Archive for the ‘illustrations’ Category



Friday, November 18th, 2011

I recently illustrated the cover of a special insert that SLJ publishes with their magazine. The concept was book series that schools use, in their libraries for instance. The art director, Mark Tuchman, wanted a space theme and since I like drawing astronauts, I had no problem with that.

First up is the original thumbnail of the image. This was one of those rare gigs where one is enough. Often I send a few sketch ideas, but in this case I didn’t need to.

The sketch gets tightened up if SLJ likes it, which they did.

I like to place it in the layout to see how it works. It was especially important in this case since the cover has that odd drop-down title.

After the sketch is approved, I ink up the final art and scan it in.

Then color is added in Photoshop and it’s done.

Once I sent the art to Mark, he placed it in a layout and worked on the color for the additional parts of the cover. This is pretty close to how it looked printed.

And lastly, they liked the image so much that they ended up asking for an additional astronaut for the interior as well.

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Last month I made a couple of big complicated illustrations for a restaurant chain out in California called Rubio’s. They specialize in fish tacos and wanted a “Where’s Waldo” kinda thing that would be the basis for this game where you have to find certain items, fish tacos among them. The first game went up while I was away in Oregon last week, and the next one will be up on September 21.
Go up and see if you can beat my time of 38 seconds. Of course, I had a head start I guess.

Here’s the game.

(You apparently have to input your email address. Sorry about that.)

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

More than a year ago, I recorded the inking of the first page from Brownie & Pearl Take a Dip, the fourth book in that series. I set the camera up to take a picture every few seconds while I worked on the drawing. It’s been sitting on my hard drive ever since, waiting for me to add a soundtrack and make a real movie of it.
Whoopee John
Friday evening I was at a local Salvation Army thrift store where they had quite a collection of old polka records. Someone must have given up their collection. I grabbed the best two, based on cover designs. One was a 33 LP and the other was a collection of five old 78s by “Whoopee John” Wilfahrt, a great polka name if there ever was one. The first one I put on was the “Unitas Polka” and I realized immediately that it was perfect.

The tune got recorded and twenty minutes later I had it done. There’s something about these old records that remind me of cartoon soundtracks, like Bugs Bunny and so on.

I’m working on a longer more involved version that shows how an illustration, this one specifically, is created from sketch to final. At the time I made this time-lapse I also did the same for the digital coloring part of the process. I’ll post that when I get it ready. Some day.

Monday, June 13th, 2011

mudpuppy dinosaur puzzle

A project I did for Mudpuppy was published just recently. It’s a 12-piece puzzle featuring those famous and extinct relatives of lizards (or birds if you adhere to those theories), the dinosaurs. T-rex, Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Pterodactyl each make an appearance here.
Go get yours at your local favorite toy shop, or if that doesn’t work, get it on the internet.

mudpuppy dinosaur puzzle
mudpuppy dinosaur puzzle
mudpuppy dinosaur puzzle
mudpuppy dinosaur puzzle

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Yesterday I showed the process leading up to the cover of Everything Goes: On Land. Without further ado or brouhaha, here’s the final cover of the book. Click the image to see it quite a bit larger.

The cover design had to be indicative of the work that’s in the book, and I do believe it is. Cars and trucks, bikes and motorcycles, buses, construction vehicles, trains, and whatever else made it in the book and on this cover. Vehicles going this way and that way, all kinds of people riding and driving them, and even a friend’s blue and white striped Mini Cooper.

Once the final sketch was approved, I use that as the basis to create the inked drawing. I usually try to create my illustrations to the exact size that they’ll be printed. Everything Goes is going to be a big book — twelve inches tall and ten inches wide — so this was no problem. I draw the illustration using a big lightbox on nice Strathmore 500 series bristol with watered-down india ink, and use white gouache to carve out areas and add details.

If you take a look at the close-up image below, the wheels of the train, the white outlines of the train windows, the railroad ties, and the wing of the small black bird are examples of where I paint the negative space, or the white areas. When I inked the drawing, the area under the train was solid black. This part of the process is easily my favorite, as it’s a real joy to see these details appear and everything come together.

You may also notice that there is no type on the black-and-white line drawing. This is because when I do work like this I always draw the type and add it digitally.



Once these are all complete, they get scanned into the computer where I use Photoshop to color everything and piece it together. When it’s complete, I save it as a TIF file and send it to the designer at the publishing house (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins in the case of Everything Goes).

Everything Goes: On Land is scheduled to be released on September 13. I’m currently working on book two of the series, which is called “In the Air,” and which will be published a year later. Lastly, “On the Sea” will come out in 2013. I don’t have the covers sketched for either of these two books yet, but they will be similar in idea and business to “On Land.” And of course I’ll post here about them when they’re ready to make their way into the world. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 6th, 2011

The first book of the Everything Goes series, On Land, is scheduled to be published on September 13. It’s high time I start writing a bit more about this book. The fine folk at Balzer+Bray (an imprint of HarperCollins) have given the go ahead to show the cover. So I thought that I’d start with a bit of a tease before I pull cover off the cover, so to say.
The idea for Everything Goes is “lots.” Lots of everything, going. Lots of cars and trucks and trains and bikes and motorcycles, and then in the second and third books, lots of airplanes and helicopters and balloons and rowboats and tugboats and ocean liners and sailboats and you get the idea. I may have written this already, but mixing a little of Where’s Waldo and David Macaulay with a lot of Richard Scarry was generally the idea going into this project.
So to that end, I knew that the cover was going to be busy and jammed with a little bit of everything that is in the book. But beyond that idea, I didn’t have much.

I started out by drawing what I figured would be a decent basis for the illustration. This would be a traffic jam. Just a mass of vehicles with which I could set into a 10 inch by 12 inch frame and start working.

I used this sketch for the basis for the first sketch.

And then used it as a take-off point for a second sketch. These are the two I first sent to HarperCollins.

Generally, it was agreed that this is a good start. I was asked to try and show different kinds of vehicles that were in the book, like trains and bikes. And the type wasn’t working, since Everything was reading as Every Thing. For the second round of sketches, the background illustration was starting to fall into place but the type still wasn’t working. I’d became slightly obsessed with getting the type to work as a sign, like a billboard or on the side of the truck.

My editor believed that the treatment for “Everything Goes” should be something that would work on all three books and not necessarily be tied to the illustration itself. I squirmed at this suggestion, though of course she was correct. I knew it was 5% too clever to actually work. You can see the illustration getting a bit more refined as well.

After some prodding, I worked up some sketches for the “logo” as we started calling it.

Now, we were getting somewhere. Here’s how the sketch looked with the logo in place.

This is the sketch that got approved, though the logo still went through another round of changes. As a technicality, I made one more iteration of the cover sketch, just to nail down the details before I started inking. Below are the final illustration sketch and logo sketch that led to the artwork, which I shall reveal tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 21st, 2011

I know you haven’t heard from me. It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve been busy. I know, I know, you’ve heard it before. I use it as an excuse way too often. I know what you’re gonna say. “Just a quick post? A card? Just text me and let me know you’re okay.”

Well, in my defense I have been updating my Twitter thing now and then, along with an occasional Dribbble and a Facebook update. Not enough? Okay, okay, I’ll try harder.

Everything Goes: On Land is done and at the printers, and the wheels have begin spinning within the deeper, darker halls of HarperCollins preparing to market and publicize the book. The I Can Read series that will accompany the books is in the works (which will be its own post one day — it’s a very odd and interesting process), and soon I have to start the beginnings of book two.
As soon as Everything Goes was done, I had to complete a long long delayed Brownie & Pearl book. This was book six of eight, so I have two more to do this year. Now I’m steamrolling through a book called The Boy Who Cried Alien, written by Marilyn Singer. This book first showed up in my life in the summer of 2007. It’s been through a few edits, a few editors, and then got hung up last year when I got buried in Everything Goes. Now it’s due in two weeks, and I’m laying low while getting this thing done. It’s a hilarious book and it’s been a lot of fun to work on, even if it has been for four years. I’ll post some more about this book as it’s completed and then as it nears publication as well.

two lost aliens

two lost aliens

These two images are of Dreab and Carlig, two aliens from the planet Yeah who crash land here on Earth. The language is their own, and the book includes translations.

This is Larry, who discovers the aliens and tries to warn the town. More to come. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Referring to the maze posted in the last entry, and published in McSweeney’s The Goods. Click the image to make it bigger.

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

If you shop, you know it’s President’s Day weekend coming up. If you read the paper, and we all know that no one reads the paper any more, you’ll also know it’s President’s Day. How? You might or may have seen this funny-shaped work of art:

This is in The Goods, which is a collection of fun and games and puzzles and tricks that will make you entertained and possibly forget about the bad news that newspapers are famous for. The Goods is courtesy of McSweeney’s and Tribune Media and includes many other artists of repute such as Adam Rex and Carson Ellis and Lane Smith and Jon Klassen and Sean Qualls and Jon Scieszka and Bob Shea.

Since you can’t turn this blog post around to see this better, as you can in a paper, I’ll upright it here for you.

Washington McSweeney

Saturday I’ll post the solution to the maze. In case it’s too hard for you.

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

This is the endpapers pattern for Everything Goes. I’ll be wrapping up the title page tomorrow and then it’s done. Done done.

endpapers