Archive for the ‘new work’ Category



Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

It’s been a weird couple of months. Back in December I broke my ankle while riding my bike, and if you know me at all you know that this is a big deal. Bikes are therapy. Getting out of the house and studio and into the woods, getting a little exercise, and getting out of my head for a bit. When the doctor told me it was broken and I’d be off the bike for ten-to-twelve weeks I nearly lost it.

Well, fast forward nine weeks, and we’re at the tail end of the long national nightmare. And I’m making some lemonade here. First, the weather. It’s been pretty bad since mid-December. I haven’t really missed much. I’m not one that worries much about weather, as I will go out and happily ride bikes in the worst of it. But I stay off the trails when they’re slushy and muddy, and I think they’ve been slushy and muddy since Christmas. Second, I’ve had something of a mini-creative renaissance the last two months. Work, real work, has been slow, and I’ve had the time to dig in on this super-hero picture book I’ve been working on all year and play with technique stuff. I’ve been so busy the last decade that most of the work I’ve done has been on tight deadlines and I haven’t been able to, or had the wherewithal to experiment much. I draw, scan, digital-color, done. But with this book I’ve been wanting to get away from the computer.

To that end, I’ve been re-learning how to paint and color and make things with pencils and ink and paper, and it’s been kind of great. Scary, but that’s what makes me realize how much I’ve been using the computer and photoshop as a crutch.

As part of the same line of thinking, Sacha and a few colleagues convinced me to start a second Instagram account focused on my illustrations and creative work. My original account is more of a day-to-day visual diary: dog photos, vacation pictures, Friday-night cocktails, and a lot of pictures of bikes. People actually complained. But mostly, I think, people just didn’t follow. Say someone sees my work somewhere and goes to instagram to see if I have an account. They find it and see ten pictures of bicycles and Negronis and Sacha and the dog punctuated by one drawing from a sketchbook, and they move on.

So, fine, I started a new account. This one dedicated to drawings, illustrations, books, making things. And so far so good. Knowing I have a hole to fill makes me work. After breaking my ankle, I worked from home for four weeks, and spent an hour or so every morning drawing for fun. Just stuff that was in my head. I know, it seems like this wold be a normal activity for me. But it wasn’t. Instead, I bicycled. Or read the internet. Or… worked. Remember, I’ve been busy for the last decade. Time to just screw around and draw wasn’t at the top of my to-do list. (This might be the subject of another post one day, but for years I had no interest in drawing for fun. If I wasn’t in the studio on deadline, I wanted to be doing something else. Riding bikes, for example. Or playing guitar. Or watching tv. Anything. So I’ve been coasting, creatively, and that’s bad. But let’s move on.

One of the interesting things about the new account is that the work it feeds to me to look at is different. Rather than bikes and bike things, I was finding new illustrators and artists. Really lovely stuff. Inspirational stuff. And I started drawing. Drawing drawing drawing.

Somewhere along the line I started drawing a lot of fish.

And then somewhere else I started thinking how cool it would be to have these fish be a thing. A thing that can be held and looked at and turned around. An object. How would I go about this? Wood. I’ll make it out of wood! How hard could that be? It was right before christmas that I watched a YouTube video about carving wood and ordered a few tools. The videos I was finding were all “whittling” and most had little gnomes and country-folk as their subject matter. But nevermind, the techniques were the same. I watched. And on January 16 I started carving.

That was fun! Something clicked. I made another one.

I painted them and made little stands for them.

Next, I wanted to try a different kind of wood. Basswood is fine, but it’s like using crayons when you know there are oil paints out there. My friend Kirk found a nice block of butternut at a lumberyard and gifted it to me with the request that he get a fish. So I cut a block and went to work on my third.

Butternut is more satisfying, but more difficult as well. Here, you can get a better idea of the size. It’s a little larger. The teeth/mouth were the tough end-grain of the block (lemons/lemonade) and I painted this one with acrylic, following a coat of linseed oil to protect the wood. Kirk named this fish “Beulah.”

Without question, this is incredibly satisfying. It’s exactly what I wanted when I started down this rabbit hole two months ago. My head is full of ideas. Different fish, birds, skulls, things that move… I even picked up a collection of old doll legs and arms off eBay, cause I have some ideas

Where is this gonna take me? Who knows. Who cares. Maybe I’ll sell some. Maybe I’ll just give them away to friends. I know I plan to give each of my siblings a fish, and make some birds for our Christmas tree this year. I’m feeling ambitious…

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

In more ways than one.

Friday, September 20th, 2019

The Space Walk is my new book, published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Kids, and will be out on October 29. I made this animated trailer to promote the book, and I hope you like it.

Animation was done in After Effects, editing in Premiere. Narration was kindly provided by Milo Biggs. Noises and music is by my alter-ego, Dance Robot Dance.

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Back a couple of years ago, I got the strangest manuscript. It was called Blobfish!, written by Julie Segal-Walters, and I didn’t have a clue what it was about. It was kind of a book about animals, it was kind of a meta-book thing where the illustrator and author get into a spat about how the book is supposed to go, and it was pretty funny. I signed on, and went about worrying about it for months. Usually, when I decide to illustrate a book, I have some idea what the book will look like. It’s usually clear why someone asked me to work on it, and I can see pretty quickly what I want to do with it. This one was an exception. Even my agent, in his email to me about the script, said it was weird.
Time went by, and I worked on other commitments, occasionally sketching from this story, and occasionally talking to the editor about what we might be doing with it. Julie made some revisions to the script, I stared the process of laying out the page-breaks and finding the story’s rhythms, and things started to fall into place.
Well, today is the book-birthday for the resulting picture book. Now it’s called (This is Not a Normal) Animal Book, and Paula Wiseman Books / Simon & Schuster has it available today for you to order up and read aloud to your kids, you partner, or yourself.

I’m pretty happy that we even got to have the “fake” cover as the case-cover here. The idea, of course, being that the illustrator sabotaged the jacket cover.

Matthew Winner, he who makes the All the Wonders podcast interviewed Julie and me a few weeks ago, and today that conversation went live. You can listen to us here.

This is a very different book than anything i’ve ever made. There are drawings in it, of course, but there are also pages and pages of cut paper, and crayons, and scissors, and sketches. My art studio became a photography studio for a week last year while I was photographing these objects. I even had jars of jelly (you’ll see why).

So, go get it. I think it’s hilarious.

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

The sixth book in the Tinyville Town series is out today, called “I’m a Police Officer.” It follows our hero, Kathy, as she walks her beat, solves a crime, and generally keeps the citizens of Tinyville Town safe. It’s available today at a bookseller near you.

I also want to point out that it’s dedicated to my good friend from high school, Jennifer Coffelt of the Houston Police. Because she’s awesome.

Jennifer Orsak Koffert houston police

Friday, July 14th, 2017

I first attended the Princeton Children’s Book Festival about three or four years ago and thought it was just terrific. Four big tents full of people reading, writing, illustrating, and especially buying books. I was set up next to Jon Scieszka where we were writing our names in copies of Frank Einstein, and I’ve been back each year since.
I was especially pleased when they asked me to make the poster for this year’s festival, which will be on September 23. I’d seen the posters that Peter Brown, Dan Yaccarino, and Greg Pizzoli made, and figured I better work hard on this one.

So… it’s time to reveal this thing. I’m also posting a few sketches from the process that led to the final design. Please enjoy thanks, and I hope to see you on September 23 in Princeton, NJ. Thanks to Susan Conlon, Caroline Quinones, and Tim Quinn for the opportunity and the help throughout the process.

princeton book festival poster

lettering, typography

sketch, princeton, book festival

sketch, princeton, book festival

sketch, princeton, book festival

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

I’ll be working on the rest next week. The festival itself is Sept 23.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Recently designed a couple of posters for some bike events that i’d like to show off. One is for a ride taking place this weekend called Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo. It takes place over three counties in Pennsylvania, Luzerne, Lackawanna, and Wyoming (“Lu Lacka Wy Co”) and is more or less 100 miles long (Hundo). I’ve ridden it the last two years and I’ll be at it again on Sunday. These posters were printed by Ralph Stollenwerk at Pinkbikeralph here in Philly, and they look so good. They’re only available for riders, and have already sold out.

The second ride takes place in the fall, up near Williamsport PA and is called Keystone Gravel. It’s about 65 miles, and was the center of my favorite weekend on bikes last year. “Chainsaw” Donnie Breon puts this one together, and got in touch with me looking for a flier. I’d originally designed these two posters with Lu Lacka in mind, but when we went with the map idea instead, I told Donnie I had a better idea. There is a “his” and a “hers” and they look good hanging on the wall next to each other. These two are for sale on Etsy, together or separately, and will be printed by me mid-summer.

Here is a link to an album of pictures I took last year at Keystone Gravel.

And lastly, here’s a picture of me just after finishing Keystone Gravel last September, taken by the mighty Abe Landes of Firespire Photography.

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Noisy Night
On March 7, I leave the comfortable environs of Philadelphia to travel across the USA in my pajamas with Mac Barnett, talking about and writing our names in copies of Noisy Night, our book that is being released by Roaring Brook Press the same day.
The tour begins in Plainville MA, at An Unlikely Story. We make our way back down to Philadelphia on March 9 (my birthday!), where we’ll be at my home away from home, Childrens Book World, in Haverford at 4:30pm. On the evening of March 10, we’ll be at the Takoma Park Library in Takoma Park, MD. On March 11, we’re at Politics & Prose in Washington DC at 10am. We then leave the east coast and head to beautiful downtown Kalamazoo, MI, to Book Bug for an afternoon party. Lastly, we go way out west to Santa Cruz, CA, to the Bookshop Santa Cruz at 4pm for the final event of the tour. Since I love Santa Cruz, I’m staying a few extra days to ride bikes and eat tacos.
Hope to see your face along the way!

Here’s the website for Noisy Night.

And here’s the trailer video for the book.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

In the publishing business, books have birthdays, and today is Tinyville Town’s. The series is officially “published” today, and you can ostensibly get it in your local favorite bookstore. I’m hoping this series has a lot of book birthdays over the next several years.

Tinyville Town characters cards