Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays from Bedford Falls

Last night, Julie and I watched good ol' IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE for the umpteenth time. Unapologetically sappy, sweet, and happy-ended. It remains one of my all-time favorite movies. So much sarcasm, pessimism, and negativity can bring a fella down these days, so IAWF is just what the dr. ordered. Thanks, Capra.

The final scene kills me, without fail, at each and every viewing. Tears me the heck down.

"To my big brother George: the richest man in town."


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We'll hitch-hike, bus, or yellow-cab it.

Moving right along. Things are going well. Even though the snow keeps rearing head, we finally invested in a snow blower... er snow THROWER (technically). Our awesome neighbor, Gary, helped me pick one out and also pick it up. Their car is a big one. And the operator's manual has a great drawing on the cover. No mo sno shovel...o.

Gearing up to finish this sketch deadline for Friday. In the final stretches just now. Bit like these joggers that're going into the book (click and zoom?):

Romy is, as of yesterday, no longer a premee. Her anticipated due date was always Dec 16 and there we are. She continues to rock and roll. Meanwhile, my hair approaches mullet status--in sick need of cut. Car screams for an oil change. Stuff like that. It'll get done. Babe first, man.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back on the juice.

I'm having one of my first cups of coffee in weeks. I went off the junk for a good long while cause I didn't need any more reasons to be not at sleep. Plus I was afraid the coffee would blast on the sensitive stomach I was having for a while. But the groove is back and the sleep is somewhat regulated, so welcome back old friend!

I'm inching closer and closer to my approaching sketch deadline. It goes well. I have two weeks til due and I continue to chip away with each day. It's 50+ sketches for a very sweet prose poem novel by Julie Sternberg. B+W drawings, which are a personal fave. Another quick peek at a rough (click for a zoom):

I've got Barney and Friends going in the background. Gearing up for a more kid-friendly television environment. Is Barney what the babes are into these days? It's like eating spoon after spoon of sugar. I have a soft spot for Sesame Street. There will be Sesame Street in this house.

Julie went buck-camera wild with a very sunny afternoon, our cat Tobin, and baby Romy sprawled out on the floor. Here's a sample of her excellent photographings. This, a very Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling moment. And a fine day!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Workin Man

Don't you know it's hard out there for a new Pop? But the show must go on and I gotta get back to work. It feels great actually. Stretching me artistic legs again. Exercising that part of the brain and what not. I have a deadline that my editor, Tamar, at Abrams graciously let me bump back a few weeks to Dec 19. Well, I have a good bit done, but it's very good to have that extra room to breathe. Mmm, hey, here's a little rough I just scanned:

And our dear Romy is doing so well. She's 38 weeks old today (this including her in-womb time). In two short weeks she'll be up there with the term kids. Ah, my dear. How we love thee! Our hearts, our hearts!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Romy in the Homy

The Romy has landed! On Friday night Julie and I brought babygirl home with us. It was a sweet moment, but packed with fear. Cause the nurses in the Infant Special Care Unit were always there to do the bulk of work and to help calm our nerves. But once we hopped in the car for home, it was just the three of us.

Cue sleep deprivation. Pain.

We figured out how to manage the lack of sleep, just in the last couple of days. It's better. The first two days, I was so stressed, I literally felt like I was getting a constant punch in the gut.

But Romy is a beaut. Pride and Joy. Lots of chowing and lots of sleeping and lots of pooping and peeing. Sweet faces, squirmy arms and legs and clinched toes and fingers. Doc says she's especially strong. It's great.

Welcome home, Romy. The adventure begins.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What day is it?

I don't remember. Is it Sunday? I think yesterday was Sunday. Or Monday.

Gotta deadline end of month. Don't think it's yet end of month. Close. Too.

Hospital. Home. Hospital. Home. Hospital.

Missed a meal or two or three. Didn't notice. Missed some sleep.

My heart swelled. Sometimes it almost popped. When Julie sang to you for the first time. When that song came on the radio. Right now.

Your earlobe. Your chin, your fingernails.

What day is it, Romy? Romy?


I love you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Romy Bess Halpern-Cordell

Saturday November 1, 2008 at 3:55 am, Julie and I met face-to-face with our beautiful babe girl, Romy Bess Halpern-Cordell. This was 6 weeks earlier than anticipated.

Easily the most significant, most surreal, and most potent day of my life. I crumbled.

Romy is a "premee" but weighs in at a substantial 4 lbs, 15 oz. A full blown 17 inches in length. A beautiful head of fuzzed brown/blonde hair. And though she's got some work to do, she is on a straight path to rock and roll. Julie and I are so in love. Over the freaking moon.

To all the parents out there who've shown off endless pics of their babies, I get it. To all the parents who've told countless childbirth stories at countless dinner parties, I get it. To all the parents who've gone goo and goo and gah and gah to all too many baby faces, I get it.

I get it. I get it. I get it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Forever Young: the book!

I just found out about this. A combination of two of my fave things--children's books and Bob Dylan. Ginee Seo Books (Simon and Schuster) just pubbed a new picture book based on one of my favorite Dylan songs, "Forever Young". It's a real sappy tune, and I love it. It really does make a perfect picture book, now that I'm thinking about it. And the illustrator, Paul Rogers, did a kickin job of getting it done. I hadn't heard of him before, and looked him up. His other illo stuff (on his site) is quite different than what's in Forever Young, but very nice. On his blog (newer stuff?) there's tons of excellent drawings. More sketchy line work that I dig a lot. He talks more about his work on the book, on his blog here. Great blog too!

AND, there's actually a promotional video to accompany the launch of this book, backdropped by this sweet Dylan ditty! So great.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Welcome to my world.

A typical email exchange between me and a family member down south. This one, with my stepma, Shirley, about her and my Dad's cat "Smelly".

From: Shirley
Subject: Smelly's Show
Smelly cat should be on this show. Watch Danelle and The Catty Shack on Animal Planet's Cats 101 Saturday, Dec. 6th 8:00pm EST.

From: Me
Re: Smelly's Show
We don't have cable so we won't see it. Are you on too or just the cat?

From: Shirley
Re: Smelly's Show
They filmed me & Smelly and I had to show & talk about my Smelly handbag.

From: Me
Re: Smelly's Show
Smelly handbag?? Sounds like a lot of fun. You'll have to tape it for us.

From: Shirley
Re: Smelly's Show
I had a pocketbook made from Smelly's hair couple years ago, Daniell @ Catty Shack takes the hair and weaves it into yarn and then makes pocketbooks from the yarn.


Monday, October 20, 2008


I've not asked, but I'm sure my illustrator pal, Jeff Newman has had his unfair share of Seinfeld-inspired jokes.

Saturday, Jeff and I held our semi-annual meeting of the minds at Kenosha's upper crust, The Brat Stop restaurant. Jeff is one of the few children's book illustrators I know personally and we share common interests, frustrations, likes/dislikes, laughs, and stuff like that. He's a real nice guy.

Jeff's got some good stuff in works. I've got stuff in works too, so that's what was discussed (shown and told) at said meeting o' minds. Good times, as always.

Jeff just did a great interview with children's book blogger, Minh Le (or is it Roscoe P. Hargrove?) at his snappy and fun kids lit. blog, Bottom Shelf Books. Definitely worth a read, here.

If you're short on time, here's a pic pulled from that. Jeff taking a puff on a very Arthur Conan Doyle-ian pipe. Goes well with the violin and hearth in background.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Everything you ever wanted to know about Matthew Cordell...*

About one year ago, I wrapped drawings for a picture book titled, MIGHTY CASEY written by one James Preller. Before I go any further, I must say that it is not so uncommon for authors and illustrators who work on the same book to never meet, correspond, shake hands, lock eyes. But one thing led to another (a shared Dylan obsession kicked it off), and now JP and I are old email buddies (one day we'll meet face to face). And MIGHTY CASEY will come out from Feiwel and Friends in the forthcoming spring (March-April-ish, 2009).

Preller's got a top notch blog. A good mix of the personal with the business. And today, he has chosen me as his subject. He's starting a line of interviews for his blog and I got to kick if off. So, please take a moment, and head over there for all the dirty secrets.

*...but were afraid to ask.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

That's a promise!

I just came across this video. It's weird and too excellent. Ben Kingsley (er... SIR Ben Kingsley), for whatever reason is doing an homage to Ian MacKaye and one of my old faves, the early 80's hardcore band, Minor Threat. Gandhi, anyone? Good lord, this vid rules. Watch and rejoice, Minor Threat old schoolers! (WARNING! lyrics are peppered with F-bombs. Not for kiddies who might be reading this!)

Sir Ben Kingsley STOMPS into the shoes of Minor Threat's Ian MacKaye from Mean Magazine on Vimeo.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Lion, the Unicorn, and the Baby

I found out last week, that a recent picture book I illustrated has just won an award. THE MOON IS LA LUNA, written by author Jay Harris, is a book of poems that combine (with rhymey fun) both English and Spanish language. The award is the 2008 Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry. And the award is the "honor" award, which is a nice way of saying "runner-up". This is really excellent! The top prize went to the well known Linda Sue Park and her book Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems), Pictures by Istvan Banyai. (Banyai, incidentally, is a keen, keen illustrator. Very nice to be in the same place, same time.) I might also add that since this is a poetry award, my part is that of support player. But I'll certainly take any "by association" praise. Congratulations to Jay Harris!

This weekend, a lot was done to prepare for the arrival of Julie's and my babe girl. We secured orders on furniture (crib, dresser, etc). Who knew the whole crib thing could be so complicated? It was a major accomplishment. And we also did a tour of the hospital where the birth will take action. We saw the labor/delivery rooms, as well as the nursery, as well as the rooms where you decompress and recoup after the birth. Wow. It's almost here. There were some newborns in the nursery, hot out of the oven. Man they were awesome. I never looked at a baby like I do now. It's real different, knowing you'll be holding one of your own soon. Those babes were wrapped up so tight, only their heads could move. Man. Cool.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Blog Love

I just got a bit of blog love from my friend Esme Raji Codell over at her blog yesterday. Part of an ongoing event to spread the word on your favorite blogs by way of an "I love your blog" award. What I'm then supposed to do is keep the blog love going and recommend my favorite 7 other blogs on my blog (not including, I suppose, the blog/blogger who's recommended me/you). Kind of like a chain letter, maybe, but there's no deathly consequences if you fail to participate. And this is all for the love of the blog. Therefore, check out these 7 excellent blogs:

1. Julie Halpern
2. James Preller
3. Jeff Newman
4. Feiwel and Friends
5. The Comics Reporter
6. The Daily Cross Hatch
7. Drawn!

Then, favorite blogs, to keep this thing going, according to Esme, there are rules:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!

This is DEFINITELY the most times I've used the word "blog" on my blog in any given blog post since I started this here blog. Blog.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I ain't goin out like that.

Man. I just had a good ol' physical at the doc's office. Poked, prodded, bloodwork, the whole gig. Call came few days later and turns out I got some high cholesterol in there. What the freak?! I've been a vegetarian for the last 15 years!! I don't know. Maybe I eat too much cheese. Too much egg. Jeez. They want me on some chol. lowering drug, Crestor. I don't like the name and I don't like the thought. I hear tell it ain't good on the liver either. Then, I got to thinking that MAYBE I'm being scammed. Why are they PUSHING drugs on me? Who's palms are getting GREASED offa my good name? Do I REALLY have high cholesterol? Who do you trust? Paranoia, my friends.

So, I whined a little bit to my nurse and told her I'd rather try out the diet and exercise route first. Rather than pump up with some hot new pharmaceutical. So I'm hitting treadmill hard starting today. Diet...? I'm already veg!

BTW, both my moms and my pops are high in cholesterol. Hereditary? Thanks!

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Scraps

Since I finished the new book, I've been meaning to put up these watercolor and pen test sheets I like to post and post. These scraps of watercolor paper I keep to my side when I'm making final art--I keep 'em handy and use to test the pen before inking, and test the watercolor before coloring. I hope my posting these things, it's not too self-indulgent. I dig how they come out in the end. I was, at a time, a huge Cy Twombly fan. Still am, to a degree, so you may see why I care.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Feeling good cause I just wrapped my first pic book offering as illustrator AND author. Today, I sent off just short of 50 drawings to my good people at Feiwel and Friends who are publishing this little ditty. They bought in to pumping the page count a bit and letting me do some illo'd endsheets. Good on ya, Feiwel! Will be out in fall of '09, but til then here's a sneak, hot off my bunk scanner:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Birthday Me

Tomorrow is my 33rd birthday. September 11 is my birthday by unfortunate coincidence, but it is what 'tis. It's also that guy Moby's, so I ain't alone. To all you out there looking for last minute gift ideas (for me, not Moby), here's eleven things I'm into these days:

1. vintage 50's and 60's eyeglasses
2. Flight of the Conchords
3. Spongebob Squarepants (a strange, sudden regained interest)
4. Bob Dylan (still)
5. John Lennon (the best Beatle)
6. popcorn
7. Simon James
8. Gilmore Girls (don't judge!)
9. William Steig
10. bubble gum
11. grapefruit (ruby reds)

Or, a simple happy comment on otherwise one of the saddest days of American history will do.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Creatives Procreate

I hereby announce with massive joy that Julie and I are expecting our first babe. Julie's now 25 weeks in and we just found out semi-recently that we're having a girl! Girls rule! We're super psyched, and come xmas time or so, there'll be a new addition to the Halpern-Cordell household.

Here's one of the more recent snapshots of said sweet baby girl.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let There Be Light

When it came to prepping final art, I thought I had it all figured out. I had a three step method. (See this old blog post where I lay it all out.) 1-Transfer approved sketches to good paper. 2-Ink the transfered sketches. 3-Finish out in Watercolor. This deal worked out good enough. No need to improve. So I thought.

Recently, I needed to make a single piece of art in layers and to do this I needed to see through several sheets of paper to get everything to line up. So, I bought a light box. It worked out swell. Then, as I went to get cracking on final art for the book I'm doing now, I had a light-box revelation. I could totally bypass that whole "transfer" nonsense (part 1) and use the light box to trace over approved sketches and ink at the same time. Hallelujah, boy, cause that transfer stuff was mind-numbing.

Thereby skipping step 1 altogether.

What I'm talking bout:

Take, for instance, this approved sketch.

I print out a laser print of said sketch, get a piece of sturdy hot pressed watercolor paper, and click on the light box.

Tape the laser print securely to the back of the watercolor paper (in at least two places, so there's no shifting between sheets).

Begin inking on top of the good stock. With the light shining through underneath, you got a good lead to follow.

Finish up and carefully pull the tape off with the laser print underneath. Right on.

Why wasn't I doing this all along?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jam On It

Last week, Julie and me and family were in Orlando, FL's Walt Disney World. It's crazy. Huge. Blown up. It was fun.

This week, I'm officially in finals for my much talked about (by me) first author/illo pic book. It's exciting. Intimidating, as well, but all quite, quite good. I'm jazzed.

Before we left for Dis. World, I got a full set of color proofs on a pic book I recently finished drawings for, called TOOT TOOT ZOOM. My first work with Candlewick on a great story written by Phyllis Root! As the book's designer, Pam Consolazio, said, there's gonna be some tweaks to the overall color for another set of proofs, but it's looking pretty sharp. Here's the cover (a bad crop, a little wonky on the color--apologies...):

And now I must jam. Gotta deadline, September 15.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pig Droppings–You Can Win!

Dear Readers,

Below is a sketch from a picture book I'm currently working on. A pig runs, and as he does so, several choice items fall out of the bag he's holding. I'm wondering how easily identifiable those items are. Can you identify them? I don't know. If you can (first one who does correctly via "comments"--include your name), I'll send this pencil sketch, signed, to your home. Not much incentive to comment, but 'tis what 'tis. (Disclaimer: it's on standard "copy" paper. Not high-dollar paper.) If you're right, I'll post it to "comments" and have you email me your mailing address. Watch out!



(click on image to get a closer look...)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Color Me Badd

I'm in the middle of sharpening sketches and sharpening text on one of my newest picture books. This will be my first offering as both illustrator AND author, so it holds a special, special place in me heart. I'm very fortunate to be working on this with Feiwel and Friends--the too awesome Liz Szabla, the too awesome Rich Deas, and the too awesome special guest editor Rebecca Davis. I'm in good hands here. So I just whipped up some color tests to see how the art will look with some different color scheme ideas. I'm diggin the idea of a limited color palette. I'm leaning toward the more monochrome ones--specifically the all purple/gray background right now for a few reasons. We shall see.

(click to zoom)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sweet, sweet Comic-Con!

I'm all sad cause Comic-Con is going on in San Diego right now and Julie and I aren't there. We went on our honeymoon in 2003 for the first time (serious, serious nerds). Then, several years later, we went again in '07. It's straight bliss for comics geeks like me. Totally overblown. Totally packed (actually completely sold out this year). Totally Hollywooded and pop-cultured out. Pepper in all the great indie publishers and tons of panel discussions and artist talks and seas of crazies dressed up in elaborate, weird, costume and that's Comic-Con. I grew up on the superhero stuff, but now my tastes run more towards the indie true-to-life books. Anyhow, Comic-Con is a rare place where you get the absolute best of both of those worlds. Not many places does the great Stan Lee walk the same halls at the great Lynda Barry! Aw, man! We're not there!

Maybe next year.

Dudes like this Boba Fett are everywhere. Snapped this guy at the end of the day, walking back to the hotels last year. Just like it was nuthin. (This photo doesn't do justice to the many freak, goofy, elaborate, or obscure costumers up in this thing. But the pic's all I had. And Boba was my main man when I was, like, 8.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sheep Sketches

Some new pen sketches of pop and son sheep. Pre and post wool removal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

5 on the floor

I had a minute to clean up and reorganize the studio yesterday. It was in another sad state after a couple of months of working and not cleaning. It seemed to me then, a lot could be learned from an illustrator's stuff that's strewn about the floor (or just the messy ones, I guess). So I scanned 5 random objects and here goes:

This is a little 6" x 6" picture book Julie and I picked up on a recent trip to Toronto. Sweet, cool little colored pencil drawings of these two lil' sisses that are moles. One of a series by Roslyn Schwartz. They also sell these awesome little finger puppets too, which we didn't buy.

A sheet of shiny, foil Canada stickers bought on same Toronto trip–meant for our suitcase that has sticks of our various travel locales. As you can see, the stick hasn't made it to the case. In fact, til yesterday, this was still in a studio pile of Canadian souvenirs.

A copy of some songs by FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS (one of the best done shows on TV of recent times). This is not their newest album, but a bunch of songs (from a bootleg or something, I think?) that Julie's library assistant, Katie, was so nice to make for us. Hilarious.

A little work out I did with the pen one day. Always easy to whip up a round of hand drawings (immediate subject matter). Being a righty, I have to draw all left ones.

Phaidon's doing a beautiful suite of Jean-Jacques Sempé books in English translation. This is the first of the series of "Nicholas" books written by René Goscinny with drawings by Sempé. Nice cloth bound volumes with little metallic Nicholas characters inset right into the cover. Very fine, toothy, uncoated papers inside. (Only thing that puts me off is the huge PHAIDON logotype they gotta put on the cover of all their books!) Good stuff. Good times. I even joined Phaidon's "Nicholas Club" but I reckon I'll talk about that some other time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Steig Ball, Dropped.

Earlier this week, I noticed three original William Steig single panel cartoon drawings were up for auction on ebay (this is pretty rare). Two were kinda ragged. There were areas cut out and painted out--both, I assume, corrections made by Steig himself. But because of that, I didn't feel like paying up. Though the third was in, what appeared to be, good shape.

It's not an image I was loving, but hey... it's Steig!

Well. I totally forgot to bid on the dang thing, and it just got sold for the one and only bid of 149 bucks! (Last Steig cartoon I tracked on ebay sold for $800.) I'm kicking myself. Really.

Better luck next time.

Monday, June 30, 2008


I just finished reading the best interview from Tom Spurgeon (The Comics Reporter) with Julie's and my favorite cartoonist, Lynda Barry. If you're not a fan, well, you gotta be!

Her newest book, WHAT IT IS, was recently published by Drawn and Quarterly. Much of the interview focuses on this, but, there's lots of stuff about her history in comics and recent hardships due to the downsizing and/or selling of the many alt weekly newspapers her comic strip has ran in over these many years. She's awesome. Read this and more here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How to Ollie in 8 Simple Steps

Here's two more finished pages of my ongoing (currently online-published) graphic novel, VILLAGE PARK. This is the first of a handful of "trick tips" sections/pages that will serve as major breaks throughout the book. And this one kicks off chapter one. Once I get the full first chapter finished, I'll publish it to the official VP webpage. Til then, there's just the prologue for readin'.

(click to zoom)

Friday, June 20, 2008

P.S., R.I.P.

Today, my old Boston electric pencil sharpener died. I got it when I was in the eleventh grade (1991).

Therefore, it gave a good, solid 17 years of service. I felt it going for the last month or so. The motor was wheezing and wouldn't start sometimes when I put a pencil in. Today, I got more of that, then the motor stalled for good. They don't make this old model anymore, but I got the next best thing.

Guess X-acto's teamed up with Boston to make the new ones. A lot sure has changed in the last 17 years. I went with the hideous tan, or "putty", version (bypassing the sleek, all-black one) for old time's sake.

Funny thing. It died with me sharpening charcoal pencils I'm using to draw a graphic novel that's loosely based on my eleventh grade year of high school. Wicked.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Village Park Prologue

Well, here's the beginning of my ongoing graphic novel, VILLAGE PARK. I've set up a new page from my website where you can click-thru and read what's done, when it's done. So far, the very first section, the prologue, is complete. This means, I'm about 1/40th done! Holy mother. Baby steps. Check it out here:

To any of my picture book aged readers, there's some PG-13-ish language. Written for teens and up.