Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category



Thursday, December 20th, 2012

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I’ve always always loved board books. Big thick cardboard books, ostensibly for little kids who like to chew on things. Since Everything Goes was first conceived back in 2008, I wanted there to be board books with my cars and trucks and stuff. And now, I’m vey happy to tell you, there are. In fact, there will be six before I’m done. Sadly, they’re not “officially” released until the day after Christmas, but I hear that some stores and retailers have them on the shelves already, in time for the holiday.

The first is called 123 Beep Beep Beep: A Counting Book and it is what it says.

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The second book is called STOP! GO!: A Book of Opposites. This one is similarly simply-plotted.

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The next two board books, Blue Bus Red Balloon and Goodnight Trucks get more complicated, story-wise, and will be out next year sometime.

Amazon has Stop! Go! and 123 Beep Beep Beep available for preorder.

Or get it on Indiebound, which is better for the world. 123 Beep Beep Beep and Stop! Go!

Happy Holidays y’all.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

self portrait

self portrait

Have a safe halloween.

Friday, September 28th, 2012

I’m currently touring several cities in support of my Everything Goes series. More details and anecdotes about this week of school visits and bookstore events will follow once I return to Philadelphia, but something happened today that I just have to share.
I was at Prairie Point Elementary School in Oswego, Illinois on Wednesday. This was my only event scheduled for the day, so we were able to slow things down a bit and have a little more fun than is usually possible at a school visit. It was a terrific group of kids at Prairie Point and it was extremely well-put-together by the school librarian, Ms. Carol Patterson.

First of all, there were cookies.

Since we had extra time, I got a chance to make a big drawing for the kids after my regular slide show. When I do these drawings, I like to have the students pick the subject, and it was decided that I needed to draw a dog riding a “weird motorcycle.” The dog was carrying an ice cream cone, and the cherry of the ice cream cone was stuck to the dog’s motorcycle helmet. Okay? Got it? This is an important detail.

So a half hour after I leave the school, my phone rings. I posted this on Facebook, so you may have seen it.

A boy’s voice says, “is this Brian Biggs?”

I say, “Yes.”

“Um, do you remember today at Prairie Point that you talked to us about your books?”

I say, now with a bit of trepidation, “…..Yes”

“I’m the one in the green shirt. Do you remember me?”

Now I’m lying, because I’m not really sure. “Yesssss….”

“I want to know when, um, Everything Goes in the Sea, or by Sea or whatever it is, is coming out.”

I told him, in a year. September of next year.

And then he hung up.

So I got a lot of mileage out of this, telling this story. Little did I know that this wasn’t the end of it.

Today I’m in Oxford, Mississippi visiting Square Books Jr. I was in the bookstore having a coffee and, again, my phone rings with that same Illinois phone number. I didn’t answer it this time and instead let it go to voicemail. I figured if he didn’t leave a message, all the better; and if he does leave a message it will probably be worth having. Boy was I right. I listened to it just before starting my signing event at the store and as I listened I nearly cried. Yes, out of wonder and joy but also because it’s freaking hilarious. Listen up.

[audio:student-phonecall.mp3]

The audio is transcribed below in case there are parts that are hard to understand.

Hello Brian Biggs um

Remember when you came to Prairie Point you called on the guy with the shirt with the green shirt. I’m him and I really — when I read your book…

IT was AWESOME. I mean…

I like your writing and stuff and that um, that um, the um, that picture where you um, the picture where you were like sitting and saying, “I love to draw” something like that.
You gave me a little clue and that little clue gave me an idea and that clue told me that um, I saw, I saw your writing and I thought you, your, like, your writing is awesome and I like how you draw that mouth on the weird, the dog with the cherry thingy with the, the weird motorcycle you came to Prairie Point and Mrs. Patterson told, and (indecipherable), I love your books and the, the one that Everything Goes: In the Air, I LOVE that one because it shows different kinds of planes and facts about those planes..

I learned a LOT from your books.

Thanks.

Bye.

I don’t think I suffer much in my work. I get to draw cool stuff and I work in a neat studio and I make a living and all that. It’s all good. But when I spend weeks on end by myself in my little garage in Philadelphia, it’s easy to sometimes forget that this Guy in Green Shirt is out there. So I’m glad I have it now to listen to when things aren’t just perfect.

Monday, September 24th, 2012

I’m humming the John Denver tune today, “I’m leaving on a jet plane… dum dee dah dah…”
At 4:30 today I depart Philadelphia to begin my six-days on the road (In the Air!) promoting Everything Goes. I’ll be going to Naperville and Winnetka IL, Oxford MS, Chapel Hill NC, and Arlington VA.

Before you get all excited and go camp out at your bookstore to wait, I should mention that only two of these stops, Oxford and Chapel Hill, are going to be public bookstore events. The others are school appearances and a booksellers conference. But here are the details of the two bookstore events.

On Friday, September 28, I’ll be at Square Books Jr. in Oxford, MS for a 4:00pm event. Square Books Jr. is at 111 Courthouse Square
Oxford, Mississippi 38655. I have a friend here in Philly that tells me that Oxford is a great little town and Square Books is a great shop, so I’m really looking forward to this.

On Saturday, September 29 I’ll be at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC at 12:30pm. Flyleaf is at 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd 
(Historic Airport Rd), Chapel Hill, NC 27514

The other stops on the tour are going to be big school events hosted by Anderson’s Books in Naperville, The Bookstall in Winnetka, and the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association conference in Arlington VA. I attended last year’s conference in Atlantic City and it was terrific, so I’m pleased that they asked me back this year.

Stay tuned for some missives from the environs.

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts and return your tray-tables to the upright position, for the second book in the Everything Goes series takes off today. It’s scheduled for an arrival at a book store near you, and it’s currently making its cross-country flight from online retailers as well. And if you haven’t figured it out already, this one is called Everything Goes: In the Air, and it’s all about stuff that flies. Jet-planes, helicopters, blimps, balloons, little funny airplanes with propellors, and other flying contraptions.

As in the first book, we’re following Henry and his family (Mom’s along for the ride this time) as they go about their travels. This time the action takes place at an airport, where Henry and Mom and Dad are making their way through the ticket lines, security area, and to their gate to catch their plane. When I started sketching and writing this book it became painfully obvious that I was going to have to work to make the setting as interesting as the city is in book one. A few reviewers of On Land noticed that the book was as much about the city as it was about the cars and trucks and trains, and I had to go back and dive deep into my younger psyche, back when I thought that airports were fascinating and air travel was so cool.

I had help with this when I got a chance to visit Philadelphia International Airport at the invitation of Chuck Telles, who runs the American Airlines operation at PHL. I don’t get a chance to get out of the studio for research trips like this often, if at all, and it was pretty awesome to be able to get behind-the-scenes access to the airport. I was able to go down on the tarmac and walk around some of the jets, I got sit and watch people board and disembark in the international terminal, and I took about a million photographs. Here are three that, when you see the book, you’ll recognize how they were used.

In order to make things interesting, I focused on the passengers in the airport, giving every spread a jam-packed crowd of travelers dragging suitcases and duffle bags to their destination. The airport itself is also something I had a good time with, basing it on the airport designs of Eeno Saarinen, especially Dulles International Airport in Washington DC. Take a look and see what I mean.

Now, a much easier task than making the airport fun and funny was designing and illustrating the cover for Everything Goes: In the Air. From the beginning, I’ve known that the covers of all three books would feature as many of the respective vehicles as I could squeeze into a 12×10-inch space. The decisions I have to make a mostly around how to fit in the subtitle of the book, and where to put my name.

This turns out to be pretty simple as well. The main vehicle “character” in this book is a jet airliner, and airliners also happen to be the planes that we typically think of that might have typography running along the side. (The second obvious choice here would be a blimp, which you can see above I used on the inside title-page.) Also from the inception of this project I knew that I wanted something to be on one of those banners pulled by biplanes over parks and beaches in the summer time. Running this guy along the bottom made a lot of sense and was fun to draw.

Below are several images showing the process of creating this cover.

First is the thumbnail sketch. Typically there are a dozen or so variations of this, dealing with the spatial issues and seeing what naturally falls into place, and what doesn’t. I typically have an idea in my brain about how I expect an image like this to come out, but it’s not until these early sketches get drawn that I know if it’s going to work or not. I don’t use picture reference at this stage. Instead I’m just looking to fill space and get the gist of it. Specifics can wait.

I usually take a couple of the better thumbnails and create some refined versions. In this case I decided I wanted to try coloring the sketches as well. These two sketches are what I sent to my editor at HarperCollins, Donna Bray, and sometimes color helps “sell” the idea.

The left-to-right rule of picture books comes into play here where the first image clearly works better than the second. We also all really liked the idea of having the city below, which sort of weights the image.

If there was any concern about this particular cover, it’s that I needed to somehow avoid the notion that these airplanes were all on the verge of crashing into one another. With the previous cover, of On Land, this was not an issue as we dealt with lanes and bridges. I referred a lot to images from encyclopedias and airplane posters that I have loved since I was a kid, and felt that I’d be able to pull it off.

Once the color sketches were created, I felt that it didn’t look dangerous. Rather, it just kind of looked funny.

The next step was to create a refined version of the sketch. Once this final sketch is approved, I use it to create the final inked line art, so it has to be pretty close to done at this point.

Are you interested in seeing this part of the process in more detail? I shot a timelapse movie while I was drawing the cover last year.

The inked version is then scanned and the color is created in Photoshop.

Here’s a movie of this process as well.

Originally, as you see in the above image and movie, the airplane was red and white, but my editor believed that the color was too close to the red in the Everything Goes logo. So we tried a few other versions. This one didn’t win.

In the end, we decided to go with a magenta color for the plane, and I changed some of the colors of the supporting aircraft as well. The final cover is… tadaa!

Lastly, here are a couple of trailers for the book. Please feel free — in fact I demand this of you — to repost these things all over your various social networks. Just follow the Vimeo links. If you prefer the YouTubes, you can use them as well.


Buy it on Indiebound!

Buy it on Amazon!

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

In March 1985, I made one of the more pivotal decisions in my life, which was to attend a summer high school program at Parsons School of Design in New York City. I was sitting in my art class in high school, in Pasadena Texas, and up on the wall, above the chalkboard, was a poster depicting a huge apple*. The program was four weeks long and offered courses in Illustration, Communication Design, Fashion, Photography, Fine Arts, and probably other studies. When I told my mother, who had never been to NY and was from small town Arkansas that I wanted to do this, I don’t remember her having a nervous breakdown but now, 27 years later, and being a parent of two kids of my own, I’m sure she had one. Seventeen years old, four weeks in New York City.
Luckily, mom was pretty good at saying okay to crazy schemes and somehow the application got filled out, financial aid was applied for, and in late June of that summer I climbed on a plane at Houston Intercontinental Airport and headed off by myself to LaGuardia. I took with me my sister’s Pentax K1000 and several rolls of film. I knew nothing about photography, and knew less about f-stops. So it made sense that I ended up in NY with a fully manual SLR camera. Little did I know that in addition to the design stuff I learned, this four weeks turned me on to a lifelong love of taking pictures.
Upon arriving in NY, I stood at the taxi stand and tried to figure out what to do. I was standing there with a duffle bag and a portfolio case, and I suppose it was obvious that I was an art student because I heard a voice over my shoulder ask “are you going to Parsons?” Next to me stood the second most fashionable sophisticated-looking girl I’d ever met in my life (I’d meet many more of these boys and girls over the next few days). She’d also just got off a plane, was also attending the summer program, and apparently knew what to do because she got a cab, put us in it, and we headed off to Union Square, where Parsons had a dorm (there’s a restaurant there now called the Blue Water Grill, in case you know the area). We paid the cabbie (I felt like I was on a tv show) stepped out onto the street.
I looked to my left, down Union Square West and University Place, and for the rest of my life I’ll never forget seeing those two towers poking out between other downtown buildings. The next afternoon I went down and stood on the Union Square sidewalk and took a picture.

Union Square, 1985

A week later, on July 4, I went to the top.

The story of that full four weeks is a much longer story, but it goes without saying that it opened doors and showed me a path that I would otherwise never have known about. It should also go without saying that I made a beeline for both the Empire State Building and The World Trade Center, making my way to the top, and taking a lot of pictures. I just figured today would be a good day to post a few of these.

This view no longer exists. That's weird.

Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge (a view that no longer exists)

*I believe the reverse side of the poster had a huge orange, and focused on the programs offered at Otis/Parsons in Los Angeles (which is now just Otis).

Monday, August 27th, 2012


Something I hear a lot from people who have seen Everything Goes: On Land is that my cars and vehicles seem to come from a different time period than the present. Most people who see this seem to think that they kind of evoke some kind of retro 1960s vibe. I kind of understand this sentiment and I wouldn’t really argue it or tell them that they’re wrong, even though they are, because I can see where the idea comes from. But more accurately, what I like to draw is stuff that looks goofy. Over the years, designers and engineers have made some stuff that looks sleek and modern (no matter what era that “modern” was for), and, well, sexy. I like to draw the stuff that isn’t that. I like to draw cars that look like their names might be something like “Murray” or “Sal” rather than “Steve” or “Justin.” They’re a little odd-looking. Maybe nerdy. Roly-poly, cute. Not sexy.
So Everything Goes: In the Air is about to come out (September 18) and I suspect I’ll get a lot of the same kind of commentary. My planes and helicopters are so 1958 or whatever. When really, in the book, there are planes and copters from the birth of powered-flight all the way to current stuff. And the same holds true. I like the looks of airplanes and helicopters and things that just kind of look, I don’t know, silly. A good example that I thought of while I was drawing the book last year is illustrated with fighter jets. Fighter jets are the epitome of cool, right? They look mean and slick and fast and like they should look. But there are a lot of fighter jets that look rather silly. Like the guys that they were dog-fighting were probably laughing at them. Of course, these were pretty awesome airplanes even though they looked goofy so the enemy pilots probably didn’t laugh very long. The F-86 Sabre and F-104 Starfighter are perfect examples of this look of fighter-plane that I love. Some people, I’m sure, would look at the F-86 and the F-104 and think that they’re pretty awesome-looking. I look at them and see a plane with the hole in the middle of it and another plane that looks like George Jetson designed it. Granted, the F-86 was designed in the late 1940s and the F-104 was designed in the early 1950s. So I’m sure at the time, they were both the coolest thing ever.
So, hmm, maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s all this old stuff. Fins and chrome bumpers and metal parts and pointy things. Whatever. I know what I like.

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Eight Brownie and Pearls

Back in 1954 2008 I began working on a series of books written by Cynthia Rylant about a little girl and her cat called Brownie & Pearl. After drawing the pictures for Shredderman and Roscoe Riley, doing a project like this seemed like a longshot, a fluke, and a relief, frankly. I was kind of tired of the snarky grade-school boy thing and it was fun to get going on a project that could bring out the cute in me. I have a lot of cute in me by the way.
The eighth and final book in the series, Brownie & Pearl Make Good, was published on August 14 and the series has wrapped itself up. Cynthia sent me a really sweet box of cookies and a nice note, and little girls all over America can go cry in their tea cups. My editor, Andrea Welch, and I had a little commiseration when the illustrations were done. We’d been thinking of patterns and colors and cuteness for four years and with any long project, it was weird to say goodbye.
You can find Brownie & Pearl Make Good and the entire Brownie & Pearl series here:

Amazon

Indiebound

Brownie & Pearl Make Good on Indiebound

Eight Brownie and Pearls

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

I’m not one who is often accused of, nor credited with, planning ahead. But in this case I’ll take it. About a year ago, while I was working on the cover of Everything Goes: In the Air, the 2nd Everything Goes book, I decided to document the process with a time-lapse recording. I set my camera up so that it hovered over the drawing table and had it record a frame every couple of seconds. What resulted was a two-minute rendition of the drawing of an illustration that actually took a few hours.
I’ve had this video sitting around for a year now, and while on vacation up in Maine over the last few weeks I was able to string it together to make a little promo video for the book.

The movie is made up of 1,882 images, each shot six seconds apart. The color images are illustrations from the book, and the music is by my alter-ego, Dance Robot Dance.

Time-lapse videos can be funny to watch. I have a few that I sometimes show at schools events and they always get a good laugh from the students. Inevitably there are some kids who “get it” and know that the video was sped up, and there are other kids who later on will ask me how I did that so fast.

Of course, the bigger news here is that the book will be out in a matter of a few weeks. September 11 September 18 is the release date and you can pre-order it now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indie-bound.

It probably goes without saying that for the next few weeks I’ll be posting a lot about Everything Goes: In the Air including a process post about designing and illustrating the cover that won’t be so speedy.

Bonus update 16 August:
Finished a second trailer. It’s this here:

Friday, July 13th, 2012

So I’m working on the third installment of Everything Goes, and I’m sketching the final segment where a ferry is pulling into a harbor at the end of the book. The way I work, see, is that I first draw thumbnail sketches more or less from my head. I think about what I have in my imagination for this page or drawing, and get that down. Then I’ll look at photos and stuff and get some details and ideas of what the thing I’m working on actually looks like. In this case, I imagined this little beach/harbor community with taffy and surf shops, a small boat harbor, some jetties and docks, and a road full of cars that runs between the shops and the harbor. So I drew that.

The towns I had in mind are towns I’ve visited in my life. Towns like Camden Maine, Cape May New Jersey, and Sausalito California. Imagine my surprise when as I’m looking at pictures on the internets of Sausalito and this picture comes up. I mean, that’s kinda weird, right?