It’s a real kick to see a couple of my cartoons, previously published in the New Yorker, also printed in their 2023 Day-to-day Calendar. This desk calendar has tear-off sheets so you can have a new cartoon practically every day.
Above is the first one of mine, which I originally wrote about here. Below is my second drawing in this upcoming year’s calendar, which I also mentioned here.
I can show you the calendar, by the way, when I am at The Mercantile this Sunday, December 11, with my son Tom as we sign copies of our new cartoon book, Zeitgeist Meetup. It’s a compilation of cartoons written by Tom, who does occasional standup in Brooklyn after working at NYU, with drawings by me. I hope if you’re in the area you stop in at The Mercantile between 1 pm and 3:30 pm. If you still need to do holiday shopping, The Mercantile has tons of delightful items so you can also pick up some gifts after you chat with Tom and me. And I’ll have some of my funny holiday cards too, if you need to send a chuckle to any friends this season. Please stop by!
At the front and back of Zeitgeist Meetup I included some pages of the sketches I did for all the cartoons in the book – here’s a sample below – just gives an idea of the process we went through in developing the gags.
Over the last year or so my son Tom and I have been collaborating on a big batch of gag cartoons – Tom wrote the ideas in New York City, between working at NYU and doing frequent standup in clubs and bars, and sent them over to me here in Bucks County, where I drew them up when I had time. I’m happy to announce that we’ve finally assembled them into a book titled Zeitgeist Meetup, and we’ll be signing copies at The Mercantile, 444 N. Main Street, Doylestown, on Sunday, December 11 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Tom’s humor has a young, New York-type viewpoint, with some ideas coming from his everyday experiences in the city doing improv comedy, some reflecting his standup style of wordplay and visual puns, and a few short-story cartoons like “Bushwick Self-Defense,” “The In-Convenience Store,” and “The Kool Aid Spectrum.” Our book riffs on lots of topics that are in the ‘zeitgeist’ right now— from food trucks to Bigfoot to crickets to Elvis – all just for fun. We want people to laugh!
Tom has been involved in comedy for over 15 years, leading an improv comedy group when he attended Holicong Middle School and CB East, continuing through college at American University and comedy clubs around Washington DC, and now in NYC.
I’ll also mention that two of my latest New Yorker magazine cartoons have been chosen to be in the “2023 New Yorker Day-to-Day Calendar,” which I’ll have there at the Mercantile on display, and I’ll have some of my humorous holiday greeting cards for sale too, so I hope you can come and say hello!
There is plenty of convenient parking at the Mercantile since it’s right in the Doylestown Shopping Center, in the space where BonTon used to be. The Mercantile is a collaborative store that showcases creative small businesses, so there is a ton of great gift items to browse after you’ve chatted with Tom and me – they have beautiful housewares, accessories, vintage items, baked goods, furniture, jewelry, gifts for men and adorable stuffed animals for kids. There are even places to sit down and have a snack when you’re tired of shopping – you can’t beat that!
Zeitgeist Meetup sells for $12.95, and if you can’t make it on December 11 but you want a copy, just let me know. And if you went to CB East with Tom or were in his improv group, please just stop by to say hi, we’d love to see you!
I was on Blaine Greenfield’s podcast last night – a delight all around, he’s the Ed Sullivan of the Asheville, NC area!
I fumbled a bit getting my artwork to screenshare, so I’m posting a pdf of some of my New Yorker published-and-rejected cartoons below, so you all can take the full tour I was going to give Blaine. Please scroll through!
(If they appear too small to read, try clicking on the three horizontal lines at top left. All artwork is (c) Pat Achilles, but the first four are (c) The New Yorker.)
Now below is the slideshow I was going to show Blaine of my children’s book illustration, and some illustrations for adult books too. Included are illustrations from The Upside-Down Gardener, Grand Slam Birthday and the Adventures of the Poodle Posse series by Chrysa Smith; Robbie to the Rescue by Laurie Nowlan; Let’s Visit New Hope, by Gayle Goodman and Roy Ziegler; The Book of Jims and Bills! Bills! Bills! by Jim Miller (they are fun books all about famous people thru history named Jim/James or William/Bill, fun to give as a gift to friends of those names), Leading Team Members with Super Powers by Thomas Edwards (a great informational book about working and training neurodiverse employees), and A Woman’s Book of Dirty Words by Mary Fran Bontempo. If you want to purchase any, I believe they are all available on Amazon. (All artwork is (c) Pat Achilles)
This slideshow below shows some of my greeting cards for Eagle Scout events and for the holidays – some are available now on my Etsy shop (click HERE) and some I hope to post there soon. (All artwork is (c) Pat Achilles)
And finally here are my illustrations for the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society, a wonderful group of devotees to some of the loveliest, and funniest, operettas ever written. (All artwork is (c) Pat Achilles)
Now you have seen all the things I meant to show Blaine – thanks so much for taking a look. Here’s the link to the half hour of me with Blaine: go to https://www.blainesworld.net/ and look for the podcast dated 11.8.2022 And thanks again to Blaine!
Now that the Phillies are in the World Series, it’s definitely time to write about a new kids’ book by my friend, author Chrysa Smith, and illustrated by me – A Grand Slam Birthday. Chrysa brings back the lead character from her book The Upside-Down Gardener, Dory Oslo, for a delightful story that makes a perfect birthday party gift for youngsters – or a holiday gift, since that season is coming up too!
Chrysa describes the plot like this: When Dory Oslo arrives at her cousin’s birthday party, nobody looks like they’re having too much fun. In fact, the kids are lined up against the wall. But Dory turns up the excitement once again as her cousin opens her gift and finds something that turns the party inside-out and into something quite unexpected—and FUN! Dory, her cousin Izzy, and their friends learn a thing or two about having fun, trying new things, and having confidence in yourself.
In illustrating Grand Slam Birthday I started with pencil sketching the whole book as usual, for example these double-page spreads :
Once Chrysa suggested adjustments to the sketches, I transferred the revised drawings to illustration board and started drawing and painting finished artwork with acrylic paint washes. Because of the birthday party theme and the surprise gift involved, it made for some colorful pages:
As you may have guessed, an impromptu baseball game figures into this story – Dory after all is a tomboy! It’s a fun story that also helps kids think differently about trying something they may think they’re “not good at.”
You can order A Grand Slam Birthday online from Chrysa HERE – and if your child’s school would like to have Chrysa do an author visit (in person or through zoom), she has some great programs that help teach and inspire the kids to write on their own. Send Chrysa a message to inquire about how she can spark the imagination in your students! You can also meet her in person, selling this and her other books, at the Warminster Kris Kringle Holiday Market this coming Saturday, Nov 5 from 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM, at 300 Veterans Way, Warminster, PA.
I recently painted the cover art for another fun book by author James Miller, whose previous book, The Book of Jims, I also illustrated. This one is another compendium of historical figures having the same first name, William or Bill. Bill’s! Bills! Bills! is the title.
I started with a very rough pencil sketch of the Bills to be shown on the cover – William Tell, Buffalo Bill Cody, William the Conqueror, William Shakespeare, William Penn and Bill Clinton.
Jim also asked me to include a red-billed toucan, a spoonbill and maybe a hen, along with some dollar bills and cable bills, so I worked those into the drawing and tightened it up a bit by tracing it in felt tip pen.
I then made a rough color sketch, coloring in a scan of the drawing and placing the text.
I consulted with Jim on some details of the drawing & text and painted a finished illustration to drop into the design. He’s awaiting publication now. I think Bills! Bills! Bills! will be a fun & interesting read – especially to other Bills – but also for anyone who likes quips and quirks of history.
(To read Part 1 and 2 of this process click HEREand HERE.)
After I did rough color sketches for Laurie Nowlan’s entire book, I started transferring the drawings to illustration board and painting. I use prismacolor pencils to outline my characters and acrylic paint, thinned with water to the level of a wash, to paint the colors. You can get nice vibrant hues using acrylics, which brightened up the autumn pages at the beginning of the book.
This story follows two brother robins as they go on a southern migration to Florida, the twists and turns they encounter along the way, and how they help each other as siblings. They encounter a nasty storm, which knocks the younger brother, Robbie, for a loop.
The older brother, Ben, has trouble with one of his wings, and suddenly little Robbie is the sibling that has to look out for his older brother.
Robbie steels himself and finds the strength to get both himself and his brother out of danger.
And to see the sunny conclusion of the story, you’ll have to get the book!
Since the cover art is so critical to the appeal of a children’s book, the author and I went through several sketches of the cover illustration before we settled on the right scene and feel for it. We wanted Robbie alone on the cover, but did not want to give away too much of the climax of the story.
I envisioned Robbie swooping through the stormclouds with a determined, serious expression; and after discussion with Laurie we tried a more cheerful look and we both liked it better.
I did a color sketch and added some lightning to create a little more excitement –
and then painted the finished art.
“Robbie to the Rescue!” is available now through BookBaby HERE.
Once I had drawn all the pages of Laurie Nowlan’s Robbie to the Rescue! as pencil sketches, I scanned all the drawings and colored them in roughly so both the author and I could see the placement of color throughout the book.
Early on when Laurie and I discussed her main characters, we had decided there should be some little bits of clothing to humanize Robbie and his older brother Ben. Laurie liked having Ben wear a baseball cap, and perhaps big sneakers for Robbie, to make him look smaller and younger and maybe a little clumsier than his older brother. In initial sketches I had given them orange and red jackets, thinking they’d stand out in green foliage – then when I started doing pages I realized it was autumn in the story and the leaves would be those colors. So I switched their jackets to blue and green.
The story has a number of scenes that take place during a rainstorm so I tried to vary the spreads between pages that bled off the sides and vignettes where there was white space around the illustrations, as well as full double page spreads where it was warranted, to keep the scenes from looking too similar.
Laurie suggested that the storm scenes should stay very blue and gray, so that at the end of the story when there are beach scenes, the change to sunny warmth would really be apparent to the reader. I agree it worked really well.
After this stage I started painting finished art for the book. I’ll write more about that, and about developing the cover art, in Part 3.
“Robbie to the Rescue!” is available now through BookBaby HERE.
I recently completed illustrating a new children’s picture book, written by Laurie Nowlan, Robbie to the Rescue! It’s a lovely story about brother robins and how they help each other through the younger brother’s first southern migration. I think it’s a very good sibling story, with lots of touches that happen between real brothers and sisters, so many children will relate to it.
I first spoke at length with the author about how she imagined the characters and the flow of the story. Laurie is a retired teacher and has been writing for a long time so she had already given this much thought. I di some black and white and color sketches of the brother birds and more or less used them as my prototypes when developing the page art – although you’ll see some colors changed.
With the author’s suggestions I laid out the text and drew pencil sketches for each double page spread. I drew a very loose pagination, which just helps me visualize a variety of page setups before I design, like this –
Then I drew pencils of each spread like these samples.
I’ll explain the next steps in the process in my next post.
Last year I created some artwork for Mike DeSantis’ CPA website and in the process Mike introduced the idea of using a little cartoon of his dog as a friendly mascot for the business. Mike had used “Bart the dog” as a fun part of his business before, telling long-time clients that Bart helped around the office – he even gave Bart a phone extension on the menu!
After the pandemic hit, Mike searched for an idea that could honor the workers in healthcare and also help children through a worrisome time in their young lives. In thinking about the Bart cartoons on his website, he came up with the idea of a coloring book for youngsters that would teach safety tips on staying germ-free during flu season. The book, called “Keep the Germs Away,” is dedicated to all the doctors, nurses, hospital workers and first responders who risk their lives on the front lines to help others, and I drew the illustrations.
Mike has donated 100 copies of the book to Doylestown Hospital’s Children’s Village. Each coloring page has a simple suggestion supporting good hygiene for children, and features Bart the Dog, the friendly mascot of DeSantis & Co., P.C. The director of Children’s Village, Teri Windisch, said of the gift, “Our kids and families loved the “Keep Germs Away” coloring book from Mike. What a great way to reinforce what they have learned during this tough time!” The coloring book is also available to anyone for free download from Mike’s website www.descpa.biz and he’s allowed me to put it on my site too, free on this page HERE. So get out your markers and sharpen up your pencils!
Anyone can download my bicycle coloring sheet below for free, to celebrate World Bicycle Day! See the link below the drawing.
A young girl goes on a fantasy adventure under the sea – what will she find? Download, print and color this picture – maybe add your own secret treasure to the scene! Can you make up a story to go with your artwork?
I’d love to see any children’s finished art – you can email a snapshot to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.