Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2012 Hoilday Card

I was a little lazy this year, or at least I was hoping to be lazy. I draw this as a black and white holiday card at least 16 years ago, and I thought it would be a simple thing to add color to it digitally (Re-use, Re-cycle, Re-something). It was simple, actually, but more time consuming than I had anticipated. Coloring is probably the simplest thing to do in photoshop, but its taken me 10 years to best way to do it. Add color in a separate layer, with the layer set to multiply. People trained in photoshop probably learn this the first day. Oh well.

Now, if only I can teach these dogs how to play poker. That's art!

Monday, September 24, 2012

More Sketchbook Doodles

Really bad kitty

Get ready for the smell-off!
I think King Kong should have thicker forearms.

Not sure who this guy is supposed to be... Scrooge maybe?

This is how I feel somedays.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

June Jam makes Best Books list for 2012!

The Children’s Book Committee at the Bank Street College of Education strives to guide librarians, educators, parents, grandparents and other interested adults to the best books for children published each year. The all-volunteer committee includes educators, librarians, authors, parents and psychologists who share a passion for and expertise in the world of children’s literature. Young reviewers from all over the country, ages 2–18, read and evaluate many of the books as well.

I was delighted to learn that they selected June Jam in the Adventure and Mystery category for readers aged five to nine.
My niece and nephew helped me out by posing for me for June Jam.

June Jam is the sixth book in The Calendar Mystery series. The series features a mystery for every month of the year. We started with January Joker and February Friend, hit our stride with March Mischief, got through Spring of last year with April Adventure and May Magic. June Jam was published last March, and that brings us up to July Jitters and August Acrobat, which came out this past summer.
Ron Roy is writing The Calendar Mysteries as a follow up to his hit series The A to Z Mysteries, which I also illustrated. The main characters in The Calendar Mysteries, (Bradley, Brian, Nate and Lucy), are the younger siblings and cousin of the three main characters in the The A to Z Mysteries (Dink Josh and Ruth Rose).

I finished September Sneakers and am currently working on the illustrations for October Ogre. The A to Z series was based on the alphabet; this one is based on the calendar. Both were, and are, fun while they lasted, but what I need is a series that’s based on numbers so I won’t need to worry about it coming to an end!

Monday, May 7, 2012

My First International School Visit

Whenever I do school visits, it seems that the farther away I am from home, the more of a big deal I seem to be. When I give a presentation at my kids’ school here in Brattleboro, VT, I am greeted as just another parent with a semi-interesting job. But when I go to schools in Alabama, or Wisconsin, I’m treated as a prestigious visiting illustrator.  So, by that logic, if I traveled to the opposite side of the planet I would maximize the amount of pomp that could possibly be associated with my arrival.

How's this for an ego boost?
Well, in April that theory was put to the test and it actually turned out to be true. I was invited by The Brent International School in The Philippines to come and give presentations and workshops regarding my work as an author and illustrator. Patricia and Kurt Lamb, the dynamic duo of international school librarians, played host and made my first international school visit a wonderful experience. It was a particular pleasure to hang out with the ex-pat teachers who teach and raise their families in the international school circuit and I got a glimpse into their jet-setting lifestyle.

Ruben's caricature of me.

Patricia and the teachers went above and beyond any school I’ve ever been to in terms of preparing the students for my visit. Aside from being familiar with my books, the teachers showed the students my cartoon drawing demos on Youtube, and even incorporated a little creative writing into the exercise.  I had a session with Brent’s cartoonist club, and Art Teacher and Cartoonist Extraordinaire Ruben Nacion  made a wonderful caricature of me and my “dinosaur tie”.
Patricia and Kurt
I wish I took larger photos of these.

This is only a portion of Brent's wonderful campus ( pre-k through 12).
Who wants to run? Heat humidity index of 200 degrees.
 Patricia and Kurt took me up to Taal Volcano, to listen to a trio of strolling musicians serenade us as we looked out at a lake, that was in a volcano, that was in a lake, which was in a …. (you get the idea). Quite beautiful, and the cool mountain air was a respite from hot and muggy Manila.

Taal Volcano

I had one day to explore Manila (which is quite the megalopolis) so Patricia and Kurt to me to Green Hills, a vast, indoor (with air conditioning, thankfully) shopping bazaar. The only way I can describe it is to take every flea market, shopping bazaar, and souvenir stand I’ve ever been to in my life, and put them all under one roof, and that would be one section of Green Hills.  Tee shirts, jewelry, Indonesian shawls, knock off ANYTHINGS, etc, and there’s a stall for that. Patricia was a fantastic haggling coach, giving me very clear eyebrow signals if anyone was playing  me for a sucker. 

Pretty cool, right?
I think she was curious to see what overlooked gems my artistic eye would discover, but ended up cringing when I went for the coin purse made out of an actual preserved toad .

 I am grateful for the experience, and here are a few of my lasting impressions.
#1 Warm, friendly people (I’ve never been called “sir” so many times in my life).
#2 In the Philippines, you don't need walls, but you do need ceilings (sun, monsoon rains).
#3 Colorful “Jeepneys” (small jeep-looking buses) with chrome fenders, overflowing with riders, zooming through traffic clogged streets).
#4 The juxtaposition of sky scrapers, gigantic malls, and corrugated tin and cinderblock shanty towns. 
I suspect that more and more this is the face of the 21st century city.
#5 Rice fields and fruit stand overflowing with pineapple, mangos and papayas.
#6 Lagoons filled with fish farms
#7 Gated residential communities, both humble and grand.
#8 Surprisingly few, if any, Manila envelopes.
#9  All the familiar commercial food franchises (along with the Philippines’ own Leslie’s and Jollibee).  
#10 Gigantic vertical billboard advertisements lining the highways, printed on fabric so they can be rolled up during monsoon season. I suspect that more and more this is the face of the 21st century city.
#11 The wonderful staff and students at Brent, who are more engaged in the world than I certainly am, and who humbled me beyond belief with their warm welcome.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sketchbook doodles

After years of preaching to my kids and my students the importance of carrying around a sketchbook with you, I finally took my own medicine. Whether to draw from life when you're waiting at the airport, or just doodling creatures from your imagination I think it's an essential accessory.

I've posted a few of the latter here. No real explanation needed for the alien bug thing and the chubby crocodile guy. Regarding the giants, I just started thinking about how a humanoid creature would look if it was 20 feet tall or so. I figure the brain wouldn't be that much bigger than ours, but the jaw would have to be huge and powerful, which explains the proportion of the head. Obviously the feet would need to be thick and massive to support its weight. At first I assumed all the appendages would need to be thick and massive, but in the 3rd sketch I came up with the idea of long, relatively delicate fingers, because how else would it be able to accomplish anything requiring manual dexterity? The image puts me in mind of the largest sauropods that have tails that end it long delicate whips. I also tried to make all the skin sag, and the larger fleshy masses sag, like an elephant.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Viva Las Vegas!

It never fails to surprise me the unusual places the ability to draw funny faces can take me. I spent the second week in January in Las Vegas drawing caricature for Sharp on their smart boards. It was all part of CES 2012, the annual Consumer Electronics Show. 150 geeks from all over the world were in town checking out new gadgets, gizmos, and anything with a screen. The drawing program I was demonstrating is more of a presentation tool rather than a tool anyone would be making serious art with, but it was fun for the people to see their faces drawn on the "VIEWMONGOUS" 80" screen (I'm assuming VIEWMONGOUS is an officially trademarked phrase of the Sharp corporation). Las Vegas was (get ready for the news flash) glitzy and artificial, but there certainly are less entertaining places to spend a week.

You can get a glimpse of me drawing here: