End of Year Post: 2015

The ubiquitous quote about long days and short years describes 2015 well. Here we are at the end of the year, and I’m astonished to find I haven’t posted anything in 6 months.

So, here is a monster post revealing some of the work I’ve done that was previously shrouded in mystery.

It’s Textbook

americanlit1-zachfranzenMy day job for the past two years has been illustrating textbooks for BJUPress. I enjoyed many of this year’s assignments.

Here are some illustrations I did for the American Literature book.americanlit2-zachfranzen







Biblical Worldview

Here are a few little things for the book Biblical Worldview. It’s a great book, and Chris Koelle has some beautiful art in it. I think it’s very solid and well written, thanks in no small part to Mark Ward‘s great efforts.



Heritage Studies

The bulk of my work has been the 5th grade Heritage Studies book. I’ve done most of the chapter openers. Note: I don’t have the finished files on hand at the moment, hence the rough pasted-in design elements on top of the illustrations.







I also did a million interior illustrations. Here’s a sampling:


So that’s some of my 9-5 work. But I also did a bunch of other stuff in the evenings and weekends…

For Fun & Freelance

Inkwell 2015: Storywarren’s Family Conference

I was pleased to do some illustration sessions for kids at the Inkwell conference in Charlotte in June. This was the second year of the conference, and it’s really picked up speed. Tickets sold out the first day. Kids experience an action-packed schedule of rotating sessions focused on different areas in the arts, like songwriting, poetry, story-writing, and illustration. We also had some smaller workshops and demonstrations, so there was always something going on.




Vigilante Terror

Some of the older attendees took on the challenge I assigned of illustrating an Amish Romance cover based on the title of a thriller.







Read-Aloud Revival

At Inkwell I was pleased to meet fans of Sarah Mackenzie’s terrific website Amongst Lovely Things and her Read-Aloud Revival podcast. I did a guest post about art and hospitality in March. I also bumbled my way through an interview on her Read-Aloud-Revival podcast in May:

Black Star of Kingston

Storywarren also released the prequel novella to the Green Ember at Inkwell. I did the illustrations and cover for Black Star of Kingston.

blackstar cover

blackstarinterior2blackstarinteriorsblackstar characters

Christmas Crossroads

Below is a cover and some interiors for a JourneyForth book titled Christmas Crossroads. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure type of book with three main story paths.

christmascrossroadschristmas crossroads interiors

Slugs and Bugs

I illustrated the second installment of Randall Goodgame’s Sing the Bible with Slugs and Bugs.




This year we watched Quilla turn from a baby into a toddler. It has been a heart-melting journey.


Also, my wife and I had Vesper, our second little girl. DSC_0193rev

All in all, a full and lovely year.

Inkwell: Story Warren’s Family Conference

Exciting news, friends! Registration is now open for Inkwell: Story Warren’s Family Conference.

Inkwell Logo

Inkwell: Story Warren’s Family Conference
An event for children aged 7 to 17 and their parents

Saturday, June 21
Charlotte, NC
8:30am — 4pm 

From the event page:

Story Warren is all about an alliance. We’re on your side. Our heartbeat is serving your family as you foster holy imagination at home and in your church/community…

In This Together: About the Kids, For the Family
We are focusing on the kids for (and with) the families. We aren’t just aiming to serve your kids,  but to serve your family through your kids…

 The Four Rotating Sessions Will Be:

Andrew Peterson — Writing/Storytelling
Zach Franzen — Drawing/Illustration
Rebecca Reynolds — Poetry/Lyrics
Randall Goodgame — Songwriting/Music


It’s going to be great. Seriously. Register now.

Baby Bird

Here is a painting I did for the nursery of my little 8 month old baby bird.


And here’s my baby bird.

UPDATE: Prints of the two bluebird paintings are now available for sale in my Etsy shop.

Alexander and Bucephalus

I contribute occasionally to a site called Storywarren.  Starting this week, every Friday will feature a story, or poem, or song for kids.  Some will be new, but some will be old.  This Friday’s post is an old story about a young Alexander the Great and his horse Bucephalus.  I did the illustration below in photoshop.

The great thing about photoshop is that you can thumbnail by zooming out.  I roughed-in the necessary elements until I found something sort of satisfactory.

Screen shot 2014-01-06 at 7.22.41 PM

The eye scans the picture better if the composition is flipped.  So I flipped the sketch and roughed in the values.

Screen shot 2014-01-06 at 7.22.53 PM

Next, I tightened the drawing up a bit.  I wanted it to be a little loose but not unreadable.Screen shot 2014-01-06 at 7.23.22 PM

Lastly, I tweaked a few things and added a subtle color gradient for interest.

Screen shot 2014-01-06 at 7.23.33 PM

And there you have it: Alexander and Bucephalus, or as the kids in the neighborhood used to call them, Al and Butch.