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.



Holy beans! Its been too long!

Well I have been neglecting my website! 

There has been a lot going on in these here parts.  First off, last fall I got a fun new contract.  I used that contract as an excuse to renovate my studio.  Then I used that renovated studio to survive (hide from) the large amount of family that stayed with us over the holidays.  I think this new studio is going to work out just fine.

One side of the new studio showing new workbench, shelves and painting storage, and a new easel.

One side of the new studio showing new workbench, shelves and painting storage, and a new easel.

To break in the new studio I made some unfocused abstract paintings like this one.

To break in the new studio I made some unfocused abstract paintings like this one.

George Washington Carver

Here are some illustration examples made for the Notable Missourian book on George Washington Carver.  What a fascinating man!  Artist, scientist, thinker, doer. The Notable Missourian series is published by Truman University Press.

Baby George Washington Carver and his mother and brother.

Baby George Washington Carver and his mother and brother.

Young George Washington Carver in his woodland garden.

Young George Washington Carver in his woodland garden.

Collage of George Washington Carver growing up.

Collage of George Washington Carver growing up.

George Washington Carver teaching at Iowa State University.

George Washington Carver teaching at Iowa State University.

George Washington Carver sharing effecient farming techniques with poor farmers.

George Washington Carver sharing effecient farming techniques with poor farmers.

George Caleb Bingham

Recently I made some illustrations for the Notable Missourian book on the painter George Caleb Bingham.  He was an interesting man in both art and politics.

Young George sits and watches Chester Harding paint a portrait of Daniel Boone.  His love of art was now official.

Young George sits and watches Chester Harding paint a portrait of Daniel Boone.  His love of art was now official.

George went east to study the works in the big museums there.

George went east to study the works in the big museums there.

George was passionate about the plight of the people, and got deeply into politics.

George was passionate about the plight of the people, and got deeply into politics.

Not only did George enjoy politics, but he used it as a subject of many of his works.

Not only did George enjoy politics, but he used it as a subject of many of his works.

George as an elder teaching a painting class.

George as an elder teaching a painting class.

Furry Family Portraits

While gathering with fellow illustrators (We like to pretend that we have co-workers like normal people), it was suggested that we make some paintings to sell at a local humane society auction.  I had to think of something to paint on the spot, so I opted to immortalize my old a-hole dog, Marcus,  and my even older, grumpier bag of bones cat, Fritz.  It was a fun, spontaneous project for sure....I'm kind of sad I won't have these portraits of two of my oldest friends on my own wall!  Thats what prints are for.

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