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1. The Adventures of Luke Skywalker

Disney & Lucasfilm have released some exciting news that I have been dying to share…

StarWarsDiTerlizziMcQuarrie

Disney Publishing Worldwide announced today the upcoming global release of four new books based on the original Star Wars film trilogy. The classic Saga will come to life like never before through adaptations by bestselling children’s authors Tom Angleberger, Tony DiTerlizzi, Adam Gidwitz, and R.J. Palacio. Each of these celebrated authors will bring their contemporary, unique voice to the galaxy far, far away, bridging the multi-arc storyline in anticipation of the release of Star Wars Episode VII in December 2015.

The Star Wars Saga program will hit stores beginning in October of 2014, with THE ADVENTURES OF LUKE SKYWALKER, JEDI KNIGHT a picture book written by New York Times bestselling author Tony DiTerlizzi (The Spiderwick Chronicles), illustrated with concept art created by Ralph McQuarrie, for the original Star Wars films. This winning collaboration, combining the entire storyline of the original trilogy, is bound to delight dedicated Star Wars fans and enthrall readers new to the series.

Additional titles to follow include new retellings of STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE by R.J. Palacio (Wonder), STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK by Adam Gidwitz (A Tale Dark and Grimm) and STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI by Tom Angleberger (Origami Yoda series), which will be illustrated by award-winning Star Wars concept artist Iain McCaig.”

Knowing full well what a geek I am, the folks at Lucasfilm contacted me last fall to see if I would be interested in taking the late Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art to create a picture book retelling the original STAR WARS trilogy. Without hesitation, I agreed.

McQuarrie

How I pored over my Art of Star Wars when I was a young padawan artist. Within those pages my imagination exploded like a Death Star as I studied the blueprints of movie magic. And, of course, most of the drawings and paintings in the Art of Star Wars were by Ralph. I was familiar with many of his iconic images, but not prepared for the 200+ jpegs that soon arrived in my dropbox.

Layout2

I printed out small thumbnail-sized images and began sorting them in order of each film and scene. I laid the book out as if I were not only the author, but the artist as well. As I designed the flow of the book, I could see where the text would have to work harder to tell the story and where the art would do the job – just like the division of labor in a true picture book.

As a fan, I also tried to incorporate images that I had not seen in previously published books. I’m hoping the parents reading The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight will enjoy a nice blend of Ralph’s iconic imagery mixed with some fresh new art (I even figured out how to include his cover painting to Splinter of the Mind’s Eye)

Gidwitz

I am also incredibly excited for the other participating authors involved with the chapter book adaptations of the original films (like Adam Gidwitz here, hanging out with me and Yoda). Earlier this year, we met at Skywalker Ranch to discuss our projects and immerse ourselves in a galaxy far, far away. Ten year-old Tony had died and gone to heaven.

SWgang

(Left to right: Ten year-old T, Tom Angleberger, Luke Skywalker in disguise, R.J. Palacio and Adam Gidwitz)

DiTerlizziR2D2

There’s no question that the STAR WARS myth has impacted me as a storyteller. I am humbled and honored to be the author asked to retell George Lucas’ classic space-age story of good triumphing evil for the next generation.

May the force be with you.

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2. LA Times Festival of Books

Angela and I will be presenting and signing at the LA Times Festival of Books on Saturday, April 12th, at the University of Southern California.

LATimesBanner2

The presentation schedule is here and we will both be signing throughout the day.  I am on a panel discussion at 1:30 p.m. titled “Young Adult Fantasy: Worlds Beyond Imagination” along with Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Hawkins and Neal Shusterman. There will be a signing afterwards. Also, you can check in at the Simon & Schuster booth for my additional signing times.

Seeya there!

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3. David A. Trampier (1954-2014)

I am saddened to learn the news of the passing of 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons artist, David A. Trampier–or DAT as he was known to us old-school gamers.

DAT_Lizardman

Though I never met him, I’ve posted several times about the impact Trampier’s art had on my burgeoning artistic abilities way back in middle school. And I cherish my artifacts of his inspiration to this day.

TD lizardman

TD_Displacer

TD fire giant

Many know his graphic inkwork from the AD&D Monster Manual (1977) and the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979). His cover to the AD&D Player’s Handbook (1978) has become an icon from this era of role-playing. A quick image search of Trampier’s name will show you many fine examples of his work from these popular tomes. Being a collector of all things from childhood,  I also happen to own many of the early “pastel” adventure modules from the 1970′s, which also featured his woodcut-inspired illustration. Below are some of my favorite pieces that aren’t seen as often (click to enlarge):

DAT_FireGiant Fire Giant from 1978′s Dungeon Module G3 “Hall of the Fire Giant King”

DAT_ManticoreA manticore in his lair for 1977′s “Monster & Treasure Assortment”

DAT_HommletTramp’s cover to Dungeon Module T1 “The Village of Hommlet”, 1979

DAT_TombGargoyle from the AD&D classic, “Tomb of Horrors”. 1978

DAT_Bugbears

Thank you for your continued inspiration, Tramp. May your art continue to influence many imaginations for generations to come.

 

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4. The Battle for WondLa May 2014 Tour Dates

I’ve finally received my May tour dates to support the fantastic finale to the WondLa trilogy.

My presentation includes drawing and discussing how the WondLa books came to be. Attendees will receive the third limited edition WondLa sketchbook for free. And, of course, I will sign just about any book (or gaming materials) that you bring – though different stores have different signing policies, so its best to check with them beforehand.

tour_FlyerSM

As well, Angela and I will both be attending the LA Times Festival of Books in April at the USC campus. Though The Battle of WondLa will not be available for sale then, I will be signing all my previous titles. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

PS – I am hoping to add some additional dates for our local friends in Massachusetts, so stay tuned…

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5. Introducing a Remarkable Mouse

I had the honor to write the introduction for the Folio Society’s edition of E. B. White’s classic, Stuart Little, which has just been released.

stuart1a

Here’s a snippet:

In the sagging top shelves of a hand-me-down bookcase in my childhood bedroom, several literary mice had made a nest. Alongside many beloved classics sat the maternal Mrs. Frisby, the reckless Ralph A. Mouse, and of course, there was the stalwart Stuart.

Stuart Little was a book of many firsts. For me, it was one of the first chapter books I read on my own. And, because of its short length, it was also my first introduction to E. B. White’s evergreen writing. Even today, his is the kind of prose that entices you to curl up in your favorite worn armchair on a rainy afternoon with book in hand. His stories speak the dialogue of a simpler bygone era. His characters talk like those from old beloved movies of my youth like Its A Wonderful Life and the Our Gang shorts. To this author, White’s words belie their simple construction and reveal a master wordsmith.

Aside from my personal nostalgia, Stuart Little is also a first for other, more prestigious reasons – for it was not only White’s first book created for young readers, but also Garth Williams’ debut as a grand picture-maker of children’s literature. Theirs is a bookmaking marriage that has endured, forged in the tradition of A.A. Milne and E. H. Shepard or even Lewis Carroll and Sir John Tenniel.

I was thrilled at the prospect of writing this, not only because I am a fan of White’s books, but because I have always felt an artistic connection with Garth Williams’ work. His scratchy ink lines, drawn from astute observations of nature, flow from my hand in a similar style. His art, like many that I have listed here before, inspired and formed me as an artist. I am proud to say that Angela and I have some of Garth’s originals hanging on the walls of our home. I pause and marvel at them almost every day.

You can check out more Folio Society editions and see details on their edition of Stuart Little at their site.

stuart2a

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6. Celebrate Goblin Week!

Last week was “Goblin Week”, where the mischievous monsters were celebrated by artists using all mediums and shared via Tumblr. Since I use an old-fashioned WordPress for my blog, I thought I’d share my goblin contribution here, along with some delightful dice-rolling downloads.

goblin_copic

This feisty fella was drawn from my imagination, using minor reference where needed. Like my other re-interpretations of Dungeons & Dragons monsters, I aimed at a exaggerated, playful line style to temper the grotesque figure and gruesome image. Inking was done with Copic Fine Nib Inking Pens on Strathmore Smooth Bristol.

goblin_ref

As I’ve listed before, I used Dover’s “Historic Costume in Pictures” as reference for the weapons and garb. I did some minor clean-up in Photoshop and set some classic text from the old AD&D Monster Manual around him…now I’ve only 100+ more drawings to go. (Click the thumbnail to download):

Goblin MM

…speaking of downloads, here’s a selection of some of my old AD&D player character sheets. Download’em, print’em and play’em!

Time to grab your twenty-sider!

 

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7. Sammy the Owl (Part II)

The creation of the logo for the Amherst public library was a feature article in our local paper, The Gazette.

For those interested (who are not local) here is the article:

gazette1small

Fantasy illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi designs Amherst’s Jones Library’s new logo

By DEBRA SCHERBAN

Monday, January 20, 2014
(Published in print: Tuesday, January 21, 2014)

AMHERST — It took a bit of serendipity, but the Jones Library has replaced its nearly 100-year-old logo, a drawing of the building, with a sketch of an owl done by nationally known fantasy author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi.

“I’m so excited about it,” library director Sharon Sharry said. “Everybody is jazzed about the outcome.”

That enthusiam comes despite the fact that just a few months ago, following a yearlong search to find a modern symbol for the library, Sharry and Jones trustees had settled on one created through the website LogoArena.com. For a cost of $350 she had graphic artists from across the world competing to come up with a design that met the library’s specifications.

But that was quickly discarded after a visit from DiTerlizzi, co-creator of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” series, one October afternoon. DiTerlizzi, who lives in Amherst, went to the Jones to help with a different project — designing award statuettes for a newly established literary honor to be bestowed this spring. One of the recipients will be his friend, author Norton Juster of “The Phantom Tollbooth” fame. Juster had asked DiTerlizzi to assist with the statuettes.

“When Norton Juster beckons, you hop to,” DiTerlizzi said with a laugh during a telephone interview.

But the death blow DiTerlizzi delivered to the Jones’ chosen logo was unintentional.

He had arrived early for the meeting about the awards and as he and Sharry chatted, she showed him the logo. It was a fancy script J in a blue and green block.

DiTerlizzi cringed. “I said to her, well, the reason you guys like this is that it looks like another logo.”

Sharry was aghast. She had spend an intensive week going back and forth online with the LogoArena artists to make it just right. And that had been after months of reviewing and rejecting work of local artists.

“Just Google Holiday Inn Express,” she said in an interview last week. “Ours looked just like that and none of us had even thought of it, but as soon as he said it we thought, oh my God, that’s awful.”

DiTerlizzi said he tried to smooth it over. “It’s still a nice logo,” he recalled saying. “It’s a beautiful J.”

But sure enough, he said, it was now tainted. “It wasn’t my intention, but I’d rather be honest than not.”

gazette3small

AN OWL EMERGES

The logo was meant to have a modern look to it, Sharry said, to help promote a fundraising campaign to keep the library up with the 21st century.

Jones staff and trustees are trying to “rebrand” the Jones and get the word out about its role in a way the community will respond to, she said. A building renovation campaign is down the road.

The trustees hired the Financial Development Agency of Amherst to help.

The literary awards, called the Sammys, which will also honor Nat Herold and Mark Wootton, owners of Amherst Books on Main Street, are part of that. The awards are named in honor of Jones benefactor Samuel Minot Jones, whose money established the library in 1919. The ceremony will be held at the Yiddish Book Center at Hampshire College in April.

After his bombshell observation, DiTerlizzi sat down with Sharry and two other committee members and, while they talked about the awards and what they mean to the library, he began sketching a statuette.

Sharry and the others envisioned an Academy Award, he said. “They wanted something that would look really cool when the recipient was holding it.” So, DiTerlizzi was seeking something figural, yet not male or female. An animal fit the bill, but DiTerlizzi said as he drew, he pictured his friend Juster.

“He has glasses that make his eyes look very big, a big round head. He’s owlish,” DiTerlizzi said.

But the artist didn’t want the hackneyed image of a great horned owl with glasses. He settled instead on barn owl, which would later become a barred owl, a species common to this area. He also wanted to spiff it up with a garment, though not a hat, which might tip it toward one gender of the other. So, he chose a scarf. “It makes it look New Englandy,” he said.

Finally, he decided, the creature should be standing on a stack of three books because, after all, books are a library’s foundation. Each one’s spine bears a word the library staff wants associated with the Jones: Learn, Discover, Connect.

“It all happens quite fast,” DiTerlizzi said of his creative process. “It has taken me longer to explain it than it did to come up with it.”

But as he was drawing, he said, he was thinking, “She’s going to hate this.” He was using images that didn’t necessarily say 21st century, as Sharry had wanted. “I wanted to break away from stereotypes,” Sharry said. “I was looking for something new.”

But DiTerlizzi liked what was shaping up on his pad. “I’m an old-timey guy. I love classic literature and illustration.”

When he finished, he was pleased — and so were Sharry and the others. “She really liked it. I got lucky,” he said.

In fact, one of the women at the table suggested the sketch become the new logo, instead of the fancy J.

“It was a no-brainer,” Sharry said. “It’s unique. It’s fun without being too cartoon-like. And it’s created by this amazing local artist who is a library user and a big supporter.”

Sharry said going through a lengthy logo search helped her realize what truly was the right image. “It’s all about timing,” she said.

DiTerlizzi was happy to hand the design over — for free. And he has created files for the Jones staff to use for letterhead, envelopes and T-shirts.

DiTerlizzi, who has been writing and illustrating children’s books since 2000, moved here from New York with his wife, Angela, 11 years ago. He has just put the finishing touches on the last book in a three-part science-fiction trilogy for middle-grade readers called “The Search for Wondla,” which he began in 2008. He has a 6-year old daughter, Sophia, and the family lives just down the street from the Munson Library, the Jones’ South Amherst branch.

He is pleased that his work has been chosen to represent the library, but he’s relieved it occurred by happenstance. Being asked to come up with a replacement for the library’s 100-year-old symbol would have made him nervous.

“That would have been intense,” he said. “I could have choked. I could have given them a blue J in a box, so maybe it’s better that it unfolded the way it did.”

gazette5small

Debra Scherban can be reached at DScherban@gazettenet.com.

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8. Owlbears, Rust Monsters and Bulettes, Oh My!

Chances are it won’t just be children who will find wrapped toys under their Christmas tree this week. If you’re a big kid like me, then you accept the fact that you not only still play with toys, but realize that they can be an important part of your well-being.

While creating my children’s books, I often find myself in a state of reflection. I return to the emotions and priorities that I had when I was young so that I can get into the mindset of my protagonist. To aid in remembering those moments in my life I use artifacts from my past. Consequently. my studio has become cluttered with play-worn toys, tattered books and other dusty relics of my halcyon days of youth. This, in turn, has grown to a fascination of the packaging (type, design, palettes, etc) that went into these icons of yesteryear. For example, I recently tracked down original versions of beloved board games so that our family could play classics like Chutes & Ladders, Candy Land and Mouse Trap as they appeared when first released. The vintage colors and graphics of these games sent my mind a whirl with book design possibilities.

games

But mostly, I pretend with my toys and remember the adventures that we went on in my backyard and under my bed. Many of my toys are probably still buried in my mom’s backyard, which is why the internet has become my time machine for recovering lost treasure that I so fondly remember.

PrehistoricAnimalsS

About this time last year, I recalled a set of toy dinosaurs and monsters that I had played with so much that their toes and tails broke off. These poorly molded plastic beasties were purchased at our local Variety store in the early 1970′s. They came bagged under the label “Prehistoric Animals”.

HongKongAnimals1

HongKongAnimals3

Though they were odd – even silly-looking by monster standards – there was something endearing about them. Soon, they became the perfect creatures for my Micronauts to discover or my plastic cowboys to combat. Some years after our playtime adventures had concluded, these creatures reappeared in another adventure of mine by means of paper, pencil and twenty-sided dice.

HongKongAnimals2

You see, during that time that I was playing with these “Prehistoric Animals”, somebody else was playing with them too – a fellow named Gary Gygax. Gary was using them for a game he was developing called Dungeons & Dragons and his book, the Monster Manual, contained pen & ink renditions of these creatures within its pages.

MonsterManual

Tim Kask was a play-tester for D&D back in the 1970′s. He was hired by Gary and became the first editor of Dragon magazine. As Tim recalled back in 2007:

“There once was an unknown company in Hong Kong that made a bag of weird animal-things that were then sold in what once were called dime stores or variety stores for like $.99. I know of four other very early monsters based on them. Gary and I talked about how hard it was to find monster figures, and how one day he came upon this bag of weird beasts…He nearly ran home, eager as a kid to get home and open his baseball cards. Then he proceeded to invent the carrion crawler, umber hulk, rust monster and purple worm, all based on those silly plastic figures. The one that I chose was known in the Greyhawk campaign as “the bullet” (for it’s shape) but had only amorphous stats and abilities, not being developed. Gary told me to take it home, study it, and decide what it was and what it could do.”

Bulette

“The bullette (boo-lay), as it was first called, was the first monster I invented. Why is the more interesting part of the story. I had decided to add a feature to DRAGON that would mean a new monster every issue; problem was, I had to launch an issue early because an ad didn’t come in. I wrote it up very late at night; the nickname “landshark” was a reference to a character that the original Not Ready for Primetime Players had done on Saturday Night Live. I went to Dave Sutherland for an emergency drawing (drawings could be submitted to the printers after the copy was set) and he did a dandy job on almost no notice.”

If you don’t know the “Land shark” skit, click the video player below. Its a classic.

I love Tim’s story: Dime store toys in the hands of those with wondrous imaginations became something more – they became the geeky stuff of modern fantasy lore.

RustMonster

Because these toys were manufactured in Hong Kong (perhaps as Ultraman knock-offs) and sold here through various distributors, it can be a challenge to track down a full set. (Frankly, I don’t even know if I have a complete set!). Additionally, favorite monsters, like the Rust Monster and Bulette, were created in different sizes and colors.

Bulettes

RustMonsters

Tim does not initially list the Owlbear originating from this bag of monsters, though it was available in the set at some point (Tim later confirmed this through our correspondence). In my year of scouring the internet and watching eBay auctions I have only seen this yellow version.

Owlbear

…in fact, one sold recently at auction for quite a hefty price (and no, it was not purchased by me):

auction

Tim mentions the Umber Hulk also coming from this set. Some have speculated that this mandible-snapping dragon could be the inspiration, but given how closely the other monsters are drawn from their inspirations, I am not convinced.

UmberHulk

As far as I know, the remaining monsters never saw their day in the pages of a D&D accessory. Back in 1993, after I had the opportunity to illustrate many of the classic monsters for the AD&D Monstrous Manual (like the Owlbear, Rust Monster and Bulette), editor Tim Beach and I discussed writing up stats for some of the others…but I soon became busy with Planescape. Perhaps these fellas will claw their way into the imaginations of the next generation of game designers.

Lizardmen

Armadillons

DogLizard

HornedDragon

HuggyDragons

Rocs

Longing for these oldies? There are toy collector discussions that share pointers (sometimes these toys are dubbed “Chinasaurs” or “Patchisaurs”). Sadly, I was convinced that these li’l monsters were no longer being manufactured…that is until I came across this set of “Realistic Dinosaurs” at my local Rite-Aid earlier this year:

RealisticDinosaurs

(I am glad to see the manufacturer is upholding the same tongue-in-cheek description of these toys.) Take a closer look at what’s included in this set. Turns out no one can bury a Bulette – they’ll eventually dig their way out and resurface.

RealisticDinosaurs2

Happy holidays! I’m off on a new adventure with my old toys.

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9. Sammy the Owl

Last month I visited with Sharon Sharry, Library Director of our public library, the Jones Library. At the suggestion of author extraordinaire, Norton Juster, she’d asked if I could discuss a new award honoring the Pioneer Valley’s local literary luminaries.

The award was called “The Sammy” named after Samuel Jones, the library’s first benefactor and namesake. Since Norton would be receiving the inaugural award, he had a say in how it looked…so he said, “have Tony design it.”

Along with some of the committee members, Sharon and I chatted about what the award could look like. I soon realized it should not be gender, race or age specific. The children’s book illustrator in me thought the best solution would then be an anthropomorphic animal. The obvious choice was an owl.

Beside being one of my favorite birds, owls symbolize wisdom, perfect for a literary award. Plus there are several species of owls indigenous to the Pioneer Valley, just ask Heidi Stemple – daughter of Jane Yolen and star of Jane’s Caldecott medal book, Owl Moon. In fact, for Jane’s 70th birthday I painted her as an owl.

OwlJane

I remembered how I thought the scarf was a nice transition between the owl and the human.

sketchesL

In a couple of quick doodles we had the beginning of the design for the award and I was off and flying. Sharon then shared with me that the library had been looking for a new logo to replace the one they had been using for the past 100 years. (Yup, you read that right.) Sharon wanted something a little more playful, fresh and identifiable. So we decided that Sammy the Award Design should also be Sammy the Library Logo.

SammySketch

Since the owl-reading image can be cliché, I had to design carefully. Unlike Jane’s piece, I avoided glasses but kept the scarf (perfect for New England). Though the oft-used Great Horned Owls can be found here (I’ve been hearing them at night in the field behind our house), I went with the less iconic Barred Owl, also found in our area. Instead of a tree perch I went with books. Nowadays libraries offer a variety of media outlets for gathering information, but I had to return to the original foundation of their collection as the foundation for my owl.

Sammy_FINAL

I was honored and thrilled to donate my time to redesign the identity of our local library (I hope this one can last another 100 years). Libraries are the repository our collected wisdom and whimsy, librarians the keepers and caretakers of our story.

 

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10. A Ted-eriffic Friday Fan Art

Our friend, Stacy, and her son, Brody, just finished a school project involving 2 pumpkins, some pink paint, and my favorite picture book.

Brody had to do a book report on his favorite book, then decorate a pumpkin as the main character…and he picked Ted. Why? Because this kid has good taste.

Ted1

First of all, let’s just stop for a second and consider how awesome of book report idea this is. I am totally going to make a (metamorphosed) Gregor Samsa pumpkin this weekend.

Ted3

Second, are you seeing these crafting skills? It utilizes the holy trinity of craft supplies: googly eyes, felt and pompoms all in one shot. Its a shame Ted will look like an old man in about month once the pumpkins get all mushy. I’d bronze that pumpkin masterpiece and place it on my mantle.

IMG_2698

Stacy told me that Brody chose Ted as his book because he loves the imagination of that story – especially when Ted and the kid flood the house. I am expecting a diorama of that scene for next year’s book report.

Thank you, Stacy and Brody, for sending these pics over. I love them so much it hurts. (He better get an A)

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11. Entertainment Weekly Exclusive: “The Battle for WondLa” Cover Revealed

If you’ve been following this blog for the past couple of months, you know I have been sharing much of my process for the upcoming cover to the third and final book in the Wondla trilogy,  The Battle for WondLa.

WondLa3

Entertainment Weekly has finally revealed the cover to the finale to WondLa, due out in stores next May. As well, we’ve shot a little video to show a bit of my process in creating the cover. Let me know what you think.

 

 

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12. We Art Boston

A couple of weeks ago, the ubiquitous Jarrett J Krosoczka contacted me about a project he thought I should be involved in. It turns out he was right.

We Art Boston is a fundraising event for the Emergency and Trauma Fund and Boston Children’s Hospital (in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing). Over 50 fellow children’s book authors and illustrators have donated signed books and original artwork to be auctioned off. And 100% of the proceeds go to the hospital. One of the founders of the project, illustrator Joe McKendry, contacted me to participate and I donated a signed Spiderwick book and a rare limited edition print that was only given as a gift to family and friends back in 2006.

Imagine

Jarrett, however, had been working with Joe on a collaborative piece in which a gang of illustrators (I think that is the proper term for a group of them…or is it “herd”?) would each render a letter to spell out “We Art Boston”. Prints would be made and the one-of-a-kind original would be the highlight of the auction. Since I’d been traveling quite a bit, I would be last to participate and would be illustrating the letter “N”.

sketch

Angela helped me come up with the idea. When we visit Boston, we always try to stop at the Public Garden. I love the vista of feathery willow trees at the pond with swan boats serenely drifting by. Of course, this location is also the setting for two beloved children’s classics – Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings and E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan. I added the steeple of nearby Arlington church as a landmark to make it distinctly Boston.

inprogress

Here it is on my drawing table while I was working away on it. I did fret a bit that I would be the one to spill ink on it after it hand successfully passed through so many hands. Thankfully it made it out of the studio unscathed.

finalposter

I was honored and delighted to be a part of this piece. As a parent and an ambassador for the Starlight Foundation, I am all for helping children’s hospitals.

PosterSMALL

Here is the list of fellow artists involved in the “We Art Boston” one-of-a-kind original:

“W” by Joe McKendry,

“E” by Kelly Murphy,

“A” by David Macaulay,

“R” by Brian Lies,

“E” by Adam Rex,

“B” by Barbara McClintock,

“O” by Matt Taveres,

“S” by Jarrett Krosoczka,

“T” by Eric Carle,

“O” by Grace Lin,

“N” by Yours Truly.

The auction starts on October 10th and runs through the 24th, so participate if you can. There are some great pieces up on the block and it all goes to a great cause.

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13. The Search for a WondLaful Cover (IV)

The final stages of creating the artwork for The Battle for WondLa dust-jacket required me to set down my pencils, pens and paper and grab a mouse, Wacom stylus and keyboard.

As proud as I am of my inking capabilities, I never create the perfect ink drawing. Cleanup is required. Nowadays I correct errors in Photoshop, but way-back-when I would “white-out” the part I wanted to fix in white acrylic paint, then redraw over it. You can see this technique here in a piece from The Spiderwick Chronicles. Look closely at Byron’s wings.

Swick

Because India ink is so vibrant, it requires A LOT of white paint in order to mask the error and provide a decent background to re-ink upon. In the end, you are drawing on a bumpy surface of blobbed on paint. I am heartened when I learn that even the most accomplished ink-masters dealt with whiting out mistakes. Here’s a close-up of an original Garth Williams drawing from Charlotte’s Web.

garth

The yellowing of the paper has made his corrections more apparent. Charles Dana Gibson would meticulously patch in a new piece of board to fix his inking mishaps. Once the piece is photographed for reproduction the white-out (or the seams from the patch) would vanish and give the appearance of a perfect ink drawing in the final reproduction. With a home art studio housing new(ish) technology, I now scan my ink drawings and upload them directly into the art director’s ftp folder. This allows for digital cleanup and fixes with incredible freedom.

My first exercise that I run it through is the mirror flip. A common practice in art school, it simply requires looking at a reflection of your artwork. With the image in reverse, errors become more apparent. Let me show you:

This is a scan of the finished ink drawing from Chapter 6 of The Wyrm King from Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles. Can you see error in the drawing? I couldn’t while I was working on it, so I’ll give you a clue: It has to do with Nick, the boy in the lower left wearing the seaweed cap.

NickINK

Here is a close-up of Nick scanned for print (a 600 dots per inch [dpi] bitmap).

Nick1

Now I shall mirror-flip it in Photoshop. The error becomes more apparent in this reversed image – the axis of his eyes are off (among other facial features). A quick digital fix will show how subtle tweaks to line art can make a big difference.

Nick2

In Photoshop, not only can I erase dust, ink droplets and spatter, I can also alter the drawing itself. Here I am nudging the eye back up a bit and rotating it slightly.

NICKtransform

I can also erase any inconsistencies in the line work and redraw whatever needs to be done. Compare the original artwork (left) with the cleaned-up version (right). (Click to see a hi-res image)

NickCompareAnd here is the final printed image.

spread

Of course, this begs the question: Why not just ink the whole thing digitally? Because I like to have a physical piece of art when all is said and done. I want something that’s been held and made by human hands. And, despite these tweaks and cleanup, I want some of the ink blobs, smudges and errors created when by drawing by hand. That is part of the charm for me.

That in mind, I tend to err on the conservative end when cleaning up my ink drawings digitally. More often than not, the original drawing looks pretty close to the final printed image.

Chap1INK

Chap1COLOR

And here is the inked artwork of Eva for the cover to The Battle for WondLa. I got lucky on this one and it required little clean up (I fixed the pattern on the muzzle of the boomrod, removed strands of hair, and erased lines where her hand gripped the Omnipod). Now she is ready for color, but more on that next time…

Eva_Scan

 

6 Comments on The Search for a WondLaful Cover (IV), last added: 10/13/2013
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14. The Style of Scribner

Early in my career in children’s publishing, I filled in the gaps between my picture book projects by illustrating jacket art for paperback books. Most were reissues of older titles like the Bernie MaGruder series and the Magic Shop books. Though I channeled classic illustrators (like Norman Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker) I was also inspired by another great illustrator, Joanne Scribner.

Around that time, I remember visiting a used bookshop in upstate New York with artist-pal, Scott Fischer. I was telling Scott of my ongoing jacket art assignments as we browsed through the old paperbacks. From a dusty, overloaded shelf, Scott pulled out a classic from Beverly Cleary – Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

Ramona

We both recognized this iconic cover from our elementary school days. As illustrators we could see the technical mastery in the simple composition. As the title suggests, you are meeting the precocious and endearing Ramona. But the exaggeration of her features (like the flyaway hair and that skinny neck) add a levity to the detailed realistic rendering.

From that day on, I began scooping up books with Scribner’s unmistakable imagery whenever I chanced upon them.

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Henry

As any librarian from the baby-boomer generation will tell you, Scribner was not the first to render covers for Cleary’s classics. The Henry Huggins books, Ramona books, and even Mouse & The Motorcycle were illustrated by the late Louis Darling.

MouseandMotorcycle

As much as I LOVE the original jacket to Mouse & The Motorcycle, it is not the version I grew up with. This is:

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It appears that Scribner was tasked with re-imaging these beloved titles for Dell’s imprint, Yearling Books for Young Readers, in the late 1970′s. This is an illustrator’s dream, to be sure, but to maintain a high-level of artistic quality that spans over many titles with many characters is quite a feat. Joanne’s talent prevailed and an entire generation was introduced to Cleary’s classic texts.

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Henry3

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I’ve trimmed off some of the jacket design only so you can focus on her illustration more. I adore how every title is set in the Cooper font. I can’t think of any other typeface which perfectly reveals the time in which these books were designed.

Ramona1

In looking at her images now, I can see the influence of Rockwell (especially in the staging and acting of the models), but there is also an Art Nouveau quality to the line that is quite distinct. The colored pencil hatching brings to mind the work of Brian Selznick, who is also a fan. When I sent Brian these scans from my book collection, he responded with images from another favorite illustrator from that time – Richard Amsel.

amsel

Amsel’s ubiquitous art permeated album covers, magazine covers and movie posters in the 1970′s and early 80′s. He was master of his craft, able to render a perfect likeness while maintaining his distinct pencil-sketch style. I have no idea whether or not Amsel’s work influenced Scribner’s or if that style was just part of the artistic zeitgeist back then. Regardless, Scribner did for kid’s book covers what Amsel did for movie posters and magazines.

Ramona3

I couldn’t find an official site or page for Joanne Scribner anywhere (if anyone knows of one, please post it in the comments). I did come across an article from the Spokane Daily Chronicle in 1979 reporting her leave of New York and return to Washington, where she’d begun teaching illustration at a local community college. In the article she is quoted, “It is my job to make people want to buy that book. The cover is what grabs people when they walk into the book store.”

Joanne

Thirty-plus years later that philosophy still applies. And, as far as I am concerned, Joanne Scribner’s work still does just that.

Ellen

Ramona2

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15. The Battle for WondLa: Third Draft Completed

71,000 words later, the final chapter of Eva Nine’s story is off to my editor at Simon & Schuster for final tweaks and copy-editing.3rd

We’ve filmed a few video shorts here in the studio that will be released this fall including the cover reveal, creating the art, and writing the trilogy. I’ll keep you posted as soon as they are online.

Now, time to start the sketches for the 50+ interior illustrations.

6 Comments on The Battle for WondLa: Third Draft Completed, last added: 9/12/2013
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16. Friday Fan Art for You Beetleheads

Throughout the year I am fortunate to receive letters, drawings, and the occasional package from fans around the world.  These notes contain questions, inspired art and ideas, and conversation all sparked by my work or common thread of interest in the fantastic, art, or books.  I love to read these letters and I am always so amazed to see the beautiful work that is produced. What fans do not always realize is that often times these letters and works are just as inspiring for me as my work is to them.  Sculptural artist, June Gallagher’s, gift provided a mischievous masterpiece of inspiration.

front

Last week I received a package from June – a New York-based artist that I had featured in a previous Friday Fan Art post showcasing her beautiful Thimbletack sculpture.  Inside this package I found another Spiderwick inspired work: an absolutely stunning, talking sculpture of Hogsqueal.

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Like Thimbletack, Hogsqueal is made from Premo Polymer Clay accented with mixed media material for the details.  The base of the sculpture is enforced with a aluminum wire mesh.  His overalls are made from an old sock (also used for her Thimbletack sculpt) and his coat has been created from a wool fabric (found on Etsy).  Both his whiskers and ear hair tufts are made from feathers.  June’s eye for details included shrinking crayon wrappers to fit the polymer clay crayons in Hoggy’s jacket!

crayons

Located on the back of a rock on the mossy platform you can find a small button tactfully hidden behind a screen door.  When the button is pressed you hear, “Hey Beetlehead, what are you staring at?  Never seen a hobgoblin before?”  The voice is a friend of June’s son and was recorded on a tiny device purchased online.  All in all, after finding the right fabrics and recording device, Hogsqueal took about 2 weeks to create.

Listen to Talking Hogsqueal

For the past year June has been on a mission to devote her time to being grateful.  This decision was made after a tragic event in June’s life caused her to focus on the wonderful and inspiring things around her.  I know how important art can be in moments like that and am honored that my work has been included June’s healing process (Hogsqueal is too).

head

You can find more of June’s work at her Etsy Shop called Oaknwich Lane Designs.

Never abandon imagination, June.  Keep Sculpting, Keep Dreaming.

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17. A Fantastic Field Guide Friday Fan Art

Patrik is a teenage artist from a small European country named Slovenia (located next to Italy, Austria, and Croatia) who has been inspired by The Spiderwick Chronicles.  He read the series about four years ago, in his native language Slovene, and became inspired to create his own fantastical project, which took him three years to complete!

This commitment is nothing new for the young artist.  In fact, Patrik discovered his passion for drawing when he was just five, and continued to exercise his talent through grade school.  Like me, he looks to many similar sources for inspiration.  “I love nature, and not just nature, but everything that is natural which has a feeling of pureness,” he explained in his email.  Of course, the natural world had a great influence on me when I was creating Spiderwick. I studied and drew from museum specimens and other forms found in the wild to guide me in creating a more detailed world of the fantastic.

Cover

Patrik, saw this connection and was so inspired by the information found in Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You that he decided to make his own rendition of the book.  Above you can see the cover of the piece surrounded by objects Mr. Spiderwick would have had close at hand – spectacles, a compass, an ink dip pen, magnifying glass, and (of course) his seeing stone.

Patrik2

Here are only some of the beautiful pages of Patrik’s homemade field guide.  Detailed renditions of goblins, ogres, sea maids, and many more familiar creatures fill the pages, providing documentation that Arthur Spiderwick would be proud to see.  Note that the information included in the drawings have been translated to Slovene.

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Patrik15
The Griffin centerfold is one of my favorites…

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…and, of course, instructions on how to use a seeing stone. Nice work, Patrik.  This field guide is splendid.

From Massachusetts to Slovenia:

Keep drawing, Keep dreaming.

4 Comments on A Fantastic Field Guide Friday Fan Art, last added: 9/6/2013
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18. The Search for a WondLaFul Cover (Part III)

After many concept sketches, refined drawings, and color studies, I was finally able to begin the execution of the final artwork for The Battle for WondLa.

A cover featuring the main character front and center is really all about the character. If the design and drawing fail, then the cover is that much weaker. In other words, I have to knock this drawing of Eva Nine out of the ballpark for this cover to be successful. To do that, I gathered real-life reference for Eva and her environment.

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When the model arrives at the studio, Angela and I create a costume that folds and wrinkles the way I imagine Eva’s costume would. Here’s the model, in costume, posing as Eva for the paperback edition of book 1:

Eva

 

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You can see its pretty close to the final. Also, the pose echoes Eva’s character in book 1 – hopeful, innocent and strong in spirit. Eva has grown to a stronger, more confident girl by the third book and so, the pose reflects that change.

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See this difference in posture and attitude? That’s key for me. On top of that, we’ve also tried to emulate the lighting for the final piece (as worked out in my color studies). There’s cool, white light behind Eva with a warm, yellow light illuminating her face. With this sort of reference handy I can create a more confident and structured drawing.

I enlarge the sketch to a size that I am comfortable with (for this one I went pretty big). There is no hard rule on the final art size for me, though I usually create it around 2x the printed size. Next, I lay a sheet of vellum over the printout and ink directly onto the vellum. I use Staedtler Pigment Liners to do the job and switch among various widths as I work. Before I start the final inking, however; I do a couple of tests and warmups.

Eva1

Once I feel confident I begin the final inking. If the figure is key to creating a successful cover, then the face is key to creating a successful figure. It is where your eyes go first and the face give clues to the emotion of the character, which the body language emphasizes.

Eva3

I exhale a big sigh of relief once I am past this point. There is work still to do, but its easier going for me from here on in.

Eva4

After the figure is inked, I move onto other elements of the jacket. As you may have surmised, I do not ink the art as one complete piece. I have found that book jacket art requires numerous tweaks and changes as the various components are designed. There has to be adequate space for the title, credits, and any other sales copy that may help sell the book. Since I am rendering the final art digitally, I create the elements separately so they can be nudged and moved throughout the process.

That next element for this jacket is the city. The underground cities in WondLa are inspired by real-world proposals for actual underground cities, like this enormous quarry in Siberia.

EcoCitySiberia

With additional reference of Manhattan and the Grand Canyon I inked the background art. Here’s a trial run of the inks on the city with much of the reference nearby:

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The last element that needed inking were the columns of smoke billowing from the city. I love drawing organic shapes and could render these flumes for days. Here, I switched to Faber-Castell’s PITT line of artist’s pens. I used the brush nib to add a calligraphic touch to the puffs of smoke.

smoke

Once all the elements were inked, it was time to scan and color…more on that next time.

inks

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19. SPIDERWICK 10th Anniversary Event

Just as we launched The Spiderwick Chronicles a decade ago, Holly Black and I are returning to a locally-owned independent bookshop to celebrate the Grace kid’s birthday.

Barringtonflyer

For one night only (May 15th) we will both be signing at Barrington Books, in Rhode Island. Bring your young readers, your camera and your books! (Yes, I really will be handing out FREE Wondla II sketchbooks.)

RISDFlyer

And, for you art students of Rhode Island School of Art & Design, we shall be visiting in the afternoon and holding a special presentation on creative process and answering any/all questions. I hope we see you there!

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20. Friday Fan Art

Since I am celebrating the 10-year anniversary of The Spiderwick Chronicles this week, today’s Friday Fan Art is appropriately themed. It comes all the way from a small town in Brazil where a young artist turned to the story of Jared, Simon and Mallory for inspiration.

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As Pedro patiently waited for his copy of Spiderwick to arrive in the mail his anticipation and enthusiasm for the fantastic grew.  Upon reading the chronicles, he immediately took to the tale and was inspired to create art of his own.

Pedro_Detail

The piece above was directly inspired from Simon and Byron’s epic fight against Mulgarath’s mother Dragon.  Though Pedro has been dabbling in art since he was a toddler, he has only been seriously tending to his craft for the past year.  Currently he is learning how to draw with Photoshop but he also works with pencil and watercolor.

Great palette and movement, Pedro!  You’re Photoshop skills are impressive.  I love the hand drawn quality you have brought to this digital medium.

Keep drawing, keep dreaming.

 

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21. BOOKS: The Vim & Vigor of Vogel

I haven’t rattled on about other artists whose books I love for some time now (Like H.J. Ford or A.B. Frost). While I’ve been at my desk for the past four months writing the first draft of WondLa III, I’ve still craved artistic inspiration. During this time, I started each day with snapshots of some of my treasured books in my collection that I shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. One that received many a response was by German illustrator, Hermann Vogel.

VogelGrimm1

Unlike previous posts (where I am quite educated on the artist and can show how their work directly influenced me), Vogel is simply one of those that is so grand, so in tune with the art I make, that I mostly just want to share a bunch of hi-res scans with you. Though, I must confess that part of this reasoning is because I honestly don’t know a whole lot about him.

What I can tell you is that I was at San Diego Comic Con a few years back walking the floor with my wife, Angela. Out of the throngs of costumed fans, Charles Vess appears, seizes me by the sleeve, and escorts me over to a used bookseller’s booth. He points to a 1894 German edition of the Grimm Brothers’ Kinder und Hausmärchen (Children’s & Household Tales) and tells me, “This book is expensive ($100+), but you won’t regret purchasing it.”

VogelGrimm2

I picked the book up and leafed through the pages. In one chapter’s worth of illustrations, I closed the book and opened my wallet. Charles was right. (click on each thumbnail to have your mind blown)

VogelHansel

VogelSnowWhite1

VogelSnowWhite2

Since then, I have managed to find a few more copies of Vogel’s magnificent work. He released four albums of collected art around the turn-of-the-century. The cover alone is a triumph of design.

HermannVogel

While I’ve been hunting for his books, more artists have mentioned their mutual love of Vogel’s work. Michael Hague, Barbara McClintock and Brian & Wendy Froud are all fans. For me, its the disciplined draftsmanship that is matched only by his epic imagination.

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Here’s some scans from Heldensage Deutsche (German Heroic Sagas) and include illustrations from Beowulf and the Nibelung.

Beowulf

KingLaurin

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I wish I could tell you that Dover books offered affordable reprints for you to snag and add to your collection. However, as of this writing, none exist. In the meantime, I will scan and post more images here from time to time. If you own/find any of his books let me know, I’d love to share what everybody has and build a wishlist.

GermanSagas

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22. The Battle for WondLa: First Draft Completed

Fellow Orbonians, the first draft of The Battle for WondLa is completed and with my editor. While he reads it over (along with my beta-readers), I am beginning to design the third and final cover.

firstdraft

But first, some “First Draft Fun Facts”:

The Search for WondLa: 221 manuscript pages, 51,000 words

A Hero for WondLa: 237 manuscript pages, 61,000 words

The Battle for WondLa: 230 manuscript pages, 59,000 words

The first two books took about 6 months to write (with interruptions). I did this one in about 4. Final word count for the first two books is right around 70k words, so there will likely be a bit more added in the 2nd and 3rd drafts (usually its clarification of things and more description).

Now, the cover.

moelskin

These covers have been somewhat tricky for me. My main goal in the image is to present an intriguing world with compelling characters – all without trying to give too much of the plot away. The design went through an overhaul from the first book’s transition from hardcover to paperback (which you can read about here). The second book had a large-scale scene also intent on enticing new readers.

HeroForWondLa

Now we come to the final chapter in Eva Nine’s ascension to a true heroine and so I want to depict her teetering on the edge of two worlds: that of a passive character versus a character of action. Or it is the transition of an individual naive to the world around them to one who is cognizant of their surroundings. Essentially, a symbolic image of the child-Eva becoming a young adult.

I have to start with reacquainting myself with Eva. Sure, I scribble sketches of her in scenes throughout the writing process like the sketch above done back in January in my Moleskine journal.  However, I still need to draw her portrait to mark the transformation she is going through from book to book – like this image of Eva as she appears near the end of book three:

Eva

Then I am off to find inspiration. Émile Bayard‘s iconic image of Cosette sweeping from Victor Hugo’s 1862 classic, Les Misérables, gives me a despairing feeling that I hope to capture in this third cover.

Cosette

You can see Bayard’s influence on this sketch of Eva, here.

boomrod

So I continue to explore and pursue the perfect cover image: one that entices readers while accurately exhibiting the mood and tone of the story and one that satisfies my artistic vision. Its a tricky act to be sure, but one I thoroughly enjoy doing.

9 Comments on The Battle for WondLa: First Draft Completed, last added: 6/27/2013
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23. The Search for a WondLaful Cover (Part II)

Invigorated with feedback from my readers, and my sketch approved by the team at Simon & Schuster, it was time to develop the mood of my cover concept sketch through use of color.

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Confession: I am not the best with color theory.

On top of that, I am partially colorblind (especially where dark blue transitions to deep violet). To unify my color palette in a painting, I underpaint the entire image in Raw Sienna or Burnt Umber and build on top of that.  So, if you really want to know color, I suggest you visit Jim Gurney’s blog – he’s a genius.

If I am not doing my usual brown-on-brown-with-a-touch-of-color painting (like I did for most of the Spiderwick illustrations) then I am looking at photographs and other paintings for palette ideas. When I come across something that could potentially be my Palette of Inspiration, I squint my eyes to blur the image and allow the colors to dictate their mood to me. So an image like this, (from American landscape painter, Albert Bierstadt):

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…becomes this:

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Using Photoshop, I can also index the palette to a fixed number of colors and then view that palette as a color table:

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This aids greatly in digital coloring because you start off with a perfectly harmonized palette. Sure it may be limiting but I like the challenge of using a limited palette – especially to convey an emotion. For the second WondLa book, I referenced photographs of dusky sunsets to achieve the color palette. On the third book I would need to veer away from those color combinations to set the jacket apart from the others – yet keep a similar color sense so that the book felt like it fit with the previous titles in the trilogy.

I began with a palette created from Bierstadt’s western landscapes (which I love). Quickly I created a color sketch:

ColorStudy

Here, the palette felt perhaps too similar to the color combinations in book 2 (a light, warm-tinted background against a cooler dark silhouette), so I explored more:

ColorStudy2

I pulled the saturated colors out of the landscape and pushed Eva into a cool shadow of purple hue. There was something I really liked about the green sky, (especially over an area of destruction) but the colors overall didn’t convey the majesty of the landscape beyond Eva. I tried another palette altogether:

ColorStudy3

10 points to anyone who can guess the inspiration for this palette. It is so identifiable with this artist that I am immediately put into a magical twilight trance when viewing it. If you recognized this as the colors used by Maxfield Parrish, then you understand the impact color can have. This color scheme was from his most famous painting, “Daybreak”. Though a beautiful palette, it didn’t work here – there is too much of a contradiction with these tranquil hues and a story about a war and battles.

Which led to the obvious: why not look at paintings of war? Duh.

I browsed through numerous paintings, from the civil war to Jacques-Louis David’s famous Napoleon paintings.

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There was plenty of brown to be sure – depicting turbulent skies and smoky landscapes. I felt like I was on the right track. Then it struck me that Eva’s pose in my sketch was very similar to a pose I had seen in a very famous war painting:

Washington1851

Emanual Leutze’s famous 1851 painting hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I’ve marveled at its proud epic presence for hours on end. It holds the perfect combination of light, darkness and color. It was my Palette of Inspiration for the final installment of the WondLa trilogy.

ColorStudy4

Next up, I gather reference and begin the final art.

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24. Friday Fan Art

This week’s Friday Fan Art comes from a wonderful local bookstore called The Odyssey Bookshop, located in South Hadley, Massachusets.  To help celebrate The Spiderwick Chronicles’ 10-year anniversary, the staff held a nationwide contest asking Spiderwick fans from near and far to submit a drawing of their favorite character from the series.

The first prize winner won a signed set of the Spiderwick books.  The second place winner received a copy of Holly Black’s newest book, Doll Bones. When my friends from Odyssey shared the entries with me I was blown away by the quality of the submissions. Portraits of fantastic fey, the Grace children, and (of course) the star villain were submitted. All were executed with great talent and skill. Here are the winners and some of my favorite honorable mentions:

Mulgarath

First prize went to Brenden from Beloit, Wisconson for his awesome rendition of Mulgarath.  I love his attention to detail – look at all those teeth!

Griffin

Second place sits with the talented Hannah all the way from Canaro, Canada.  Great Griffin, Hannah!

Mallory

This beautiful Mallory drawing belongs to the talented Haley.  Nice work rendering the title typography by hand!

Wood Elf

Lastly, Meghan from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania designed this peaceful Wood Elf.  I really like how you’ve included a head detail as well.  I often do this when trying to capture just the right expression for a character.

I am always impressed by the fan art that arrives here in the studio.  It’s the ultimate compliment to know that my work inspires aspiring artists to create masterpieces of their own. Congratulations to all the winners and to the folks at the Odyssey for supporting the arts.

Keep drawing, keep dreaming.

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25. The Search for a WondLaful Cover (Part I)

While my first draft of The Battle for WondLa was read by my editor and trusted beta-readers, I switched my focus from writing to drawing. In particular, drawing the perfect cover image to depict the climatic conclusion of the WondLa trilogy.

Eva5

I had started with sketches of Eva, just to reacquaint myself with her visually. Some readers have noticed that I’ve explored different visual motifs with Eva in each book. In the third story she returns to the knotty braids she had in book 1, though with elements of the forest (like seedpods and feathers) woven into her colorless hair. To me, this signifies her relationship and bond with the natural world.

The juxtaposition of Eva as a “nymph of the forest” facing the reality of war was something I wanted to convey on this jacket…especially a jacket with the word “Battle” in its title.

My first idea was of Eva on the precipice of a city in fiery ruin. It was Eva on the brink of war.

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However, this seemed a bit of a static, posed image to me. Next, I tried for a scene with a bit more action in it. Something to draw the reader into the peril Eva faces in the story.

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Both concepts needed refining, but I sent them off to the art director at Simon & Schuster to see how the team there would react. They preferred Eva on the rim, but suggested she be posed in a more heroic and determined stance. I returned to the sketch and tried for a more natural pose that I’d hope would suggest Eva’s confidence.

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This piece didn’t have the wow-factor for me. Eva looked stiff and overall it seemed weaker than the first sketch. Also, in my attempt to make her more (super)heroic by blowing her poncho up (thus alluding to a cape), I ended up making her look as though she now had fairy wings. I shelved this sketch and tried for another concept altogether. Perhaps placing her in the chaos of the city under attack would ramp up the drama. In this setting, I could contrast the fear and panic of the crowd with the calm determination of Eva.

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I liked where this was heading, and it looked different than anything I had seen in the bookstore. Though the crowd is running left-to-right while Eva faces the viewer, a tweak on the direction of the crowd would really bring it home. In fact, having them swirl around her – as in a vortex of humanity – could be quite powerful. I sent this sketch off to the art director at Simon & Schuster to await feedback. In the rarest of circumstances, I was informed that the team liked all three designs and that I could ultimately choose which image to use on the book’s jacket.

Wow. That never happens.

Everyone I shared my sketches with responded to different images. To get some public opinion, I conducted a little research test and posted all three on my facebook and twitter page. To my delight, I received feedback from many of my readers including the likes of Jenni Holm, Mike Mignola and even Jim Gurney. Though many picked up on my thinking of the third sketch, the first drawing (of Eva on the rim of ruined city) received the most positive responses. When I tallied up the comments, sketch #1 took it by a landslide.

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Understandably, this was small group responding but the feedback was undeniable. Perhaps there was something in that original concept that was speaking to people. Perhaps it was a child facing the realities of the world while standing on the brink of adulthood? Perhaps the composition of the image itself resonated as something they’d seen before? Perhaps it was simply because Eva appeared alone, yet determined, in the wide expanse of the world – ready to take on the challenge of another day.

Invigorated, I went back to the drawing board and gave it one more shot.

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Now there was something about the drawing that was intrinsic to the theme of this story. The splendor and danger of our natural world contrasted with the splendor of mankind’s capabilities and the danger we can inflict upon one another. Eva is balanced between both worlds. In the final sketch, I put the horizon right in the middle of the image to drive that point home. Eva is caught between two worlds. Will she ever find her home – her WondLa – in either of them?

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After the sketch was approved it was onto color studies to find just the right palette to convey the mood of the book and the emotion of the scene. But more on that next time…

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