Archive for September, 2012

It’s that time again. I warned you when I restarted the blogging engine for the autumn that I would be posting short stories that have nowhere else to go except the directory of no-one-is-ever-going-to-see-it. This one is a personal favorite for a few reasons. The accompanying art are quick drawings, sort of development art.

I don’t always remember where my inspiration for a story comes from but I clearly remember a late night walk with my dog Charley that inspired this. One unresolved aspect of the art is that I would prefer to not show the ‘wild thing’ in close up. I didn’t want it to be demonstrably human or not human. But these drawings are just roughs.

Read the first short story posting, The Forgetful Kingdom by clicking here.

Fantastical Tales of Occasional Oddness


Wild Thing

There’s a wild thing living deep in the forest. He’s been wandering for hundreds of years. He has long brown hair and doesn’t brush his teeth. But don’t call him Bigfoot, for his feet are just not that big.

He eats berries, small rocks, twigs and turtles. He even munches on an occasional squirrel. He is a simple beast who usually keeps his distance but sometimes just can’t help himself.

His favorite pastime is watching the sunset and the stars and moon come out. He sits all night counting stars and making up names for them. He makes a wish every time he sees a shooting star. Sometimes they come true, like the time he found a whole bag of potato chips and that was exactly what he was hungry for. Sometimes his wishes are big. So big that he’s not sure he would even know if they came true.

Some people have seen him climbing trees and sleeping on rocks warmed by the summer sun. Or snapped a picture of him nibbling on road kill or throwing rocks at them while they swim. But most of the time, no one sees him.

He found an old radio and listens to ballgames. He likes the sound when the crowd roars its approval.  He’s getting older. His legs hurt. His teeth are falling out. Some days he even forgets his way and has to run across a highway.

Lately he’s been wandering in the pouring rain.

Buildings keep getting taller and new houses spring up. He wonders if maybe he’d be happier in outer space? He’d like a place on the moon where he could live in peace.

He’d learn to eat freeze-dried ice cream and drive a moon buggy. He’d get a giant telescope and keep an eye on earth and hook up an antenna so he can listen to ballgames.

At times he’d miss the forest and the rivers and lakes. But his new life on the moon would prove fulfilling. He keeps himself busy with puzzles and working in his greenhouse. He also likes to jump. He can jump really, really high on the moon.

That’s where he lives now. He can sit for days counting stars. He’s named almost all of them by now. He still makes a wish when he sees a shooting star. But he knows some of his wishes will most likely not come true because the Earth is a busy place now and there’s no room for a wild thing.

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Another day…another blog post. What to write about. Why don’t I mention my graphic novel again?! If I don’t do it, who will!?

It’s a tough slog to sell a book these days don’t ya know. And since blog content is dead after three or four days of being posted, I’ll just reignite the fires of curiosity. You still have time to buy 5 copies before the end of September. Why would you want to do that? I don’t know. But I’m just saying you could.

Here’s a link to the trailer, if you missed it. And of course you can track down a copy at most bookstores or online. I have to admit that Amazon hasn’t exactly been stocked with the book lately. I think it’s a three week wait again. But I know they shipped some out lately.

Here’s a newish Youtube review from Classroom Librarian Company buyer Melissa Posten.

Here it is on Amazon. And of course you can read a sample chapter at the Chronicle Books site.

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Don Hertzfeldt’s back with a feature length animated film (or a combo of several shorter films that qualify as a feature for the Academy I guess). Don’s latest appears to definitively place him as the the Terrence Malick of animated stick figure films. And I mean that in a good way.

Click here to watch the trailer on Vimeo.

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The graveyards on my computer are always growing.

In the ART and WRITING directories on my computer are files that are at best, living in purgatory. Bits and pieces of projects. Stories started and abandoned, illustrations not-quite-ready for whatever they were were meant for. Stuff from two in the morning when a story seemed SO good it would write itself, until the morning’s light made me aware that it was never…never going to work.

When I start writing a new story I usually visit all my graveyards. I rummage around in the old bones and shards of broken pottery looking for interesting bits. Character names, scenes, a particular doodle. These things have ways of coming back to life in a new context. Their resurrection isn’t 100%, but they tend to inspire me and make me think of ideas in a new light.

These graveyards don’t just exist digitally. I have folders stuffed with papers with doodles and opening sentences. Then there are the sketchbooks; filled with bits of projects going back years. I usually start a book’s thumbnails in a sketchbook than gradually build to full size paper. So one sketchbook might have 3 years of parts of books in them.

Below is a page from an abandoned manuscript. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll actually get back to that story and figure out  a way to make it work. Or the idea will be reborn in a new way when the time is right.

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A cloudy, misty morning here in Oregon brings on the inescapable fact that Halloween is drawing near. So here are two drawings from a revised version of The Thing with No Head, that I’m not sure I will ever complete. This is an illustrated version that is far bigger than the original animated short I made. It’s currently in the format of a release for the iPad. But I have a lot of editing to do and I’m not sure when I will get to it.

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One of my favorite picture books, Rotten Island, is hardly a picture book by modern definition (the original was wordy, the interplay between art and picture is mostly illustrative, there is no child protagonist, there’s no way to make a series of it and it doesn’t present a protagonist driven morality – the nasty creatures don’t learn a thing, they are simply destroyed. Now that I think of it there is a bit of a Sodom and Gomorrah downfall to it all but amplified into Steig’s voice).

Rotten Island by WIlliam Steig is a visual masterpiece and basically a twisted fairytale. I picked up a reprint when I was in NY and am currently turning my place upside down for the original book, which I know I had at some point. But with 15 moves in my life, and one across country, I suspect it may have been left behind…somewhere. A review on Amazon.com points out the the new version has a greatly edited text. They even give an example. I need to look into this but I have no reason to not believe the reviewer. My guess is most modern reprints, even of a masterpiece like this, will have an additional edit. And Steig could be wordy. People are no longer used to reading 2,000 or 3,000 words in a picture book. Even for me when I pick up an especially text heavy one it jars me a bit. Whenever I read a Steig book I get excited about writing and drawing. There is so much Joy de Vivre in his work it’s infectious. I know from reading about him that it was a struggle at times for him to get his ideas and art into a book format. But when it works it succeeds like no one else.

Anyway, it’s a bizarre, fabulous book. If you haven’t seen it, get to a library and look for it. If I can’t find my original, I will be hitting Powell’s to see what I can find.

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I sometimes receive emails from this blog with legitimate questions. Not the ones offering to sell me something. Or asking that I wire money to some exotic locale. Why not make blog content of these questions!? It’s like Thanksgiving leftovers. In a good way. Plus I can correct the spelling that was in my original response.

Q: Do you draw on the computer?

A: Yes. Well, not ON the computer, but using the computer. I have been doing this since it wasn’t cool. Since art directors used to say, “We don’t want digital work.” Which wasn’t that long ago. But I do almost all my sketches using good old pencil and paper. Then scan them in and use Photoshop. I mix in lots of textures I’ve scanned and brushes I make in Photoshop.

Q: You don’t talk about illustration much. (On this illustration blog).

A: See above question! Actually I’ve been accused of this before. And you are right. I don’t mean this blog as a How To so much as it is, just about whatever I want it to be. I spend most of my working life developing stories; writing and illustrating them. So it ends up about that process and generally things I find interesting. I am mostly inspired by the story side of things. Drawing for me is directly connected to the narrative experience. Because of this and my stay-at-home-dadishness I do very little art that is not on deadline. When I have free time, I usually play video games…no. I usually write stories. Which I send to my agent and he patiently reads them and explains whey they won’t sell. Then I do it again. It’s a good relationship. He leaves me with hope and really, what more can you ask for!? Honestly having others read your work and offer honest appraisals about what you do best is very helpful. If you find people who will do that for you, treat them well. BTW my hobbies are hiking, swimming and the improper use of punctuation marks!

And the final one for today!

Q: Do you draw or write a story first?

A: This came from a student asking for a school paper or some such thing. It’s a good question. But as with most answers to art issues, what I do is just what I do. It’s not the ‘right way’ to do it. I almost always write first. I tend to think of a character or a situation and form a rough outline. I write this out. Sometimes the time between when I am thinking of the story and actually sitting down to write it is a long time. In that case I often start some drawings or doodles. These can greatly effect the story. So even if I write it out first, the drawings and doodles and roughs will help shape the story. Sometimes change it entirely.

Happy Monday!

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The Dogwoods won’t be blooming but I will be in North Carolina in October.

The Book That Eats People won the picture book of the year award there. So obviously it didn’t eat all the kids who picked up a copy. (BTW it’s a GREAT Halloween book if you want a scary book without trick-or-treating)

I’ll be speaking at the NCCBA event but I won’t be doing my famous mime routine titled: Child being eaten by book. I’ve retired that part of my show.

This will also be the first meeting between author of The Book That Eats People, John Perry and I. I’m not sure what will happen. I’m a little nervous. I mean, if he has books that eat people, what’s that say about his appetites? I’ve read stories about him, seen his picture (here), did the usual criminal background checks…he seems OK. He often emails me telling me that he beats me in arm wrestling all the time. But as I have never met him, I wonder who he is arm wrestling?

And did you know that North Carolina’s state dog is the Plott Hound? They are said to be hardworking, tenacious and loyal. Happy to hunt bear and wild boar. They are also one of only two known dog breeds that can write their name. And as far as I know, The Book That Eats People has never eaten a Plott Hound.

Ok…maybe I made up the ‘write their name’ part.

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Writing and or drawing a picture book; Next to making your own salt, pressing your own vinyl recordings or doing your own dental work it’s the most anachronistic of modern, commercial activities. What does it really say about those of us who do it? I don’t know. But I do know that it ranks as number 6 of the list of Top 100 Jobs you can do while not wearing pants.

And I have spent hundreds of hours researching the 7 Stages of Working on a Picture Book.Here they are. Originally there were 9. But who has time for 9 things on a list? That’s like a story with more than 500 words. Crazy…

1. Excitement . 32 pages of full color hj-inks. This will be awesome!

2. Bargaining. Change the text on this page. Make page 7 a full-bleed. Can you make the eyes less googly? How about a double page spread on 11 and 12? Would a bear be wearing pants?

3. Denial. I have plenty of time…Plenty…I wonder if I have any new emails. I’ll check.

4. Acceptance. 11 days to get it done. 11 more days. I don’t need to sleep, do I?

5. Relief. The cover is done. DONE I TELL YOU!

6. Depression. The proofs are in. They look fine…I mean, they look great. The colors are good. Everything is fine…except of course for everything I’d change if I could do it again.

7. Fear. Will anyone ever hire me to do this again?

Thanks to the Kubler-Ross model.

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