Pallet Cleanser

So for the last two month’s (or has it been three?) I’ve been working on the final art for an upcoming book. I finally finished last week and what a relief! Don’t get me wrong, I loved making it (and I hope it will show!) but it was all consuming and I’m glad to put a fork in it. As I turned in the art, I told my editor I wasn’t even sure what it all looked like anymore because I had been staring at it for so long. She said that was very common at the end of a project and that I should take a break from art and writing for a few days. I thought that sounded like a grand idea. My wife was out of town, my kids were at a sleepover and I had the house all to myself. So I bought myself some grocery store sushi (not as scary as it sounds..this time) and a video game. I was going to have some mindless me time!

Oh man…I should totally title this painting “Sliced Ginger”

Oh man…I should totally title this painting “Sliced Ginger”

It was only an hour and a half before I found myself turning off the video game and heading to the studio to paint. I had one job! Don’t make art, don’t write! And there I was painting! Now to be fair, i wasn’t making an illustration, I wasn’t doing a job. I wasn’t trying to make anything profound. I was just mindlessly painting with zero pressure for it to look like anything. It was like those little slices of ginger that come with the aforementioned, completely passable grocery store sushi. Not great or yummy but effective at telling me I’m done with one flavor and about to start another. At least that’s what I think the ginger is for. Am I doing it right?

A tiny peek

I’m almost done with the art for my latest book. I’m pretty happy with how its coming along, although admittedly I’ve been looking at it all for so long its hard to tell! Anyways here’s a not-too-revealing photo showing the early stage of an illustration.

Crowboat

Wow…I just found some old sketches for an app story about a crow that makes a submarine out of a two liter bottle. The story idea wasn’t great but I do enjoy the idea of a crow making a submarine.

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Notice the rock ballast, the plastic spoon oars and the fork for picking stuff up.  I have no idea how this thing was supposed to be water tight.  Maybe the crow took a few classes on shipbuilding and hydrodynamics.  It sounds very crow like to enroll in such classes.

Notice the rock ballast, the plastic spoon oars and the fork for picking stuff up. I have no idea how this thing was supposed to be water tight. Maybe the crow took a few classes on shipbuilding and hydrodynamics. It sounds very crow like to enroll in such classes.

I got to sign the wall!

I recently had a book reading and signing at the Vero Beach Book Center in Florida. It went great thanks to the help of the awesome employees and their amazing story time host! Whenever needed, she encouraged the kids to stand up and shake the wiggles out. I was a bit nervous so I would stand up and shake the wiggles out too. I gotta tell you that shaking the wiggles out business works! I think world leaders and CEOs should shake the wiggles out before important meetings. I’m telling you a world with the wiggles shaken out is a better world. Anyways after the event I was thrilled and honored to be asked to sign the wall in the stairwell. There were some heavy hitting illustrators with scribbles on that wall! Looking back at this photo I’m both proud…and wish I didn’t add the other four alien heads as afterthoughts. They don’t make sense with the (albeit simple) perspective. Oh well. Good times!

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Disembark

Here’s a sketch from one of the early versions of Field Trip to the Moon where the kids are shown getting ready to disembark from the bus and explore the Moon. This scene didn’t really add anything so I took it out, but I do like how the kid with the crayons doesn’t look to thrilled to be on the moon.

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Goodbye Old Friend

A week ago my dear old dog and friend Marcus passed away. He was a spirited, ornery as hell wire haired fox terrier who had been a close part of my life for 17 years. My wife and I called him one of our “protochildren” (along with two cats), our kids before we had kids. I’ll miss him dearly! If you look at many MANY of my old paintings and illustrations, you’ll find him.

This is very VERY accurate representation of Marcus’s personality.

This is very VERY accurate representation of Marcus’s personality.

A painting from a board book made many years ago staring Marcus.  You’ll be missed, buddy!

A painting from a board book made many years ago staring Marcus. You’ll be missed, buddy!

Alternate cover for Field Trip to the Moon

So right before I turned in the final art for Field Trip to the Moon, I had an idea for an alternate cover. It featured the class and space station more, and the bus less. Basically I just really thought the station should look like it spins to make artificial gravity. The editor passed on it, which I agree with, but I still like the way it looks.

This sketch show an alternate cover design showing the kids departing a station that spins to make artificial gravity.

This sketch show an alternate cover design showing the kids departing a station that spins to make artificial gravity.

And this sketch shows what that station looked like from space. The scale of it is much more enormous than the station used on the title page of Field Trip to the Moon.  See below.

And this sketch shows what that station looked like from space. The scale of it is much more enormous than the station used on the title page of Field Trip to the Moon. See below.

This is the final art of the version used.

This is the final art of the version used.


Getting ready for some painting

Please excuse my disorganized studio. My wife took this photo of me prepping to start final art for a new book. This is where the fun begins!  I’m trying to figure out which illustration I want to paint first and writing down ideas on how to go about it. When things go well, the first illustration can really set the tone and even serve as something like a rosetta stone on how to go about painting the rest of the illustrations.

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Katy Days 2019: Kids as entrepreneurs

Well, Katy Days went great this year! I got to see old friends, I ate good food truck food, There was a beer garden with a Ozzy cover band playing, and no rain! What’s not to like?

So I was doing my Katy Days thing: making and selling paintings (and prints and books). After watching me make a few sales, my 8 year old son Evan wanted to paint something too.  He whipped something up (yellow smiley face) and made a price tag for it.  After watching people go by for 30 minutes, he said "Dad, why isn't my art selling?"  I told him sometimes it takes awhile (fully expecting that it wouldn't sell).  So Evan went off with my friend's family to ride some carnival rides.  While he was away a woman came by, pointed to the smiley face and said "I have to have that!"  I was shocked.   A friend who was with me found Evan so he could participate in the transaction.  He was thrilled! I was convinced the sale was a one-off fluke.

Nope! After Evan’s successful first sale he made a second painting - a flag. Moments later a different woman came by, saw this new painting and wanted to buy it! My mind was blown. What was going on? Anyways I figured if Evans going to be selling paintings he ought to sign them, so I suggested he put his name on the painting before handing it to the woman. I looked away for a moment and when I looked back he had signed his name in sharpie right in the middle of the flag!!!!  The woman looked horrified but she said she'd let us fix it and still take it.  So Evan painted over his name and wrote it in the corner.  I threw in one of my paintings too (flag with trains in the stripes)  and she seemed happy.  It was all very amusing.

After that it was no surprise that several other kids wanted to try to make and sell artwork. One girl, a friend of the family, was very disappointed when her work didn’t sell. It was an underwater scene and I figured it would be good inspiration for the book I’m illustrating now. So I paid her 10 dollars for the painting. I was feeling quite proud of myself like I had done some great kindness when she looked at me, held out her hand and said “Excuse me, the painting cost 15 dollars.”

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Successful launch despite storms!

Well, Field Trip to the Moon has cleared the launchpad! Last Monday night’s book launch at the Lawrence, Kansas Public Library was a bit soggy but overall great! Snacks were had, aliens were drawn, books were signed… everybody seemed to have a good time! The book is now available at most bookstores (if you’re doesn’t have it, request it!) and online via Barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

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An old sketch from an old book idea

This is a sketch from a story I submitted a few years ago. I kindof miss the two knuckleheads manning the switcher. I wonder what they’re up to now? I might have to play around in the sketchbook and find out.

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Midwest Summers

To keep myself sane during this never-ending winter, I like to imagine I’m hiking to a rural pond to do a little fishing. The rising suns warms my top half while the otherwise pleasant south wind chills my dew soaked legs. The rumble of a passing train gives way to the chorus of nearby frogs. Ahhh yes it all sounds perfect. And then I remember the mosquitos.

You know what? I’ll take the little bloodsuckers. C’mon spring!

A sketch from a story idea I’ve been rolling around this winter.

A sketch from a story idea I’ve been rolling around this winter.

Cephalopods

I was on a revision to a story and added these characters to the mix. That revision was passed on (for good reasons) but I still kind of like this crew.

A squid, a cuttlefish and an octopus pose for photo, as one does.

A squid, a cuttlefish and an octopus pose for photo, as one does.