Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Characters and Radon

This week I've been clearing out the crawl space in our basement so we can have a radon filtration system installed down there. I guess they cover up the crawl space and do whatever else. There was 10 plus years of junk crammed into that crawl space including these massive canvases I was painting back in 1999-2000. By massive, I mean 4' x 6' average. By canvases, I mean 6 or seven of those monsters. I think I only still like one of them. I've decided to remove most of the the canvases from the stretchers and just roll/store the canvases so I don't ever have to move them again and maybe never look at them again either.

Besides radon fun, I've also been knee deep in picture book sketches. I'm working on sketches/art for 3 picture books right now. And I've also been developing a pitch for an author/illustrator idea that I sent to my awesome editor at Disney-Hyperion last week. Fingers crossed for that one!

Enough words, how about some pictures? Here are three character sketches I did for one of the picture books currently underway. (a beautiful text by the lovely Rebecca Kai Dotlich via Boyds Mills Press) I did a handful of completely different looks for this central character. These drawings were from one of my favorites. We went a different way, but I still quite like these drawings as stand-alones. I hope you do too. Radon power!

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!