Archive for the ‘Illustrators’ Category

I’ve been cleaning out my studio. And filling the recycle bin. Filling and refilling the recycle bin. Wow.

Animation timing sheets and countless reams of old drawings have been collecting dust for too long. I saved a few things and scanned a few others. I spent hours going through character designs from old animation projects, odds and ends from sketchbooks (I was keeping way too many old sketchbooks for some reason), life drawings and random pieces that were no doubt the start of something great, 18 years ago…. I pulled out a book dummy or two. But I must have thrown out at least 80 pounds of paper. It will take two or three weeks to get it all in the recycle bin.3

You can’t keep it all. You just can’t. As I finish all my work digitally now the only physically tangible aspects of a project in progress I have are sketches and roughs. These past 10 years I have held onto way too much.


I’ll post a few scans of stuff along the way.

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accI joined Adobe’s new Pay Monthly scheme. I had a ‘deal’ that ran out in 2013, it saved me like 20 bucks a month. I’ve put it off for a year and finally decided to try it. I’ll let you know how I like it.

If you’re not familiar with what I am talking about let me tell you about Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Adobe now sells access to ALL their apps for $50.00 a month or $30.00 (for one year) if you had a previous Production Bundle. So you pay a monthly fee for access to ALL of their apps. Which they claim they even update (debug) more often now. It also includes a lot of apps I will never open.

But it’s not a horrible deal, unless of course you get to a point where you don’t want to pay a monthly fee (or can’t afford to), but all your files are in the Adobe formats, then if you don’t keep paying I guess you are out of luck.

On the other hand, if you were buying the production bundle every two years, that was $1,500 or more.

All in all if Adobe actually spends time updating their apps instead of building new installs, I’d be happy I guess. But Adobe has really been nothing but disappointment for the past 15 years or so. Buggy apps, unsupported formats, they were late to support OSX with Photoshop, and generally it’s a company that seems to offer very little to its customers. Now I have no choice but to use Adobe products. I know them, I’ve used them for many, many years. I generally like them. Yet, I have no positive feeling for the company. And I use their software EVERY DAY to do my work. All my books are drawn and painted in Photoshop and sometimes Illustrator. I animate in After Effects. I edit sound in Audition and before that SoundBooth and I use InDesign for all my layout and ebook designs. So what went wrong?

Maybe it was how little effort they seemed to put into upgrades. Maybe it was how Adobe tried to force Flash on everyone, everywhere. Maybe it was how they reacted when Steve Jobs very clearly pointed out the shortcomings of Flash on mobile. Or maybe just how buggy much of what they shipped was.

But here I am shipping some dollars to them every month. I guess they win. You don’t need to like ‘em. Just pay ‘em.

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I’m fortunate to be taking part in a children’s book illustration show at the Multnomah County Library in December! This is sponsored by The SCBWI an organization I have been a member of since 1932. OK. That’s not true. It was about 1950 I joined…OK, OK not true. But I have been a member since the 20th century. That I can say.

I think there are 11 or 12 illustrators in the show and there is an opening reception where the illustrators fight it out with pencils until there’s only one illustrator left standing. Then we all have tea.

Wait. That’s not right. But there is an opening reception on Saturday, December 21st from noon-2. Stop by and ask if Dr.Seuss is there and say hi to all the local illustrators taking part.

The show looks at the work that goes into making a book. So we will have sketches and development work on display as well as some finished art.

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I had some energy to burn and I had been kicking this idea around. It’s part of a story. It’s kind of my version of pre-visialzing or development work. This will probably never be used for anything, but I managed to get it out of my head looking something like I wanted it to.

Click on the image to see it bigger.


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Still going through boxes of stuff that I brought back from my childhood home. And what’s this? Trading cards! I have a box and a half of trading cards from just about everything…shows I never watched. And movies that really shouldn’t have had trading cards. Of course I have a billion Star Wars cards which I need to sell at some point but I also have stuff like in the image below. What was I thinking?


But the Pee-Wee Herman stuff is pretty cool. Still some unopened packs! Very nicely designed stuff in the packs. Stickers and games and cut-outs.


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I’m not usually a fan of Raggedy Ann and Andy books but I came across this one and I liked the size and shape of the book and the colors were still vibrant and cheerful.


It’s not in great shape so it only cost a buck or two. But it’s filled with some beautiful spot illustrations. The title page is missing, so I can’t get the pub date from the book. It was published by the M.A. Donohue & Company which ceased to exist as a publishing imprint in the 1960′s. After a bit of research I believe this book is a 1925 release written and illustrated by Johnny Gruelle. My mother grew up a big fan of Raggedy Ann and Andy and often told me stories from the books.


It’s a classic story book where not every page has an illustration and many pages have small spot illustrations.

The history of the Raggedy characters created by Johnny Gruelle is interesting in many ways. It’s one of the earliest examples in the 20th century of children’s book characters becoming widely popular. It was also cross promoted from the start as the book was released with the doll. I’m not aware of a book and toy combination before Raggedy Ann, but maybe there were some that proved less successful and are forgotten now.

Released in 1918 the characters became a hit quickly. Eventually the characters became symbols of the anti-vaccination movement. I won’t get into the entire history here because – I don’t have to. That’s what Wikipedia is for, so click away if you are interested!

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When I got back from my trip I had a book waiting for me from writer AND artist David LaRochelle! What could be better than coming home to a new book?!


Arlo’s ARTrageous Adventure is a book with plenty of page turns. It’s a flip book. Or a flap book. More a flip-flop book because it has over 50 illustrations that become something else when you flip the flap. Or flop the flap. Or flap the flap.

It’s an adventure in an art museum where the art has plenty of surprises. The book features only about 50 words, but the art on display plays nicely (and not so nicely!) with the instructions about how to properly appreciate art. My favorite being the triangular sculpture that was inspired by a lawn gnome’s hat!


Track down a copy and share with any kid who is worried that Art is all serious stuff.

Check it out at Indie Bound or Amazon.

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I sometimes get asked where someone can ‘learn to draw’. Or where a student who is at a school where art is not taught can learn to draw. For children who are on the young side I usually advise to stay away from any too formal art training until they demand it. Training often creates more roadblocks by offering too many ‘step’ based lessons that limit what a young artist imagines they can do.

However, there is a time for formal training and if you want to learn to draw the human figure well (and how that translates to drawing everything else) you can’t learn from anyone better than Glenn Vilppu. You can read about him here.

Mr. Vilppu taught life drawing/drawing for animation at UCLA while I was in grad school. I learned a lot and found his methods of teaching life drawing to be superior to any I had received in getting my earlier BFA.

Within the art teaching world there is a lot of debate about how to teach drawing, especially life drawing. And in Los Angeles among the creative professionals who work in animation I’ve heard many an opinion on how or how not to pursue it. I am not interested in the different theories and personal likes or dislikes of various methods or teachers. I will say that Glenn teaches in a way that lets you build mass and weight in a convincing way. And then lets you use that knowledge to draw from your imagination. He stresses that all drawing is really thinking, not just copying. It is not just staring at something and trying to ‘copy’ it.

Much like the night classes I later attended at Disney where we looked to capture the ‘spirit’ of what we were drawing by looking for simple truths, not detailed anatomies, Glenn seems to teach The Big Picture better than any other instructor I had.

I have not taken his online classes, but if they are only 1/50th of useful as the classes I attended (and I have no reason to believe they are not equally good) they would still be a great value.

Check out more info here and no, I am not getting a cut on this, or receiving anything in return. I just thought it was a great resource.

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I’m just finishing the cover on the first picture book I wrote and illustrated. It will be out in the autumn of 2014 from Candlewick Press.

Let me say this about book covers – they are the toughest element in the book making process for me. This is no surprise because they have proven to be enormously impactful on a books’ success, so a lot of different people at a publisher have input. The covers are important not just for consumer sales in the retail environment but also when the publishers show the books to the retail buyers.

I used to believe that covers were pretty straight forward. But the more I tackle picture book covers the more I realize they have a unique set of communication needs. This is due in part to the duel audience of young reader books. They need to communicate to both adult book buyers and young non-reader book ‘readers’. A few books back I had done a cover I was pretty happy with and I got feedback from the marketing department on my design/illustration ( it should be noted that with picture books the cover is most often a collaboration between the illustrator and an art director or book designer ) and you know what, they were right! I know artists are always supposed to be upset and willing to fight the fight against ‘marketing’ department advice, and I have done that from time to time, but on this project that had a great POV that I hadn’t thought of. And we created a really good cover because of the notes.

So I’m open to plenty of discussion when it comes to the cover. And plenty of revisions, as long as I think it’s headed in a good direction.

bepawrdOne of my favorite covers from a book I illustrated is for The Book That Eats People. This was conceived of by the designer and editor I believe after we made a few runs trying out different approaches. The designer had the idea to make our names look like sharp teeth. What a great touch!

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