Illustration for a YA Book Cover

A recent commission of mine was to make illustrations for a novel written by a middle school student. The student has ADHD and is also a gifted and eager writer. He writes insightfully about fitting in with middle school culture.

After reading some chapters and poems that comprise the book I decided to create a sketch for one poem that is set under a tree – its theme seemed to encompass the message of the book. I thought it could be used inside the book as a page illustration with the poem, and perhaps could be used for the cover as well.

I designed my rough pencil sketch looking down from above the main character under the tree, so it would work on a page and also with the title if needed. I hand-lettered the title with ink and brush.

The family of the author liked the image and wanted it for the cover, but thought some extra middle schoolers should be added. I drew a circle of friends separately –

and dropped them into the tree scene.

Then I colored the art digitally and reversed out the text – the finished book cover is below.

Timely Illustration for a Hotel Magazine

The topic of my monthly illustration for Lodging Magazine was updated to reflect the current health issue around the world, the corona virus.

While I did not get to read the latest article, I was briefed by the editor that the story would explain how a hotel can manage during a pandemic, including how to keep hotels clean, how to manage with a skeleton crew, what to do if a guest is sick, and what to do if the supply chain breaks down. She suggested a war room type of scene.

I started that with a rough pencil sketch –

and added tones to suggest the dramatic lighting of a war room –

The editor approved so I did a quick color sketch by printing out a copy of the sketch & using colored pencils.

After this I transferred the drawing to illustration board, redrew outlines in prisma pencil, and painted it in with acrylic washes. The finished art is below.

Poster Art for ‘The Sorcerer’ Musical

Every year I design the poster for the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s musical comedy and this year’s June operetta is Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Sorcerer. I love the wacky plot of this show, which is about a sorcerer in Victorian England who is asked to create a love potion that an entire town partakes of, with chaotic and comic results. It strikes me as singularly funny that instead of a cauldron like Shakespeare’s witches brew their potions in, this very proper society sorcerer brews his in a porcelain pot of tea!

I was lucky to be at an early costume fitting for the actor playing the title role, so I took photos of him in costume for reference when drawing, and they even had the large teapot that will be his prop in the show. I knew the kind of pose I wanted for the figure and started with pencil sketches –

I put some rough color on the sketched figure and placed him on the poster page, with the text that will go around him, based on previous posters, and drew in the background roughly with a digital gradation, markers & colored pencils, to get a rough design of the page.

I refined my line drawing of the figure and did more detail on the digital color –

I worked on the title logotype next, to shape it around the sorcerer’s arm & umbrella. I used a fun typeface called “Island of Misfit Toys, ” although I played with the letter shapes a bit, stretching and adding some curls, to balance things out.

I drew the cloud emanating from the teapot digitally and put the figure in place –

and then dropped in the title logotype and added some more magical swashes and particles circling the Sorcerer and the cloud, for the finished art.

This promises to be a terrific show, by the way, I recommend everyone comes to see it! Tickets go on sale April 15, through the website.

Devour a Book

Today, March 5, 2020, is World Book Day. I have a card for that!

If you buy a lot of books as gifts because you know kids & adults who love to read, you might want to have a pack of my ‘For Someone Who Devours Books’ so you can tuck a funny notecard into their gift package. My notecards are available in my Etsy shop HERE.

While you’re at it, take time to sit down and start reading a book yourself today! The last one I read was the children’s book The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, a charming read for kids and grown-ups, and I’m in the middle of a book about Ernest Shepard, who illustrated A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books, also a delightful journey.

A Storyteller and his Neighborhood Book Project

A children’s book that I had a part in has been selected by Doylestown Bookshop to be part of their “Local Author Partnership Program”. It will be featured in the bookstore during the month of March, and I’d like to explain its unusual journey to publication.

I helped with this unique type of book project this past summer and fall. Professional storyteller Ray Gray asked me if I could help coordinate a children’s book idea that he had – to take one story out of his storytelling repertoire, have a group of children from his neighborhood illustrate the story, and put it all together into published book form.

It was delightful getting to know Ray, whose career in storytelling at schools, festivals, and performance venues reaches back to pre-digital technology days, when he had to haul props and his own audio and visual equipment that was rather ahead of its time. To prepare, he transcribed his children’s story “Ice Cream Mud” into a manuscript and I laid it out in book dummy form. His local neighborhood has many families with schoolchildren, and their parents were supportive of involving their kids in this project.

The parents and 8 or 10 children, ages approximately 7 to 13, were invited to Ray & his wife Nancy’s lovely home one evening to kick off the project. Ray told his story Ice Cream Mud, which was based on experiences with his son when he was young, with great emotion and humor to the children. Then I led them through questions about the main characters and how we might all draw the horse, donkey, goose and cow. The kids had fun choosing one identifying item of clothing for each animal – a top hat, an apron, etc. to make the characters unique and appealing. We gave each child drawing supplies and pages of the story, so each one had several scenes to illustrate. Since summer had just begun, we instructed the children to draw their pages through their summer vacation and we would gather together again in the fall to put everything together.

When all the artwork was completed I scanned the pieces and put the book together for printing through an online publisher. The final book is colorful and a delightful read, and is truly a community effort! I hope it inspires more stories and more drawings from these neighborhood kids as they grow, and from other children as they read this and imagine what they can create in story and pictures.

Again I’ll mention that Ice Cream Mud has been selected by Doylestown Bookshop to be part of their “Local Author Partnership Program”. It will be featured in the bookstore during the month of March. Make sure you stop in to see this positive one-of-a-kind creation!

New Scout Card for ‘Crossing Over’ from Cub to Scout

I have added to my line of Boy Scout congratulations cards – the two I have drawn for Eagle Scouts are quite popular sellers on my Etsy page – by drawing a whimsical illustration for young boys who are making their ‘Crossing Over Ceremony’ from Cub Scouts into full Boy Scouts. I’ll add, the card is inspired by my oldest grandson, who has just completed his Crossing Over in Scouts. I’m very proud of him and his friends, who have completed their work as a Cub and want to further their knowledge and experience in BSA.

In my whimsical drawing style, I drew a friendly adult Eagle, in scout troop leader uniform, waving 3 happy little eagles across a footbridge in the great outdoors. This mirrors the Crossing Over Ceremony that young scouts go through when they ‘cross over the bridge’ from Cubs to Boy Scouts.

I first pencilled in a sketch of the scene –

I tightened up the drawing , scanned it & colored a printout roughly to work out the colors –

– and then transferred the drawing to illustration board, outlined in ink and painted it in with acrylic washes.

To see the finished card, inside message, and all other info and for purchasing, please see my Etsy shop HERE.

A fan of my cards who is a troop leader reviewed them this way: “These cards are exceptionally unique and well drawn. The messages are well thought out and brief, a good thing. I always add a personal message to the card as well, and there is room to do that. These are beautiful cards and an inspiration to the scouts receiving them.”