Textbook Sketches

I’m working on a 5th grade History book for BJUPRESS.  The designer and I have been going back and forth trying to zero in on the style for the book’s interior illustrations. Thought it might be interesting to give a peek at the thoughts behind the book’s illustrations.

Initially, I wanted to do something stylized.  The argument was that the illustrations would give the readers some space to enter into them and handles for their imaginations to grab hold.  So here are two ideas about what that might look like.  One’s a rough sketch of a soldier at Valley Forge.  The other more finished illustration is of a younger G. Washington during the French and Indian War.

Heritage5-1

They didn’t feel right.  The Valley Forge guy in particular was a bad fit.  It could work if the account of Valley Forge was heavily narrative or if the age were younger (3rd grade perhaps), but because these were 5th graders and sensitive to being “talked down to,” and because the illustrations have to serve interesting textual callouts, the style needed to feel more precise.  Also, another problem emerged.  Humorous illustrations about abstract things look too similar in style to serious/concrete things.

Heritagesketch1

The more literal style (above on the right) allowed the comic illustrations (below) a separate voice.

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So it’s still rough, but we’re finding the illustration look for the book.

Heritage style samples

The aspiration is for the styles to look related, but more like cousins than brothers.  It’s an exciting project, and I’m enjoying the preliminary discoveries, but I can’t wait to get into the guts of it.  Hope this was interesting.

Kickstarter: The Green Ember

I’ve been working on a project that I’m excited to tell you about:

TGE-Cover

Written by S.D. Smith, illustrated by me, and published by Story Warren, The Green Ember is an adventure story that involves rabbits with swords. You’ll love it. As the author says in his blog post about the new book, “I made this for you.”

Green EmberCheck out the Kickstarter, reserve your copy, and maybe get some other really cool rewards while you’re at it.

TGE-rewards

UPDATE: The Green Ember met its Kickstarter goal of $10,000 in just one day! Thanks to all who donated. Go buy a book now during the pre-sale on Kickstarter.

Tea Paintings

There is a thought I hear quite often.  It’s presented with such confidence that those who say it seem to think the matter settled.  This is how it goes: humans are most human when they surrender to their appetites and abandon all to instinct.  To resist one’s impulse is to deny one’s self.  Remarkably, this sounds similar to the way we understand animals to be.

Rather than further this notion–that to be human we must be animals, I would like to present its opposite.  Humans do not need to aspire to be animals, rather, animals should aspire to be more like humans, and what better way than to drink tea with clothes on?

giraffegiraffe-zachfranzen bearrabbit-zachfranzen foxchicken-zachfranzen mouseelephant-zachfranzen hippocroc-zachfranzen

I have created a series of paintings of animals drinking tea.  The paintings themselves are done in tea and can be purchased from my etsy shop.  Because the acids in tea tend to prematurely age paper, I sealed the drawing with a couple coats of varnish and painted on top of it in order to increase the painting’s archival qualities.

I would say that the color of tea is quite delicate and very pretty.  However, it’s unruly.  The tea doesn’t layer easily and doesn’t like to dry in the middle places.  It tends to build up on the edges, which can be frustrating.  Still, I enjoyed this experiment and the paintings are nice conversation pieces.  If you should have one of those conversations, I would recommend that you have it over a nice cup of tea like a civilized human (and not over coffee like a savage).

“If you are cold, tea will warm you.  If you are too heated, it will cool you.  If you are depressed, it will cheer you.  If you are excited, it will calm you.”  ~Gladstone, 1865

“I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life. I can’t even remain in the same room with coffee.” –Mark Helprin

Story Warren Event

This past weekend I had the privilege to meet a lot of young artists in West Virginia at an illustration event hosted by Story Warren.  I took the opportunity to speak about the unity of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty and walked participants through an illustration for a forthcoming novel by Sam Smith (not to be confused with Sam Sith, a Star Wars villain).

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photo 1

Alissa and I also enjoyed hanging out with Sam and his wonderful family.  They were kind to snap this photo of me and my pregnant wife (six-months!) against the backdrop of the West Virginia mountains.  I, however, was not kind enough to stop talking while they took the photograph.

 

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Rain

Rain
by Robert Louis Stevenson 

The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

This poem (written for children) beautifully exhibits the impulse to treat children as humans with experiences that are universal to mankind.  The rain described here seems to be a universal binder that unites a child in a park to the more romantic idea of ships at sea.

I think this short poem displays simplicity without stumbling into triviality.  It’s a good benchmark.

Hero Up!

Courtesy of the World Wide Web, I have found some cards I did a few years ago.  I thought these were only supposed to be for use online, but I guess somewhere along the line they made these two into actual cards, complete with foil stamping.  Super!