Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's a ZOO around here!


A box of freshly printed copies of Maestro Stu Saves the Zoo arrived on my doorstep, yesterday.  I’m extremely happy with the way this book printed. It has a matte finish dust jacket and the artwork was scanned so that the canvas texture and painted brushstrokes can be seen in just the right amount. 

Stu, dreaming of the place he loved best.

Stu has an idea...

The story is full of animals, from cover to cover. One of the animals, seen throughout the book is a squirrel monkey. My grandfather (Mom’s dad) had a squirrel monkey named Joe-Joe.  It was a real treat to visit their house when I was a boy. Each time I painted the monkey in this book, I thought of Joe. I’m also thinking about how childhood memories and experiences seem to weave through our lives in unexpected ways.

Maestro Stu Saves the Zoo by Denise Brennan-Nelson, published by Sleeping Bear Press. 

Here’s Denise with a little introduction to the book:

Well, back to the drawing board...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Blues are Back!

Final poster (11"x17").
The annual Hot Licks Bluesfest returns to Ganville, Ohio in September. I’ve created artwork for the festival poster in the past and it’s one of my favorite projects of the year. It’s a full day of great music in the heart of a beautiful little village and when you combine music and art, I’m on board!
The end of June and first part of July was lost to a storm in the area. My work schedule was really messed up and the Bluesfest poster deadline was approaching (I think that could inspire a blues song, like- Couldn’t Stand the Weather…oops, that one’s taken).
Anyway, I only had a couple of days to create some blues art magic and thought I’d share some project details.

I usually like to include something in the art that reflects that year’s headliner, or bands. If the main band is guitar driven, I go with a guitar. If it’s harp, I try to include a harp player, and so on. This year, the headliner is the hot, hot band from Chicago-land, Funky Mojodaddy. As I researched the other bands in the line-up, the flash of Sean Carney caught my eye.  Carney is an excellent musician and performer. I pulled some pics of Sean for reference. The guy has an extremely cool jacket, trimmed with a leopard print…that’s where I started. 

 Pencil sketch.
Final illustration (acrylic on board).

He’s very animated on stage, so that became perfect inspiration for the poster layout. To get away from the photo reference, I took parts (hands, head, guitar, legs, etc.) from various pics and photo-shopped them together. I enlarged parts, stretched parts and came up with a photo-collage that became my final reference image. The legs and shoes in the reference were actually from a pic of guitar player, Chuck Berry. They worked perfectly with Sean’s cool jacket.  Then, I did a pencil sketch from the Franken-sean photo-collage.

Working on the final art with Franken-sean reference.

The festival goes into the night, so I thought of a starry night as a background…plus the movement of the brushstrokes would add more energy to the final art.

If you are in the central Ohio area, stop by Granville for a great Blues festival. I just hope we can “stand the weather”…pray for a starry night!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Monkey business in the studio...

Maestro Stu Saves the Zoo- published by Sleeping Bear Press

I've been surrounded by monkeys, lions, elephants, wildebeests and lots of other wildlife friends over the last several weeks. I'm in the middle of my next book and the artwork is in a production line...lots of wet paint.

Earlier this year, I ran into some illustration board problems. The art for this book is on canvas so I've temporarily solved my problem. I'm using Fredrix Knickerbocker (574) canvas. I've used it in the past and it's a tightly weaved surface which is nice for painting detail.  Earlier this year, I visited Dean Mitchell, a very excellent painter and friend. He showed me a Crescent Premium Watercolor board that looked interesting (nice surface, thick enough with an acid free core) so I ordered some to try... just arrived, so I'll update you on the new board. 

...back to the zoo.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dinosaur Pet on tv...

My newest children's book, Dinosaur Pet by Neil Sedaka and Marc Sedaka (published by Imagine! a Charlesbridge imprint) was recently featured on a few television shows.

CBS This Morning had Neil Sedaka visit to promote the book. The Dinosaur Pet book cover was displayed in the background but the morning show host had a hard time focusing on the book. She wanted to talk about other things... oh, well.

Fox News had Mr. Sedaka and his family on the Huckabee show. Neil Sedaka's grandchildren were singing with him and they did a fantastic job performing the song, Dinosaur Pet. The picture book was featured and Neil's son, Marc was in the audience to answer a few questions. Check out the segment... you'll be singing the song all day. It's a really catchy tune.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Acoustic Rooster featured on blog.

An interview just popped up on Kidsbiographer's Blog that reveals a little background to Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band. You can find it here:

...thanks, Dorothy!

Today, I'm listening to Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. Let the painting begin!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Poppy Returns!

My newest children's book hit the shelves last week. It's a Big World, Little Pig! by Kristi Yamaguchi (published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) skated into bookstores and Kristi skated onto morning television, including MSNBC's Today. You can watch Kristi talk about the newest book by clicking on the links below:

Here is a description of the book-
Poppy, the adorable, persistent, dreaming-big pig, has a new adventure in store for her: the World Games ice-skating championship in Paris! Poppy is nervous about meeting so many new people in a new place. But, ever courageous and supported by her family (Emma, too!), Poppy embarks upon this exciting adventure head-on. She meets a snowboarding Panda, a Maltese who skies, and two fellow skaters, a Crane and a Kangaroo. Poppy begins to realize that although these animals look different, act different, and are from different places, they are all the same at heart. They all smile in the same language!

And here are a few images from inside It's a Big World, Little Pig!...

I'm not much of an ice skater but I am a big fan of a story with a good message. This is one that will make us all smile.
...back to the drawing board.

Friday, February 17, 2012

And the award goes to...

Tonight was the 43rd annual NAACP image awards presentation. One of the books that I illustrated, Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band was nominated in the Outstanding Literary Work- Children category. Our book wasn’t chosen but it was pretty cool to be considered for such an award. Kwame Alexander, the author of the story attended the L.A. event. Soon after the airing, the winner’s list was published. The Rooster stood proudly on the nomination list but wasn’t selected, this time. Regardless of tonight’s results, he’s still a winner! (…and Kwame looked great in his black tux!) 

... back to the drawing board!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Looking for a new pet? …how about a dinosaur??

My newest book is out this month and it’s a beauty!  The production quality is top notch… a really thick cover, slightly embossed title on the dust jacket and a music cd, embedded on the inside of the back cover…nice!

Dinosaur Pet by Neil Sedaka and Marc Sedaka, published by Imagine! (an imprint of Charlesbridge) just hit the shelves and the song is already a tune that I can’t get out of my head.  What a fun project and Neil Sedaka is such a gifted singer/ songwriter… not to mention his talented son, Marc, who also has a very impressive writing resume’.  What a great team!

The artwork was created with acrylic paint on a textured surface.  I gessoed the board before I painted the images.  Then, after laying in the areas of color, I painted (dry brush technique) over the image and gesso brushstrokes to get the texture that you see in the final art.

A few art notes: Some interesting props have been recognized in the art.  The red piano, seen in the book is very similar to one that was featured on the cover of Neil Sedaka's 1977 album, A Song. The black and white zebra chair (above) is extremely similar to the one that is on his web site banner.  Coincidence?… maybe, but it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

I was told that Mr. Sedaka liked intense color so I pumped up the chroma. This is the most saturated color book that I’ve done, thus far.

So, it’s February and a great month to think about picking up a dinosaur pet.  Well, at least the book.

For more info about the book, visit:

To see more images from the book, visit:

...back to the drawing board!
I love, I love, I love my dinosaur pet.  Yeah, sweet dinosaur pet. (There I go, again!)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New website for the new year...

I just updated the ole' website. It took me a little longer than expected (that sounds familiar). I still have a few pages to finish but at least the main stuff is in place.
A new year, a new agency (East West Literary Agency) and a new website... welcome to 2012!

I hope it's a good year for all of us!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mind Your Manners…please.

Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners by Judy Sierra politely hit the shelves this month. My newest book, published by Knopf features a cute little pig-tailed girl and a large spotted dinosaur with a small flowered purse.

A little girl is shopping in a grocery store when—surprise!—she meets a dinosaur. Don't worry. The dinosaur is very friendly. She's polite, too. In this funny story, told in lilting read-aloud rhyme, the girl has numerous opportunities to be helpful to the clumsy shopping dino and demonstrate when to say "thank you," "excuse me," "I'm sorry," "You're welcome," and other niceties of life. Tim Bowers's whimsical illustrations bring an extra dimension of fun to Judy Sierra's hilarious picture book fantasy. Altogether, Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur is an entertaining and painless way to show preschoolers why basic manners are a good thing to have.

If you have a chance, check it out…please.

The art was painted with acrylics on 3-ply Bristol board.

I’ve been having some problems with the Bristol, lately. I have used it for over twenty years without any problems but something has changed in the paper. I’m not sure what. It is sometimes inconsistent with the way it responds to paint washes and makes it difficult to get a really smooth color wash. I contacted the company that makes the paper (Strathmore) but they couldn’t explain the changes. Another artist, C. F. Payne had the same problem and switched to another board. Are any of you having a similar problem? What board would you suggest? I want a good acid free surface that is thick enough for washes but not so thick it takes a forklift to get a batch of art to the post office. I’m using illustration board for my current book but I’m not wild about the cardboard backing on the paper.

…just wondering if you have any words of wisdom..?