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So, here I am, once again trying to convince you all to support local independent bookstores, such as, in this case, one of my favorite local independent bookstores, Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop in La Verne, CA. My previous experiment with my graphic novel, Sidekicks, went so well I thought it would be nice to do it again!
I believe in supporting the growth of small business and feel that independent bookstores are a valuable part of our publishing ecosystem. Many websites can offer you books at a huge discount (upwards of 30%) and I am hoping to close that gap by offering you other valuable incentives that you can't find anywhere else online or at major bookstores. If you purchase the book through my site, I will then take that money and use it to support a local business. In exchange, you will not only be owning a special one of a kind item, you will have also helped to keep a store in business in an industry that is slowly trying to transition to an electronic market.
I don't know for sure if eBooks will be the way of the future, but I know that if small businesses die, then we will all find ourselves surrounded by a city full of empty lots, and I strongly feel that's bad for a community.
There's a saying that you should never meet your heroes.
I met Maurice Sendak once.
Well, actually, that's not true.
The truth is, back in 2005, when I was just starting out in the business, I was at an event and Maurice Sendak was being honored with an award.
While I was walking around I could hear people say things like...
"He's not a very nice man."
"He's very grouchy. He doesn't like people."
While talking to some other illustrators they said to me, "Don't do it. Just keep your pure image of the man in your mind."
I saw Maurice from across the room while I was pacing around the entire night thinking about what I would do. I didn't want my only memory of him to be an awful one, after all, It was probably the only chance I would ever get to meet him. What if he said something hurtful, or told me that my work was crap?
He gave his speech and after the crowd thinned out a few people were congratulating him as he came down from the stage. He walked by me and we looked at each other.
I said nothing.
We just stared at each other. He was expecting me to say something and I froze. Then someone else spoke to him and his attention shifted and he went on his way.
The art for this book was special experience for me. I had always wanted to do a fireman book and I've also been dying to experiment with something new in my artwork, so when I got the call for this project I jumped at the chance.
The main idea I wanted to handle with this book was to make the artwork interact with the fire and water in the story with the idea being that the pages in the book were so close to the fire that it burned the pages and when the firemen came in with their hoses the water would make the ink in the artwork bleed off the paper. First off, I tried out this simple sample of drawing two firemen.......
Then I followed it up by adjusting the art by altering it digitally and incorporating it with burned pieces of paper like so....
I wanted to keep in mind that the burns and watermarks are supposed to supplement the artwork and not overwhelm the page and take center stage. In the book the burn marks gradually dissipate as the fire goes out until you are left with only water stains and smoke.
I don't normally go out for photo reference shoots, but in this case accuracy was pretty important and so I went out with my son on a field trip to the nearby fire station and I also gathered parent hours for the school. DOUBLE SCORE!
I usually work entirely in Photoshop but a good part of this project would require me going back to using traditional mediums to create textures
I applied watercolor onto paper to create the grainy haze you see in an ember filled sky. I also used it to handle smoke effects. I created many texture samples to get the right effect...
I'm in a great mood. I have several deadlines coming up in the next few weeks then after that it will be smooth sailing until the end of the year. I'll finally get to start writing my next graphic novel for Scholastic, I'll get started on my next picture book with Little, Brown, while illustrating a few other projects in the year. Meanwhile, this weekend will be the start of what will be many appearances in the upcoming Spring/Summer for the many books coming out this calendar year.
LA TIMES FESTIVAL OF BOOKS
This weekend is the LA Times Festival of Books. This will be the second year it is held at the USC Campus (previously held on the much nicer UCLA Campus) and I will be signing some of my new book releases at several places....
SATURDAY APRIL 21st
11:00 AM DIESEL BOOKSTORE (Booth 975) - Sidekicks and others
1:00 PM ONCE UPON A TIME (Booth 774) - Sidekicks and others
3:00 PM LITTLE JUNEBUGS (Booth 559) - Bawk and Roll and others
4:00 PM MRS NELSONS TOY AND BOOK SHOP (Booth 747) - Dog In Charge and others
See you there!
Good news all around for the book titles I've worked on. OH NO! NOT AGAIN! Just received a starred review from Kirkus and DOG IN CHARGE also received a starred review in Publisher's Weekly. Abrams Books has really made a push to promote KEL GILLIGAN'S DAREDEVIL STUNT SHOW that they made it the cover of their Fall Catalog as seen here. FIRE! FUEGO! BRAVE BOMBEROS comes out next week and has also been getting great reviews. I'll be posting a video next week on my process on how I did the art for that book. BAWK AND ROLL has been getting great reviews all around and author, Tammi Sauer is on a mad tear throughout the country doing speaking engagements. Speaking of which....
Sterling just sent me a crazy stack of copies and I may possibly have to think up a contest or something to give these suckers away. Stay tuned. It might be something simple like, "Hey, tweet about it" or some junk. We'll see.
On a semi related note the NHL Playoffs are here and my beloved (8th seeded) Los Angeles Kings are one win away from eliminating the top seeded Vancouver Canucks from the playoffs. The captain of the LA Kings, Dustin Brown has been on a scoring rampage putting in four goals in the first three games of the series and also layed out a out a nice highlight reel body check on Henrik Sedin. ANYWAY, Mr. Dustin Brown is also a contributor to the Guy's Read anthology edited by Jon Sciezcquiza .... Scieszka?... Is there supposed to be a 7 in there somewhere? Anyway, this is a little detail from the illustration for his story contribution. (For all you hockey fans out there, yes, I will be changing the other players number to 33) Go Kings Go!....
Speaking of playoffs and such, my graphic novel, SIDEKICKS, contiinues to get good
I was in wine country this weekend and I realized that I don't blog enough. I'm horrible and I'm sorry. So I decided to change things. I decided to download an app so that I can blog on my phone. Now I can blog from anywhere. This is a picture from wine country in Sonoma, California. It's a beautiful wine vineyard just down the street from my in laws house. It's the same location where they filmed the movie, A Walk in the Clouds, starring Keanu Reeves.
The other week I received a fan letter from a sweet kid named Daniel Wiles from Forest Dale, VT. It reads as so.....
I get fan mail from time to time but this one happened to have come at a particular time when I felt inspired by his letter to do some video making of my own. As a salute to the hand made art form I made a short "sweded" adaptation of the book. For those of you who don't know, the term "sweding" comes from the Michel Gondry movie Be Kind Rewind. In the film, the character Jerry, played by Jack Black, accidentally erases the videotapes at Mos Def's rental store, and the pair remake all the movies themselves. These versions become popular with customers, who are told they take longer to arrive and cost more because they come from Sweden. Hence, the films are referred to as 'sweded'. It's a very charming movie to say the least. Here is the trailer...
Over the years the movie movie inspired many folks to do do their own sweded movies and by simply doing a search on youtube for "sweded" you will find a countless number of sweded features. Here is a sweded version of Back to the Future...
The intent of these interpretations is to feel campy and so, needless to say, I had a fun time making this movie. I may just have to make ALL my future book trailers this way. It took about a day to film and now I also have nifty Sidekick puppets to toss around at book signings. Enjoy the film and don't forget to vote for Sidekicks for the Children's Choice Book Awards by clicking HERE.
Join me tomorrow March 21st at 12ET on COMICS ARE GREAT! where I will be doing a live video interview. Go to http://comicsaregreat.tv or watch the stream below. I'll be talking about all sorts of stuff and cracking jokes! CHECK IT!
So I spoke at SCBWI NY a few weeks back and in my intensive presentation I told everyone that I blogged once a week, which is good advice to those of you starting out. Then, of course, I go on and break my own rule and I'm already behind in my posts. (Forgive me for last week)
In any case, I have to admit that I've been busy to the point of stressing out, but I need to post and so I'm just going to shotgun out some things that have been happening in my life these past few weeks and you can continue to pick and choose what you care to hear.
*Starting this week I will notify those librarians who will be getting books from my pile of books and I will send an invoice soon.
*Our family just adopted a dog! He's a Border Collie mixed with something else. We're still deciding what to name him. The shelter we got him at has called him Smudgy Pudgy (or Smudgy) which seems to fit, but we're not completely sold on it. I want to name him McLovin. My wife is strongly against it. I will entertain the idea of your dog name suggestions in my comments sectoin of this post.
*I've done some artwork for an upcoming art gallery show at the Nucleus Gallery. The theme is Dr. Seuss. Here' are my three contributions (I may possibly do Thing 2 if I have time)
* I took my kids to see the Fresh Beat Band live in concert yesterday. I think it was the first concert I've been to since seeing Tenacious D back in 2003? I will admit, I had a great time.
* I had to design the type for the French cover of Sidekicks. For years I wondered how a foreign publisher did this. Well, now I know.
* I'm still trying to figure out the appeal of Pinterest.
My son turned six last Thursday. I was attending the SCBWI Conference in NY to speak and this was going to be the first time ever that I would miss his birthday due to business. He was sad that I wasn't going to be around for his birthday, but optimisically, we decided to turn the trip a little adventure. He gave me a little toy skeleton finger puppet and said, "Take my friend with you and show him around New York."
I took his little toy and did just that...
(Creative Director: David Caplan, Editor: Connie Hsu Little Brown @ CRAFTBAR)
(A veiw of the Chrysler Building from my hotel room window)
So as you know, this year will be a busy year for me in terms of book releases. I must confess that towards the end of the year I got a little sick and tired of drawing in "my style" and this year I've been pushing publishers to let me do slightly different work for this year. I find that as an artist it's good to try and continue to grow and experiment, otherwise you can get bored and the work you do can end up feeling stale and uninspired. This is not to say that the work I've done is stale and uninspired, but there can be a case where the work you do feels more like "work" than it does "fun" (If you catch my drift) I, of course, keep up my sketchbook and I have been trying to break away from my computer a little more. Here are a few samples of what I've been working on which may hopefully make it into a published book someday.
I happen to be fortunate enough to be one of the judges for a book competition this year and various publishers have sent me all these books for consideration. I'm still currently judging this competition so I can't discuss into too much detail what it's for, but once this is all over I would like to get these out of my house ASAP.
I love books, but I don't need 400 books, and I know a good opportunity to help others when I see one.
So here's the deal.
I know many librararies across the country have faced slashed budgets and have a hard time adding to their existing libraries.
Typically, a hardcover picture book retails for $15-$17.
I can send a flat rate package for about $12...
If you pay the shipping costs for a Medium Flat Rate Box. I'll send you five books.
That's basically five books for the price of one.
I can't promise you'll get an award winner or something from your favorite author, but there is a good pile of titles here I assure you, and they have all been published in the last year. I will definitely try to make sure everyone gets at least one great title.
The judging for ths competition ends in the next few months, but in the mean time, THE FIRST SIXTY LIBRARIANS who email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading of A PIECE OF THE PILE will get a piece of this book pile.
If you are one of the first sixty people to sign up then I will send you a paypal invoice to give me $12 for shipping and I will send five books out to you as soon as I can.
Please spread the word to other librarians, less fortunate ones especially, who could benefit from this offer.
I just want these books out of my house.
UPDATE: If you are a person who would like to make a charitable donation to a library I will also allow that. Just indicate the name of the library as well as provide the address when I send out invoice and I will include a letter indicating that it was you who made the donation. (Many people have asked me this question since this post so I am just addressing)
First of all, I want to apologize for the lack of blog posts in the last portion of 2011. It was an insane year filled with lots of travelling for Sidekicks and working late nights on an old laptop computer in hotel rooms. I fell behind on many things. Heck, some emails still haven't even been replied to yet. (I gotta get on that)
Hopefully, things will be different for 2012 and I can slow down a little.
Notice I didn't say "Thankfully". (I'm still on a tight schedule until about March and then it's clear skies)
Secondly, I want to thank everyone for their support last year in helping to spread the word about Sidekicks. Thanks to you, Sidekicks has gotten plenty of exposure, and made several year end lists which included Graphic Novel Reporters Top Ten of 2011, School Library Journals Best of 2011, and a Cybil Award nomination.
So besides the graphic novel, what kept me so busy you might ask? Well, I have compiled images and put this video sneak peek together to show you. I, admittedly, may not have time to make book trailers for all of these books, but I do want to at least share with you why I was so absent last year. I must admit, after putting this video together I didn't realize how much work it all was until now. It makes me stressed and tired all over again.
Enjoy! And may you also have a fun and productive 2012.
One of the most frequent questions I get from many people these days is, "How do you do it? How do you find time to keep a blog? How to you find time to be a parent? How do you work so much and function on so little sleep?" (I average about four hours a day)
I blame statistics.
I came into this career with big dreams and low expectations. I've managed to achieve many things but have taken very little opportunity to appreciate them because of self doubt.
Artist, Gary Baseman, once came to my school when I was a student at the Art Center, College of Design in Pasadena and he told our class that less than 10% of us would be able to make any type of living doing art and even fewer would be able to do it full time. As a person who is often driven by the fear of failure, hearing this statistic simply terrified me. My teachers told me that the magic number was FIVE YEARS for a freelance artist. Just sit and do your work day after day, and before you know it, you're working as a freelance artist full time, more or less.
That was statistically speaking.
Fast forward to the Spring of 2001. I graduated from Art Center with honors. (It was no big deal really, lots of us did) I was terrified that I would never find a job. Although Art Center claimed an 80% job placement rate I was terrified that I would fall into the bottom 20%.
Three weeks after graduation I landed my first full time job at a video game company called Treyarch where I spent six and a half years of my life in fear of losing my job.
My true passion was to write and illustrate children's books for a living, but while reading Harold Underdown's blog, The Purple Crayon, I realized that the odds of getting published were very low. So, while I was working at the video game company I had big dreams of becoming a famous children's book author/illustrator, but with the low expectation that it could take years before I got a chance to break into the business, let alone publish one of my own stories.
I got my first two book deal with Arthur A Levine Books in 2002 (One year after graduating from art school)
I had big dreams that my first picture book, The Guild of Geniuses, would be a breakout hit, but statistics show that most first time author books end up as a dud.
I was one of the duds.
It was a big blow to my young untested ego. I don't handle criticism very well and it was because of that fact that I was suddenly too nervous to write my second book (Which eventually became Sidekicks)
It might have to all do with my fear of failure.
As he years went on I illustrated more books.... The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, The Otto Undercover Series, The Ghosts of Luckless Gulch, Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, and I did all this while working at a video game company where I was constantly in fear of losing my job.
In 2006, (five years after graduating from art school) "The Replacements", premiered on Disney Channel. It was an animated show which I had created. The odds of getting your own show is less than one percent. I was constantly in fear that it wouldn't go longer than one season so I stayed at my game job.
It went on for about three seasons.
2006 was also the same year I had my first kid....
...You have no idea what that does to a person who has a fear of failure...
It was one year later, in 2007, I decided to leave video games and television to just work solely on books and be a parent. I was afraid of failing at many things in life but being a father was something I couldn't afford to screw up.I was gong to stick with one profession I was madly passionate about and do it well. I couldn't stop but think about the statistics Gary Baseman told us in art school. So I put all my fear and desperatio
I can't begin to tell you how sad I am about dropping the ball on this blog all summer, but for the last 8 weeks I have literally been living out of a suitcase and I'm finally home for a good stretch of a month before I have to head out on the road again for what remains to be just three more events for the year.
Now, there's just so much to talk about what happened in the last two months that I can't really go into details so I'll just shower you with a montage of images...
Sidekicks has been on shelves for a couple months now and with today being the official start of the new school year I have already received many email inquiries from teachers, librarians, and children all over the country about a possible sequel to the book. Now, although I don't have that answer at hand I would like to offer something that I think would be a valuable teaching tool for schools who want to incorporate making graphic novels as part of their curriculum.
"THE DOMESTICATED FOUR: THE ART OF SIDEKICKS" a 275 page PDF documenting the seven years I worked on the graphic novel.
What is included in the PDF you ask?
* The full original 25 page outline of the story
* The process from written scripted comic, to storyboards, to lineart, to finished art
* Design sketches dating all the way back to 1999
* Storyboards and rough sketches
* Photoshop coloring tutorial
* Deleted chapters
* Unpublished artwork
This PDF should be useful for any librarian or teacher interested in using graphic novels as a teaching tool in making your own comics or for anyone interested in how a comic is made and it's my way of saying thank you to all of you who have supported the book.
Click HERE to download the file or click on the SIDEKICKS BOOK COVER ON THE LEFT to explore more
The lovely Miss Jill Esbaum and I have a wonderful picture book coming out in November called Tom's Tweet which is a slapstick funny story that pays homage to the selfless act known as parenting. Over the next month I'll be showing tidbits of the book in hopes that it will entice you to buy it and share with your whole family.
Here is the book jacket. I take great pride in my book jackets and this one was fun. I always wanted to do a front and back perspective of a book cover and since it was such a simple design I didn't feel too overwhelmed by the task.
Here is the front...
Now, here's the back...
And the mock jacket....
Now, on to Tom's design. First, I'd like to share an image of my old cat which the main character (Tom) was based on...
Recently Wacom unveiled a few new products which have caught everyone's eye on the internet. There was the Inkling
And now the new 24 inch Cintiq
Now, I'll be honest, all these devices look amazing and I want them both, but at the same time I hate relying on technology to get work done. Whenever my computer breaks down and it's in the Apple Genius Bar is a day I can't work. Whenever there is a power outage I can't work. When my computer crashes and I didn't saved the file I was working on is work I have to redo (and in most cases) is not as good as the original.
I sometimes speak with younger artists just finishing art school who feel they need the newest device in order to stay competitive in the freelance art and design world. The fact is, you're only as good as your own abilities. The reason why I work digitally is because it saves me a tremendous amount of time, not because I feel the art looks better. The convenience of color adjusting or making changes for an art director is much simpler in Photoshop. I will admit, but I do miss having the tangibility of pen and ink and a finished product once a piece is done. I've been trying to get back into sketching in pen and ink and selling my sketches on Etsy...
I'm always selling sketches on Etsy and you can see all my sketches HERE.
I'm currently finishing up the sequel to Nanny Piggins for Little, Brown. This is a night scene illustration from the first Nanny Piggins book completed digitally....
and this is a night scene that I completed in pen and ink on paper for the new Nanny Piggins book...
Two different approaches in application, which leads to two very subtle adjustments in style and aesthetic, but I can't say one medium is vastly superior to the other. The idea that switching to a digital medium over a traditional one because you think it will make you a better artist is, in my opinion, not a valid argument.
(I usually do this post on my birthday but due to my recent hectic schedule it was delayed)
One of the clearest memories I have of my father is when I was about 6 years old and my dad's birthday was just around the corner. He was going to turn 36.
Then I asked him how long people lived.
My dad looked at me and asked, "Do you think 36 is old?"
I said, "Yes."
Thirty-six was, after all, six of my own lifetimes.
His response was, "I'm not going to die for a long time." and we left the conversation at that.
Now here I am. 36.
Correction, 36 with two energetic kids who make me feel like I'm 50 by the end of the day. I'm always tired due to lack of sleep due to long working hours, and, well, just keeping up with the children.
I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I was 36 and single.
I imagine I would be living in Brooklyn, NY with the rest of of the children's book community who I communicate with on an almost daily basis thanks to social media. I'd probably work all day and night on book projects because I'm a workaholic. (The wife keeps me under control and makes sure I'm not killing myself) and I'd probably have more money in the bank not having to pay a mortgage or private school tuition for my kids. I'd have more books published under my belt, I'd be less stressed financially, and I may or may not be healthier. I speculate that I would have accomplished more in my professional career because I would have had more time to focus on it. Perhaps I would have published a book of greater success. Perhaps I would have ended up on the NY Times Best Sellers list by now. I don't know but sometimes feels like the grass is greener on the other side.
This is not to say I resent having a family. Quite the opposite, in fact, because I also take a lot of time to wonder if I would have the same amount of ambition as I do now. This is not to say that I would lack ambition if I were theoretically single, but I know that I myself still have as much ambition as the day I graduated art school and I think that is always a very difficult thing for a person to maintain. You've hopefully started checking things off of your list of ambitious things you want to accomplish, and as life goes on, the easy life goals are checked off early on your list. Later, when you approach the big career ambitions, the really big challenges (the ones you only dream of) become much steeper mountains to climb. There comes a point where you either realize that you are going to be that person or you're not and it's a very sobering thing.
The thing about ambition is that you rely on it so much. You achieve goals that you hope make you a better person. You do things that validate your life. Ambition is that one thing that keeps a person going in life. It's a sole motivation. I have met people who have tried to get published for years going to conference after conference, sometimes with little sign of progress. They keep going year after year because there's always that hope. That next hurdle to make you feel validated.
A person has to have something to hope for or else life isn't worth living.
I've reached a point where nothing I do is for myself anymore. My ambitions have changed. Where once my biggest dream was wanting to be a New York Times best seller has now been replaced with thoughts of "Please don't screw up this kid I'm raising"
I still have dreams of someday becoming a New York Times best seller, but it's not the top of my list anymore. Have I lost my ambition?
I still have those dreams and maybe I've just come to terms that the dream will probably never happen. Maybe the road to the
If you're a parent (like myself) or a child of a loving parent then you will love this book. It's about the unconditional love of parenting and caring of children no matter what the risks. Jill Esbaum has written a lovely story which I was honored to illustrate. It has a very Looney Tunes slapstick type of feel with a lot of heart. If you do purchase the book I encourage you to buy this book at your local independent bookstore.