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.

Sketch for the Doylestown Historical Society

The Doylestown Historical Society helps to preserve many aspects of my hometown’s past, with speakers, tours and printed publications, and a very important part of that mission involves researching the historically significant buildings in this town and nearby communities.

I was asked to develop a sketch of one building in the borough, which today houses a law firm and is a lovely two-and-a-half story Second Empire structure, pictured below.

However, this is not what it looked like in 1834 when it was first constructed. The original house, built for Dr. Hugh Meredith, was described as “a large two-story brick house on Court Street fronting the public square. A wood frame office was attached to the west side of the house” which was used for his medical office. The house had a stone foundation.

After the Civil War, the house was enlarged along with stucco over the brick and a new Mansard roof was installed by workmen for attorney George Lear. At the time it was described as the handsomest residence in the borough.

Kurt Spence, a contractor with a love of old buildings, gave me instructions on what the house probably looked like in its first iteration. He suggested three windows on the second floor instead of the current five; two windows on the ground floor, the doorway on the right, and brick walls. I started with this rough pencil sketch.

Once Kurt saw this he could recommend changes based on his knowledge of construction. He said the two dormers in the roof would have been located in the spaces between the three windows; a double doorway for the main entrance would have been more likely, and a stone foundation would have shown below the bricks, about level with the door stoop. The windows would have had working shutters, and the panes would have been six over six at that time, because large panes of glass were not readily available. He recommended a chimney at the gable end between the two structures, so fireplaces could have heated those central rooms. And he suggested a wrought iron fence enclosing the yard.

My finished sketch, says Kurt, is a pretty good representation of what the house would have looked like for Dr. Meredith in the early 19th century. And I’m pleased to know more about the history of my town!

Sketches from ‘The Wind in the Willows’

I’m reading the classic children’s story by Kenneth Grahame The Wind in the Willows, and feel compelled to sketch the book’s abundantly delightful characters. Here’s pencil sketches of Rat busily composing his poetry, and Badger leading Mole and Rat through his warren, after their near-disaster in the late night snowstorm.

More sketches to come from the thoroughly charming world of Mr. Grahame.

Two New Year’s Business Greeting Cards

I illustrated New Year’s cards for two businesses to mail to their clients, and both asked for caricatures of their staff in the artwork. These businesses feel it is a nice way for their customers to put a face to the voice they hear on the phone when they call; and since the cards are drawn, they are a bit more fun and even whimsical than a photo would be. (I’ve also gotten comments that my drawings make people look younger than they are in real life, which everybody likes!)

The first was for LifeTime Asset Management in Raleigh, NC. They wanted their staff toasting the New Year at a party, so i first pencilled in a rough composition of the 9 figures raiding glasses.

I tightened that up and drew specific faces in, and the company logo on the balloons, for a better rough.

I printed off a copy of that & colored it in roughly for the color comp, which I sent them for approval.

Once I got the ok I traced the drawing onto illustration board and started painting it in – I snapped this photo below while I was still laying in the basic colors.

And here is the completed art, with celebratory confetti added in, which appeared on the front of their card.

The second New Years card was for Kohlhepp Investment Advisors here in PA. They are a family-run business and everyone has a great sense of humor – if you look at past Kohlhepp cards on my blog you’ll see they’ve had me draw the team in many funny, unique situations. This year did not disappoint – with the bullish economy they decided on the great concept of the whole team running with the bulls! I sent them two very rough sketches, asking if the two women in the firm want to be right in there with the bulls or not – they answered of course they do!

I tightened up the drawing –

and did a rough color sketch

They requested Ed Sr. to have a more active pose on the bull, so I changed that, then drew it on illustration board in prisma pencil, painted in acrylic washes, and added some dust clouds in chalk, for the finished art.

Drawing with Kids and Parents at the Michener Museum

From “Let’s Visit New Hope” illustrated by Pat Achilles

I’m happy to say that I was asked by the Michener Museum here in Doylestown to lead a fun and imaginative drawing class for families in November. Unplugged Sundays @ The Michener is a program the museum sponsors to get kids into art, and their parents are encouraged to hang out and get creative too.

My 2 hour class will be about Illustration and Storytelling. I’ll show some of my illustrations and how I create them, then we will chat about the theme ‘Going on a Journey.’ We’ll look at how other artists have made stories and pictures about journeys, whether they are by foot, by bicycle, or spaceship or submarine – and then we’ll break out the wild and colorful museum art supplies and draw our own adventurous journeys!

This drawing workshop is for children ages 6 and up, and we invite parents/guardians to stay and enjoy the fun too – working together is encouraged! The workshop is on Sunday, November 17 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and pre-registration is required, as seating is limited. The beautiful Michener Museum is at 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, PA, and parking is right next door at the large Doylestown Library parking lot. Unplugged Sundays @ the Michener is sponsored by The Leff Family Foundation.