Monday, December 31, 2007

The Dirty South

Just got back from our annual pilgrimage down south for the holidays, Julie and me. It's always a whirlwind gig. So many people to see, catch up with, visit, and eat with in just a few days time. It's dang exhausting. Always interesting to hear what people have been doing, in my absence, back home. Best of which, is my dad's port-a-john tale.

About a month ago, my Pop noticed an abandoned port-a-john toilet turned on it's side on the shoulder of a country road (the kind used at construction sites, outdoor concerts, etc.). There it sat for weeks, unclaimed. So, reason enough, my Pop figured it was as good as his. Not sure why he would want such a thing, but it's really just beside the point. So Pops conned my brother into riding with him in the truck (said they were just going to haul off some trash) so he could grab this, he guessed, "unused" toilet stall in broad daylight. Pops claimed it was, anyway, "brand new." My bro's a bit more squeamish when it comes to this type of renegade act, thereby the fib on Pop's part. So, they got there, the truck was pulled over, and after a lotta roadside hemming and hawing, my brother finally slinked out of the truck and helped Pops heave it into the back of the truck. Blue liquid (sanitizer?) splashing all over. They high-tailed it on home, with the toilet stall dripping, pouring blue juice out the back of the truck. I'm not sure he'd realized it til he got it all the way home, but he was leaving a wet, blue trail all the way from the scene of the nab all the way back to the homestead.

Once he got it home, Pops was kind of at a loss as to what he wanted it for. Mostly, it seemed like it was a prop for a good story. A punchline to the end of a joke. He tried to pawn it off on the neighbors who just put in a swimming pool. "It'd make a heck of a 'pool house'." They wouldn't take it. He tried to give it to my aunt and uncle who have a pool in their backyard. Nope. Once it was played out, and sitting there for a good few weeks, his conscience got the best of him and he called a number stuck to the port-a-john door. Asked if they'd lost any toilets lately. They said they had and they'd be glad to come out and reclaim the thing. Several weeks have passed, and the toilet still sits in the backyard, behind the garage now. Unclaimed.

Maybe they didn't want it after all. Maybe it was laying there, on that country road, for a reason. Pops thinks, if nothing else, it'll make a good tool shed.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Flying South for the Holidays

Though I live in the Chicagoland area now, all my family of origin still lives down in the South. My mom lives in the Atlanta area, and my bro, his wife Jenna, my pops and stepma, and aunts, uncles, Grandma, Grandpa–all down in South Carolina. (That's my Pop in the picture. There was a snake in the backyard one day. So there was no confrontation between it and the dogs, he snatched it up at the neck and dropped it off in the woods unharmed.) So tomorrow, Julie and I fly down to Atlanta to visit with Moms. Then, couple days later, drive up with Eric and Jenna to visit rest of Cordell ensemble in SC. There'll be at least one big southern style feast. Lots of greasy, fatty, and tasty home-cooked vittles. Just like I grew up on. The stomach's not particularly used to that anymore, so it might get rocked. Sometimes it does. But I enjoy the taste, company, and good times. It's always fun. Country music on the radio. Dogs all up in it. Southern accents on full-blast.

Travelin and all, won't be much good with the bloggin. So, you know, Happy Holidays, y'all!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Slow News Day

Actually, there's a lot of recent, very excellent new news cooking. But it's just too early to talk about here. So in lieu of not much disclosable news, here posts a sketch, or outtake, from a graphic novel idea I'm percolating. Teens skateboarding and various issues within/without. This sketch has drifted from one corner of my studio to the next. Went from top of my drawing table, to the floor (where it got dog-eared and rolled over often by my chair), to the top of my computer table, to the top of my scanner, to the floor again, to the top of my laser printer, to where it rests now closed in on the scanner bed. Sweet dreams little drawing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Studio Tour pt. 3

More clutter. Here at the computer table. Things to note include: a paint-by-numbers I did of C-3PO many, many moons ago; the corner of a painting I collaborated on with old drawing/painting/printmaking prof and friend Paul Martyka; a Pantone book opened to process colors; my old school cell phone; the jobs in progress "filing system"; my trusty iMac and scanner flanked by the laser printer and ink jet combo. The iMac I bought, I guess, about a year and a half ago. Before, I was all about the Mac tower setup, but those are so pumped up now that all I really need these days is offered in the consumer grade i. Save some cash. Loads better than the G4 I was struggling on. Desktop picture's one of my favorite pics. Julie and I were at a state park in South Dakota. My sweetest is posing by the "Roberts Prarie Dog Town" sign. Lots of prairie dogs there. Squeaking and popping in and out of holes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Illustrators Eat Too

I first heard about author/illustrator Jeff Newman through an illustration and cartooning blog called Drawn! (based somewhere in Canada, I think. With the .ca and all). Drawn! is a great resource for new stuff in comics and illustration and a good source for inspiration. They did a blog post on Jeff's stuff cause someone there had seen and liked his book Hippo! No, Rhino. There was a link to his site as well. I was really impressed with his work. Very smart, fresh, creative, inventive. All the right stuff. A while later, I noticed he too had also donated a snowflake to this year's Robert's Snow fund raiser (also very cool). In lieu of promotion, the Robert's Snow folks were doing interviews with all the snowflake illustrators. After seeing his interview, I saw Jeff was not too far from me. So a couple weeks back, we met for lunch at The Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI (bout halfway between him and me).

It was my first illustrator blind date. Not weird. Actually, it was awesome. We talked art and the biz forever. I don't get as much of this as I need. He's a real nice fella and we have much in common in practice and likes and also frustrations. Good guy, that Jeff. He got a brat ("Brat Stop" and all). I had what Julie and I always get when we're there...a Wisconsin grilled cheese (what a vegetarian eats at The Brat Stop).

Also did a bit of "show and tell", sharing our past and present projects. Saw some behind-the-scenes Newman in his kick-butt sketch book and then his two published books. I was blown away after seeing Hippo for the first time. I'd seen the cover and what samples he's got on his site, but nothing else. An amazing book. Check it out, really.

Cool times. Looking forward to our next 'sconsin illustrators caucus. Cheese. Brats. Art.

Friday, December 14, 2007

From Sketch to Final in 4 Posts

Above is final art, based on the sketch posted earlier this week. This will be featured on the title page of the upcoming picture book MIGHTY CASEY by James Preller from Feiwel and Friends. Spring '08. Save the date.

Just finished another Julie recommended YA novel, THE BOOK THIEF. So, so good. I'm not the first to say so, cause it was a Printz Honor book. But whatever. Marcus Zusak spun a heck of a yarn and in such a tremendously unique way. When I read it was a Nazi Germany tale, I wasn't aching to read it. I don't usually love putting myself in expectedly upsetting places. And believe me, it upsets. But it was well worth it. Bravo, Zusak. Bravo, man.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Happy Holidays! Cybils Awards!

Above is the image I drew for this year's holiday card offering from Julie and myself. Click on it for a better view. If you happen to read this blog, and you didn't get a card, you can still see it here. Happy belated Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and family. Happy early Christmas to my Christian (or Christian-esque) friends and family. And Happy Holidays to all other friends and family. That about covers it.

Also, many thanks for the nominations to this year's Cybil Awards! (The Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards) RIGHTY AND LEFTY was nom'd in this year's "2007 Fiction Picture Books" category. THE MOON IS LA LUNA was nom'd in this year's "2007 Poetry" category. Check it all out here. Right on!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bringing It All Back Home

Been trying to/thinking bout scoring one of these for some time now. It's probably the most famous image by graphic design legend Milton Glaser. This poster was folded and enclosed in the sleeve of the Bob Dylan Greatest Hits album released in 1967-ish. You can usually find the poster/album combo in decent condition on ebay for around fifty bucks. I was fortunate enough to grab mine for just under 30. I'd actually bought one before that was supposed to be in good condition, but when I got it, the poster had a good tear down at the bottom. Seller graciously refunded. This one, said to be mint, still has a few signs of wear. Guess it's the nature of how it came and the age and all. Probably hard to find one in real "mint."

Anyhow, this poster is so beautiful and on a few levels for me. It's a great illustration and idea (that freakin hair). I love that it was done by Glaser (my design chops coming out here) and the simple tho groovy/futuristic type and image combo is too cool. Plus, of course, I'm a Dylan freak. Took several weeks to get here (shipper was in Hawaii). Glad to finally see this in person. Now, how to frame?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Studio Tour pt. 2

This is the table where I do my drawing. I've got a corkboard just leaning up on the wall where I tack bits of inspiration, works in progress, notes to self, and that sort of thing. There's a layered look to it. Note the, oh, 9" x 10"-ish space on the table that I actually give myself to draw in. Can you find the pipe? It was a birthday gift, one year, from my brother Eric. I rarely use it anymore to smoke my fave cherry tobacco. Mostly now, I chew on it during deep thoughts. There's a lot of stuff here that I could either put away, throw away, or do something with to clear things up. I'm getting to it. Get off my back already!

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's the Deadline?

Working towards a Wednesday morning deadline for a bit of final, final art for a picture book with Feiwel and Friends. Completed the most of the book a month or so ago, and now just tying up the jacket and title page drawings. Sketch above is evidence I'm working. Tobin keeps jumping in my lap. Hungry, and it's only noon. T's 4:15 dinner time's a long time out. Sheesh.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sketches and Kvetches

Sketches from my current sketchbook. From both live and imagined projects. I love a good sketch. I love how rough and immediate and spontaneous it looks. It just can't be duplicated. I sometimes hate to redraw a sketch for a final drawing cause I fear I'll be disappointed in the final cause I like the sketch so much better (it's happened).

I've been nursing a sore throat/cold type of thing all week. I'm much better now, and for the most part, it wasn't at all severe. I was taking this herbal remedy type of thing called goldenseal (Julie was also taking to fight off any possibilities) that's intensely bitter and is supposed to amp up your immune system. I think it might have worked. Anyway, the worst of the thing is these butt-bustin sinus headaches it brought with it. I woke up at 3:30 this morning with headache, took more pain killers and couldn't get fully back to sleep the rest of the night. Woke up this morning (still with headache) and stepped out into the cold and shoveled some snow off the driveway. The exercise in cold pretty much froze off the headache. Natural remedies, my man. Way of the future.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Studio Tour

Aw, man, I gotta clean this place up. But this is it. This is where the work gets done. My studio's one of the bedrooms (for the time being) in our house. So far, so good. I couldn't capture the room with one shot alone, so I did one of those things where you shoot it and shoot it and shoot it and put all the pieces together to get this weird piecemeal whole fisheye effect of a place (the kind of thing Julie gets annoyed by when I do on vacations, e.g. Big Ben and Parliament or e.g. The Grand Canyon). I cleaned the place up not too long ago, but put up against a recent deadline or two, it got out of hand again. More photo documentation and studio tour to come in days soon.

In other news, we woke up to–what I guessed by shoveling it–5 or 6 inches of snow this morning. First big one of the season. Julie valiantly shoveled a wee path of snow down the driveway, even though I told her to wake me up if there was shoveling needed. After her line was complete, she shook me out of bed and I did the rest. Well, I did most of it until one of our lovely neighbors showed up with her snowblower and helped me out. I love our neighbors. As I write this very passage, it continues to snow. Local weatherman Paul K. says we could be in for another 2-4 inches. Snowblowers ain't cheap, man. Believe me, cause I just looked.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Drawing without Sketching

Basically, my process involves sketching, erasing, sketching, erasing in pencil before I go to a final drawing in ink. I don't usually have the nerve to hit the paper with ink without a sort of graphite blueprint to work from underneath. Ink is pretty dang final. You can't really undo it. And I'm not a big "white out" type of guy. So, I've been trying to work in my sketchbook some lately getting rid of the first part. Just to see what happens. Results have ranged from somewhat elegant, to downright ugly. But it's pretty liberating. And it's neat to see where the line goes. Or doesn't. And mistakes aren't always a bad thing. Anyway, these were inspired by a couple day bout of raking lots of leaf accumulation in our back yard. True that.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Final Auction–Robert's Snow 2007

Thank you to all persons who bid on mine and all other snowflakes in auction 2. I didn't get to see what the final bids were before they shut down the auction, but it was flying high last time I checked Friday afternoon.

The final auction starts today for the 2007 Robert's Snow fund raiser. Check out the many excellent art/artists and bid on this last round of original children's illustrator art here. Above is Grace Lin's contribution to this year's event. Grace and her late husband Robert Mercer are the founders of the fund raiser and her piece can also be bid on this week. Get on it folks, and help fund cancer research!