Sunday, June 10, 2018

How to Start First Grade

  My blog posts have been getting a little sparse!
  It's not for a lack of activity on the illustration front, but maybe it's for a lack of an exciting personal life, I'll admit to that.  I've been spending alot of time on Instagram lately,  so feel free to check out my work there.
Spring and summer always presents me with plenty of household errands encouraged by the light and air opening up the house.  And the front porch is always beckoning!  The roses are in bloom despite not tending them at all.
  But I'll leave the new geraniums sitting there unplanted for one more day, so I can show what I've been up to in the past few weeks.
  This is my 5th reader with Penguin Random House featuring the antics of Steve.  The previous book, How to Start Kindergarten, is available for pre-order here.
  I've just completed the sketches for this 32-page book about entering First Grade, or as Steve puts it, "REAL school." As with any book about school, there are plenty of kids. The one new kid in town that is unintentionally stealing Steve's spotlight is Hanna, a girl from Alaska, who has arrives on a dogsled and has a gold nugget in her pocket.
  I  sometimes provide only one sketch for a cover, but this time I supplied 3.
  I think the chalk drawing scene is my personal choice for the cover.  I'm looking forward to starting the color on these soon! 

Cover #1
Cover #2

Cover #3
  Everyone is glad to see Steve again...
until they set eyes on the new girl Hanna's gold nugget.

          To  regain his fanbase, Steve invents a rocket ship that doubles as his house.  But even his best friend is skeptical.             
Hanna draws her Alaskan house with snow up to the roof, Steve calls her a liar, and the shouting match begins.

And it ends up where all good schoolyard fights end, outside the principal's office.

Monday, March 12, 2018

How to Start Kindergarten

  It won't be on sale until July, but here's a sneak preview of How to Start Kindergarten;  a fun little reader I illustrated for Penguin Random House.  I'll be starting sketches for the next in the series, How NOT to Start First Grade, continuing the antics of Steve as he negotiates, manipulates, and charms his way through school, ultimately learning some lessons in the process.
On the first few days of kindergarten, Steve deals with his emotions and boundaries as he realizes he is being copied in every deed by his new friend, the very same friend he encouraged to " just do what I do:"  Ahhh.... imitation; the sincerest form of flattery. But in this case, it becomes the most annoying thing that could ever happen to a kid. Here are a few of the illustrations from last spring.

first  cover design sketch

"Walk this way!"

 When doing a beginning reader, the illustrator is often dealing with the rule of text on a  white background, for the sake of easier readability.  But for scenes with backgrounds it can be a challenge. As much as I understand the need for the white space, I always have the desire to complete the scene.

" Wait a minute, that's looking like MY tower".

 The teacher has something to announce, but Steve isn't interested.

Steve tells his older brother Will all about his problem and Will listens intently.

  I am definitely going to complete these backgrounds just for my own satisfaction! There are many more illustrations to accompany this adventure, but I'm going to wait until the book release before I post any more.  In the meantime, I'm going to reminisce about the matching dresses my Mom used to sew for my girlfriend and me. 


Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Reading Nook

  A few weeks ago I was asked to illustrate a Highlights Workbook cover; kindergarten level. The original sketch was done for a cover layout, but it ended up as an interior with hidden objects.
cover sketch

A few adjustments were made.  I contained that guinea pig; added book baskets, more books, and 10 objects were hidden. There was some debate between editors, but the fish got to keep his book.

final art

Hidden objects: wooden spoon, ring, comb, fried egg, ruler, drinking straw, lime, waffle, fan, toothbrush.

 Happy reading and finding!

Sunday, January 14, 2018


  For an upcoming  feature on water voles for Ranger Rick magazine,  I was asked to portray "Ratty" or "Rat", one of the characters in The Wind in the Willows.
  I loved that book as a child, and hope to revisit it.
  I looked at many wonderful illustrations, including EH Shepard, Robert Ingpen,  and Inga Moore ( her version is my favorite, although I do not own it; must get).
  Then there is this comprehensive ''best-illustrated'' reference book.
  For those who have not read this classic,  Mole decides go out to the river, and meets Ratty (a water vole), who at this time of year spends all his days in, on and close by the river. Ratty takes Mole for a ride in his rowing boat. They get along well and spend many more days boating, with Ratty teaching Mole the ways of the river.
  Water voles used to be common over all of Great Britain, but  in the 90's began to disappear. People brought American minks to Great Britain to raise them for their fur. Many escaped and were so good at hunting voles for prey, the numbers of voles dropped fast.  More of their habitat was ruined when livestock trampled their banks and ate the plants that the voles needed. Conservation groups are working hard to reestablish their numbers, and hopefully they will not only live on  in the pages of a book!

Look out, Ratty! Rapids ahead!

 I love being able to merge illustration with an actual photo. Great fun!

 Hi; I'm  Ratty, your river guide.

Goodbye, little voles!

Monday, January 1, 2018

New year, new postcards

  It's been a while since I sent out any promo cards.  It's always so hard to decide which images to use. So this time I  guess I let the season and the weather decide. Brutal "polar plunge" temps here in Cleveland, and across much of the country. I wish safety, warmth and cozy dreams for you in the new year.  These brave souls on my cards will be celebrating outside only in the imagination, I'm afraid.
  Oh, except for the penguins. They will be happy.  This one is a work in progress so far... and taken from a riddles piece originally created for Ranger Rick magazine.  We had pancakes this morning, courtesy of Dave. He makes the best pancakes ever.  The key is fruit, walnuts, vanilla, almond extract, cinnamon and a good apron. Flip me one.

postcard in progress

original work

original version for Hal Leonard

original for Highlights