I start working on final inked art for the Tinyville Town series I’ve been sketching and writing all year. Three books due mid December. Before I headed out of the studio last night, I did a little practice drawing to get into the feel of the books. This series and the Everything Goes series overlap in places (cities, vehicles, people doing things and going places) but the aim for Tinytown is less Richard Scarry and more Sesame Street. Or Fisher Price. There will be a lot more of this coming up.
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October 21st, 2015
Filed under: childrens books, new work, Tinyville Town, Uncategorized
October 23rd, 2013
(This post was partially written yesterday, October 22, before my old and reliable laptop took a day off while on my current book tour. 24 hours later, the cursed device suddenly began working again, so I’m currently sitting in the staff break room of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh NC finishing this post and getting it up into the world…)
Today (yesterday) is October 22, which is the day that HarperCollins is publishing Everything Goes: By Sea, the third, last, and final picture book in the Everything Goes series. What this means is that you can go buy it now. So, that said, I’ll take a little break here and let you take care of that business.
Okay, thanks for that.
The publication of this third book in the series represents the culmination of about six years of pretty solid work for me on this project. I first started knocking around the idea of Everything Goes back in 2007, at which point it was just a note in a sketchbook that said “transportation project.” I loved (love — I still do…) drawing vehicles of all kinds. I created a book for French publisher Éditions du Rouergue back in 2003 that I had a blast making, and my literary agent Steven Malk had been encouraging me to racket in vehicles again but with something more palatable to American publishers.
By summer of 2008 I had a folder thick with ideas. My good friend and longtime creative sorter-outer Jason and I spent a couple of days going through the piles of dozens of pages of script and hundreds of sketches, trying to find threads that held the various decent ideas together. After these marathon sessions at the Philadelphia Central Library, I could see what was going on and where it could go, and it was at that point that I started to get excited.
It was at a coffee shop with my now-wife Sacha that I realized that this was not one huge tome, but rather would be best split into three separate books, each covering a different mode of transport (land, air, sea).
And then it was in May of 2009 that I created a proposal that my agent took to publishing houses and led to Donna Bray at Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins offering to publish it. Donna also suggested that we include three I Can Read books and six board books in the enterprise, which made the whole thing feel huge.
The first book was begun in earnest around the beginning of 2010 and completed more than a year later, in February 2011. The second book was done in March 2012, and the third book was done April 22, 2013. The first book took longer since it set the template for the next two.
The very final piece I drew was this little boat for the endpapers of By Sea. In fact, it was the word “WOO” that completed the work.
I like process, and I always love seeing the preliminary work that goes into a book or film or almost anything. So I’m posting here a bunch of images of sketches and the work that went into the cover for Everything Goes By Sea.
These two images are from my little moleskine sketchbooks that I keep. As I began thinking about and planning the By Sea cover, I knew pretty quickly that I was going to have the “By Sea” subtitle on the sails of a sailboat, so that motif appears pretty quickly. Looking at these now, I’m a little surprised how much the partial cover-sketch at the top of the second image looks like the final cover.
This is the first rough thumbnail of the entire cover. By the time the third book in this series comes along, a couple of things are already designed and in place. For example, the Everything Goes logo will be the same as before and will be in the same place, and the subtitle of the book (By Sea) and my name will be incorporated into the illustration in some way. Here are the previous two covers for comparison.
These two images are pretty similar and, in fact, are created from the same drawing. Or in this case possibly several drawings, since at this stage I’m sometimes drawing some of the boats separately, scanning and placing them into the sketch digitally. That’s how I put the logo on the cover as well. The second image is the one I send to HarperCollins, where the shading and title logo makes the piece look a little more finished and slick.
After I get approval on the sketch, the next thing I make is this inked line-drawing of the cover. This is my favorite part of the process. I use black ink with a brush, but my ink is watered down quite a lot (a little more than I’d like, actually) which is why the big black areas actually look grey. Again, the drawing is made without the title logo, since the logo was created for the first book and I just use that again each time I need it.
There is a pretty good little video of me doing this part of the process with the second book, In the Air, here.
The inked line drawing is scanned into the computer and then it’s opened in Photoshop where all of the coloring and final work takes place.
This is the same line-art drawing once it’s scanned in and touched up.It now has the title added to it and I’ve cleaned up the lines a little. Often, cleaning up the lines means a significant amount of Photoshop surgery, but in this case it was pretty close to right the first time.
And here, as at the top of the page, is the final finished color cover.
Also, here is a video of the digital coloring of the second cover so you can see how that is done.
I thought I might also include a couple of real-world uses for a book such as this. The first example was taken by a friend of mine in Calgary, Alberta who has a son named Bas. Bas is apparently enjoying Everything Goes By Sea.
The second and third photo is a display at the book store where I am currently writing this missive. Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh NC has a beautiful display of Everything Goes books, and if you have a book store or even a living room, I encourage you set up something similar.
Filed under: childrens books, design, Everything Goes, process, sketchbook, Uncategorized
April 24th, 2013
I’d like to first announce that this past Friday at 8:19pm, I completed the third and final Everything Goes picture book, called Everything Goes: By Sea. Due to some things over the last six months like a book tour in September, my wedding in October, a week of jury duty in November, and breaking my hand in December, this book was late late late. I’m sure that everyone at HarperCollins was pulling their hair out by the time I got the final illustration complete and turned in, but overall they were very nice not to tell me about it as I madly completed the work over the last few weeks. The very very final piece that I did was the endpapers, which I have a part of here for you to look at.
What was the last part of this that I drew? It was, appropriately, the word “WOO” on top of the small water taxi.
Now, this isn’t the end of Everything Goes. I still have one more board book to complete, and then there will be parties and fireworks when this book is published in September. But as I’ve been drawing cars, trucks, airplanes, and boats pretty solid since about 2007 as I conceived of, worked on, and completed this book series, I’m very excited to hit “save” and spend some time now making other things.*
In other Everything Goes news, I was surprised to find this big box of books in my mailbox this morning, full of several copies of the Complex Chinese version of Everything Goes: On Land. Two different publishers are making versions of Everything Goes in China. One is this one, published by Global Kids in Taiwan, and the second one is translated into Simplified Chinese, and published by Tianjin Maitian. Now, I don’t really know the difference between complex and simplified Chinese, nor do I know how or whether they are different from Mandarin or other kinds of Chinese. If any readers know the answer to this, I’d very much love to know about it.
I was skeptical whether this book would be possible to translate, what with the gazillions of labels and signs and details all over the place. However, the publisher did a knock-out job with this, even using the textures and outlines and stuff that I did on the original. It must have been some really tedious work, even more since they had to translate what I made, where what I made was often kind of random. Again, I’d love to know how close they got, especially like on the food trucks and some of the other details. Let me know if you can read any of this and I might have a book to send you.
* In addition to the final Everything Goes board book, I’m illustrating a picture book written by Kelly DiPucchio and the sixth EllRay Jakes book by Sally Warner, both to be done by June; and I’m giddy to start a new series called Frank Einstein, Boy Scientist that is will be six books, written by Jon Scieszka. It has robots.
Filed under: childrens books, Everything Goes, Uncategorized
December 20th, 2012
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.
The second book is called STOP! GO!: A Book of Opposites. This one is similarly simply-plotted.
The next two board books, Blue Bus Red Balloon and Goodnight Trucks get more complicated, story-wise, and will be out next year sometime.
Happy Holidays y’all.
Filed under: childrens books, Everything Goes, headlines, new work, Uncategorized
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.
Filed under: childrens books, Everything Goes, illustrations, movies, process, Uncategorized
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.
Filed under: childrens books, Everything Goes, illustrations, process, Uncategorized
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:
Filed under: childrens books, Everything Goes, movies, new work, Uncategorized
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?
Filed under: childrens books, Everything Goes, process, Uncategorized
June 29th, 2012
Like the first Everything Goes book (as well as the second, which you likely haven’t seen yet), Everything Goes By Sea is going to have a mix of busy scenes full of vehicles (boats, in this case) mixed with spreads showing close-up single images explaining the inner-workings and various interesting parts of the vehicle. I’ve been working on one of these latter ones, where the concept of displacement and flotation is explained to Henry.
I’ve drawn about a thousand boats over the last few days. Here are a few of them. The original drawings are about 3 inches by 2 inches, and are pencil on tracing paper. You can click on them to see them much larger.
Filed under: Everything Goes, process, Uncategorized
April 16th, 2012
When Everything Goes was first conceived and planned, it was decided that in addition to the three picture books (On Land, In The Air, and By Sea) there would also be about a million board books – those cute little thick books made for teensy young people — and several thousand “I Can Read” books, which are smallish books written at different reading levels for not-quite-as-teensy-but-still-young kids.
So the first I Can Read books, Henry in a Jam, came out a few weeks ago. These ICR books take Henry out of the little story arcs I put him in in the picture books and extend his life somewhat. The books are written by B.B. Bourne and they’re illustrated “in the style of Brian Biggs” by Simon Abbott. When this project began HarperCollins had several illustrators try out with illustrating a spread from this story. It was really really weird to see these illustrations that all had elements from the work I did for the picture books, but not drawn by me. So Simon did a great job. He didn’t slavishly mimic what I did, and has enough of his own thing going on to make it interesting. So far I believe there are three books completed or nearly completed.
The board books, on the other hand, are drawn by me. I just finished the first two books this week — the second one about thirty minutes ago in fact — and I’m not sure exactly when they’ll be published. The first one was called 123 Beep Beep! A Counting Book and the second is called Stop! Go! A book of Opposites. From the titles you can probably guess what they’re about, right?
These first two images are from Stop! Go! The illustration with the bike is “Slow” and the 4×4 is “Dirty.” The third image is from 123 Beep Beep! and is fairly self explanatory…