Monday, August 23, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Face(book)

For any blog readers who are also Facebook users who are not also Facebook friends with me, Matthew Cordell... I just opened a new illustrator profile on Facebook. I had a Facebook "group" listed under the same moniker, but found out it was pretty limited in usability. I couldn't post updates and news into feeds and what not. I know. B-o-o-o-ring.

Anyways, if you are reading this and are also on Facebook and are not already one of my Facebook friends.... Please, let us be friends? This link oughtta get you there.

Look for the pig on the bicycle.

Monday, August 16, 2010

There Will Be Blood... er, Sketches.

I just finished up the first round of sketches for a new book I'm working on. This book is a book of poems written by the uber-talented, critically acclaimed novelist Gail Carson Levine (!). The publisher, HarperCollins (my first with them).

Anyhow... the first thing I do before sketching is... panic. Then procrastinate. Then read and re-read the manuscript and panic and procrastinate. Drawing, I've said, is a scary, scary thing. OK. Cue that "world's smallest violin".

Then, I'm ready. I pull up a cup of coffee and print off the manuscript. In this case, the manuscript has been very graciously laid out by my wonderful art director here, Martha Rago. Type is set and placed and paginated. This is very helpful.

For less distraction, I usually do my sketches offsite. So I need to assemble my arsenal. First, I grab a ream of the finest drawing paper a guy can buy (koff-koff).

Yeah, it's just flimsy old printer/copy paper. But I've found this to be the best for sketching. For the following reasons: a) if I scrap a sheet (it happens), it's not gonna break some bank; b) it's semi-translucent and good for a quick trace should I need to trace something I've just sketched to rework, overlay, etc.; and c) it's the perfect size for my flatbed scanner (more on this later).

I will also be needing a pencil... your everyday Dixon Ticonderoga HB will do (those "no. 2" pencils they asked you to bring when you took the SAT's). And a new favorite, the click eraser.

Last, not least, I need a trusty portable pencil sharpener. I bought mine at one of those "everything's a dollar" stores when I was a senior in high school. Apparently Disney ordered way too much Rescue Rangers merchandise so a lot got dumped into the ol' dollar bins. This little guy's done me good (more than he might say for me--looks like he took a dip in some ink sometime, somewhere).

Weeks (if not months) later, I end up with a pile of paper (51 sheets to be exact), a nubbier pencil and quite a few clicks taken off the eraser.

Exhibit A: Let's take a look at a sample. What I needed was a drawing of a cow chewing away at a tall, tall plant that stretches high up into the sky. You may be able to see, at the bottom of the sheet, several failed attempts at a cow's face and head. By the time I got it right, I was up at the top left corner of the page. So I drew the rest of the plant off to the right. Instead of re-drawing the whole thing as one successful piece. This is the digital age, brothers and sisters, and that would be a waste of time. I will scan and splice the two successful pieces together later on the computer.

Exhibit B: Occasionally, while sketching, I may rethink my choices on a face. Or position. Proportion. If I've got a basically good drawing, instead of starting all over with the pencil, I'll draw a better face or make notes off to the side on how I should rework (cut/paste, resize, etc.) this on the computer, after it's all scanned in. Digital. Age.

Below is my spliced, resized, reworked sketch in place of a finished layout. I blurred GCL's poem cause it ain't mine to share.

And below is that other sketch reworked.

Stepping back a minute... This desk is where I bring that pile of 51 pages of sketches. Power up the computer and scanner and settle in for a marathon scanning session. Followed by a marathon Photoshop (for dummies) session.

My not-very-fancy-but-does-just-fine desktop scanner. Thank you for being you, lil' guy.

And when I'm done, after, I'm sure several rounds of sketch revisions, when everyone is happy and ready to proceed to final art, I will move everything over here. The drawing table.

And yeah, I know what you're thinking. I should probably go clean up this place now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


A few new things from the sketchbook.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Top Ten (July 2010)

My favorite things from last month...

1. THE DREAMER. I picked up this new one at the library. It was face out on display at our library. The cover alone was striking enough to pique interest. Always awesome Peter Sis illustrates this superb Pam Muñoz Ryan telling (with some creative liberties, I take it?) of celebrated poet Pablo Neruda's defining childhood years. Wonderfully written and illustrated.

2. TOMIE DePAOLA. Somehow I managed to never see a Tomie DePaola book for this many years. Then, a couple of months ago, I found a copy of THE POPCORN BOOK in with some of Julie's old childhood book collection. Loved it. Little by little I've worked my way through his books. My faves are, of course, STREGA NONA as well as the autobiographical pic books he's done. I also especially love the art in THE KNIGHT AND THE DRAGON. His work has a sweet style. Very stylish and very approachable.

3. ABE LINCOLN CROSSES A CREEK. I really like John Hendrix's work. And I really like how this book's written, by Deborah Hopkinson. I like how it reads. It's a neat boyhood tale of Abraham Lincoln. And it's almost like some old dude is sitting on the porch of a log cabin out in the woods spinning off this story. That's the voice of it. Real cool.

4. HUNGER GAMES. If you haven't read the HUNGER GAMES books, now is the perfect time to do it. The third and last (correct me if I'm wrong) book comes out in a few short weeks. Last month, I was poking around for something new to read. Turns out I'd somehow missed the brilliance of Suzanne Collins. Julie recommended these to me (as she does most all that I read) and they are G-O-O-O-O-D.

5. THIS CITY by STEVE EARLE. This song closed up the first season of TREME. He wrote it just for the show. After it ended I looked all around the internet to try and hear it again. Last month, it popped up on YouTube.

6. POP CHIPS. Don't know if these are healthier than the standard greasy crisps (I think they are, somewhat), but they are crunchy tasty salt bombs.

7. SLAM. I have only read one other Nick Hornby, HIGH FIDELITY. I liked it. I also liked the movie adaptation of ABOUT A BOY (not having read that one). At some point last month, I came across SLAM. It had me laughing out loud in parts. About midway through it takes a turn for the somewhat unexpected. And by the end, it leaves you feeling like, "well... not great, but that's what would likely happen in real life". And for all these reasons, I totally dug it.

8. JETS TO BRAZIL. This now defunct post-punk (correct me if I'm wrong), post-Jawbreaker rock band was all up in my ears back around '99 and '00. One day while sketching around at the library, I dialed into this music again on my ancient 2nd generation iPod. Takes me back in a good way.

9. HOT NEW NIB. As previously mentioned, I'm all about these new Dormer-donated nibs. Can't wait to see what else I can get outta these boys.

10. ICE CREAM MAKER. I wonder if every married couple registers for a gift, receives it after the wedding and never uses it. This was destined to be Julie's and mine of that nature. One day, Julie had an itch to crack the seal on the box and to read the manual and to see how some homemade ice cream might taste. Dang. It's good.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Nib Love

A few months back, talented kid book author/illustrator and e-pal o' mine Frank Dormer, read a line on my blog where I was whining on about the love/hate relationship I have for my nibs of choice. He very graciously offered to send me a fistful of the nibs he's had good luck with. I got Frank's nibs in the mail and was ever so thankful, but had to set them aside to keep up work with the sketches, sketches, sketches (the pencil, not the pen).

Fast forward to now and I finally had a minute to settle down with these new nibs. Man they are like butter! Glide across the paper. Ink flows like dang water. Line thickness is all over the place (that's a good thing) and ever so easy to control. I asked Frank where he got these and he said he bought a box at an art supply shop 20 years ago. Gulp. Better handle these babies with care.

Below is a sample of how they drive. Plus another drawing I did with a brush from my dirty ink water (used to wash up the pen afterward). Just for kicks.

Thanks again, Frank! Us pen/inkers gotta stick together for sure.