Archive for the ‘process’ Category



Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Cover reveals are funny things. They’re a part of the kid-book business that I haven’t figured out whether I like ’em or not yet. (I’ve only been doing this for fifteen years – give me time.) To me, revealing a cover in some fancy way implies that everyone has been sitting out there waiting for it. In some cases I suspect that this is a real thing. But in other cases, it’s more like it’s being hoisted upon the Twitterers and Facebooks and Instagrams and becomes just more noise.
Sometimes, however, it can be fun, and last week was one of those times. Julie Segal-Walters and I have a book coming next fall where there are, kinda, two covers. The book is about the making of a book, where the premise is that the illustrator and the author are not in agreement as to how the pictures should look. The illustrator loses patience and finally just starts drawing whatever he wants. This extends to the cover, where the “original” cover is a staid, boring book cover. And the “actual” cover, that which will be see in stores and stuff, has been vandalized by the illustrator.
Jon Schumaker (Mr. Schu) and Colby Sharp teamed up to do simultaneous reveals of the covers. Colby interviewed Julie, the writer, and Mr. Schu talked to me. You’re going to hear a lot more about this book as we get closer to its release date in October. But for now, here are he covers, and the links to the reveals.

Mr. Schu’s thing with me, here.

Colby’s thing with Julie, here.

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.

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

160803_screenprinting day_025

This has been a long time coming.

Long time readers might recall that I took a screenprinting class at The University of the Arts way back in 2009. This class was taught by Greg Pizzoli, and got me all fired up to do a lot of this kind of thing. Class ended, Everything Goes began, the kids turned into time-sucking teenagers, I hit a creative funk, new books came along, Tinyville Town begun… and I never got around to getting this together. In the meantime, I bought a crappy old exposure unit that sat in my studio here collecting dust for a year before I gave it away to a punk band, my box of Speedball inks waited patiently on my shelf, and I kept telling myself that I’d get back to this, eventually.
At the end of last year, I invested some bucks into a nice new Ryonet exposure unit and a bunch of appropriate chemicals (screen reclaimer, ink wash, emulsion, and some other stuff). Six months later, I began to worry that this was going to sit here forever, as well.

Then, two weeks ago, my friend Michael stopped by for lunch. Michael is pretty handy and has kind of a “just get it done” attitude, so I decided to hold him hostage for the afternoon and see if he’d spend some time helping me put my printing table together. I had an enormous piece of plywood with a couple of hinges screwed down. All I needed to do, I thought, was just cut the thing down to size. We did this, but we didn’t stop there. We re-fastened the hinges with bolts rather than screws. We even decided to cover the plywood with some laminate I’d bought a couple of years ago but never got around to gluing down. In two hours, the table was done and I was inspired.

It only takes that first domino to fall, right? In the next two weeks, I built a screen-drying box, covered the closet window to make that room the dark room. I ordered some nice industrial legs for one of my tables and with my kids’ help I put that thing together. Then, earlier this week, my daughter and I coated a couple of screens with emulsion and ran step-tests with the exposure unit. Once I knew that two minutes and fifteen seconds was the magic number, I burned a screen yesterday afternoon and was beside myself when it washed out perfectly. That meant that today was printing day.

The illustration is one I made a few years ago that I always thought would be a good print. This was playing it safe, today, as it’s merely one-color on colored paper. I had a nice purple ink from the class back in 2009, and I’d ordered some Lemon Drop 100lb cover from French Paper. The image isn’t exactly child-friendly, but future prints will be, at times.

The print run is an edition of 25, ten of which I’m selling in my Etsy store. The others I’m saving, and giving a few away as gifts to some people who have inspired this stuff.

160803_screenprinting day_027

160803_screenprinting day_022

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160803_screenprinting day_016

160803_screenprinting day_011

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

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Angry Monkey
I drew a fun promo for Frank Einstein a couple of weeks ago for The Guardian, a newspaper in the UK. I always enjoyed those books by Ed Emberley when I was a kid, and this draws some inspiration from that.

How to Draw an Angry Monkey.

Enjoy!

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.

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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.

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 11.48.21 AM

Frank Einstein is coming out in a month and it’s really starting to generate some press and attention. Middle Shelf is a digital magazine about kids’ books, and in the current issue they feature the illustrator of Frank Einstein on page 28. Enjoy.

Go there here.

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

A certain book being written by a certain writer that is being illustrated by me is scheduled to be published in September, and things are running behind, and it’s all crazy and I’m under an incredibly tight and difficult deadline.
So here’s a couple of teasers from the cover art. More on this soon, I think.

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frank_robots