Wednesday, July 30, 2014


My buddy (and Caldecott Honor-winning author/illustrator!) Molly Idle recently tagged me to do this blog thing where you answer some questions about current projects. Since Molly is the nicest person in the world, I had to say yes. So here goes! A rare blog entry…don't blink!

1. What am I currently working on?

Usually I work on several projects at once, but typically I have one that I'm really focused on - and a few others I pick away out in the early morning or when I'm waiting on something related to the big project. Multiple projects are easier to manage for me as long as they stay in different stages - for example - I can sketch thumbnails of one book while executing final art for another and making a book trailer for a third. And throw some magazine and product illustration in there, too.

Right now I'm feeling pretty good about my work schedule because I just turned in the final art for TEMPLETON GETS HIS WISH, my next book with Disney*Hyperion, coming summer of 2015. Check out the cover:

And I just approved the proofs for TRICKY VIC, The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower, my first nonfiction picture book which is coming out March 2015. Here's the cover:

I've got a book coming out in a couple of weeks - NOT VERY SCARY, written by Carol Brendler, and illustrated by me - the book just received a starred review from PW, and I'm super excited for it to make it's way into bookstores. I illustrated this book way back in 2012, so it's fun to see it finally coming out. Here's the cover and some spreads:

And I'm just starting the final pencils for DRAGON WAS TERRIBLE, by Kelly DiPucchio, which will be published by FSG in 2016. It's a hilarious book so it's keeping me entertained as I draw. Here's a little something:

2. How does my work differ from others of it's genre?

I have no idea how to answer this except so say that the books I make are the only ones made by me. Nobody else does that (as far as I know).

3. Why do I write what I write?

Another tough one!

I think I can safely say I only write what interests and entertains me.

I think it was only well after The Watermelon Seed came out that I fully realized that other people would read it. I realize that sounds silly and might make me seem a little dense, but I worked on that book for about a year, and most of the time I was just thinking about how to make it "perfect" in my own head, and I didn't really think about what other people would think when they read it.

Tricky Vic started as a zine that I made because I didn't think any picture book publishers would be interested in publishing a book about a con artist. But I loved the story and wanted to do something with it and so I made it into a zine. And then Viking got a hold of it, and now it's a picture book. I could have never dreamed it would happen the way it did, but I was just enthralled by the story and wanted to try to make it into something. 

Zine vs. Picture Book

4. How does my storytelling process work?

Usually I start with either a sketch of a character or one line of text and that sets things in motion. I write and draw constantly and characters that keep popping up are usually the ones that are chosen for a specific idea.

I did a really long blog post about my writing and illustration process for The Watermelon Seed last year, which is linked right here. Check it out!

Right now I'm illustrating the book I mentioned above, DRAGON WAS TERRIBLE, written by Kelly DiPucchio and edited by Janine O'Malley. I've got the sketches more or less approved, so I've blown everything up to 11x17 on copy paper and taped each of the spreads to the back on a new piece of bristol, and I'll start the final pencils. Then I'll scan everything and color it in Photoshop. I like to change my art process up as much as possible, and I'm trying to do a lot of this particular book by hand, since the last book I did was almost all digital.

That's it! Can't say anything more or I won't have anything to blog about until 2016!

And now I'm tagging my friend Brian Biggs who has a new series with Jon Scieszka coming out this fall. Brian, you're it!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Drawing with kids

This past weekend I read some books and drew pictures with kids at CMOM (The Children's Museum of Manhattan) - I read three books and showed them how to draw the characters from each one - we all had a fantastic time, and the kids were really incredible artists. I took some pictures, and unfortunately I didn't catch their names, but I think there were some future illustrators there for sure.