Monday, July 21, 2014

The Family That Zines Together

A few days ago, my wife, Julie, was explaining to our 5-year-old daughter, Romy, about zines. For those of you who don't know, a zine is a self-made (I would say "self-published," but that sounds too glamorous, in fact) magazine. ("Zine" is "magazine" minus the "maga.") Zines are typically created in/by/for youth culture, typically so in punk rock circles or the like. Zines are typically designed pretty simply or even crudely--perhaps even cut/paste--and are produced in short-ish quantities on a photocopier on standard letter-sized paper. Copies are assembled into a paginated booklet--folded in half, and stapled to bind together. Zines can be about anything at all. Usually they are very personal in nature. Stories or comics about one's self and experiences. Things that person feels passionate about. Music, art, writing, toys, comics, love, etc. Zines were a very big part of Julie's and my teenage and 20-something years. They have since faded away in our own lives, but still hold a very sweet spot in our hearts. (Julie and I actually met each other and fell in love through zines. Long story... remind me tell you some time.)

OK... back to my point. Julie was explaining zines to Romy. Romy was so inspired, she went off to her little nook of creativity and proceeded to make her own zine about something important to her. What else...? Star Wars! She is an early, early student of the written English language, so she tends to spell things out phonetically. I'll translate.

 (Translation: STAR WARS ZINE BY ROMY. The drawing is of the Millenium Falcon with Chewie and Han screeching--word balloons--across the galaxy.)

 (Translation: MY FAVORITE CHARACTERS FROM STAR WARS. Pictured from L to R: Luke Skywalker, Wicket, Princess Leia, and Yoda--who is daydreaming about snacks.)

 (Translation: LOOK OUT ALWAYS FOR and pictured is Emperor Palpatine. Romy's least favorite, most feared and despised Star Wars character.)

(Translation: UH OH SPAGHETTI-O'S. Pictured are Jabba the Hutt and Salacious Crumb.)

How incredibly awesome is this? I am biased and that is fine, but I insist--bias or no--you too must find this awesome.

And yet, it gets better. Romy was finishing up one of her summer camp programs and for a celebratory gift, she asked that her Mama make her a zine to give her the day she finished camp. A zine about something Julie loved, using the same template that Romy herself created. So Julie did a zine about Battlestar Gallactica (the reboot). And it goes like this.

Man, I love these so much! All I can say is, how'd I get so lucky to get these beautiful people as my family?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Let Us Collaborate

Nothing quite so magical as successful collaboration. In this case, my 5-year-old daughter and I sat down to a large piece of paper yesterday and drew together this unicorn stampede.

 For the longest time, it seemed she had very little patience or interest in sitting down to a drawing. (I figured she was--in some rebellious way--rejecting drawing since that's what her old man does.) But lately, she has really stepped it up and is  becoming quite the little draughtsman. (Draughtswoman?) I will have to report back here soon with some of her other recent masterpieces.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Best decade (+1) ever!

 This picture was taken waaaay back in 2003. The evening of July 5th, to be exact, in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire. Julie and I had just gotten married and here we are getting hoisted up and trotted around in chairs to song and dance by our strongest of friends and family. We celebrated our 11th anniversary over the weekend with a meal out (lunch not dinner, it's more practical with a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old in the house... at least we thought so), a viewing of our wedding dvd and photo album, and a half dozen donuts. It's been a tremendous 11 years. A much greater journey--with Julie and now our two little ones--than I could ever have dreamed up.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Steve Burns, Blues Clues, and us

Yesterday, I came upon this video. I'm not exactly sure of the context here, but I gather it's part of a storytelling series by something (someone?) called The Moth. The storyteller here is Steve Burns. If you ever watched an episode of Blues Clues--particularly the earlier episodes--it is THAT Steve. Blues Clues was a good deal after my time of being a child watching children's tv, but by the time my daughter was born and of tv age (she's 5 now) she came in on the tail end of Blues Clues and was immediately a huge fan of the show. Pretty much anything she's a huge fan of, Julie and I are huge fans of too. (We'll see how we feel when baby girl discovers pop music.) We loved the insane enthusiasm of Steve. The genuine goofy and sincere sweetness he brought to the show. The bright, vivid animation coupled with good ol' Steve. How he talked directly, gently, kindly to the viewer... Something about the show, and watching it with our daughter who loved it so, just made us feel good. When Steve was replaced and he left the show and Blue--in the plot, it was because he went off to college--I must admit... I got a little misty-eyed. [snif]

Anyhow, back to this video. Julie and I often wondered what happened to our old pal Steve. Well this video, it's a video of Steve Burns today. Or, I think, September of 2010. And in a more grown-up setting, maybe even a comedy club. He's reflecting on what his life was like at the height of Blue's Clues and he gives us a glimpse at why--or partly why--he ultimately bowed out. Something about this guy... I love this video. He seems so humble and true and funny and sincere. He pokes a little bit of fun at himself and the wild enthusiasm of the show, but pays genuine respect to it as well. He talks about what it was like to be famous--or "fameish" as he calls it. And there's a highly absurd anecdote about one of the strange moments fame brought to him. And by the end, I got a little misty-eyed again.

If you are a grown-up (there's some slightly adult-ish humor here, not for young 'uns) who ever enjoyed hanging out with Steve and Blue, and you have 17 minutes to spare, I suggest you watch this clip. Do it for Blue. Do it for you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Number 5 Bus

Now that I'm back on the blog, there's this other blog/website/conversation that's been going on since that I wanted to talk about. It's called Number 5 Bus, presented by talented author/illustrator husband wife duo, Philip and Erin Stead. They've been conducting these very casual, fun, smart email conversations with various authors and illustrators around the scene and letting them loose on the world via Number 5 Bus. I think the idea is it will be handled like a television show, in that each discussion is considered an episode as part of a larger group of episodes, or "season." One would hope that, should they wish to continue, there'll be more seasons to come when this one finishes out.

Erin's drawing from Erin and Phil's A Sick Day For Amos McGee

For a better description of all of this, read the Steads' introduction to the project right here.

The current episode is a great one with Sergio Ruzzier. Sergio's one of my favorite contemporary picture book makers. His art is very much his own. Very recognizable and stylish and a perfect combination of sweet and strange. In this discussion on Number 5 Bus, we get some nuggets about the possibly insulting use of calling someone's work "sophisticated," the distinction or non-distinction between American and European picture books, and some sneaks into Sergio's back-portfolio and future one. A lively and fun conversation.

When you visit, be sure to check out previous episodes with more terrific kid book choices Eric Rohmann, Cece Bell, Rebecca Stead, and Julie Danielson. And check back weekly (more or less) for the next episode's release. It's good stuff!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New Cordell offerings at ALA this weekend!

No I will not be at ALA annual in Las Vegas this weekend, but you will!

I do love this conference, but I'm not going to be there this year. If you are going, I hope you will take time to stop by the Disney-Hyperion booth (#603) to ask about my February 2015 picture book, WISH. I hope you will take time to stop by the Macmillan Children's booth (#522) to ask about my April 2015 picture book with the awesome Philip C. Stead, SPECIAL DELIVERY.

I don't know a whole lot beyond that. I do know that some copies of f+g's of WISH are going to be given out at the annual (and superfun!) Disney-Hyperion preview event. If you are invited to that, grab one!

I hate to miss it, but if you're going, please check these two books out. I'm so proud of them both and can't wait to get them out in the world!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bring Back The Blog!

I have no idea if blogs of this nature are relevant or checked or followed at all anymore with the onslaught of social media. This one here has laid dormant for long stretches of time, as I neglected it and wondered about such things. No more! I've officially decided that henceforth, anything I post on Facebook and/or Twitter that has any general amount of substance, I shall also post on my blog! Starting now.

What follows are drawings I did just for fun. Not on assignment, under contract, commission, etc.. I like to, whenever she will allow it, sit down with my 5-year-old daughter and just draw. Usually with her Crayola crayons or markers, that's the way I like it. Last several times I've done this, this Mouseknight has materialized on my paper. Not that it really matters, but I fancy this Mouseknight a lady Mouseknight. A la (perhaps) Brienne of Tarth.

What does it mean? Will this turn into a book? Maybe. Maybe not. For now... bring forth the Mouseknight!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Gallery Nucleus

Those of you who know my personal history, might remember that I came up in the fine art/gallery world with a dash of graphic design. In the year 2000 (or so) I turned my back on all of that and decided to give children's books a go. I got my foot in the door, loved it so much then and now, and it's been no looking back.

A couple of months ago, I got an email from a gallery in the Los Angeles area, inviting me to contribute some work to a group illustration show. It's been the first time I've corresponded with any gallery in about 10+ years. Turns out fellow illustrator, Dan Santat, was celebrating his new and cool picture book, The Adventures of Beekle, by headlining an illustration show at Gallery Nucleus, with the theme of Imaginary Friends. I met Dan a couple of summers ago at ALA in Anaheim and he's a super nice, super funny guy. And of course, very prolific and talented too. So I was flattered to be invited in on this.

So with the theme of "Imaginary Friends" in mind, I came up with these two pieces to be included in the show. I guess it's a gorilla or a sasquatch or both or neither. At any rate, it's fun to be involved with a gallery again. Especially one that specializes in quality illustration and illustrators. Super, super cool, really.

The opening reception was Saturday April 19. All pieces from the show are viewable online now and available for purchase through the gallery's website. Check it out here, some impressive pieces in this show!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Etsy Shop

Holy cow, it's been a crazy long time since I've touched this blog. If anybody's left out there reading this, I've got some news to share for this holiday season.

After much thought (and a good bit of apprehension) I've now dipped my toe into the Etsy pool. I just opened a shop to test the waters of offering up some original artwork. Starting out, here, with some modestly priced (at least I think it's modestly priced...?) studies and outtakes from published books as well as some fun personal work for sale.

Please go forth and have a look! It's been a fun idea, going through the archives and putting up some drawings for sale.

Wishing a very happy holiday season to you and yours!

Here's the link to the shop:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Next Big Thing: A Global Blog Tour

There's this thing going around the blogospheres right now where one illustrator sorta tags another to answer a series of questions about her/his next book. I was just asked by the muy talented Renée Kurilla who'd just been asked by the muy talented Mike Boldt, and so on and so forth. Read on to the end of this blog post to see who I've tapped on the shoulder to take over from here.

Now I shall attempt to answer said questions about my forthcoming picture book, WHAT FLOATS IN A MOAT? with author Lynne Berry. The book comes out July 9 from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. In fact, I just got my first bound copy yesterday and it looks slammin! In fact, I just got wind the other day that it got a starred review in Publishers Weekly! Hoo boy that's good stuff!


What genre does your book fall under? Well, it's a picture book. Other than that, I'd say it has a medieval science-y feel to it. It's about a goat and a chicken who try to cross a moat to deliver to a queen (who happens to be a pig) her several barrels of buttermilk. There's a lesson in here about buoyancy and flotation with a neat little addendum at the back. The goat's name is Archie, and I'll leave it up to you to get the historical pun there.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? Since they're animals, I reckon they'd have to be voice actors. I could see them being British since the book has this whole royal vibe to it. So for Archie the goat, I'd go with Ricky Gervais who's one of the best. For Skinny the hen, I'd have to go with Ashley Jensen who was his fine counterpart in EXTRAS. The queen would, for sure, have to be Dame Maggie Smith who kills it in Downton Abbey and anything she does.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Archie the goat and Skinny the hen must solve the puzzle of how to cross a castle moat to deliver several barrels of buttermilk to the queen but it's not as easy as it sounds because Archie has some weird ideas about how to float across the moat that involves skinny the hen having to drink massive quantities of buttermilk to build ships out of the barrels and will any of it ever work and will Skinny stay skinny after drinking a ton of buttermilk and check out the knight's helmet on Archie, wow that's cool!

Who is publishing your book? That'd be Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? It has an old world, old school timeless feel and appeal, not unlike the books of my heroes William Steig and Quentin Blake. But I just looked online and was told that those who viewed WHAT FLOATS also viewed BULLY by Laura Vaccaro Seeger and my bigtime pals Tom Anglegerger's and Cece Bell's new one CRANKEE DOODLE. I have no idea if it's anything like those, because I still need to be seeing those stat!

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest? The language is very sharp, clever, and funny, and witty, the characters are standouts, the design of the book is tip-top (cheers, Chloe Foglia!) with nice heavy boards and printed on a bee-yootiful uncoated paper. In fact, thanks much to Chloe, Julia Maguire, and early-on-the-job Kevin Lewis. And of course cheers to Lynne Berry if you're out there reading this. I hope to meet you someplace, someday.

Thanks to Renée for the invite here. I will be handing it off now to the most excellent Mr. Frank Dormer, who will be dishing about his forthcoming book THE ADVENTURES OF JO SCHMO: SHIFTY BUSINESS. Take it away, Frank!