has been the source of much consternation and many a dirty look for 180 years, and was the underlying cause of the Zwischenfall im Squaredance, or “The Fight at the Polka Hall” as the English refer to it, in 1945.
Tinyville Town is now a modern, diverse, and growing city. I’m writing and illustrating a series of books about Tinyville Town that will be published by Abrams Appleseed starting next year. So far they haven’t let me write the book about The Fight at the Polka Hall. Let’s cross our fingers.

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

Abrams/Chronicle, who distributes the Frank Einstein books in the UK, just turned five years old. They asked a few of their illustrators to draw birthday cards to that effect. Here’s mine.

5 years KLANK

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Muertos

(Click the images to see them bigger. In some cases, much bigger.)
I was recently asked by Steven Malk, my literary agent at Writers House, to create a promotional card for the upcoming holiday. No, not Halloween. Rather, the Day of the Dead, or Díos de los Muertos. I actually volunteered for this — he is putting together a series of these promotional images for the lesser-known holidays. Arbor Day, Grandparent’s Day, and so on. When I saw Muertos on the list I jumped at the chance. I’ve long admired the work of J.G. Posada, whose wood-cut skeletons and other imagery I associate with the holiday.

8097112_orig

cyclists---Posada

diadetrans

Originally I thought I might even play with some printmaking techniques to pay a little homage to Posada as I make this image, but I quickly realized that with the looming deadline for the second Frank Einstein book, this would not be possible. I had to do what I do the way I know how to do it, and go from there.

I pretty much knew what I wanted to do from the start. The festive atmosphere of a Day of the Dead celebration is one that everyone should at some point experience. I don’t love the goofy goth-horror side that Americans have sort of adapted over the years, and I wanted the story told here to be less about the costumes and more about the idea of this old guy moving from this life to the next. I went through a few phases with the sketches but it came together pretty quickly.
Below I post various steps in the process, in order that I made them, and some details from the final art.

The first sketch -- just two guys.

The first sketch — just two guys.

I thought a background would be involved at first.

I thought a background would be involved at first.

Working out color stuff.

Working out color stuff.

The big tight sketch that becomes the basis for the inked art.

The big tight sketch that becomes the basis for the inked art.

Inked and scanned, ready for color in Photoshop.

Inked and scanned, ready for color in Photoshop.

trio_detail1

trio_detail3

trio_detail2

The printed card.

The printed card.

The reverse side with the necessary information.

The reverse side with the necessary information.

The printed card is only 4.25″ x 6″, so I’m sad that a lot of the detail of the line-work is difficult to make out. I’d love to print this thing bigger at some point. Maybe when I get the mythical screen-printing gear in my closet here set up and running…