December 23, 2013

Art imitates Life

All it needs to complete the match is the cat, a mouse and a toy train.

December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Here's wishing Happy Holidays to the faithful readers of my blog!  Thanks for reading my little old blogger blog.

December 17, 2013

On the 7th day of Christmas...

On the 7th day of Christmas the USPS gave to me... 2 winners to the Goodreads giveaway. Soon copies of 'Mouse's Christmas Cookie' will be jetting off at Santa-Speed to West Virginia and North Carolina.

Meanwhile I have accomplished near biblical miracles of shopping, thanks to modern online technology. I have barely set foot in a mall. Whew!

December 14, 2013

A delightful book event at Parkplace Books

A delightful evening was had by all at the Parkplace Books holiday event in Kirkland. A group of live musicians (Ostgard) played wonderful quiet holiday music in the background while patrons nibbled cookies and sipped wine and cocoa.

I had a marvelous evening of interesting book chat with local authors. Nina Laden was there with her amazing book collection. I sat with local book makers brimming with the excitement of being an author. And why shouldn't authors get a little recognition? We spend out lives in total isolation - never getting the applause that actors or musicians receive and require to keep them inspired. Even though a picture book artist does everything that a movie-maker does - creating characters, costumes, dialogue, emotions, directing and choreography... we never get invited to any Oscar parties.

It's sad that events like this are so rare here. My neighborhood doesn't even have a bookstore anymore. So last night was wonderful to be in a place where books are as important as designer furniture.

December 9, 2013

Beware! Peter Panda may be hurtling towards you!

What's is this? A christmas tree ornament? A countdown to new years? I'd guess it's the world of Peter Panda bouncing into bookstores in the not too distant future.

Beware! In a nearby galaxy Peter Panda may be hurtling towards you! (I rarely get to use hurtling in a sentence) but in this instance it is justified.

December 6, 2013

Who says illustrators don't get Holiday parties?

Who says illustrators don't get Holiday parties? Well... after going for two decades and 30 books without a Holiday party, I've finally been invited to one. Imagine that!

November 6, 2013

'Mouse's Christmas Cookie' - a new book!

Santa arrived last week with a box full of books. So it's starting to look a lot like Christmas around the studio desk. My new book with Two Lions finally arrived and I'm delighted with how the digital detail of the artwork translated into print on paper.

It's just amazing what printing can do. I'd think one appealing thing about digital coloring is how the artist can achieve color depth and control it with finesse. Also details like clouds and atmospheric shadows are fun to do... things which would drive an artist nuts with traditional paints.

Let's hope Santa likes having a mouse drive the Christmas toy train.

October 17, 2013

The sun never set on this little book...

This was a fun book to get in the mail the other day. What I especially like about it in 'real life paper' is that it's so small. There's something about it being so small that makes it endearing somehow.

My favorite way to look at it is splayed open in a fan so you can see all the pages at once. Don't ask me why... must be an artist thing. This book was truly international. I landed the book from London and it was designed in Australia and New Zealand. So the sun never set on this little book. lol!

My favorite way to look at it is splayed open in a fan so you can see all the pages at once. Don't ask me why... must be an artist thing. This book was truly international. I landed the book from London and it was designed in Australia and New Zealand. So the sun never set on this little book. lol!

October 10, 2013

Digital art can be amazing - so is the printing...

I was delighted to receive the sample copies for the November issue of High 5 . It was fun to see how 'Nosy Rosie' came out in print. It's exactly as I hoped.

Digital art can be amazing - but the printing also seems equally amazing to me.

I like how the details hold up at every level.

September 23, 2013

Characters and a new book dummy...

Characters and the dummy that I've been working on. I did the dummy with Indesign... which is brilliant at making changes. It's fun to do a book with people characters for a change.

I liked how the cast looked all lined up in front of the dummy.

September 17, 2013

Too busy drawing to feed the hungry blog...

I've been too busy drawing to feed the hungry blog.  But here is a sneak peek sketch from a new book that showed up last week. This is a book with lots of fun characters. This is nice since it seems lately I've just being doing books about animals.

Lately I have done 2 cat books, 1 gator book, 2 worm books, 2 mice books, 1 pig book and a panda book. But people are endlessly fascinating and I like to draw them.

August 16, 2013

Thanks Highlights!

Once again a mysterious parcel has arrived at my door, and once again I'm grateful for the gesture of Highlights to make note of my artwork. Believe me, this is as close as I'm gonna get to the Oscars - so I may as well put on a party tux and enjoy the moment!

Thanks Highlights!

July 17, 2013

Banana Moon

This arrived in the mail from Highlights. I thought it'd be fun to dig out the original pencils and photograph them next to the finished printed art.

I have a scientific system of storing original pencils. When my pile of sketches gets too big, I toss the drawings into a big drawer. It has hundreds of drawings. Then when the drawer gets full, I pack the sketches into a cardboard box and tape it up and put it in the basement. Someday it might be a collector's item.

July 15, 2013

Out in the Wild Woods...

 It's the wild woods for me...  my 2 day getaway - a.k.a. vacation.  Ferryboats, foghorns, lighthouses, victorian houses, log cabins, lavender fields, sailboats and sunshine.  Perfect!

 Sea stacks and beach logs, the rain forest sculpted by the wind.  One of my favorite spots is camping in the woods.  It's not entirely rustic, since Olympic National Park comes with electric outlets and flush toilets.  But the old growth trees haven't changed much - and it's magic camping in them.


I think there's a rule that as soon as you decide to go away on a trip, that's when all the ADs decide to call.  Uncanny how that works.  Next time I'll bring along an iPad to check my mail and see what's up.  That way I won't have to worry.


I like how my clothes still smell like woodsmoke.  I like remembering the stones and the trees.

July 3, 2013

The evolution of a cover...

I found these old versions of my book 'Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle' - so I thought it'd be fun to show the evolution of a cover.

The first version (top left) is the finish sample I sent in to Timothy Travaglini that sold the book originally out of the slush pile.  Next is the finished 2nd dummy version in halftones.

As I recall Timothy wanted a simpler version with more impact... so I did the finish painting which was much simpler.  Finally that version was recast by Cecilia Yung and Katrina Dahmkoeler into a brilliantly designed version.  I added a few tweaks... adding spot art into the top corners and the final cover was done!

July 1, 2013

Worm Diaries sprouting up in the garden!

I see that Worm Diaries are sprouting up all through the garden!  I finally received the copies to the book 'Teacher's Pet' - a Diary of a Worm book that I ghost illustrated for Tom Bliss.

I love doing landscapes and these books were fun.  I got to invent miniature contraptions that figure into the worm's eye view of the world.  For picture scrap I took my camera out and snapped photos of plants in my garden... with the camera on the ground looking up through the ferns.

I've done lots of ghost illustration.  I did dozens of books with Mercer Mayer for Little Critter.  And I did a number of books with Rosemary Wells and her Yoko school characters.  I even had Rosemary Wells come to my house for a 2 hour private art lesson in my studio!   That was exciting!

All in all it's been an invaluable apprentice experience to learn about book making.

June 19, 2013

miles of styles...

 I did this exercise to see how changing the line and style might work on a drawing. The blue toned drawing at the bottom is an older piece. The color version is new. An illustrator has to keep up with the times... yet both styles have their merit, I think.

May 27, 2013

Dropping out the line - Line vs. No Line

A little something new.  I'll be sending this to a list of selected editors and art directors as a postcard.  We'll see what they think.

It's fun to send things around and see what happens.  The forms for this illustration were inspired (and based in some instances) on art deco illustration from the 1930's.

Dropping out the line always seems to be popular... probabably because it simplifies things.

May 15, 2013

On the Street Where I Lived...

 It was a lot of fun to create this illustration of a street scene with brownstones.  I especially liked it because I once lived in a brownstone in NYC... on West 78th Street.  So the ideal source for my illustration research was Google street view.

I do most of my traveling on Google street view since it's so easy and interesting.  But it's always fun to go back to places you've lived to see how it looks now.  So this is where I started my career as a children's book illustrator.

That's my window circled.  I used to love watching people go past on summer mornings, with New York   starting a busy new day.  If I leaned out the window I could just see the Museum of Natural History down the street... where I spent many, many long happy hours.

May 3, 2013

The last part of making any book...


The last part of making any book for me is forgetting it. It might sound funny, but it's true and essential. After all the millions of changes and fussing over details there comes a time when you decide it's finished.

Without this distance I find it's hard to get any peace of mind. So it's nice to just set it aside and forget it.

The best thing to do next is start working on the next project - and get on with the endless art-making struggles that it will bring.

I also tried going to the Seattle Art Museum, which was okay but not spectacular. What else might I have done? Skiing? (too expensive), clicking wine glasses (don't drink - no one to click glasses with), photographed tulips? Possibly... but I already have 8,000 tulip photos I've taken.

What do you all do when that final bit of paint has hit the canvas?

April 27, 2013

I did my post doctorate work at Charm School

My qualifications as a freelance design professional? I matriculated in 'Tail Sciences' with a minor in 'Furr-ology'. This providential career vision has helped me reap many financial rewards and a deeper understanding of the furry world around us. I am adept at rendering tails of every sort... be they mousey, squirrley, doggy, rabbity feline, fowls or fins.

Oh... and I also did my post doctorate work at Charm School. I suspect that's where most of my street smarts came from.

April 7, 2013

My new 3 pound pen!

A large package arrived on my doorstep... it would have made a nice doorstop it was so heavy.  WHAT might that be? I wondered... I wasn't expecting anything.

Actually I was expecting a pen - but this couldn't be a pen - it weighed 3 pounds!

Opening the box I first discovered another big black box inside.  Mysterious I thought.  Then I opened that box and there was another black box... a lacquered shining black box with polished chrome hinges.  Finally opening the lid of that box I discovered the Confusicous Pen I had ordered!  (it only took 2 days to be delivered from Amazon - I thought it'd take 3 weeks).

Lifting the pen, I found the heaviest pen I've ever held. It feels like it's made out of iron.  But the reason I bought this pen is for the nib, which has a special flattened end for making wide calligraphic drawings.  It was recommended to me by Jackie Urbanovic, an artist friend of mine.

So I loaded it up and tried it out... works great!  It does provide amazing line variations and awesome mottled texture when applied on watercolor paper.  That's what I was after.  I'll be using this in combination with my Pentel brush-pen, which also makes delicious crumbly expressive lines.

March 29, 2013

Decide, decide, choose and decide...

Struggling with decisions? I think that's about all I do all day long as an illustrator. Decide, decide, choose and decide. But I've perfected the art - with the help of Photoshop and Indesign. All day long I switch back and forth between Indesign and Photoshop... checking the latest version of a drawing to see how it looks from Photoshop to Indesign.

Somehow the distance of placing the drawing into Indesign helps give me 'new eyes' when I look at the drawing. It also is a huge help to see it next to the text. It really helps to come upon the drawing almost by accident, like 20 minutes later. And often I copy a layer with 'command + J' on an indecisive drawing. That way I can change back to the previous version after a day. Decisions, decisions, decisions. I guess when I don't have to change anything, then I'm done. lol!

I'd guess I've changed at least 150 drawings today.

March 28, 2013

A fun new book...

The Marshmallow Man - a fun new book with lots of design challenges.  It's a story about two brothers who go to the state fair and get into a bit of sticky mess.

March 21, 2013

Next Big Thing Blog Tour - John Nez

1) What is the working title of your next book?

I have two new paper books in progress, but today I'm featuring my latest interactive e-book apps that I published recently.

I'm the actor, writer, producer and director. I do the set-design, lighting, costumes, makeup, stunts, choreography and special effects. I'm also the cameraman, technical wizard, animator and I make the coffee.

If I hadn't already made more than 50 printed books I'd never have known how to make these electronic gizmos. They were awfully fun to make since I was completely in charge of everything.

An undersea page with dozens of interactive elements - including a hidden treasure and a whale!
3) What genre does your book fall under?

'Mousey the Explorer' and 'Piggles Goes to School' are interactive ebook apps.  They are totally different from a flat ebooks, where the only action is turning the pages and narration. An ebook app is a multi-dimensional structure that relies more on interaction than on a progressive plot dimension.

A first sketch of the clubhouse page.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Charlie Chaplin inspired Mousey in a roundabout way. The book started out as a mystery story with a very distinguished dour mouse character. Anyhow, one thing led to another. I axed the mystery idea... and it turned into an explorer book instead.

Believe me, there is no structured rhyme or reason to creativity. One thing leads to another in an unpredictable way. That's why it's important to just do it and see what happens.

I love books and documentaries about faraway places... probably because in real life I never go anywhere. So maybe that's why it's an exploration book app.

Available from Interactive Touch Books.
See the YouTube app trailer here.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I acted the parts myself using GarageBand and a USB microphone. It was tons of fun! The trick is to transform the voice from my regular non-descript voice into the high pitched squeaky voice of Mousey. Since I'm a natural born geek it wasn't too hard to figure out a filter that worked fairly well.

All these technical skills enable some sophisticated app concepts. The complexity of the medium shouldn't be underestimated. I'm still not sure if the monetization is worth the effort though. I'm also learning Kwik2, which allows creating apps through Photoshop.

I still like paper books the best though. They too have their own magic and they seem to pay a lot more.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Mousey explores his way around the world to visit jungles, oceans, the arctic, outer space and solves lots of interactive puzzles on his way there.

6) Who is publishing your book? and Apple. I am my own publisher in that respect.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Three days. The thing about an interactive ebook is that the final writing happens last. This is similar to writing the script for a book trailer on Youtube. The images comes first and the words fit best afterwards.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It's always good not to compare, in my experience.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Jenny Harris, Charlie Chaplin and Stuart Little.

This shows the process of apps from rough sketch to published book online.
Available from Interactive Touch Books.
See the YouTube app trailer here.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

They might like the clubhouse page, where Mousey has to choose his gear for exploring.

Or they might like the jigsaw puzzle page, where Mousey asks the reader to put together jigsaw puzzles.

Or they might like the coloring book page, where Mousey colors in the adventures he's been on.

The Piggles app has lots of fun puzzles too. There's a witch to contend with, a goblin under a bridge, a pirate, a dragon and a UFO filled with fun aliens. Lots of fun.

The Next Big Thing Blog Tour continues next week on March 28th with Susan Miller and Jane Dippold:

Susan Miller

Jane Dippold