December 26, 2011

My Christmases

It was fun having a Christmas book. It was especially fun giving away books to people I met... most notably to people who touched my life.

Greg, a plumber from Seattle got the first signed copy in November.  He saved my neck with a truly heroic effort to unclog my sewer line (on a Saturday no less).  His ingenuity and hard sweat saved me what might have been a $10,000 sewer line dig. Whew!  Merry Christmas Greg!  

My dear neighbor Carin got the 2nd signed copy.... she's been my neighbor the longest and is a totally amazing person.  She's got many amazing stories to tell.

Mark of Atlas Masonry in Seattle got the next signed copy.  In December Mark did a miraculous job on restoring my broken down chimney to it's original 1926 glory.  A kindly modest man who astonished me with his ability to lift 500 pounds of brick and cement up 35 feet onto an icy roof.  He got the next signed copy. 

And of course all the family got signed copies.

Overall I don't care much for Christmas. It has painful memories for me. I hate malls. But the closest I got to the spirit of Christmas this year was actually on TV.  It was a news feature about homeless families living in motels.  It broke my heart to watch.  

The humanity of simple love - owning nothing - and having nothing but one another to cling to seemed to originate directly from the pen of Dickens' Christmas Carol.  I gave a copy of my signed book to the local TV book drive.  So maybe that helped.  I hope a needy child might have received my book.

Merry Christmas All - and to all a good night!


December 23, 2011

A Christmas present to myself...

Part of my Christmas present to myself is to work on things I like.  So I was happy to take on this little project. 

Once again, the step by step reveals everything!

December 20, 2011

Even Bambi likes my book...

Even Bambi likes my book! Awwwwww...

In keeping up to date on the grocery store updates, I'm sad and delighted to say that 'The 12 Days of Christmas in Washington' is all sold out. The store manager called and there aren't any more available. 

I guess readers will have to beg Santa online if they can't live without a copy. 


December 15, 2011

It's always flattering to be a 'Cover Boy'

What a nice surprise I had this morning. Opening up the big envelope on the porch, what should I find but two copies of the January edition of High 5 Magazine!

It's always flattering to be a 'Cover Boy'.  And it's always a guarantee that anything I get to do with High 5 will be fun, fun, fun. A great magazine with a great purpose.

Thanks, High 5!


December 12, 2011

Adventures in Book-signing

It just so happens that my new book is on sale in the local supermarkets!  That's a first for me.  So you can only imagine my secret pleasure in watching the book sales as I drop by every few days for groceries. (at Metropolitan Markets of Seattle - Seattle's best grocery stores)

On the first day I discovered the books well hidden, down in the gift section.  The merchandise guy said, "Oh yeah, we've sold 18 in the last week!".  I suggested they move them up closer to the cheese.  

On my next trip to the store, as fate would it have it, I ran into the kindergarten teacher who taught my children. Appearing out of nowhere, I pounced upon her, no doubt causing some small alarm.

I said,"Have you seen my new book?". Of course it sounded crazy.  New book?  Here in the cheese aisle?  I left her dazed and strode over to grab a copy.  I opened it up showing her my name on the title page... along with the dazzling full color artwork.  

Mrs. H. was dumbfounded... and I was a tad apoplectic with a mixture of pride and embarrassment.  It's hard to achieve such measures of minor fame in the cheese aisle.  But one does what one can in the children's book industry.

December 9, 2011



Here's a snowy holiday scene from Leavenworth... the alpine village of Washington.

I turned down an offer to driver over the snow covered 5,400 foot Steven's pass to do a book signing. I guess my author's vanity is not large enough to brave driving 150 miles over a slippery mountain pass.

I'm a prairie chicken.

December 5, 2011

A Fun Book Signing at Costco

It was fun signing books at Costco. People say the oddest things.  Some sample book dedications I carefully printed out were: 

Most touching dedication - *For Us - Tilly & Buck - Kids at heart (a sweet retirement home couple buying the book for themselves)

Most problematic dedication -*For Gazakial, Ebrahen, Tonny from the Kindsdales and also from the Brenners - Micaella, Sabrasina & Rorry - Merry Christmas and we're sorry about what happened at the lake last summer, it won't happen again. 

Most unexpected comment -*D'ya know where's the dog food at?

The most interested person was a russian woman who made it obvious that writers and artists were important people. She had me write down the name of an earlier book 'Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle' because she was impressed by the artwork and storyline. I was struck by how foreign families seemed the most interested. I had the impression that reading and learning were things of great value to them.

I started out with 100 books and nearly sold them all.


December 2, 2011

Costco is Book Heaven...

I had a great time signing a giant pile of books at Costco.  It was like being in book-maker heaven... surrounded by gleaming piles of my brand new book.  

In the first 10 minutes I signed more books than I have signed in the last 20 years.  It was fun, but a little nerve wracking.  I get nervous writing on greeting cards... so signing a book is even harder.  I'm always afraid of misspellings or messing up.  My handwriting is so awful from years of drawing.  I did block printing and didn't make any mistakes.

It is amazing how many unusual names kids have these days... that makes things a bit hard.  It was fascinating to watch people milling past. 

And while signing books I got my tires rotated and I also bought boxes of my favorite hard-to-find Milton's crackers.  Honestly, does life have any more to offer?

November 29, 2011

Pike Place Market

It's time once again for some shameless holiday promotion art. Today we're at Seattle's famous Pike Place Market, a bustling and busy scene that was challenging to fit into a single illustration spread.  Street musicians, farmers, tourists, seafood, artisans and street people.  Not sure I fit it all in but I tried.

One problem was the fish tossing scene, since the practice of tossing fish had been in the headlines from an animal rights group, I was worried it might not be P.C. (politically correct).  But after doing some on-site research with the fishmongers themselves, my worries were dispelled.  They continue to fly fish happily across the counters to the delight of the tourists.

The world's first Starbucks is in Pike Place Market.  I used to go there when I first moved to Seattle, and the store hasn't changed at all since then.  Usually there's a good jug band entertaining.  

November 26, 2011

12 boats-a-blinking


Let's see... 12 boats-a-blinking with holiday lights... a downtown scene in the background, a silhouette of the crowd on the shore, Mt. Rainier and the two main characters fit in along with the type and the letter format. Easy, right?

I wasn't sure if I could pull off this spread, since it was probably one of the most ambitious concepts I ever dared try. But I'm quite pleased with how it came out.

Of course I could only do something like this in Photoshop. I'd have torn it up 15 times if it was real paints.

November 17, 2011

Book signing in Costco...

I'm very much looking forward to my book signing at Costco on Dec. 3rd... not sure which store. I'm just thrilled that my Christmas book will be in 27 Costos. Finally... a book out where the shoppers can see it!

They're letting me wear a beret because I'm an artist and I'll sign books instead of handing out samples. And I'll go shopping afterwards... at which point I might almost feel famous.

Let the shopping season begin!

November 13, 2011

Scanner expecting a full recovery...

I'm happy to report that the open heart surgery I had to do on my Umax Powerlook III scanner was a complete success... the patient expects a full recovery.

Tools used: phillips head screwdriver, syringe, oil can and pliers. The problem was the electric motor had rusted up like the Tin Man. I find that often when scanners don't work it's got to do with needing a little lubrication on the moving parts.

Hopefully it'll keep on working, since I don't feel inclined to toss another $1500 out on a new one.  The trusty Umax Powerlook III gives stunning deep rich color scans which are better than many current new scanners.

November 11, 2011

Things I like are...

Things I like are:
  Bike ride down the Burke Gilman trail with ipod blasting, then walk back up hill.
  Go to an art gallery... on the free day the the Seattle Art Museum.
  Go to a new cafe and draw caricatures of people and write scraps of stories.
  Do NOT go to children's book stores!
  Discover a new french movie at the library.
  Find an antique children's book in the thrift store.
  Try out a new set of digital organic paint brushes.
  Find a new shirt to wear in the thrift store... (avoid looking in the mirror if at all possible!)
  Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade to remind me of New York.

November 10, 2011

The end of the 28 word picture-book?

Brilliant! Might this mean the end of the 28 word picture-book?

I agree with all of the sentiments expressed.
I'm so tired of books being 'dummed down' so they really are just like a joke. I remember bringing home those 28 word books from the library for my children and just tossing them aside after one reading thinking 'not much to that one, was there?'.

And as the writer says so well, who wants to listen to a joke more than once? It is interesting how the book buyers still flock to the classics. Maybe the publishers will follow along?

Sort of like how politicians just follow along behind the public.

November 9, 2011

Before & After...

Here's a before and after of a portfolio piece I did up last summer. It shows the rough sketch set against the finish artwork.

November 7, 2011

Let the merriment begin...

Let the merriment begin... unleash the Elves as hordes of holiday shoppers descend upon the gifting merchandise.

I'll be joining the crowds myself later this month, at Third Place Books to sign books for 'The 12 Days of Christmas in Washington'.

Who knows... maybe I'll get the hang of it... publicity and all that. Mixing with the public as a 'celebrity' is something we bookmakers don't do as a matter of course. It ought to be a real novelty, if nothing else.


October 29, 2011

Happy Interactive Halloween!

Here's a little Halloween fun made in Kwiksher, which is a photoshop extension for building interactive iPad apps.

Tools used... pencil, wacom, photoshop, Kwiksher, Garage Band, USB microphone, SoundJay... and innate talent.

October 28, 2011


It's getting to be that time of year again. It was hard to tell who was wearing a costume and who wasn't at the thrift store today.
I felt like the scariest guy there when I looked in the mirror! And I was just shopping for a new plaid shirt.


October 19, 2011


I've been waiting 3 years for a letter like this. Actually when I wrote 'Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle' I just hoped that kids would say... 'Coooool!' when they saw a book about a flying bicycle.

From a reader:

My boys and I are huge fans of Cromwell Dixon’s Sky Cycle. Last year we purchased your book and it was love at first read. My boys were on the edge of their seats and continue to ask for it to be read. They have repeatedly poured over your illustrations studying the details of his invention.

I am always on the lookout for books that allow a child to dream big and Cromwell Dixon does just that. My boys, age 6 and 4, repeatedly ask: "Is this true, did a little boy like us really fly on his bike all by himself? That is so coooool"

September 13, 2011

The 12 Days of Christmas Book Blog

The blog for my new book is finally ready... after waiting for the appropriate holiday shopping weather to arrive. This book is 'The 12 Days of Christmas in Washington' and it's published by Sterling Books.

Washington state residents will recognize the many local landmarks right off.  I greatly enjoyed writing and illustrating this colorful book.  It's full of fun scenes in Pike Place Market, Mt. Rainier, Downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, Tacoma, Winthrop, Leavenworth and Spokane. (all my favorite places).

Although I myself have never been to the top of the Space Needle, I understand it's quite a popular destination. I have often looked up at it from Seattle Center to marvel at it. I did learn in making this book that the Space Needle is way more difficult to draw than the Eiffel Tower. (I haven't been there either.)

Other familiar sights are listed in the 'The places visited' tab of my new book blog. I have been to ALL the above mentioned locations.

This book will no doubt be appearing beneath many an Evergreen State evergreen tree this Holiday season!

September 9, 2011

Polar-tec temporarily on hold.

Things have been a bit slow on the old blog lately. But it's not for lack of activity.

* I've been learning how to make inter-active ebook-apps with Kwiksher. It's fun adding sound effects and watching the motion of my artwork across the screen.

* I've been thinking up some options for licensing my artwork.

*And I've been enjoying the never to be forgotten SUMMER!

It has been wonderful to actually have some HOT weather! After last summer, which was barely even half a summer... and it looked like this year would be a repeat of that dismal event. It seems like forever since we had a real summer... so this has been fabulous.

I've been able to do things like water the garden and go barefoot. And the polar-tec is temporarily on hold.

August 18, 2011

The Dragon Painter reprint...

I was delighted to get a package with reprints of my book 'The Dragon Painter' from Usborne. I thought it looked very well at a larger size. The original printing was about 2/3 the size of this book.

July 27, 2011

Quacks & Snacks

I was delighted to open up a new copy of High 5 and find my two page spread for 'Snacks & Quacks' in the August issue. The printing came out almost as I imagined it might.

In the real magazine there are lots of great little details. Every little duckling and bug's wing... all in colorful photoshop rendering.

It was all done in pencil line mostly... with some scanned splotches of real paint and scanned textures.

July 25, 2011

Another Kwik iPad tryout...

Yesterday I finally got the hang of Kwik so that for part of the afternoon I could actually control it! Believe me, nobody would be more surprised to see things actually work.

So now I'm halfway knowing what to do... but more importantly what NOT to do! Here's the new little three page app sample I did up. These are just cutout stand ins for the finish art. So the first stage is quite sketchy, exactly like making a book dummy.

It's lots of fun.

July 18, 2011

Like a kid in a candy store...

Dipping my toe into the world of e-book apps... what a bunch of fun! I felt a lot like a kid in the candy store after figuring out how Kwik and Corona work to transform a photoshop file into a living, breathing ebook app.

For me the motivating factor in wading through the technical mumbo-jumbo is the experience of seeing my artwork floating around on the screen like magic. And it turns out the technical side really isn't all that hard if you know already know how to work in photoshop.

More magic comes from the ease of transforming voices with Garageband. Adding in music and sound effects really has the bookmaker thinking outside the box.

Oh boy! Enter the world of animated ebook apps with sound and voiceovers. All done by moi!

July 14, 2011

The 12 Days of Christmas Book Blog

The 12 Days of Christmas Book Blog has been under construction. Blogger makes it easy to transform a regular blog into sort of a 'web-site blog' with the addition of tabs.

I find that some of the features still don't work on the 'new blogger'. For those one has to switch back to the 'old blogger'. But it's fun to improvise new designs and see how they turn out.

One simply cannot beat the pricing schedule of 'free'. I hope it will prove useful in lining up lots of school tours. It should be going 'live' before too long. Only 164 shopping days left until Christmas!

July 7, 2011

Another step by step...


Yet another step by step animation from the studio.

These are so much fun I think I'll have to purchase a movie making software app to show some 'live action' film of drawing and clicking.

June 27, 2011

Read and Be Happy

I was pleased with how this image turned out.

Part of it is in line and part of it is without line, and flattened into just shapes. I always struggle between the two.

Maybe I'd be better off just going back to old fashioned pencil and watercolor... and old fashioned drawings. I never can decide.

June 21, 2011

Runaway Monkey...

monkey on the run

I always liked this page. Maybe it's because of the red door... or maybe it's the yellow boots or the zookeeper's cap.

Or perhaps it's because of the happy faces of the story's completion.

It's from my recently illustrated book 'The Dancing Clock'.

June 14, 2011

Step by Step Cake Making


Just like making a cake... artistry is easily accomplished with a step by step method.

I find it's the singing of 'Happy Birthday!' that's the hard part. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to hit the right note from the start?

But even with the discordant singing, there are few sounds likely to elicit sentiment as 'Happy Birthday', even when warbled and off key.

June 1, 2011

'The Dancing Clock' - Color-Texture - Line

I find there are few things nicer than escaping into a picturebook... especially a picturebook you yourself have made. So I indulged myself and opened the box on the porch.

I was delighted, I have to say... once again the printed digital book seemed to fulfill every expectation. In fact I might even go so far as to say my expectations were exceeded. And that's a good thing.

While creating the illustrations to 'The Dancing Clock' I was curious how the retro-1950's effects might come out in print.

I have this thing about a crumbling brushed line that fades away into textures. I also have this thing about textures... and I daresay, I think they both worked.

I used a brush pen on watercolor paper for the lines... along with digital finishing, of course.

Because the dimensions of this book were large, it is a pleasure to dive into details with the finished book. That's one thing an e-book will never be able to do. And it has a nice booky smell... something no e-book will ever accomplish.

I'm also pleased with how the retro 1950's style turned out... I think the casual brushed line and loose bright colors and patterns came out with a terrific effect.

Thanks, Tiger Tales!

May 30, 2011

Goodbye Kitty

My jellicle kitty meowed her last today. She was the best cat ever, as they say. She had a fabulous long life, so it came as no surprise.

She was a true gift to us all since she was our family cat. We chose her from the pet store 19 years ago and I remember it like yesterday. My boys were in just starting school so there was a lot of life we shared. School trips, pet's day, birthday parties, christmas trees and everyday life.

She had a great life... sharing summer gardens and Halloween nights. She never failed to amuse us hopping down snowy steps on a winter morning. Like any cat, she always had to be in the middle of every thing... when she wasn't busy sleeping.

She was deaf for the last 4 years, but she coped with that by just meowing louder. She was active up until today, in fact... a remarkable life.

Over the years I painted her picture in books and magazines. When I think about how long she's been in our family it about makes me cry. All the things lost to time.

Now she's fast asleep beneath a big lovely rock in the back garden where she liked to curl up on hot summer afternoons.

I'll have to write up some of the stories she inspired from our life together.

May 26, 2011

My very first all digital book..

My very first all digital book... 'The Smile Shop', written by Joy Cowley. I did it way back in 1999, on my Powercomputing Mac clone. I think it had a 2 GB HDD.

My very first digital book

I think its got some nice pages and the design was fun. I remember how I first drew the shapes on paper, then scanned and converted it into an Illustrator vector file. Then finished it in Photoshop.

The colors still look deep and fresh... probably the lack of any line helps. I think I sent it in on a Iomega zip disk.

May 22, 2011

Nostalgia for a new age?

I was carried away with new experiments in filters and color schemes. I'm quite taken with the antique look of some of these filters... they sort of remind me of the way two-color artwork used to print.

Maybe it's nostalgia for a new age?

May 17, 2011

Proofs of Perfection

Perhaps the rare visitor to this blog might recall the recent post where it was conjectured that my inkjet printer may have exploded?

Well it's happened again, only this time it was the delivery of the actual proofs from the publisher. Happily, I'm thrilled with the outcome... which as anyone who's been disappointed in color reproductions knows, is saying a lot.

It is a joy to spend hours just soaking up the details of every digital brushstroke which previously had only existed only on the computer screen.

I often wondered if the print outcome would work with the many new techniques I tried. At times making the paintings seemed almost symphonic, the colors obtained seemed so rich, deep and textured.

But I'm happy to report that the printed colors were exactly as I'd hoped. Even details the size of a dandruff speck were matched on paper.

May 13, 2011

New website logo...

I guess it's Friday the 13th today... however, I couldn't believe my luck when I drove across town this morning and made it through 14 green lights in a row without once hitting a red light.

This is a once in a lifetime event!

On another subject, I like my new website logo, based on an old vintage motoring sign. Now I just have to relearn how to do rollovers.

April 29, 2011

Froggy Went a Courting

Froggy went a courting... and the princess lost her head!

I've been looking into some new directions for different markets besides traditional publishers. Pop-Surrealism seems especially appealing, but I'm trying to focus on traditional children's book themes.

This particular image has gone through many variations. It's interesting to change things around so completely and quickly with photoshop.

The texture is derived from a photo of my back porch stairs... of all the unlikely places!