Cartoons from the Zeitgeist

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!

Blaine’s Podcast

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)

Below are some of the cards I’ve drawn, which Blaine enjoys so much, for Kohlhepp Investment Advisors. (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!

–Pat

My Illustrations for the Children’s Book “A Grand Slam Birthday”

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.

Bills! Bills! Bills!

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. 

Illustrating “Robbie to the Rescue!” Part 3

(To read Part 1 and 2 of this process click HERE and 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.

Illustrating “Robbie to the Rescue!” Part 1

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.

___________________________________________________________________

“Robbie to the Rescue!” is available now through BookBaby HERE.

Free Coloring Book for Children

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!

Neshaminy Journal Spring/Summer 2021

Neshaminy Journal has its newest issue out – it’s the magazine produced jointly by the Bucks County Writers Workshop and the Doylestown Historical Society. This issue includes some great articles, all related to the history and culture of Bucks County, a place with a long association with writers, musicians, artists and theater people.

Among the local creators featured in this edition are Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, who studied in Doylestown under Oscar Hammerstein II; Pearl Buck, Nobel prize-winning author of The Good Earth; poet-novelist of the Harlem Renaissance Jean Toomer; Eric Knight, author of the classic tales of Lassie; and painter, teacher and writer Robert Beck, whose oil paintings chronicle our area’s beauty and its people. There is also original poetry in this issue and several illustrations by yours truly.

I recommend Neshaminy for everyone who has a connection to beautiful Bucks County. There are some fascinating aspects and stories to the people who have contributed and still contribute to its arts and history, and the writers involved here know how to spin wonderful tales. I enjoyed reading every one of them and learned a lot of Bucks County history that I didn’t know!

Neshaminy will soon be in book stores and can be ordered online by clicking HERE.

Magazine Illustrations

The Bucks County Historical Society together with the Bucks County Writers Workshop publishes a literary journal, called Neshaminy, twice a year and I contribute a few illustrations to each issue. All the articles deal somehow with events or places in this county, or with people who had a brush with Bucks County history.

In this issue there is an article about Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck, whose home is located in Perkasie. She lived much of her youth in China as the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, eventually writing richly detailed and moving novels of peasant life in rural China. When she moved to Perkasie she continued her prodigious writing and left a legacy of intercultural education and humanitarian aid, especially to orphans in Asia.

I drew the elegant Mrs. Buck seated at her writing desk. I used reference photos of her and the interior of her writing office to sketch out this original illustration.

I then drew it all in prisma pencil and used ink wash over the pencil for the finished art.

I’ll write about other pieces for this issue tomorrow.

Icon of Poodlehood

I’ve illustrated six children’s books for author Chrysa Smith’s Adventures of the Poodle Posse series, a string of stories that details the wags and whimsy involved in raising a bunch of very personable pooches. While each book focuses on one or two poodles who wander into the saga, the one constant character is Mrs. Flout, the bouncy lady whom the dogs have ‘adopted’ as their mom.

Chrysa visits schools to read her books and promote reading and writing to youngsters, and often for Catholic Schools Week and Read Across America Week she is busy traveling and presenting. She delightedly receives quite a few hand-drawn pictures from the kids of her poodle pals, but this past week’s surprise was unique: one particular teacher dressed up as Mrs. Flout (whose hair is uncannily similar in texture to a poodle’s) and sent Chrysa a photo –

I think when you start having people dress up as the characters in your books, you have really done something special. Congratulations, Chrysa! Mrs. Flout is now an official Icon of Poodlehood.

Chrysa’s books have all received the Mom’s Choice Award, which honors excellence in family-friendly media. If you know some youngsters who love fun stories and especially if they love dogs, please take a look at Chrysa’s selection of fun books on her site HERE.