Monday, November 15, 2010

A featured story in my hometown newspaper

Yesterday was an exciting day for me as my local hometown newspaper, The Tribune in San Luis Obispo, California featured a story and interview about my illustration work. It was timed with the opening of a show at The Morro Bay Art Association (in California) that features a few of my children's book illustrations. This organization helped launch my career in art when I won several scholarships while in high school and college in California.

Here is a link to the article in the Tribune newspaper

A photo of the paper is below. This is the first real article about my work and a thrill!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Carving Mount Rushmore

During our month long road trip/honeymoon across the country this past summer we stopped at many iconic places, none more so than Mount Rushmore. It's one of those places if you haven't seen it in person you might think it's a bit cheesy or what's the big deal? I also had mixed feelings about the idea of taking a beautiful and natural rock formation and land that is sacred to Native Americans and destroying it with cultural symbols of their oppressors, but I digress. Once we arrived though it was impossible not to be awed by what was accomplished on such a grand scale during the hard years of the Great Depression, a subject and era that already pulls at my imagination. It didn't hurt that we had the quintessential park ranger with white beard and brimmed hat sharing captivating stories about the presidents on display and background on it's creation. He also happened to be from our old stomping grounds in West Seattle.

With this in mind I decided to create my own interpretation of it's creation based on some old photos of the workers I came across, including the sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Below you can see my final line drawing, value study and color study (done in Photoshop). All that's left is to paint this thing, in oil. I just hope it also doesn't take me 14 years.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Craig Orback Illustration on Facebook

Just a quick note to say you can now find Craig Orback Illustration on Facebook. It would be great to have you as a "fan"!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Painting a cover step by step- "Clara Morgan and the Oregon Trail Journey"

Pull up a chair, grab a drink, and be prepared for a long blog entry but also an interesting one I think. This past week I mailed off all of the art for my 18th book and I wanted to share my process of illustrating the cover. It was a bit unusual for me.

Over the summer (when not preparing for our wedding and month long honeymoon!) I was finishing the interior art for my book "Clara Morgan and the Oregon Trail Journey." Usually cover ideas are finalized when the interior paintings are close to being done so even though we had decided on a cover concept, the actual painting of it had to wait till I got back from our trip.

Luckily for me our honeymoon was taking us on a road trip from Chicago back to Washington State so a stop in Nebraska where the book is set was on the agenda. Thanks Jess for your flexibility! Usually I don't get the opportunity to visit the places where my books are set before starting work so this was a real thrill. It would add some authenticity to the cover at least and stir my imagination!

I am now going to walk you through how I illustrated the cover step by step. I hope you enjoy this peak behind the curtain...

This is my early rough sketch of the cover that was approved before we left on the trip. It is part of a series of books called "Picture books plus reader's theater" covering different topics, hence the red curtain. At the back of each book kids get a script and act out a scene from the book. Lots of fun!

This is a view of Scott's Bluff Nebraska where Clara's wagon train would have passed through in 1864 (as depicted on the book cover). Her and her family are fictional but their journey is based on the stories of real pioneers.

They had a great museum and some wagons on display. This is basically just like my original cover concept come to life! Only needed to add the family, oxen, dog and Clara.

A close up of the wagon.

Another view of the bluff from the cover. We even happened to be there late in the day just like I wanted for my painting. Perfect lighting!

Here is the view looking west. I told you we really went there!

I took some photos of my model once I was back from the trip. The only problem was I didn't have the dress we used from the first series of photos I took for the interior paintings. I made do with my existing photos.

This is the dress from the photos I took before leaving on the trip.

Here is my final drawing based on my reference photos. I projected this drawing onto my illustration board. The notes were done while I was painting the cover.

The board has two layers of gesso then I do a wash of transparent acrylic paint so that I am working on a colored surface. I hate painting on a white board and this helps to unify the whole painting as bits of this color will show through on the final. I dont paint the sky brown as that tends to pollute the vivid pure blue sky I am going for.

Now I begin working in oils. The sky is covered and the landscape begun. I prefer to paint all of the negative space around the main character first. Plopping them into a completed setting and solving issues of lighting and color first in the landscape always works best.

Here is my messy desk next to my easel in mid painting. I have my reference and some supplies there, as well as some of the completed interior paintings so I can match the cover correctly.

Most of the background is complete. I don't layer paint much. I prefer the immediacy of painting thick and completing an area and then moving on.

Pretty much done with this area. I will tweak it later once the whole painting is covered.

Only Clara is left!

Me sweating the details.

Her figure is now blocked in. Saved the hardest part for the end- the face!

I am tempted to leave it like this but I don't think the publisher would be happy! My original drawing tends to be pretty simple (as you can see). The realism happens as I am painting. I prefer the flexibility and challenge of working this way.

Almost done! Now just need to detail her dress and polish her face and the rest of the painting.

Still needs more work!

Now this is starting to look right!

And here is the completed painting!

This is just a rough version of what the final design will look like. They may end up going with white type and slightly darker grass to match other covers in the series. I should have copies of the completed book by the end of the year and it's officially released this spring! Keep an eye on this blog for details!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

October's Scholastic Storyworks Magazine

I am very excited that the story I illustrated for Scholastic's Storyworks magazine is out now! It appears in the October issue. You can view the interior of the magazine here:

The story I illustrated is called "How To Save A Baby Dragon" and is listed under FICTION. It is thrilling to think of all the kids around the country now viewing my illustrations. Thanks again to the Art Director- Albert for remembering my work.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

John Greenwood's Journey To Bunker Hill

I have a new book out this fall called "John Greenwood's Journey To Bunker Hill". It's published by Millbrook Press a division of Lerner Publishing and is a part of there new Readers Theater series where kids get a script at the back of the book and get to act out a scene. A really engaging concept. I will add the book to my site with images in the next couple of weeks.

The editor of the book recently posted a blog entry on Facebook about what it's like to receive the final art in the mail. It features the art from my book and they also shot a video of the art when it arrived in their offices about 6 months ago. It was an honor.

Here is the link to see the video on Youtube, my first time on that site!

John Greenwood's Journey to Bunker Hill Artwork

And here is the article. Thanks again Carol!

The Artwork Is Coming!
by Millbrook Press on Monday, September 13, 2010 at 6:00am

By Carol Hinz
Editorial Director, Millbrook Press

Working on an illustrated book is always exciting—you’re never completely sure how the book will look until the artist sends in the final art. Art often comes to us digitally (whether it’s because the artist works digitally or because the artist scans or photographs the finished pieces), but we still work with plenty of artists who mail in the final art.

It’s always a thrill when final art comes in. I carefully bring the package down to the book’s designer and let the designer open it. (I don’t want to damage anything!) The designer then spreads out all the art in the conference room and calls in the art director and me to come take a look at it.

When Craig Orback’s art came in for John Greenwood’s Journey to Bunker Hillby Marty Rhodes Figley (part of the series History Speaks: Picture Books Plus Reader’s Theater), we took a quick video so you can get a sense of what it’s like to have all that wonderful art spread out in front of you. Craig used oil paints on canvas for this book. The art actually came in a tube because Craig rolled up all the canvases before sending them. If you look closely, you can see that some of the edges of the canvases still have a little curl in them. I’ll also point out that Craig likes to work at a size larger than the actual book, so if the canvases look big, it’s because they are. You’ll see a letter from Craig that was included with the art—it’s a standard 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper, if that helps to give a sense of scale.

After we admire the artwork, we send it out for scanning. And after the high-resolution scans come in, the designer can place the art in the layout and soon we’ll have a finished book!

P.S. Yes, the title of this blog post is meant to be a play on the phrase “the Redcoats are coming” since this particular book is set during the American Revolution.

A side trip to Lerner Publishing

"Crickets, crickets". That's the sound of my blog this past summer as I have been busy working, and oh yeah busy getting married and taking a month long honeymoon! Well the calendar says it's the first day of fall today so now is as good a time as any to update my blog.

So back to that honeymoon. We were lucky enough to be able to schedule a 25 day road trip from Chicago back to Bellingham stopping at such beautiful places as The Badlands, Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone. The list goes on and on. We were also lucky enough to spend several days in Minneapolis the home of my tried and true publisher Lerner. They gave me my first book job almost ten years ago and I am eternally grateful. My wife, parter (still trying to figure what to say), let's call her Jessica was patient enough considering it was our honeymoon after all to let me pay my publisher a visit.

Below are some of the photos of my tour of the warehouse, bindery and main headquarters. Thanks to all who made me feel welcome especially Anna my editor who gave me a thorough tour of the offices. Also thanks to Zach my Art Director for meeting me for lunch. Enjoy!

Beautiful Minneapolis. Reminds me of Seattle in many ways.

This is the warehouse where all of Lerner's books are kept including around a dozen of mine. A dozen titles, not individual books!
Jess is wondering, "are all of these Craig's books?"

Next I was lucky enough to be shown around the bindery where the books are bound. I was told a lot of interesting information that sadly went in one ear and out the other. My fault not there's!

This machine looks important but sorry, I can't remember what it does!

Ditto with this piece of equipment

I think this one applies stickers to the books. Glad I could remember something!

A few days later I visited the head offices of Lerner. I visited 5 years ago as well but I got to meet lots of new people this time.

The entrance. I love the plaque. They are an institution in this part of town.

The main entrance. After this I forgot to take anymore photos. It was a flurry of warm conversations and handshakes. Thanks again everyone!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fall Illustration classes at Whatcom Community College

To those in the Bellingham, WA area that are interested I wanted to let you know I have two Children's Book Illustration classes starting in late September.

They are :

Children's Book Illustration I

Immerse yourself in the world of children’s book illustration in this introductory course. Through in- class assigments using a variety of media, you will learn basic techniques to complete illustrations for young readers. Also learn the business side of children’s book illustration, including what it takes to get your work seen by the right people. Character consistency, portfolios, contracts, and other topics are also covered. Craig Orback is an award-winning illustrator of over 15 children's books. Basic drawing skills are helpful but not required. Some homework is required. Materials list will be sent with class receipt.

Follow this link to register: Children's Book Illustration I

Children's Book Illustration II

Craig Orback invites you to explore in greater depth your passion for children's book illustration. In this intermediate course, you will learn, step-by-step, how to create a children's picture book dummy that, when finished, can be submitted to publishers for possible publication. From developing an initial story board to completing full page sketches, this is the perfect course if you have a children's story you have longed to illustrate and potentially publish! Materials list will be sent with class receipt.

Follow this link to register: Children's Book Illustration II

I hope to see you in one or both!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Latest project

Sorry I haven't been very active with blog updates lately but it isn't due to a lack of new work. In fact I am having a VERY busy summer so I wanted to take a moment to share a new project. Below are paintings that will appear in a Scholastic kid's magazine this fall. I should keep the story under wraps for now but here is a sneak peek at all four paintings. It was a really wonderful and unexpected project. It's a thrill to be working for Scholastic again, seven years after receiving another kid's magazine project during my first trip to NY to show my portfolio. I am very excited that so many kids around the country will get to see my work!

Enjoy! Now it's time for me to get back to work.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Can Man" event this Saturday June 12th at Barnes and Noble in Bellingham

I just wanted to let NW people know that I will be reading and signing copies of my new picture book "The Can Man" at Barnes & Noble in Bellingham, Saturday June 12, 11:00am to 1:00pm. I will also be showing some of the original art from the book. Should be lots of fun. Hope to see some of you there. Please invite anyone you think might be interested!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My latest project

I have been busy working away on my latest book project and want to give you a sneak peek at one of the early paintings. I can't share details of the story but by the looks of this painting you can deduce the subject matter. I am having a lot of fun painting the landscapes along the Oregon Trail, specifically the scenes of western Nebraska and Wyoming. Imagine seeing this rock formation for the first time?

One change for me has been working on smooth illustration board rather then my usual textured canvas. I really like being able to add the extra detail without the distraction of the texture and I think the art will look a lot better in the final book after being scanned. I hope to share some more paintings later as the project progresses!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Actual page from the Chicago Sun Times

I ordered a copy of the actual Chicago Sun Times paper the review of "The Can Man" was in. Enjoy! As someone who grew up reading papers like the L.A. Times this is a pretty big thrill.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Can Man reviewed in the Chicago Sun Times!

I just came across this review of "The Can Man" in yesterdays "Chicago Sun Times" Sunday paper. So great! Definitely the coolest place I have ever had one of my books reviewed. Glad to see it is getting some wide exposure!

The Can Man (Lee & Low, 36 pages, $18.95), by Laura E. Williams, illustrated by Craig Orback, focuses not only on recycling but also homelessness. Mr. Peters was young Tim’s apartment neighbor before he lost his job and home and became known as the “Can Man.”

Tim wants a new skateboard for his birthday more than anything. After seeing Mr. Peters out collecting cans, Tim decides he will collect cans too — before Mr. Peters can get to them. He works very hard and earns the money he needs. When he bumps into Mr. Peters with his empty shopping cart, he realizes that a new skateboard is not as important as surviving in the streets and gives Mr. Peters all the money, learning an important lesson.

Rich oil paintings complement this heartfelt story for readers ages 6-10.

You can copy and paste the link here to find it on their site.,kids-books-041810.article

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lummi Island School Visit

Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking a short ferry ride north of Bellingham to Lummi Island for a school visit. Thanks again to the wonderful faculty and students at Beach Elementary School! I had never visited this small island in the north sound before so it was a real experience. The school was built in 1919 and is filled with great historic atmosphere. Driving around the island only took about an hour. I felt like I was in Maine or another quaint area. Below are some photos of the school, students and the beautiful scenery.

They have only 58 students K-6 and it's the islands only school. Amazing!

Here we are meeting in the gym. Eager minds ready to learn about illustrating kid's books.

A visit always ends with the kids creating their own art. Always the most popular part!

This a view from the ferry dock on the island. The boat ride was only 5 minutes!

Spring is definitely in bloom.

Just add some balloons and this house would look just like the one from the movie "Up".

The island had lots of beautiful, but rocky beaches with views of the San Juan Islands. Very quiet and peaceful.