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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

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

dogdays_cover_s

Today is publication day of Dog Days of School. This book was written by Kelly DiPucchio and edited by Rotem Moscovich at Disney/Hyperion. Actually, she was the third editor on the book, as I signed on to do this thing way way back in, what, 2007 or 2008 or something like that. Everything Goes came along and took days off the calendar, and then The Boy Who Cried Alien had to get done, and finally last year after completing the third and final Everything Goes book, I took a few months and got this thing done.

And done it is. I love this book. I mean, okay, the illustrations are whatever. I like 'em and I hope you do too. But the book makes me laugh. When I read the script I knew that this was going to be a fun project. Freak Friday, but with a boy and a dog.

Here are some illustrations and sketches from the book. Please enjoy thanks.

dd_cover_sk

dd_cover

dd_outside_sk

dd_outside

dd_laundry_sk2

dd_laundry_sk1

dd_laundry

A bunch of thumbnail sketches here. This is the form sketches come in when I first make them, and scan them. It's the hardest but most important part of the whole process, for me.

dogdays_sk6

dogdays_sk5

dogdays_sk4

dogdays_sk3

dogdays_sk2

dogdays_sk1

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Dog Days of School

Dog Days of School

In 2007, I signed on to illustrate two books for Hyperion. One was The Boy Who Cried Alien, by Marilyn Singer, and the other was called Dog Days of School, by Kelly DiPucchio. At the time, I was just getting my legs as a book illustrator and was excited to get these two projects while I start the process of learning to write my own books.

Little did I know that the seed of Everything Goes was planted a few months later, which subsequently took over my life for five years. This and other delays caused Alien and Dog Days to get pushed back a few years (!). Well, The Boy who Cried Alien came out in 2012, and Dog Days is finally coming out this June. I drew this book immediately after finishing Everything Goes and it was a dream to work on these big flat comparatively simply-composed illustrations. I only used six or seven colors for the entire book, and tried a few techniques with the art that I wasn't able to do in Everything Goes.

I received a prepublication copy of the book yesterday and my lordy it looks beautiful. I mean, okay, the drawings are alright. But Hyperion knocked the production and design out of the park on this thing. Rotem Moscovich edited and Tyler Nevins did the design and I can't think them enough. Of course, I can't think Kelly enough for writing it either, and being incredibly patient as her story sat on my shelf for nearly seven years.

Look for more on this book in the next few months, including cover sketches and how it got made. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

I get invited to local book fairs, book stores, book festivals, and so on; and I often run into this dude named Erik. Erik is probably something like 13 years old, and Erik loves books. He writes a column for his local newspaper, The Upper Bucks County Free Press about books, and he has his own blog, called This Kid Reviews Books. Recently at one of these local book events where I run into Erik, he asked if he could interview me for his blog, and of course I said yes.

Erik's interview was published this week, and here it is.

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

121217_board books_001

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.

121217_board books_003

121217_board books_004

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

121217_board books_005

121217_board books_006

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.

Thursday, March 29th, 2012


I can tell I've been rather stupid-busy drawing new stuff, as I don't normally let an opportunity to toot my horn go un tooted. Somehow last year, sometime between Everything Goes: On Land, Everything Goes: In the Air, The Boy Who Cried Alien, and three Brownie & Pearl books, I found time to fit in an ad campaign for Rubio's Restaurants, a San Diego chain that specializes in fish tacos, among other treats. This was kind of a get-it-done-yesterday job, as most advertising is, and it came to me because of the complex Where's Waldo-style tendencies that I have.
Well I got an email last week from Lisa Schiavello, the creative director of the campaign, that the campaign won an Addy award for Red Door Interactive, the agency responsible for creating the ad and hiring me. It took a couple of days before I realized exactly what had happened. The Addys are a pretty big deal in the advertising community and it's nice to have a project that my drawings are all over recognized, and it's even nicer to have a client be that much happier about the work that was done. It never hurts to have ad agencies love you in this business.
You can read about the Addy for Red Door here, here, and here.

And a post from last September about it here.

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