Thursday, December 23, 2010


In Mordicai Gerstein's Creating the Picturebook, we began the semester considering framing and spreads. Using nursery rhymes and then fables, we created short dummy books. Here are a few examples of the exercises.

The Tortoise and the Hare

The Frog and the Ox

The Fox and the Grapes

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nursery Rhymes

In Mordicai Gerstein's Creating the Picturebook, we began the semester considering framing and spreads. Using nursery rhymes and then fables, we created short dummy books. Here are a few examples of the exercises.

Little Boy Blue

Little Jack Horner

BaBa Black Sheep

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Molly Bang & Picture This

The first book we looked at in Megan's Picturebook class was Molly Bang's Picture This, a book my mom has had around the house since it was published and a book she bought me in the eight grade. In Picture This, Bang explores how the color, shape, and size of various compositional elements directly affects the emotional response of the viewer. Her beginning example focus on the story of Little Red Riding Hood, while later images explore the differences between diagonals versus horizontals, and round versus geometric forms. For someone who has studied art and sat through critiques, the information in Bang's book is already second nature. What I found most interesting was how non-visual people related and processed the concepts in the book. Watching an adult move pieces of paper around, trying to understand the dynamics of a composition is incredible- even more so in that compositional elements may be something they've never before considered. As an illustrator and intrinsically visual person I find this rather astonishing.

Below is Hansel and Gretel told in 5 pages (and one title page) using the concepts and exercises outlined in Molly Bang's book (one of which is two colors plus black and white, hence the controlled palette).

Hansel and Gretel’s stepmother, tired of the sound of children playing, sent them into the woods with naught but a hunk of bread. Hansel and Gretel’s father had never let them play in the woods. Afraid they would become lost; they left a trail of bread crumbs behind them.

But the birds of the forest flocked to food and Hansel and Gretel were soon lost. Spying a house through the trees, they headed toward it and were soon welcomed inside. Though the cottage was sweet, there was something strange about the Old Woman who lived there.

That night the Old Woman grabbed Hansel, cackling, “I do love a good roast child!” Though terrified, Gretel would not see her brother condemned to the oven. As the Old Woman muttered to herself, Gretel reached out, pushing with all her strength, and shoved the Old Woman into the oven, pulling Hansel to safety as she did.

Hansel and Gretel fled the cottage, weaving and twisting through the trees. As dawn approached, they found the edge of the woods.

“Children! Were have you been?” Their father greeted them with hugs and admonishments; “You must never go into the forest alone again. Oh, I missed you so!” Their stepmother, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's been going on this fall...

It's been quite a while since I've posted here, the result of a full-time job and full-time graduate school (and I actually attempt to sleep sometimes). I've just finished my first semester at Simmons at the Eric Carle Museum where I'm getting a MFA in writing and illustration for children. This semester I took two picturebook classes. The first, an introduction to the picturebook, is taught by Megan Lambert. This class is not designed specifically for illustrators and explores form, history, and criticism of the picturebook. Michael Patrick Hearn gives a series of guest lectures during the class and these focus on the history of picturebook illustration.

The second class, Creating the Picturebook, is taught by Mordicai Gerstein (the Caldecott Award winning illustrator of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers). Creating the Picturebook is a studio-based class that culminates in the creation of a picturebook dummy, finished cover illustration, and two finished interiors. Building up to this we also did exercises story-boarding nursery rhymes with and without frames. It's amazing to watch someone like Mordicai look at a drawing, and then sketch the same drawing but with the character in a slightly different place. This simple change suddenly creates a much more dynamic composition. In my undergraduate thesis class, I found that Whitney Sherman could do the same thing with text and layout. A simple move and bang, the piece worked (in a seemingly miraculous way).

Over the course of the next week I hope to post some assignments from the semester, as well as give some information on the program at the Eric Carle museum (and my experience of it). While the MFA in illustration and writing was added this fall and is only available at the Eric Carle, there are also programs in creative writing and children's literature which are available at both the Carle and at Simmons College in Boston.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Picture Book Report

This past winter I worked on an illustration for Dahl's Matilda and I created a second illustration for the novel earlier this summer. Both illustrations are on Picture Book Report today! If you're not familiar with Picture Book Report, scroll back through the posts- people have been doing some amazing work (I've particularly enjoyed seeing Kali Ciesemier's Sabriel illustrations).

I don't think I'm finished illustrating passages of Matilda, but this particular project will go on hold for a while with the start of MFA classes in the fall.

I love the dark quirkiness of Dahl’s stories. His characters are at once ridiculous and so detailed that they must actually exist. Last year I worked on a series of illustrations for Edward Lear’s limericks, which share a strange sensibility with Dahl’s work. I enjoyed working with Lear’s texts and found myself thinking about Dahl as I worked. Wanting to work with a longer piece than one of Dahl’s poems, and fondly remembering Matilda, I decided to pick it up again. The dark, very British humor and ridiculous events tend to make me grin with glee and I can’t help but love characters who are enamored of books….

Chapter 1: The Reader of Books
‘Did you know,’ Mrs Phelps said, ‘that public libraries like this allow you to borrow books and take them home?’

‘I didn’t know that,’ Matilda said. ‘Could I do it?’

‘Of course,’ Mrs Phelps said. ‘When you have chosen the book you want, bring it to me so I can make a note of it and it’s yours for two weeks. You can take more than one if you wish.’

Chapter 2: The Ghost
‘I’m fed up with your reading anyway. Go and find yourself something useful to do.’ With frightening suddenness he [Mr Wormwood] now began ripping the pages out of the book in handfuls and throwing them in the waste-paper basket.

Matilda froze in horror. The father kept going. There seemed little doubt that the man felt some kind of jealousy. How dare she, he seemed to be saying with each rip of a page, how dare she enjoy reading books when he couldn’t? How dare she?

‘That’s a library book! Matilda cried. ‘It doesn’t belong to me! I have to return it to Mrs. Phelps!’

There are many books in this world I do not agree with and hope no one ever reads, but the idea of directing violence toward a book is unthinkable, as it rends not just thoughts, but, in the case of fiction, entire worlds. Though we as readers already dislike Mr. Wormwood, this scene establishes Matilda’s father as a truly horrid man and enables us to laugh at him later when Matilda exacts her devious revenge.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

more spaceship design sketches

It's integral to the story that the spaceship have a nose. Not just a spaceship nose, but one that looks a bit more like a real nose. The silhouettes have definitely been helpful thus far. Additionally, the ramp out will then look a little like a mouth but I'm trying to make it not too scary, simply interesting if you happen to notice it. I considered having a red carpet tongue, but it seems like a bit too much. We'll see, maybe it'll work when I eventually get to color studies.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

great galactic ghoul

I made these accordion-fold booklets of the untitled & unwritten work as promo mailings (left backs, right fronts). I've mailed out a stack but there are still some waiting to go out. I love the mini-book feel they have; I just want to carry one around in my pocket. I still have a collection of small books from when I was a kid, as well as a nutshell library (Sendak) that I bought in high school because I loved the little hardback books.

I'm working on sketches for a children's manuscript I wrote. I'm still trying to figure out how my work will fit in with my full-time job, but be assured that it will. Here are a few from the land of little time.As I was dividing up the text for the 32-page picture book format, I was thinking how much I wished a professor had given me a text a week and had me divide it up into a 32 page format and then compared and shared ideas with the other students in my class. It would be agonizing the first few weeks, but I think it would be a great way to develop pacing along a story arc. If I ever end up teaching (who knows what could happen in the next 30 years) I may play this card... Anyway, the idea's up for grabs if anyone wants to implement it. Maybe I'll even get my act together and make myself do it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Join me for an opening in Northampton, MA!

As I mentioned in the last post, I've recently moved to Amherst and am working at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley. But don't worry, though I spend my days with books, my early mornings and nights are spent working on my art and writing.

Tomfoolery, recently shown at Rockhill Bakehouse, will be hanging in the cafe of the River Valley Market in Northampton during the month of June. The work will be up as of June 1st and the opening is Friday, June 11th from 6-8pm. If you are in the area, stop by to see the prints and say hello.

The prints will be available for sale with a percentage of the price going to the charity of the month at River Valley Market. You can see the prints here. I've carved 3 new blocks, but have yet to print them, so expect more to come soon!

P.S. Check out photos from my last opening (for Untitled & Unwritten) at the exhibit's blog!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Untitled & Unwritten and an Update

To see all 18 images in this exhibit, head on over to the Untitled & Unwritten. To see my nine images, you can also check out the posts below. The exhibit will also feature a selection of three-dimensional pieces I photographed.

The opening is May 18th, from 6-8pm at the Visual Arts Gallery (directions here). We are encouraging visitors to add a written story in the comments or at the exhibit, for while we've written chapter titles and made illustrations, the stories and book titles remain unwritten.

In the next weeks I will be moving to Massachusetts so there will be fewer posts during the month of May.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Songs from the Cacophony

I'd really love to use this bird again (each feather is hand cut, which takes less time than you might think). In-progress shots of this piece.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chapter 7

Chapter 7: All Lights but the Moon

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chapter 6

Many Seeing Eyes.

Or, what became of all those sketches for the many masks, which were rather fun to make.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Two New Finished Images

Over the next few days I'll be posting what I've been working on since December. I've been playing around with adding frames and texture in Photoshop. If anyone has any suggestions for things I should try in Photoshop in the future, I'd like to hear them.

Chapter 3: And Then Again
Chapter 4: Shadows & Small Trees

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two New Finished Images

Chapter 1: Death of the Spring Snails

Chapter 2: Footsteps, Feather & Bone