Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NO Peeking... well maybe just at the gift tags.



 I just finished these new gift tag designs for a holiday promo.  Everyone ends up regrettably using generic tags, or cutting up old ugly greeting cards after  those run out, so giving a gift of artists' gift tags seems like a pretty good idea.  I won't be able to use the back designs this time after all, because I didn't realize at the time the backs cannot be variable. But maybe they will make good fronts too.
 The kids are from a Ranger Rick assignment , and the moon and owl from The Sunrise Band.
 Small ( they will be printed much smaller than shown here), but as they say... good things come that way.
  I'm wishing Peace, a Happy Thanksgiving and a Happy Tofurkey Day to all.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Winging It

 It was great to get a sample of this musical for kids.
 The play features four baby birds: Orville, Wilbur, Amelia, and Harriet (all famous aviators). "Winging It" is about taking smart risks and leaving the nest with the support system of family and friends. If you're an educator looking for a musical review for your fledgling songbirds, you couldn't do better than this one.
Seeing my birdies on the CD rom was an extra tweet - I mean treat!  I'll have to get the additional Preview CD too with vocals and dialog for the full effect. Produced by Hal Leonard Corporation.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How Romantic!

  A few weeks ago I was asked to illustrate another Hidden Pictures cover for a special newsstand edition. A few of these are really challenging.  Even some of my big kid friends were stumped trying to find all of the following:  a saltshaker, a ladder, a hairbrush, a spool of thread, a lime, an artist's brush, a cinnamon bun, and a horseshoe.
 The art director suggested the contrast of big and little, and I love that dynamic.  Love.
 Did I say this as a Valentine's issue? Yes, it's the day after Halloween and Christmas is over already.

 I concentrated some on the strolling kitties a bit while sketching.  I thought a question mark hidden in her tail would be fun but it turned out the editors were not too fond of that idea. But they loved the rest of it.

The cover will look something like this.

  Did I say love?
 On the heels of this one I was asked to contribute again to Ranger Rick magazine with a spot  regarding the mating and dating habits of albatrosses.  The color palette turned out to be very similar, which I think shows how one piece can influence the next, even though it happens subconsciously. Or maybe it is because the theme of Love just demands pink.
  I collaged a photo of the Eiffel tower in, initially because the one I drew was looking wobbly and inadequate. After I did I was pleasantly surprised with the juxtaposition of elements and the blend of cartoon and photo. Bon Voyage!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Not your normal pumpkin patch


If you're ever rotting in a doctor's waiting room for 3 hours while he fritters away, wasting your precious time while he looks at someone else's injuries, just pull out your sketchbook and take it out on the page.

  I like drawing ghoulish people; somehow half  human, half something other. What are these women doing? I'm not sure yet. I like letting things possess the page and surprise me.

 Took a wrong turn with baggy pants and velcro sandals (not a good mix if the velcro comes loose) , fell and mildly fractured my non-dominant elbow a few weeks ago. It's practically all better and I am grateful I can type without pain now.  I  have also figured out how to tie shoelaces. With a double knot.
  Happy haunting.

Monday, September 21, 2015


  It's the time of year to watch the monarchs on their journeys. Unfortunately we see less because their numbers are dwindling and it's a dire situation. This  illustration was created for Ranger Rick a few months ago to accompany an article on monarch-friendly plants. Here are a few links to provide information for your kids to help save the monarchs, by adopting a monarch or growing a butterfly garden.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Penguins and Pancakes

    Continuing on my current theme of premature winter images, I illustrated this Reader Riddles for Ranger Rick magazine. (Alliteration accidental).  They are a  great award-winning magazine for kids of all ages who love animals published by the National Wildlife Federation.  I learn so much myself with each issue. And this time I learned something while researching for the art. Did you know penguins are only found in the Antarctic, and polar bears are only found in the Arctic?  They can never hang out together. I also  learned I could get very hungry for pancakes.
  The lettering is by Jim Paillot.
  This is for their December issue, but it could also provide inspiration on one of the hottest nights of the summer, like tonight.  I 'll take my pancakes cold, thank you, with a scoop of vanilla ice.


Monday, August 31, 2015

On with the Snow!


 Snow comes very early here. But that's a normal climate change in Illustrationville. Last week it was really good packing snow. I was fortunate again to illustrate a cover for Hal Leonard's music students' magazine. For this piece I used traditional media: pastels and colored pencil on mi-tientes paper, with only a small bit of photoshop for cleaning and color adjustments. White pastel works well to capture the effect of snow as long one is lucky in choosing the color of the paper.  I have a drawer full of unused and partially used pastel paper and often go through it several times, testing the pastels on small swatches before settling on a color. The title was hand lettered on a separate layer. The sketch took part of a day, the finished art another day (and some of the night).  "There's no business like snow business....."



Monday, April 13, 2015

Follow your Smart Little Nose

  I almost forgot to post this cover illustration from a few months back. There's often a lag between the time I create the work and get a sample of the printed piece.  Sometimes it's like a surprise in the mail. It's so nice to get a physical sample of the work; especially when there are real mazes inside.. lots of them! Everyone wants  to wander around and try to find their way back home sometimes.  I want to be the prairie dog with the hot tub. I want to be him really, really bad. You have no idea how much.  I also want a baby grand, and I'd like more time to read. I guess I've given these dogs the chance to live the life I've always wanted.  They'll have to work for it, but they'll thank me someday.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Chaos Revisited

   It's like going back in time! I get to illustrate another reader for Random House featuring this kinder-terrorist and his mortified, long-suffering third grade brother. This was one of two that I illustrated around 8 years ago. They're picking up the crazy thread again. This time around it will be "How NOT to Run for Class President".  Elections are messy things by nature.
 I'm pleased to say the incumbent is a girl and (spoiler alert) wins the election. Of course.
 Here's a sampling of illustrations from the last book. It's available here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Table for Two

Fancy clothes and high class establishments with cheese tables. That's what mice deserve. 
A recently completed spot for a cracker recipe page in High Five magazine. 
 Watercolor, pastel, colored pencil and photoshop. Kelley Cunningham, art director.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Wing It

There are only 18 days until spring, although here in Ohio we don't believe it. There may be some hope after all, as the sun is shining today, and the cats are jockeying for position to claim the one and only sunspot. I really want to believe spring will come, I really do. The baby birds must be chirping somewhere.
  It's always a pleasure to work with Hal Leonard. This art will be used on a cover of a musical for kids. I liked creating the title lettering as well. I find it really satisfying to be able to work on the integration of the type and illustration.  
  I felt like using traditional media: pastels on sanded pastel paper. Photoshop was employed for some touch-up and the placing and dropshadow of the title. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Superhero Style

  I was fortunate once again to work with Red Chair Press in 2014. The illustrations for this book were completed in November.  Red Chair Press puts a lot of heart into their books and each one carries a specific message to help kids navigate a confusing and sometimes hostile world.
  This guide to dealing with bullies provides some tools to transform even the most intimidated kids into voices of truth and justice. At least we can hope.
 Zack is a mild-mannered kid (just like you) who becomes a protective champion when he witnesses a kid being bullied.  His superpowers are simply what all kids can access themselves: words and the courage to speak them.  And oh yeah, he does get to fly around wearing a cape and rainboots and multiply himself for dramatic effect.
  This book gave me the chance to work with character development, staging and movement. It was especially fun getting into the poses.  Figuratively speaking, of course.
 Here are some scenes from the 23 page reader.


More zipping around ensues... and then...

 Here he goes again multiplying himself...

 A bit of behind the scenes process:

 I began all of the pages as traditional drawings:  graphite pencil and white pencil on toned paper. This established the underlying values. And it meant I could work on them out on the porch on nice days.

Plus, I like having the physical artwork. Who knows... maybe I can sell these. Anyone interested?

 I scanned the art and lightened the tone and tinted the greys to a warmer color. 

Here I began adding photoshop color and a sky layer for the cover. I was digging the moody dystopic look of this but ultimately the designer, Jeffrey Dinardo, and I agreed it needed to be brighter.

 I compared both versions. 
The first sky looked too much like evening. He wouldn't be avenging bullies at night !
 After all, he's a kid (just like you).

Like all good books there is a happy ending...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Is it Earth Day Yet?

             Is it spring yet? Yes, here in illustration land. Ranger Rick is always encouraging kids to get out and commune with wildlife and their habitat, in the wild or their own backyards. That's why I love them so much. I was thrilled to be able to contribute this new illustration for their April issue.

                                                Here's how it will appear in the magazine: