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1. sketchbook saturday

I'm probably going to be pretty quiet for the next few weeks. Final art time! It is for a book called Something Extraordinary. Set the bar rather high with that title. Speaking of that book . . . I could use some help. I've got a spread that needs 100 unusual pets and I need more ideas for pets to include. I'm getting close to a hundred but still have a number of invisible ones at the moment. So, be awesome like a unicorn and take a moment to leave a comment with at least three unusual pet ideas. In exchange I'll name the pet after you. Of course, it won't appear in the text but you will know and I will know.

Naturally, dragon and unicorn are covered. Flying pig? Horsefly? Carrot?

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6. sketchbook saturday

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7. sketchbook saturday

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8. sketchbook saturday

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I find Thanksgiving to be an absolutely fascinating holiday. I suppose most holidays are, but I find Thanksgiving to be particularly so. Something about the combination of controversy (celebration of a genocide?), family (almost always . . . at least in my experience . . . a mixed bag of hugs and arguments), food/feasting, being thankful, football, and turkey stuff. I think one of my favorite parts has to be all the turkey stuff. Not the eating of turkeys (I'm vegetarian), but all the decorations, hand turkeys, and that sort of thing. Turkeys alone I find to be a fascinating creature. I suppose that is why several years ago I came up with a story about one. I'm afraid it will never see publication (too much in common with a certain book about a pigeon and a bus), but I still like it so I figured I'd share it (the rough mock-up I had made for the story) here. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Below are some of the deleted scenes.

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10. MO'S MUSTACHE jacket poster + cover-wrap

 I like to think about every detail of the books I create. The story and artwork might get the most attention, but one of the parts I most enjoy about the book making process is thinking about such elements as the spine, the flaps, the dedication, and endpapers. I want every bit of the book to be the best it can and for me that means fun and appealing. So when I found out Tundra Books likes to do posters on the back of the book jackets I was thrilled.

Below are some of my initial designs for the poster. They are bold and graphic (both qualities I like), but the content wasn't all that interesting.

Another thought I had was to feature all the characters from the book. But there was no new content (different than what already is in the book).

Then I saw this video . . .

Which gave some extra inspiration to an idea my editor (Tara Walker) had for a mustache manual . . .

My first go at making a mustache manual was too text heavy, but I felt that I was headed in the right direction for the jacket's poster. It just needed a little simplifying . . .

But not only does the book have a nifty/essential 'Mustache Manual' but also the cover-wrap for the book is unique (different than the jacket). I love it when there is a surprise under the jacket and I thought 'what better surprise is there than a mustache party?' . . .

The trouble with the mustache party was that it didn't quite fit with the classic/retro feel we were going for with the book design. Unlike the poster this element really needed to be quite simple. So of course I went with a mustache saying 'HUZZAH!' . . .

And that is how I went about making the jacket and cover-wrap for MO'S MUSTACHE (a stylish book for fashionable people). 

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11. MO'S MUSTACHE book trailer

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12. sketchbook saturday: MAKING MO!

I thought for this 'sketchbook saturday' I'd share some of the sketches and doodles I did when working on my latest picture book MO'S MUSTACHE. After all, it is Movember! (The preferred month of both mustaches and monsters.)

MO'S MUSTACHE actually started out as MEEP'S MUSTACHE. It was a comic I made for the kids when I worked at Kids Club in Seattle. The comic was inspired by the paper mustaches I'd wear and pretend were real. It was a favorite sport at Kids Club to try and rip my mustaches off. I, of course, informed the kids that it was impossible to rip off my mustaches because they were real (or at least REAL-ly awesome).
As you'll see Meep looks a lot different than Mo. After the book was picked up by Tundra, Meep went through a number of changes. For starters, the simplicity of the character design was just a bit too simple. I found that my youngest readers had a hard time with his form. They found the single eye a bit confusing (especially whenever the eye was closed). Secondly, the name 'Meep' turned out to be problematic. I was informed by a kid that 'Meap' is the name of an alien-creature on Phineas and Ferb and that he happens to sport mustaches. Quite the coinkydink! So I had to say goodbye to Meep.

And go back to the drawing board. I drew oodles and oodles of monster-things to come up with a replacement for Meep.

I tried out a number of new names for Meep. I remember Mojo and Momo were two of my favorites, but in the end Mo seemed like the most fitting name.

As for the character design, I thought the oval-headed Mo (above) was the way to go for awhile. But while I liked the character, the shape didn't quite emphasize the mustache in the right way. Below are a couple of examples of what I sent my editor (Tara Walker!) when I was working out Mo's design. You'll notice I kept the former Meep design around for the characters Bob, Bill, and Ben. I also tried out a new version of the Meep design for Mo. Two eyes instead of just one! I thought it was a funny looking character, but then my wife pointed out that the shape could be seen as a little bit awkward.

You'll notice in the above image that in my note to Tara I mention the question of what Mo is exactly. Alien? Monster? Thing? At first I wanted it to be ambiguous, but seeing as Meap is an alien . . . it seemed best to consider Mo a monster. Plus 'monster' starts with 'mo'!

Anywho, Tara and I ended up agreeing that I still had not found the right character design for Mo. So back to the drawing board! (I have such a tough job.)

I tried out a really long nose for Mo, which emphasized his mustache in a way I really liked. After a bit more tinkering I finally had a design that everyone could agree upon.

So I sketched up a new dummy book!

BUT after I had done that, we found Mo's tail a bit confusing as the knob at the end kind of looked like another hand. I tried out a number of different tails. Below is what I ended up sending Tara.

My favorite was the skinny tail with the six-pointed star knob at the end. I was inspired tails in the tale It Zwibble and the Greatest Clean-up Ever! . . . it was one of my favorite books growing up. The devil-ish tail was also a favorite of mine, but nostalgia won the day.

 Wow! That made for a long-ish post and I still have more to share about some of the other character designs. Next Saturday! Enjoy your weekend and thanks for stopping by!

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Ahoy! AND HAPPY MOvember!

Unfamiliar with the MOnth of MO? In a nutshell, MOvember is an annual event in which people grow mustaches/moustaches to raise awareness (and funds) of/for prostate cancer and men's health in general. The goal is to "change the face of men's health."
Find out more here: http://us.movember.com/?home

No, I am not growing a mustache. I'm afraid the only thing I'd bring awareness to is my inability to grow adequate facial hair. However, to celebrate the start of the month and the release of my new picture book MO'S MUSTACHE I am giving away 5 signed copies of the book. AND some mustaches (for those of us who can't really grow them).

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mo's Mustache by Ben Clanton

Mo's Mustache

by Ben Clanton

Giveaway ends December 01, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

As you can see, you have until December 1st to enter. But why wait?! ENTER NOW! AND get a start on that mustache of yours.

New to growing a mustache? Or a bit rusty? Here is a guide to help you out.

That manual is on the back of the book's jacket. Awesome? Pretty much.

Want to buy the book and become The Most Fantastic Person on Earth? Go HERE! Or HERE! Or HERE! (The first link is the best.)

And HERE (and below) is a bit about the book . . .

Mo is a monster who just got a mustache. A big, black, beautiful mustache. Everybody likes Mo's mustache. Now Knot, Dot, Nib, Tutu, Bob, Bill, and Ben all have mustaches too. In fact, soon EVERYBODY has a mustache! Why is everyone copying Mo? And how will he (and his mustache) ever stand out?

A wonderfully silly book about style and individuality, sure to grow on readers who don't have facial hair -- and even those who do!

“Huzzah! Laugh-aloud funny, Clanton’s story also offers a way to begin discussing individuality or peer pressure.”
— School Library Journal

“Monster + mustache = ‘Huzzah!’ With a soupçon of cool . . . Requests for repeats are a certainty, and small ones will learn a lesson about individuality while enjoying this delightfully fun monster tale. Mo’s mustache? Magnifique!” 
—Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

MO to come! Cheers! - Ben

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14. sketchbook saturday

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15. sketchbook sunday

Found an old bottle of yellow ink the other day when cleaning out some art supplies and decided to play around with it. I got a bit carried away! These guys below are just a small sampling!

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16. gator guys

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17. feature friday: Bob Staake

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18. sketchbook sunday

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19. THE TABLE SETS ITSELF (another vine video)

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20. THE TABLE SETS ITSELF pub date today!

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22. sketchbook saturday

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23. sketchbook saturday

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24. a little bit bunny

Recently I was invited to join the a little bit bunny blog "the online playground for a rag tag collection of the sometimes cute or quirky, the funny or downright freakish". Pretty much every month there is an animal theme that all the participating artists/illustrators do their own take on. For June the the animal of choice was axolotl. Below is a part of my piece. You can see the rest of it over at the blog: http://alittlebitbunny.blogspot.com/

And be sure to check out the other entries. They are pretty much amazing. 
Thanks for stopping by! Cheers! - Ben

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Finally have finished moving into our new home in North Andover, MA! This has been an exhausting and time consuming move. I suppose that is to be expected with a cross country move, but I didn't really realize just all that is involved. Didn't help that I had book deadlines!

Our new place is in an old steel mill next to a pond. I'm digging all the exposed brick and old wood beams. And having a pond out the window with geese, beavers (my favorite to watch), ducks, turtles, herons, and lots and lots of frogs (there are little ones smaller than pennies that are incredibly cute) is pretty nice. A bit distracting, though. I've been wondering how wise it is to have my desks facing the windows.

We're a bit further out from Boston than we might like, but we are pretty close to where Kelsey (my wife) will be teaching 2nd grade in Lawrence. I think gigi approves! She is a bit miffed that she isn't aloud to swim in the pond, though. Especially when there are goslings to chase!

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