Sunday, December 19, 2010

exciting new project

I am delighted to announce I will be illustrating Randall de Seve's new book "Peanut and Fifi".

It is a smart, fun, clever story. I was fortunate to able to devote considerable time to developing a look for the characters while I was at Maurice Sendak's fellowship this fall, and can not wait to dive into the finished art.

Randall is the author of the wonderful "Mathilda and the Orange Balloon", "The Duchess of Whimsey", and "Toy Boat".

Needless to say, I am thrilled to have the chance to work with Randall as well as editor Liz Waniewski at Dial.

Friday, December 17, 2010

in the bag

Late this week I put the final touches on the art for Petunia Goes Wild. It should be available in January of 2012.
For those who can't wait, the first Petunia adventure, A Pet for Petunia, will be out in ONLY SIX WEEKS!
Party info to come.

Friday, November 5, 2010

where the wild thing was

I haven’t blogged in a while, primarily since I returned just a few weeks ago from a residency program under Maurice Sendak.

I and 3 other artists had a month in which to work on our own projects and commune with each other and the Master of Children’s Books. I had a wonderful, productive time.

It is astounding how inspirational an environment of little or no distractions and the company of like-minded fellows can be.

I hope to get back to posting more, but I have a looming deadline at the end of this month, so am immersed in pictures rather than words...

Maurice smiling:
He is truly a delightful guy.
Both photos taken by the wonderful Lynn Caponera. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

in which I whack Degas

This painting by Edgar Degas has fascinated and frustrated me since art school. 

The American Academy of Art was just two blocks from the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago, and I frequently dashed there during lunch break to spend an hour muttering to myself in front of their fine collection of Degas paintings.

The composition of this piece in particular thwarted my youthful efforts to analyze it. A quiet scene in a ladies hat shop. Yet there is something disquieting about it. I'm going to have another whack at figuring this one out.

The arrangement of shapes are still and formal, yet dramatic. Some unexpected, awkward angles. An odd, unbalanced symmetry. Rough slashes of dark and light. Such a challenging puzzle. Is Degas provoking us?

Since I’ve made the claim before that illustration is manipulation, that we as artists can determine the emotional experience of the viewer, I feel it is important to study what factors determine these impressions.

If we squint deeply, the most apparent thing is the hat with green ribbon leading down to the brightest colored hat, the blue one. This neatly cuts the composition in half. A light, brightly lit hat at the far left is balanced by a similarly colored one the woman is holding off to the right, cementing a nearly perfect symmetry. A dull start, as this usually is a compositional no-no.

But there’s more. A noticeable aspect in Degas’ painting is the raking angle of the table. The woman’s arm is also abruptly angled. She is leaning awkwardly. There is an instability to the whole foreground, as if it is falling off the canvas.

We see an ominous dark band along the upper portion of the painting, acting as a weight, reminiscent of blue-black storm clouds. There is something disturbing about the room. The dark and light bands of the rear windows are almost violently painted.

So here we have a mix --or mix up-- of placid symmetry and a feeling of sharp instability.

Ed sets up a nicely balanced fulcrum and then kicks it down.

So, why? Why this arrangement? What did Degas want us to experience? Here is a place seemingly peaceful, yet he is composing things in a way which suggest disturbing undercurrents. Did he merely want a visually dynamic pattern? Or is he setting up an unspoken drama?

And is this kind of compositional sophistication, suggestiveness and thoughtfulness useful in children’s books? 

I believe so.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

a string of Pearls

Pearl is done! Now I only have a year to wait until it is in the bookstores. Fall 2011.

I am so pleased with the cover and book design by the wonderful Dana Fritts at HarperCollins. With her help, Pearl's story looks much cooler than I had ever imagined it could be.

Monday, August 16, 2010

wonderful news

Got back from vacation to the news that The Wonder Book got in to the Society of Illustrators 2010 Original Art show, "... an exhibit celebrating the fine art of children's book illustration". 

An illustration from the book will be on display in New York from October 20th to November 24.

I feel very honored by this, and want to extend my gratitude to the author of The Wonder Book, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and my fantastic editor at Harper, Maria Modugno for handing me such an amazing project and the creative freedom to go with it.

A very special thanks to Dana Fritts at Harper for entering the book into the show!

Friday, August 6, 2010

that makes sense

I am a logical person.

As such, I love the logic of kids. Years ago, after a neighbor’s sweet, huge yellow lab wandered into our house and snatched a sandwich right out of my young daughter’s hand, my incensed little sophist declared she wished the world were flat so all the dogs would fall off.

When I am working on a story, one of my hopes is to pay homage to the logic of children. I admire the straightforward, creative ways they attempt to solve their problems.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Feeling these days more like a factory than an artist, I'm obliging myself to doodle aimlessly for 20 minutes every morning. Well, almost every morning.

Friday, June 25, 2010

seeking nothing in particular

Sometimes it is better to remain still in order to see what scurries by. Why is that so difficult?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

idle thoughts

I am nearly done with the art for my 2nd self-authored book Hugs From Pearl. It is always a frantic rush towards the finish line, making endless last-minute changes and adjustments.

As hard as it is to let go of the art, (I could tweak things for another 6 months,) I will be glad to send the last one off and take a bit of a breather before I dive into the final art for my next book, Petunia Goes Wild.

I find the best opportunity for creative thinking is when I am not focused on being productive. When my brain is idle ideas tend to pop up. Generally a thing rushes in to fill the nothing.

It makes sense that I should incorporate some brain-meandering time in my daily schedule. Sort of a mental flaneur period.

Yet even though I know it is usually wonderfully productive, who could put "2:00 - 3:30: Nothing." on their calendar?

Seems un-American somehow.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mole had been working

The thing about E. H. Shepard is. 

Not that he wields exquisite compositions like Heath Robinson. He does not stun us with genius color like Zwerger or knock us dead with impossible technique like Spirin. No hypnotic hatchings like Gorey, no oddly irresistible charm like Delphine Durand.

No. What Shepard’s drawings have are Character. Honest, believable character. Not Hilary Knight’s winning excesses, not Mo Willem’s hilarious theatrics. The real thing. Characters with emotions every child and adult can relate to. 

The drawings Shepard did for Wind In The Willows and the Pooh books are timeless. No, that’s not exactly right. They are TIMELESS. 

Why? Because the emotions that Shepard drew are timeless. His pen deftly portrays the things that unite all of us. Our humanity. That means everyone: innocent children, cynical adults, extremist nuts, numb taoists, crazy-busy illustrators. We all have the same things in common: Vanity. Curiosity. Pride. Arrogance. Innocence. Courage. Wonder. Generosity. Friendship. Doubt.

And then there is his lovely linework.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

to fly or not to fly?

We (myself included), spend so much time looking for answers, when it is the questions we should be embracing.
Answers are confines. Questions are wings.

Monday, March 29, 2010

knock, knock

I’ve noticed through the years how few opportunities are convenient. They don’t come at the perfect time, or with a path you can follow blithely. Most of the time opportunities ask as much from you as they give. 

One could almost render this equation as a formula: Opportunity equals pain in the neck, or: O=PIN. Yes, of course you have to keep yourself open to opportunities. Not a free lunch though.

I suppose it is a good time to blame the balance of life. That colossal slacker Lao Tzu warns us redundantly about avoiding high aspirations: “Those who stride cannot maintain the pace.” “Keep stretching the bow, you repent the pull.” “Do enough without vying, Be living, not dying.” Yadda, yadda.

And yet, the regrets I do have are the opportunities I have not pursued.

I yearn for a calm, peaceful, easy life, but I’ve also hounded myself by a pursuit of Excellence. A thing unattainable because it is a target constantly moving two steps ahead of oneself.  A perpetual frustration machine. A perpetual fascination.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

is this not happiness?

Inspired by Chin Shengt'an's Thirty-three Happy Moments, 
I present to you one of mine. What a great way to begin 
my morning!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

sudden reappearance

If anyone has noticed my absence of over a month, it was all due to trying to meet my deadline of final art for my first self-authored children's picture book, 'A Pet For Petunia".

Petunia lobbies her parents for a pet skunk. (They are pretty cute after all.) Will she succeed? You'll have to wait until January of 2011 to find out.