Friday, March 21, 2014


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TIred of winter? Giddy at the very thought of spring creeping over your windowsill? Blissed out by the first sounds of birds chirping? Me too. I'm even more excited about celebrating  the arrival of spring with the launch of a new very cute app game, a result of a collaboration with one irrepressible force of nature, Laura Tallardy.

 A professional children's app developer, designer and illustrator, Laura was a pleasure to work with and did all the heavy lifting in getting this project created, tested, and out into the marketplace. I supplied the art for Laura to transform. Lots of photoshopping went into the making of 24 cute and crazy animal scenes. Kids of all ages will be challenged to use their observation skills in finding the differences. It's ideal for kids around 6-8 years.

The app is available for ios, Google, Amazon,Nook, and Nabi platforms and there is a free  ios version available for download here!

It was produced in several languages. Here's a promo for the Finnish version, which makes me smile every time I see the word Kuningaskunta.

A really fun game that also encourages an appreciation of wildlife!

Some more sneak previews of the art:  

 Art was originally created for Ranger Rick Magazine and is reprinted
with the permission of the National Wildlife Federation.
© dpalen 2014

Check out the video preview:

Friday, March 7, 2014

"Good things come to those who hide out."

A recent piece for Ranger Rick magazine (the best magazine ever for kids to learn about animals) about why cats love being in boxes. It's part of their predatory nature.  They have to take their prey by surprise! I thought I would make the box sort of like a real clubhouse to exaggerate this idea. "Welcome, prey!", he's thinking. "You are no match for my cunning ways, and I will pounce on you as soon as you walk by.  So walk already. Why are you just lying there ?  OK, I'll wait for you to cross my threshold. "  

Here's the layout with the illustration in place. Kids get to ask these questions and see their names in print with the answers. How cool is that?

     Later I experimented with a dramatic view. Now we are in our own box looking at him. 
We could all wait forever. Or take a nap.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Tree Hugger and Puffer Fish

For Ranger Rick's April issue.

Sketch in layout.




  The same issue required a little puffer fish with a fascinating story. Underwater photographers had discovered an elaborate design of unknown origin on the seabed similar to a mandala: a geometric, circular structure measuring around 6.5 ft in diameter carved in the sand.

 Just recently underwater cameras showed that the artist was a small puffer fish who, using only his flapping fin, tirelessly worked day and night to carve the circular ridges.  And it turns out he does it all to attract a mate. Watch the video here.  I am always amazed by the natural geometry in artistic efforts of creatures in the wild. It's hard to believe a fish this small would have the capacity and intelligence to create something so symmetrical. The puffer fish is also considered a delicacy, which if prepared correctly, supposedly won't kill you. Its liver and other organs are so toxic they can cause death to the diners that seek their thrills through a kind of gastronomic russian roulette. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sleepy Bees

 I'm currently working on the cover art for a Highlights Hidden Pictures issue. 
This is the base layer, drawn in pencil. I've started adding color in photoshop.
 Five fish are hiding.

 Color blocked in roughly.

 The final piece. 
 This may be the best cover to date that I've produced for this publication.
 Thanks to the inherent charming nature of bees who do actually curl up to sleep in their flowers.

My Latest Book: The Sunrise Band

 I received my advance copies of The Sunrise Band a little while ago! The books turned out great, thanks to Jeff Dinardo of Red Chair Press; author and art director. Their Funny Bone Readers  series combine humor with gentle lessons about character development and healthy living. The books will not be available from the publisher until January.
  This story is all about cooperation.  Owl plays her classical violin at night, keeping Lizard awake. Lizard's jazzy sax keeps owl irritated in the daytime. What will they do?  (Throwing rocks or sand is not an option!) 
  I made postcards and bookmarks which I will send out soon. 
  Some of the illustrations are here:  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The birds, the Witch and their Wardrobes

  Just finished this illustration for Ranger Rick magazine's February issue. The page, a regular feature called Ask Rick, answers readers' questions about wildlife, as in"Why do birds always face the same direction when they are sitting on a wire? "  Good question! The answer is: because they use the resistance of the wind  to take off; just like an airplane does.
   Half way through the illustration I began to wonder what I had tackled. This was a bit of a perspective challenge! There are  some things I would change now, but  here it is. 

                                                              And a different take.

 This assignment required a white background to accommodate text. But I have a little layering exercise I've been applying lately after assignments are finished which allows me to play with added depth and  atmosphere. My hope is that it help brings my work into more of a narrative mode. 
 I let some text wander into this one.  It turned out to look a bit like an antique postcard .
My  preference for colors is decidedly turning toward the muted. And winter's grey days are coming. I am asked to do so many bright and cheery colors that it's a relief to do some work in sombre tones.  I'm also trying to be aware of the size of eyes. I reduced the eyes of the boy in this version to be a bit less cartoony.

 Halloween was a bit uneventful here. Rain on the pumpkins, and lots of wind in the willows. That, and the spectre of deadlines!  Here's a little study I did in preparation for a personal painting I am working on that I started last year. Her name is Jane Disdain. A character for my own book.

                                                      Here is the original post of the sketch.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

100 Degrees and Snowing

  A cover for High Five magazine. 
   We've had record heat temps the last few days! But it's winter already in Illustration Land! 
 Uh-oh, hold on, little squirrel! I think she'll be OK. 
 It's January now. Record chill.  Polar vortex  descending again, making outdoor activity actually dangerous! Keep warm, kids. Here's the final printed cover:

An article for Ranger Rick about snow and how the right conditions of precipitation make the perfect packing snow. I really had fun with these kids;  playing around with the expressions and the spirit of the fight.
Thanks to Billl Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes for some snowman inspiration.