Monday, November 25, 2013


Heyo. I was putting together a process post and some promotional stuff for my next book, NUMBER ONE SAM (Disney*Hyperion, May 2014) and came across these two images. One is a very early sketch from a book dummy, and one is the final. SO MUCH CHANGED in this book from the first dummies to the final book, but this spread never did, it always fit. Copyright page is on the left and title page is on the right. Really psyched to share this book with you guys - in, ugh, 6 more months . . .

Friday, November 1, 2013

Interview on Seven Imp

Check out this interview I did with Jules from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Seven-Imp is one of my favorite blogs and it's definitely worth checking regularly. I talk about my process when making a picture book and show off a lot of art. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Let's Get Busy

Big thanks for librarian and educator Matthew Winner for hosting me on his "Let's Get Busy" podcast! I spent about an hour talking with Matthew, and you can listen here:

Click image to visit the podcast episode
Or find "Let's Get Busy" in the iTunes store.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Ed Emberley!

Ed Emberley is the first artist I remember really connecting with as a kid. And as much I as I have always loved his "Drawing Book" series, his work has come to mean even more to me in recent years as I've learned about books like Drummer Hoff, The Wing on a Flea, Suppose You Met a Witch, Paul Bunyan, One Wide River to Cross (and many, many others) that employ an inspiring number of styles and techniques.

My own studio practice has included a lot more experimentation lately, and I think I partly owe this to the example he set. He seems to always be investigating and exploring as an artist, even when he had defined a successful style.

I have wanted to make a tribute piece to Ed Emberley for some time, and when I realized his birthday is coming up on October 19th, the timing seemed right. I've made a sheet to teach anyone how to draw Kroc (and his watermelon) using only simple shapes and lines, and you can download a printable pdf below. Hope he doesn't mind me using his technique, and of course, Happy Birthday Mr. Emberley!

Click here if you'd like to download a printable pdf of this sheet

If you (or your kids!) happen to make a drawing of Kroc, please email me a photo at and I'll feature them in a future blog post. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Two Years Out

Feeling sentimental, as it's two years ago today that I started my career as a full-time freelance illustrator.

I left my job doing design and admin work at a PR firm for the unknown territory of publishing and freelance illustration. At the time, I did not have a book deal, or any real sense of how I was going to make it work. Just a molehill of savings and a mountain of student loan debt.

I took a risk, worked hard, and was lucky. I've got some pretty incredible people in my corner, and I'm grateful to them.

Today, two years out, it's mind-blowing how much has changed. I have several books under contract and it looks likely that more will be coming. Not just any books either, but dream projects.

My first book got a great review in the New York Times and received a couple of stars, too. What more could I ask for?

Also, it seems the universe deemed it appropriate that today would be best for my next book to become available to pre-order, which you can do here. It's called NUMBER ONE SAM, and I'm psyched for it to come out next May.

Today I'm feeling very thankful and excited for what comes next. Thank you to everyone who has bought a book, or a print, written a review online, let me sign stock, blogged about my work, had me in to a school or store, or emailed. It really means a lot to me. I look forward to continuing my work and seeing what the next years bring. Thanks.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Princeton Children's Book Festival

Tomorrow I'll be signing books and hanging with a bunch of other authors and illustrators at the Princeton Children's Book Festival. I'll have copies of The Watermelon Seed and a ton of buttons featuring goofy drawings (some examples below). I'll be sitting in the blue tent. Come by and say hello!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Picture Book Layout

After I posted about how I wrote and created the art for THE WATERMELON SEED, I started getting a lot of emails from people asking if I could send them my picture book layout pdf. I'm happy to share it, and since I've gotten quite a few emails asking about it, I figured it was worth posting here.

Click here to download the pdf.

It's worth noting that this is for a standard self-ended picture book. So it's got 40 pages, but the first and last page are glued down to the cover boards. Also, in my experience so far, typically pages 2-3, and 38-39 are the endpapers. And 4-5 are usually for copyright and a title page. Of course these rules can be broken, but it's most common to have just 16 spreads to use for the actual story. Just something to keep in mind. Also, the dimensions here are for a book with a portrait orientation,  but of course landscape, square, and anything else you can think of is possible.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Society of Illustrators Original Art Show

My picture book, The Watermelon Seed, was recently accepted into the Society of Illustrators 2013 Original Art Show!

The Society of Illustrators is a very special place for me, and I'm honored to show there. See you at the opening in October!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Making My First Picture Book - The Watermelon Seed

Hi, it's me, Greg Pizzoli.

I've been working really hard on several picture books I'm juggling at the moment, but somehow today I have a rare few hours free.

So of course, I'm at the studio, and instead of drawing . . . I'm blogging.

My first picture book, The Watermelon Seed, came out in May and I feel compelled to document some of the process of making it. My thinking is that it might be interesting to those who like the book, and it may even be useful for some people who are working on their own books. It's always in the back of my mind to do more blogging that is process related, but frankly I'm usually too busy doing the work to find the time to stop and write about it. But today I've got a few hours free and I'm going to dig myself a hole and see if I can't climb back out by lunch. Let me know in the comments if this kind of post is interesting or helpful, and I'll do more like it.

Let me take you back . . . two years ago . . .

When I was writing THE WATERMELON SEED, I had a full-time job working at an office and I was also teaching 2-3 nights a week. This was summer of 2011. Time to work was hard to find, but I would usually write in the morning and then type it up when no one was looking at the day job. WATERMELON went through a lot of drafts before it even got to the point that I could show it to my agent. The final book is 140 words. The first draft was 2,500.

The first, second, and third drafts all had a seed spitting contest as part of the story. The second draft had an emergency room surgery sequence. Yes, really.

Obviously, the story changed a lot in these early drafts, which is why I think it's important for me to just write out every idea I have. Even if I know it's garbage and I'm certain I'll never use it as I'm writing it, it's good to get it on paper (or typed). This way it loses the "magic of potential". When an idea is banging around in my head, it always seems like it has potential. Usually when I write it out, if it's not going to live up to that potential, I can tell pretty quickly. Or at least it's easier to see what's wrong, and fix it.

The first six versions (that I could find) of THE WATERMELON SEED
When I'm writing a book, I typically sketch out characters at the same time. Actually, the books that I've written so far have all grown from characters that kept showing up in my sketchbooks. This was the case with Kroc and his watermelons. I knew I wanted to do a story about a character panicking after swallowing a seed, and Kroc kept popping up, and eventually he was inseparable from the seed idea.

Once I got the text down to it's near final version, I set out to pace the book to get the most out of the page turns and spreads. It's crazy looking at this stuff that I drew almost two years ago, because a lot of the early sketches wound up in the final book. Here's an example:

A thumbnail from the first attempt at sketching THE WATERMELON SEED and the final version

Once I think I have the book paced out well in a word document, I drop it into a pdf template I made for picture books. At the time I was making this book, I was using one that is 32 pages, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense since a self-ended 32 page picture book actually has 40 pages. It's confusing because 2 of those pages are pasted down to boards, so you can only see 38 of them, and 4 other pages are what most people call "end-papers".

I didn't really know this at the time, so my pdf had 32 pages. It all worked out in the end. I laid out just the text in that document to make sure it felt right.

Pacing the text for THE WATERMELON SEED

Then I printed out maybe ten copies of this doc and started sketching out the drawings, just quick thumbnails, so I could get an aerial view of the whole book on one sheet of paper. This way, if a bunch of the spreads are looking similar, I can zoom in or out, and play with scale to build a rhythm with the images that works with the text. This is a fun, exciting, and frustrating time.

Then I scanned the best one of those in and added some color. Obviously I use color very deliberately in my work, and since I was determined to limit THE WATERMELON SEED to only 3 colors, I had to be very intentional about how I used each one, so it didn't start to all the look the same. It's during this stage that the book started to feel like something real.

So then I scanned in these little thumbnails again, (I think I redrew a few of them), and I sent them off to my literary agent, Steven Malk. Here's some screen shots of the pdf I sent him:

The two images above are largely unchanged from these sketches in the final book

The above lines / pictures are significantly different in the final book

After sending it to my agent, and some buddies of mine that also make picture books, I took out some lines that felt unnecessary and redrew some pictures.

At this point everything is super rough. For submission to my agent, I basically get things just far enough along that he can tell what's happening without me taking the time to make the art anywhere close to final. Obviously he knows my work really well, so it's not necessary to refine the pictures at this stage. It usually looks ridiculous. For example:

You see what I mean.

When I sent this new version to my literary agent, he sent it over to an editor with whom we had been talking, and she immediately wrote back saying she loved it. I think we had an offer a week later. It was for two books, with THE WATERMELON SEED being the first.

I don't want to understate the magnitude of this moment for me. I had been working very hard to get my work to the place it needed to be to get the interest of publishers, and this first offer was, cliches and all, a dream come true. The dream. The big one.

A little background might be in order: My new editor, Rotem Moscovich, had spotted my work at an SCBWI conference in January earlier in the year. I won a portfolio honor award and she emailed me a few days later and we immediately had a rapport, so we started working on stuff. We were actually working on another book together which she was trying to acquire while I wrote WATERMELON. Once she saw THE WATERMELON SEED, she was able to give me a two book contract. It seems in retrospect like it happened overnight. But I didn't get the offer until Nov 3 (I remember it was my Mom's birthday) and we had first started talking in January. I had been with my agent for almost two years at this point. I'm just saying this because when you type - "We had an offer a week later" - it makes it sound like it happened very quickly. It certainly didn't feel that way at the time.

So that's it! The book is sold! We went out for mamosas, and I took the rest of the day off, slapping my hand away from my keyboard, resisting the urge to proclaim my new success on the internet. That would have to wait six months or so . . .

In the meantime, I had work to do. We wanted to bring the book out for Summer of 2013, and that meant that the book had to be turned in - totally and completely finalized - by June 1st of 2012. I know this seems like a crazy amount of lead time between turning in the work and it being available in stores, but considering built in time for authors/illustrators/editors to be late, production tests, proofing, shipping (and shipping delays), generating buzz within the book-selling community, submitting for reviews, advertising, and a whole lot of other stuff I bet I'm not even aware of - sometimes I'm amazed it happens as quickly as it does.

Rotem got to work on notes, and I got started on samples of final art. I was determined to do the lettering myself and make everything feel very hand-made, so I had to demonstrate to Rotem (editor) and Joann (art director) that I could do it as well I as I claimed.

Here's some images:

Type Samples
Ink Drawings before they are scanned in for color separations

Early sketches of Kroc

I took the first round of notes from Rotem and Joann and went back in to do a more refined (but still very rough) pass of the book. There were images they didn't understand from the first sketches and I changed them up as needed.

For example, they didn't like the way this trashcan was reading

So we simplified it with a big straightedge logo . . . I mean,  "X"

We got really into the process and when I said I wanted to print the book in spot colors, Rotem and Joann were very supportive. We did end up printing the book spot but we also tried CMYK to see what it would look like. We also tried coated vs uncoated paper, and cream color vs white stocks. Cream paper and spot colors make things a little bit tougher for quick reprints, so we wanted to make sure if we went that way, it would be worth it. It totally was. Check out the different proofs below:

Spot colors are so much brighter! The CMYK looks very muddy and dull
Another process thing I wanted to mention is the endpapers. People seem to go crazy for the textured pink endpapers with black seeds. All of the textured backgrounds were silkscreened. All of the seeds were made using a rubber stamp. I drew one seed, and had a company called Simon Stamps make me a little wooden handle stamp from it. Then I just stamped it several times getting different variations of seeds, and used them throughout the book. Here's an example:

Seed stamps.

The last part of the book I drew was the cover. Here is my first shot at potential cover ideas. I sent them all of these (and more), but ultimately we went with the cover we all liked right from the beginning:

Some of these still really crack me up. #16 wins for making me laugh.

And here's the finished jacket (with flaps)

Right at the end I had an idea I wanted to try with fruit labels. I dedicated to the book to my wife, Kay, but I wanted an opportunity to thank some of the many other people who worked with me on the book, or at least got beers with me and helped me figure out career stuff while I worked on it. I had the idea to make custom fruit labels to thank those people and luckily Rotem loved the idea, too, so they made it onto the back flap. The book wouldn't have happened without help from these people (in no order)
Rotem Moscovich (Editor) & Joann Hill (Art Director)
Steven Malk, my literary agent, who worked in his family's children's book store, The White Rabbit, as a kid

Children's Book Author/Illustrator and a good friend, Bob Shea

My Philly beer buddies : Brian Biggs, Josh Camerote, Tim Gough, and Zach OHora.
(I accidentally inserted an apostrophe into Zach's last name, and we haven't spoken since)
Children's Author and good buddy Mac Barnett who fixed the book for me when it needed work

My Mom and sister, who both live in Arizona

My Dad, who lives in York, PA (I used to live there too)

Actually I think the last thing I drew for the book was the price. Here's that:

Thanks for the dollar, Canadians!

At this point the book is pretty much done, but "Launch" was approaching for Disney*Hyperion. I've never been to a launch, but my understanding is that it's when the editorial teams show off the books that will be coming out in the next year to the sales teams, to get them excited about the titles that they will be selling to bookstores in the near future.

We decided to do something special to get people excited about the book and I wanted to screenprint whatever we did, since so much of the book has screenprinted elements. Rotem had the great idea to make seed packets with the cover on one side, and info about the book's release on the back. We even put a single watermelon seed in each packet. Here's some pics:

Many many seed packets on the drying rack

Close ups of front and back (Note actual seed sitting on front)

Once I turned everything in, there wasn't much to do before printing proofs came in.

One day in September, I got an email from Rotem with the subject line "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and it contained this picture (and many exclamation points):

And then about a month later, these came in:

These are called "F&Gs" which is short for Folded and Gathered.
It's the whole book (minus the case cover) folded up for promotional and review purposes

Around this same time I made stickers for fun

Then it was a lot of waiting for THE WATERMELON SEED to finally come out. I was very lucky because I had several other projects going on to keep me busy. In between working on other books, I did some promotional work for WATERMELON . . .

I worked with animator Jimmy Simpson and musician Christopher Sean Powell to make a book trailer for THE WATERMELON SEED. It was a blast to work with those two guys, and we're going to do it again soon. Here's the trailer:

Also, I teamed up with my buddies at The Print Center and they agreed to host a book release party for me. We offered people the opportunity to pre-order the book through TPC and for an even $20, they could get a signed copy of the book and a limited edition silkscreen. Here's a shot of the print:

Screen printed in three colors, limited edition of 100

And here's part of the poster I made promoting the event:

And then the reviews started rolling in:

Publisher's Weekly called in "an expert debut" in their starred review

Being featured in the New York Times was surreal

And the book release party was a blast! I signed over 100 books, and my grandmother came:

And Rotem made this amazing cake:


So now it's summer, and the book is out! It just went into it's second printing, and seems to be selling very well.

Since I finished THE WATERMELON SEED, I've finished two other picture books, one of which I wrote and is also being published by Disney*Hyperion. It's called NUMBER ONE SAM, and it will be in stores next summer. I hope to do a similar post about SAM this time next year.

That's all I can think of - hope it was interesting - if anyone has questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I'll do my best to clarify.

Thanks, and please check out THE WATERMELON SEED!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Watermelon Seed reviewed in The New York Times

Such a thrill to read this! 

"...a juicy premise...Pizzoli legitimizes childish anxieties but also slyly exaggerates each worry to highlight the humor." -- The New York Times

Here's a link to the full review.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Expo America 2013

This year I'm going to Book Expo America for the first time. I've got some art in the auction on Wednesday night and I'll be signing books on Thursday, May 30th from 11am-12pm in the autographing area. If you're attending, come by and say hello!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Watermelon Seed is in stores today!!!

Here it is in a B&N - it was face out already I swear!
Such an amazing feeling to walk into a store and see the book on the shelf - and face out no less! Please consider getting one from your favorite local bookstore, or if you'd prefer to order it online, check out Powell's at

Many thanks!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Trailer for The Watermelon Seed

Check it out! The book trailer is here! Many thanks to Jimmy Simpson and Christopher Sean Powell for the animation/direction and music. In stores May 14th!!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Another *starred* review for THE WATERMELON SEED

Feeling very lucky and thankful! Hope to see some of you at The Print Center on May 4.

Here's the full review from School Library Journal:

Author: Pizzoli, Greg
Illustrator: Pizzoli, Greg
Review Issue Date: May 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4231-7101-0
Children will love this hilarious book. Crocodile has devoured watermelon since babyhood and eats it every chance he gets. One day, however, he swallows a seed. This sends him into a panic. Will it grow inside him and come out of his ears? Will he grow larger and turn pink? The poor crocodile is so worried until he burps up the seed. He vows to never eat watermelon again, but will he be able to resist? The illustrations of the reptile’s fear about what might happen to him are very funny and the oversize font on those pages reinforces the emotion in the story. The artwork was created by screen print in pink, green, black, and brown. This simplicity allows readers to fully appreciate the changes in the croc’s facial expressions, which artfully contribute to the humor. The story has broad appeal, making it a great first purchase.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

Monday, March 25, 2013

Saturday May 4!

Hey guys,

I have a feeling between my work, planning my wedding and the book coming out, I will get even worse at updating this blog in the next month . . . so I just wanted to remind you to come to the book release party on May 4 in Philadelphia!

It's at The Print Center (1614 Latimer) from 3-6pm. Come on out! And if you pre-order the book through them you'll get a signed copy of the book as well as a silkscreen by yours truly.

Thanks much, and hope to see you there.