Thursday, September 24, 2009

The waiting is the hardest part

One thing many people don't realize with publishing is what a long process it is to get a new book in the book stores or libraries. This past year I finished two books that I am now waiting to receive the finished product on. The art for the book "Hot Pursuit" (Kar-Ben Publishing) was completed in February and I am hoping to receive my copies by the end of the year. It is currently waiting to be printed in Minneapolis. I imagine my art is sitting in a drawer in that fair city. My other book "The Can Man" (Lee & Low Books) which I finished in July is in the beginning process of being printed. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will see color proofs of the book show up on my door step. I can hardly wait! I just found out the art is currently at the printers in Hong Kong! This is the first time my art has been sent over seas. It just blows my mind. I even looked at a map to gage the distance across the Pacific Ocean. I love maps. My art is better traveled than me!

This all brings me back to the topic of waiting. I probably have the worst type of personality to be in the book making business. I am so impatient. When I finish the art I have a need for instant gratification. I want to see my art in book form, like, now. Luckily I have other projects to distract me from my impatience, schools to contact, landscapes to paint, a class to prepare for, a little house cleaning? My thoughts though always return to the projects I am waiting on. Until I receive the final package of books in the mail some 6 months or more after mailing the art I can't quite get the project out of my mind. I need the finished product to feel some closure.

Time to get back to work. After painting a couple of landscapes for a show, my Bunker Hill project is calling. Another book I will eventually have to add to my wait list.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Survival in the Snow poster image

In November I will be presenting my recent book Survival in the Snow at various Sno-isle libraries and schools and needed to give them an image for a poster. I decided to create a collage of one of the scenes that shows some of my process with sketches, photos, and the final painting. As it relates to my previous post I thought I would share it. Enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Illustrating a book cover step by step

This past summer I finished work on the picture book "The Can Man" written by Laura E. Williams, published by Lee and Low Books, due for release in spring 2010. It's a wonderful fiction story about a young boy who wants a skateboard for his birthday but due to tough economic times has to earn the money himself by collecting can in his neighborhood. The title refers to a local homeless man he meets along the way. The last painting I did for the book was the cover and I wanted to share my process of completing the illustration. While this was the cover, I use the same steps for all of my paintings. I hope you find this enlightening!

So when starting work on the  book I began with sketches of all my characters and what I wanted them to look like. These are the main characters Tim and "The Can Man".

Also at this time I did lots of research traveling around Seattle looking for settings for the book and taking lots of photos. I found a perfect street and used a great apartment building there as Tim's home.

When it came time to start coming up with ideas for the cover I began with several pages of sketches called thumbnail sketches. I try to explore all the possibilities until I get something I like. I usually show all of them to the publisher and together we choose a few we like best. This is one of the pages.

We narrowed it down to two thumbnails. We liked the concept of showing Tim beginning to develop the idea of how to earn money for a skateboard.  A moment that isn't really shown in the book. The next step was to take the ideas and draw them larger so a final decision could be made by the publisher. You can see here that they are both pretty much the same except for Tim. We were unsure if he should be more interested in what "The Can Man" was doing or not.

They decided on having a more curious Tim which I agreed. The next step for me was to do a few color studies which makes it much easier having the color decisions made when doing the final painting. I take my original drawing into Photoshop and apply color. Its so easy if I want to try out different colors! You can also see the designer and I were beginning to think where the type should go.

The next step is to take photos of my models dressed in costume. Since my paintings end up being pretty realistic I like to have great reference with good expression, lighting and details to work from. Here are a few of the photos I took.

I loved painting Tim's shiny warm coat! Now its time to complete a final drawing based on my original drawing and reference photos. After the drawing is completed I will often take it into Photoshop and make any final adjustments, moving and scaling elements etc. 

I then take this drawing and use my projector to transfer it to my stretched and gessoed canvas. Finally its time to start painting! I usually work in oil paint. Its thick, painterly and dries slowly which allows me to rework a painting. Below is the final painting!

Usually it takes me 2-3 days to actually paint it. You may notice if you compare the final drawing and painting that there are some subtle changes. The Can Man is looking up more and Tim's head is not tilted as much. I made the changes while painting because I felt they made the scene more engaging. Hope you like it! I will post the final cover design here once it has been approved for release. My art will soon be shipped to the printer in Hong Kong. You will be hearing more about "The Can Man" in the next few months.  I am very excited about this book!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A nice suprise

On the day we moved into our new place I found a package waiting for me on the front step. I knew what it was and with some hesitation I opened it up to find my advanced copies of my latest book "Paul Revere's Ride" for Picture Window Books. Usually I am thrilled to receive my free copies after a long 6 month wait after completing the art. The illustrations were finished earlier this year and I took the project on because I liked the subject and had lots of great photo reference from a trip to Boston several years ago. Places like Paul Revere's house, the Old North Church, etc. Overall it was a fun project but I was saddened at the end because the format of the book changed and they had to fit all of my art that was tall into a wider horizontal format. Much cropping and altering at the publisher took place which for any illustrator sends shivers down our spines. So when I received the books I wasnt really that excited until I saw the cover design, which I think is really cute and the color of my art looks good. So its a mixed bag but overall I like it. If you would like to buy a copy visit the publishers website at Here is the cover image and a view of my set of copies.

A new home and studio

Welcome to my blog! I am joining many of my favorite illustrators and jumping on the band wagon with this new technology! I will try and add something interesting as often as I have something interesting to show or tell. It will focus on my latest illustration projects.

Well after five years of living and working in West Seattle I am now living in Bellingham, WA! It was an emotionally hard move leaving a place I loved and knew so well but Bellingham is looking equally appealing in its own way. I am here for at least two years as my fiance Jess earns her masters degree. I had to end teaching some art classes in Seattle but hoping to start up some new ones this winter in Bellingham.

Here are some photos I just took. One of my new studio space and another of the view from our backyard. The trees go on and on. Pretty nice and so different from crowded West Seattle.