December 31, 2016

Some new sketches...

It's a bit peculiar how artists and their drawings seem related. Once I had a famous illustrator come visit my studio and the first thing that popped into my head as she walked up the steps was 'You look exactly like your drawings!' - even though her drawings are mostly of bunnies and mice. In any event, here's to a fun new year of making art.

December 20, 2016

Happy Holidays!

It's that time of year for a little bit of 

 holiday, holiday, holiday art!

Here's wishing everyone lots of

Happy Holidays! 

December 7, 2016

From the picturebook dummy to the real book

 Before a book is real, it first appears as a 'dummy'. That is to say it's a rough version of what will be the finish art and text.  I made this dummy book with my printer and tape and lots of cleverness.  

Here's a post showing how a book might change and progress between the first sketched out dummy book and the final printed book.

Some of the pictures and words are slightly changed with each new version made as the book evolves.

It's almost more fun playing with the sketches than doing all the finish work, but it's always a challenge trying to keep the sketches loose.

But I guess the the very first version of the book was the  Indesign file that came before the homemade version.

Of course now that I see the rough version and the finish book, I just want to rewrite it all and change the art... occupational hazard I guess.

October 24, 2016

The Holiday of imagination...

Halloween Night - the Holiday where imagination and costumes are key.

I think being a pirate was always my favorite - a nice safe daytime pursuit. And I think I liked all the 18th century overtones of decor - knee-pants - buckles - scarves and three-cornered hats.

October 15, 2016

There's just thumpin' about a pumpkin...

There's just thumpin' about a pumpkin that can't be beat. Meanwhile, back on the Rain Ranch here in Seattle, we dodged a bullet with Windstorm #1 (which failed to materialize but still left 3" of rain). But now it's on to the really big remnants of Typhoon Songdo - due this afternoon! Batten down the pumpkins.

October 5, 2016

October Inktober

Here are some pictures from my new book 'Amazing Autumn'.  Lots of leaves - even though in fact I only painted about a dozen in real life - the rest were cloned.
An autumnal sidewalk - the challenge was the design - foreground and background.

An inky rendition of pumpkins - which I think are easily the most picturesque vegetable.

It's fun to paint an entire farm on two pages... no doubt about it.

September 17, 2016

How does a book get painted? Leaf by leaf

How does an image get made? Leaf by leaf - line by line - until the picture comes together.

September 5, 2016

Fall colors changing...

It's fall and leaves are bright new colors.

Owls are in hooting in the the woods.

School fills up days with adventure.

August 24, 2016

A deer in the city!

The other day I saw a deer walking up a hill beside my bike trail. I've been here for decades and I never once saw a deer in the city. So I followed after it, pushing my bicycle up the trail.

But it had vanished in the woods.  So I went on my way and sat by the fountain. Then on the way back I returned to the hidden trail through the woods.

And there the deer was again, resting quietly in the grove of trees on the grass, hidden and known only to me.

From a distance we watched each other. I tend to think of a deer in the middle of this city almost the same light as a unicorn. It was amazing to see - like a mystical creature.

But it made me sad thinking about what a difficult prospect it had ahead of it, and the conflict of living in a city full of cars and people. 

I had already passed a local homeless person who I see all the time.  And then yet another homeless person who sleeps by the trail in a sleeping bag. So that's three homeless beings making their way down the trail alone lost in the city.

It made me very sad to contemplate their future prospects - and to contemplate the general hopeless condition of any wild thing in the city.

So I turned around and quietly went home, grateful that I have a place to be my home. 

A few hours later the thoughts started nagging me that I ought to go back and see if it was still there. So I did. I rode the trail over a bridge and hid my bike in the woods. With my camera I quietly walked back up the trail. 

But now, where there had been a deer there was another homeless person fast asleep - hidden in the grove. It was as if the deer had transformed into a person almost.

I guess the nature of a wooded trail is that it's still partly wild - and belongs to no one.  Wild animals can travel down it searching for a better place to be - and homeless wanderers can call it home for a short while. 

August 18, 2016

America's forgotten boy genius...

These are some pages from my book 'Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle' - the TRUE story about Cromwell Dixon, america's boy genius and youngest aviation pioneer. Now mostly forgotten by history. Cromwell built and flew his own flying bicycle in 1907 that flew a mile over Columbus, Ohio.

After the Sky-Cycle, Cromwell went on to pioneer flying gasoline powered airplanes and set many aviation records - first to fly over the Mississippi River and first to fly over the Rocky Mountains. I did up a complete book blog for the book that can be found here: Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle book blog.

August 10, 2016

The funny papers...

Reading the funny papers - this morning's sketch. I was looking through the news and decided I think we're pretty much doomed.  So why not enjoy the comics?

I think the comics offer a refuge from the scary world of the news. The comics offer a happy bright and safe world. A wonderfully nice place to escape to, even if you just have to make it all up.

August 4, 2016

A dee-lightful big box of books!

This morning I opened the box of books on the porch with great delight! THANKS! Red Chair Press! Wow!

I always think creating art with photoshop is amazing - but equally amazing is how the files get transformed into real books. It really IS magic!

May 25, 2016

A Little Perspective From Freelancer Island...

So what is life like as a children’s book-maker? It’s like keeping a little mouse of creative happiness that runs free in the cloistered studio of one’s imagination. It’s being able to make dreams out of thin air and share them with the world. And you’ll have to get used to living in a lonely place known as Freelancer Island... which is a very, very lonely place indeed.

I wrote all about it for the SCBWIKitetales blog....

May 16, 2016

Teddy abides with awesome cool-itude!

The mysterious Teddy arrived, sneaking onto the front porch and totally undercover, of course. And as always, Teddy is tres cool! It's always fun to finally see how a digital book will look in print. Wished I could wear cool shades everywhere I go.

April 22, 2016

The Free-range sketcher...

The free-range sketcher was out today - capturing people of distinction with a few deft strokes of pencil. Then later I scanned the pencil and finished it off with a dribblely pen line. Sketching can be so much fun when one is inspired. I think it's the race against time that adds to the fun.

Basically I think everybody's got a 'look'. So it's fun to try to capture them if at all possible.  Exaggeration is more important than accuracy. 

I like this dribbly line - it's one of the Kyles brushes. Somehow a dribbly line or a line that changes is more fun to draw than a line that just sits there, I think.

April 20, 2016

Owls, the thinking bird.

Owls, plainly the thinking bird.

And the magic of photoshop that makes changes so quick in the event of artistic dissatisfaction. 

April 15, 2016

When in doubt, climb a tree - if that won't help - take a nap.

When in doubt, climb a tree - if that won't help - take a nap. Most of my creative roadblocks get solved with naps. I read that Norman Rockwell used to take 5 naps a day.

March 29, 2016

Here's another 'Memory-Pix'

Here's another 'Memory-Pix'. I hadn't been past a school playground in years - but I passed by one going to the library - and took a 'memory-pix' of some of the kids. It was amazing to see how they were all in their own joyous little worlds - and all shrieking with happiness. It certainly seems like an antidote to the misery that seems to rule so much of the 'grownup' world.

I like the pastiche of blue shades to serve as a color - it seems to leave more to the imagination.

March 22, 2016

7 herons all together fell out of the sky

A lovely spring - today I saw 7 herons come gliding out of the sky all together as if they fell out of the sky

It's time for the herons to start building their nests, which they do in select trees nearby - the same trees every year. 

 Then I ran into an old friend who I thought had moved away - all very auspicious. Nature rules - News drools.

March 20, 2016

Memory - Pix

Many of the drawings I make are all done from memory - so here's a 'Memory - Pix' of one cute - but very angry  baby. I saw this squalling pink faced fellow one morning on my bike ride - and what struck me was the look of betrayal in his eyes - the angry disbelief that Mama would dare to change his diaper. lol!

March 8, 2016

Cherry Blossom Messages...

I could hardly believe my eyes this morning when I saw this scene - that I tried to sketch out. An impossibly elegant japanese woman with a baby on her back hanging paper messages on string from the blossoming cherry tree - while a group of ancient grannies stood around smiling. I've never seen paper messages like that tied to the already amazing ancient cherry trees.

There is some kind of magic that comes out at cherry blossom time here... the whole world swoons. It's the perfect antidote to the grim reality of the rest of the world.

March 7, 2016

My years with Sesame Street...

I love Sesame Street & Children's Television Workshop, since they saved my career at a point when I was just starting out - I remember one rough patch where I didn't have any other clients going except for CTW, who dependably kept me working for years. When I was in New York, I used to love going down to Lincoln Center to drop off my artwork - and I always hoped I'd catch sight of Jim Henson or Frank Oz or Big Bird in the lobby. But I never saw any live muppets.

Sesame Street kept sending me work after moving to Seattle. I spent many happy years painting Big Bird and Muppets.

By then I had two little toddlers of my own, so it all seemed natural that I would be painting Big Bird in my studio and my kids could see Big Bird on TV. Sometimes I'd have my toddlers help me finish up a painting - just adding a few dabs of color... before mailing it off to New York City, 2000 miles away. And it was always fun when the magazine arrived to point out 'my pages'.

I greatly enjoyed the documentary on Amazon: I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.

I know I've met trade book editors who shudder as the sight of 'muppets' in my portfolio. But I think the world Jim Henson created is unique and has a lasting magic. There's something so reassuring in the set designs - I could spend afternoons on those city stoops and back steps.

Anyhow it made me proud to have spent years working with Children's Television Workshop and the Muppets. They bring a lot of good into the world of childhood learning and making families whole. A noble cause.