Archive for the ‘new work’ Category



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, January 22nd, 2016

160116_kustomcaps in the wild_002

Now and then a project comes along that turns out to me much more interesting and fun than it properly should be. This is one of those projects.
I ride bikes. A lot. One of the groups of dudes I ride with, we’ve started calling ourselves the Skirtpilots. The idea being if we ever enter a race, god forbid, or a club ride we might get hats or jerseys with “Skirtpilots” across the front.
Last year I entered a ride up near Wilkes-Barre PA called the Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo. This is a bear of a ride, with 103 miles of cycling and more than 10,000 feet of climbing. One of my Skirtpilots buddies entered the ride along with me, and the others signed up as volunteers. In appreciation for the support, I decided to get something nice done for them, so I found this company called Kustomcaps who makes cool little stem caps. What’s a stem cap? If you have a somewhat modern bike, it’s the round aluminum disc that caps the tube from your fork on the front. It probably has the brand of your bike or something like that on it, with a hex-bolt in the center.
So I designed a Skirtpilots cap, and had a dozen or so made in silver, orange and black.

skirtpilots caps

Not too long afterward, I got an email from Dan, the owner of Kustomcaps, asking me if I’d like to collaborate on a series of special caps. The idea being that I design 10-12 caps, and he manufactures and sells them. That’s an easy one. Yeah! I sent Dan fifteen designs, he chose twelve, and voila they’re for sale on the Kustomcaps website. Even if you don’t ride a bike, you know someone who does. And they’d love you for such a nice, unique gift, right?

Check ’em out here.

kustomcaps artist series

kustomcaps backside

my favorite three

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Tinyville Town, Brian Biggs, city block, bakery, hotel

I start working on final inked art for the Tinyville Town series I’ve been sketching and writing all year. Three books due mid December. Before I headed out of the studio last night, I did a little practice drawing to get into the feel of the books. This series and the Everything Goes series overlap in places (cities, vehicles, people doing things and going places) but the aim for Tinytown is less Richard Scarry and more Sesame Street. Or Fisher Price. There will be a lot more of this coming up.

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.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

I’m currently writing and drawing a book about a bridge for a pretty big series of books I’ll be talking about a LOT at some point. I’ve learned more about bridges and bridge engineering in the last three weeks than I thought I’d ever want or need to know.
Last week I was in New York, leeching off a trip Sacha had to take for work, and taking advantage of it to spend a few days meeting with some editors at Abrams and Roaring Brook. When we arrived at the hotel on Delancey Street, I noticed immediately that we were right at the pedestrian entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. So while Sacha headed out early for her client stuff, and since I didn’t have my first appointment until noon, I spent that morning meandering to Brooklyn and back.

The Williamsburg Bridge is the bridge over the East River I guess I think about the least when I think about those bridges. (Don’t you have a list, in order, as well?) For me, it’s the Queensborough Bridge, otherwise known as the 59th Street Bridge first. Woody Allen saw to that. Second would be the Brooklyn Bridge, of course. It was the first bridge I walked across when I was 17 visiting NYC in 1985. Third would be the Manhattan Bridge, mainly just because it’s next to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Several years ago, the pedestrian and bikeways were redesigned and rebuilt, and now the Williamsburg carries more bicycles on any given day than any bridge in the world. I think every single one of them was crossing at the same time I was.

So here is a collection of the photos I took on the walk. I was fascinated with the pink color of the walkway against the grey and blue of the bridge and sky. It was morning, about 10am, and the light was fantastic. Last but not least was the graffiti. It was everywhere, covering nearly every surface, to the point where it became just texture.

The pictures were taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX7 and with my iPhone.

See them on Flickr here or click the photo below.

a walk across the Williamsburg Bridge

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

The Eastern PA SCBWI chapter asked me to speak and give a presentation talk at their Illustrator Day event on September 12. I’ll be talking about how I took an odd little manuscript by Mac Barnett and turned it into a picture book that will be published next year by Macmillan. I’ll also be signing books and standing around looking awkward.
If you are an illustrator within driving distance to Yardley, PA, I hope to see you there.

More info on the SCBWI website here.

children's book illustration by Brian Biggs

From “Noisy Night,” by Mac Barnett

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…

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

FRANKcoverscan

Today is publication day for Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor. This is the first book in the six-book Frank Einstein series, written by the lovely and talented Jon Scieszka and published by Amulet/Abrams. When a new book comes out, I always like to publish a post showing sketches and process. You might think this is more boring than canned peas. But I like it, and I know one other guy who does as well so at least there will be him reading.

I first learned about this book series back in the fall of 2012. Jon had just come up with the idea and was tossing ideas around. I worked up some sketches (seen below), and the next thing I knew, there was a contract and a deadline. As Jon wrote the first book over most of 2013, I completed work on Everything Goes and some other books, checking in every now and then and producing the odd sketch here and there.

I’d never worked on a book where the author had not yet finished the manuscript. This created a very different kind of process, where I was sketching covers that included characters that did not even end up in the final script, for example. We didn’t know what the characters should look like, and we didn’t know what personalities the robots had. At some points, the tall robot would be the erudite, smart guy, and the short robot would be the emotional goofball. Jon felt that this overlapped C3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars a bit much, so he went with the reverse in the end. In some ways, my early sketches influenced some of the characters and scenes in the book and it was pretty interesting to be part of the process so early. For this reason, these early sketches I’m posting here are different from early sketches of most of my projects. Interesting to note that on the cover sketch, the name of the book didn’t even exist yet. Jon went through several possible titles, some of which you’ll see in later sketches here.

(Click on the image to embiggen it and see it more better.)

The first sketch of Frank and the robots. It's like looking at dinosaurs.

The first sketch of Frank and the robots. It’s like looking at dinosaurs.

Early early cover design.

Early early cover design.

Klanks. Or are they Klinks?

Klanks. Or are they Klinks?

Very early Klink. He became  Klank.

Very early Klink. He became Klank.

early versions of Klink and Klank

early versions of Klink and Klank

Sketch of Frank used in the original proposal.

Sketch of Frank used in the original proposal.

Robot Army?

Robot Army?

We tried various directions as we contemplated the cover art. One of the suggestions from former teenage heart-throb Charlie Kochman, the editor of the series, was to consider an invention of some kind on the cover. Like something Rube Goldberg would design. I love Goldberg and this made a lot of sense to me immediately, but I had no idea how we’d pull it off, and the idea of “inventing” my own Goldberg was pretty daunting. Here are a few that show the invention idea just kind of dummied in, and then a batch of sketches that show a more action-packed cover that I thought was reminiscent of a movie poster.

FRANK-sketches

FRANKsketches

We liked aspects of these, but I was having a hard time making them work. I really liked the movie-poster ones, but apparently no one else did!

Jon had suggested in various ways that the books might look like journals. Like something a scientist would carry around in their pocket to make notes and record observations. I knocked off this field-guide-looking version at some point, and Jon and I both loved it. There was no way that we’d ever get this to be “the cover” but it was an interesting place to start.

A Field Guide to Robots, apparently

A Field Guide to Robots, apparently

Not knowing then that this was eventually going to be a dead-end street, I started digging up reference and inspiration for this kind of thing. Journals, science-fiction manuals, and especially old text books had such a great look to them. I felt that with the older crowd that we were shooting for here (as opposed to 3-5 year olds as we might be for a picture book) that we might be able to do something with this that had a retro-sophisticated spin.

inspiration

Several directions came from this exploration. I loved the idea of breaking up the cover into these panels, where we could show various characters and scenes from the book, but also symbolize various scientific principles and ideas. They reminded me of comic-book panels, which I thought was perfect. I imagined they would be in three-color printing: black and two other colors. You can see that when the two colors overlap, they create a third.

FRANKcoversketch_revis5

FRANKcoversketch-revis3

FRANKas-textbook2

FRANKas-textbook

Amazingly, we got a preliminary go-ahead on this direction with the caveat that there was one more meeting coming up where the concept had to pass muster. I kept my fingers crossed. Alas, it was a no-go. One never knows exactly who said what or how things went, but the general consensus that I understood was something along the lines of “oh my god, everyone hated this.” It was too subtle and esoteric for the kind of audience they were aiming at, and it was just too weird and busy. The problem now is that we were late late late with the cover, and marketing really needed something to work with. Chad, the art director of the project, went back to some early concepts that were more straightforward, more direct, simpler to understand, and simpler to execute. Sounds like a plan.
I’d designed this type treatment for the Frank Einstein title, which was a nice anchor.

FRANKtype1

FRANK-EINSTEIN-oldtype

Chad’s direction was something like “let’s just get the three main characters in the middle, doing something, and let’s put the type on the top.” It worked!

finally, something good!

finally, something good!

Here’s a cleaner furthering of this idea.

Frank cover sketch

Everybody loved it! They had no choice! We had to get this done! But everyone loved it anyway!

Closer....

Closer….

Ironically, there were some issues with the title typography which Chad solved with the sleek sophisticated logotype below. As a small aside, this is the first book I’ve ever illustrated that I didn’t hand-letter the title. Just a little trivia for you there.

Chad's type treatment

Chad’s type treatment

I designed this atomic-themed background pattern to replace the graph paper,

FRANKatom_background

Chad put everything together into a crazy complicated Photoshop file, and voila! We have a cover.

The final cover

Now that was easy, wasn’t it?

One of the cool, more subtle things about this cover (and the five remaining as well) is that it’s not just a scene of the characters “doing something.” We kept the Rube Goldberg-inspired riff, where the mechanics of the illustration are explained with text on the back cover. Here’s an example of a Goldberg cartoon:

Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg

And here is the text as it was placed on the back cover of Frank Einstein.

rubetext

I’m also posting a few interior illustrations and some of the early earliest sketches of the same scenes. Certain aspects of the book Jon had locked in from the beginning. Like the climactic confrontation at an old industrial site/factory/power plant. And the Frankenstein riff at the beginning. It’s weird to see the drawings here, created more than a year apart.

climactic scene, after

climactic scene, after

climactic scene, before

climactic scene, before

opening scene, before

opening scene, before

opening scene, after

opening scene, after

Again, the book is out now now now and you can go get it at your favorite bookseller or, if you must, a big chain store or online retailer.

Read the book? Like the book? Leave a comment…
Thanks and please enjoy!

Frank 1 cover

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

KLANK_sm

A few weeks ago I was in New York for a few days doing Frank Einstein business. Two days were spent signing 12,000 copies of the Frank Einstein book. One day was spent reading the voices of Klink and Klank, the robot characters in Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor. Jon Scieszka, the book’s author, read the rest of the narration and dialog. After I read the voices at a recording studio in my regular old voice, I was given the resulting audio files and went to work with some of my audio gear to roboticize the lines. This was quite a process, and I’ve been anxious and excited to hear the actual results ever since.
This morning I noticed that the audio book was up for sale on Amazon, so I checked the Listening Library’s website to see if it was up there and voila there it was. Here’s the link to the Listening Library page, and below is the audio file.

Before going into the recording studio, I did some test-runs to give the various producers and author a sense of what I was thinking about for the voices. I ended up doing something completely different, as none of these were quite a legible as they needed to be.

Monday, July 28th, 2014

The mail-bot at the postal office done good today. One of the best days is the day where a real live copy of the book you’ve been going crazy working on (a year or six months ago) finally appears, and it’s bound and real and has a bar code and an ISBN and the ink smells funny and the colors look correct and they spelled your name right. That’s what this is all about.*

Frank 1 cover

Frank1_5

Frank1_4

Frank1_3

Frank1_2

* Actually, hilarious notes and messages from readers are really what this is all about, but still…