Archive for the ‘process’ Category



Friday, August 12th, 2011

I’ve really been loving the work of poster artists DKNG lately. I’ve bought a couple of their posters and I love the detail they put into their designs. Today they posted a terrific video showing, in time-lapse form, the creation of a poster for a Phish show in Hollywood. See if you can keep up and figure out exactly what’s going on. If you have a decent understanding of screenprinting and know your way around Adobe Illustrator, you’ll be fine.

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

With the first book of Everything Goes wrapped up and set to be published in about three months, I’ve been drawing airplanes for the last several weeks, working on the sketches for the second book in the series. So here I give you some of those airplanes. I’m really enjoying this. Airplanes aren’t constantly in my quiver, so to speak, the way that cars are. So it’s taken some time to learn how I draw airplanes. I mean, I can draw airplanes. But there’s a certain accent that needs to be developed with these things that will make it fit with the first book. I describe the vehicles in this series as looking somewhat like toys.
I spend a lot of time drawing airplanes from pictures, learning where do the wings go, how are they proportioned, how does the landing gear attach, etc. And then after a few days of this I put the reference materials away and start drawing from memory. Except for the Wright Brothers’ plane and the Spirit of St. Louis here, these are from memory and imagination.

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.

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.

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

After completing the first book of Everything Goes in mid-February, I went on a tear and illustrated the sixth Brownie & Pearl book by the first week of March, and then immediately completed a book for Hyperion called The Boy Who Cried Alien which I’d been working on since sometime in 2007. As you might imagine, this schedule has left little time for stuff like eating, going to the bathroom, and cleaning up one’s mess. Over the weekend I took care of the eating and bathroom issues, and this week I focused on cleaning the studio. Over the winter, with the windows closed and the garage door shut, the place got musty and dank. Piles of papers and bills and sketches and books were stacked in looming piles on one of my worktables. Cables and hard drives were scattered around my computer area, coffee cups were discovered still holding coffee (and milk) from days of yore (disgusting), my filing cabinet was disorganized, and a layer of dust and grime covered nearly everything.
Monday was a lovely day with temps in the high 70s and 80s, so I was happy to open the garage door up, let the place air out, and get to work. My storage closet is still needing help, but the main part of my studio is nice and clean. The papers were filed, surfaces wiped, and I have two boxes of papers and catalogs and ephemera that will go to recycling later this week. The place is now a good place to work, and it was such a pleasure to walk in this morning and see the results.
And not a moment to soon. Sketches for book seven of Brownie & Pearl are due toute suite, and UPS delivered a big pile of research materials I ordered from Amazon, all about airplanes and airports and aircraft, for Everything Goes: Air, which I’ll begin the hard work on later this week. No rest for the weary.

I wish I’d taken ‘before’ pictures. But here are the after.



Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

David Paccia wrote last week asking if I’d contribute to a survey of illustrators and cartoonists that he posts at his blog David-Wasting-Paper. I was happy to oblige, and the survey was posted last night. If you’ve always wondered what kind of paper I like to draw on and whether or not I am right-handed, here you go.
Go forth and learn.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

It's a Book

It’s been a year since I organized and cleaned the studio. Now that I’ve finished work on the first Everything Goes book I realize how all-encompassing that project has been. As I finished things I just stuck them in a pile next to my desk rather than putting it away. The pile is large.

I’m filing book one away into the filing cabinet now. This stack of stuff pictured here contains every piece of sketch, manuscript, rough idea, note, reference print, and whatever else that made up Everything Goes: Land. It’s almost six inches thick.
Just for comparison’s sake, the folder called “Land” on my hard drive which contains the same thing but in digital form, is 7.6Gb. (The original art is in a flat file and is rather huge as well.) As I get going on book 2 and get a little further away from the last one, and as we get closer to the Sept 13 publication date I’ll post more goodies from this pile, as well as details about the book.

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Little Golden Books
Well it’s out, and now I can safely say that when I retire as an illustrator and spend my days on the golf links in Boca Raton, I will have illustrated a Little Golden Book. I’ve loved Little Golden Books ever since I can remember. My grandmother’s house had a stack of them that belonged to my aunts and uncles back in the 50’s and 60’s, and I liked the goofy stories and wonderful illustrations. At the time, I knew nothing of the legacy of these illustrators like Richard Scarry, Tibor Gergely, Leonard Weisgard, and Alice and Martin Provensen. As I grew up and went to college and became a designer, I forgot about much of the Golden Books.

It was only much later, while I was working on a poster for The Kids in the Hall in 2002, that I rediscovered these works. Mary Blair’s I Can Fly, Garth Williams’ Mister Dog, the Provenson’s Color Kittens, and especially Scarry’s Rabbit & His Friends were the inspiration for this poster.

[singlepic id=16 w=400]

Last year I discovered a book called Golden Legacy by Leonard Marcus. It’s a history of Little Golden Books, and I was about halfway through it when I got a call from out of the blue, that the editors of Little Golden Books would like me to illustrate a new book called I’m a T.Rex, written by Dennis Shealy. Needless to say I fell over and was stunned.

I love drawing dinosaurs but I hadn’t had a chance to draw dinosaurs for a book before. Sketches commenced. The T. Rex had to be fierce and angry but I wanted him to be kinda cute and funny as well.

I'm a T.Rex! cover sketch

The work went smoothly and just this last week, on May 11, it was officially “published” and released into stores. I got my copy on Thursday. And like I wrote, I’m pretty happy to be able to be part of the “story” of Golden Books now. I sure won’t put my book up there in the same echelon as the Scarry, Gergely, and Prevensen books. But at least it’s now sitting on the same shelf…

I'm a T. Rex!
My Little Golden Book: I'm a T. Rex!
My Little Golden Book: I'm a T. Rex!

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Did I mention cars? To prove that I am indeed a alive and working, here are a couple of recently-completed development sketches for this huge book project I’ll be working on for some time…