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.

My cover art for a new children’s book

My friend. author Chrysa Smith, has penned a new book for children, with illustrations by me. Titled The Upside-Down Gardener, it takes us through a little girl’s first attempt at growing a garden in her Brooklyn, NY, backyard.

I started with a rough pencil sketch of the lead character Dory looking upside down at some of her flowers –

upsidedown_cov_1a

 

And then after checking some photo reference I refined it to a more anatomically correct stance –

chrysa_smith_upsidedowngardener_covsk1b

We want the urban setting to be apparent, so I widened the view to show the backs of the rear buildings a bit –

 

upsidedown_cov_3

– and tomorrow I’ll post the full color finished art.

Online Dating Illustration

I recently went through my Big File of Past Illustrations and came across some fun ones from before I had a blog, so herewith:

oldies_fidingloveoninternet_bookcover

I drew this a number of years ago for the cover of a book about finding your mate online when you’re over 50. It’s drawn in black prisma pencil with some watercolor and pastel. I think the author is still in the business of matching people up!

The Basics of Book Creating

makingofabook_detailMy friend, author Chrysa Smith, has written up a great basic guide for anyone considering writing and publishing a book.  Chrysa has written for many years for magazines and blogs, and of late she has become a popular children’s book author, making regular school visits all over the Northeast to discuss her stories and conduct writing workshops for young writers. She has a lot of excellent experience.

Chrysa asked me to draw up a cover illustration for this ebook, The Making of a Book: What to Know, What to Do – available now for an incredibly low cost at Amazon – and she had an image in her head for the art. She suggested a person typing on a typewriter – how old-school! – with various accoutrements of the writer in view as well.

1chrysamakingofabook_sk1detailI pictured the image as looking down from above on the writer – I didn’t want to show a face, because that makes it a bit too specific. It’s been a long time since I used a typewriter, so I had to look up some images on google to make sure I got the details right!  I then thought about other hallmarks of the writing process – motivation (cup of tea), critique (red pencil markups), and frustration (crumpled paper), and added them into the pencil sketch.

1chrysamakingofabook_sk2Chrysa made a few suggestions, and I sent her a rough color sketch, with her title text inserted, and she approved that for final art.

I drew the finished art in one of my standard techniques, using black prisma pencil for the outline, on illustration board, and then painted in washes with thinned acrylic paints. I made the cover into a high-res jpeg and Chrysa inserted it into her ebook file, then uploaded it to Amazon.

As an illustrator I’ve spoken to many people who have ideas for books, with topics ranging from trends in their industry to creative stories for children or adults, and I’ll now be happy to recommend The Making of a Book to them.  Chrysa concisely explains traditional publishing, the exploding self-publishing market, ebooks and the all-important marketing phase of book 1makingofabook_coverart_lowrespublishing.  And she gives clear, real-life tips for authors that will prevent problems they could encounter further down the process, saving them time and resources. Her website, if you’d like to read more about her books and events, is here.

 

 

Newly Published Children’s Book ‘Once upon a Poodle’

onceuponapoodle_coverblueI am very pleased to announce that my friend, award-winning author Chrysa Smith, has just released her first full-color picture book entitled Once upon a Poodle, with illustrations by me.

Chrysa’s easy reader series, The Adventures of the Poodle Posse (which I also illustrated) was given a Mom’s Choice Award, a Dove Foundation endorsement, and a top pick on Amazon’s Children’s Bookshelf.

ouap_wp1

With Once upon a Poodle Chrysa takes us back to the first poodle in that family.  When Woody (a main poodle in the posse series) goes on a hunt for a new brother, all sorts of adventures are in store. His attempts to find a suitable creature to join the family only bring chaos into the house. Feathers fly, gardens are harvested, and nuts are cracked in tale that embraces fun, problem-solving, and learning what family is all about. I had a lot of fun bringing Chrysa’s story to life in illustrations!ouap_wp5
According to one reviewer, this is a great tale for parents who are bringing a new sibling into the home. It is suggested as a read-aloud for young children, a bedtime storybook, a great lead into the posse series and a story for dog-lovers of all ages.
To purchase a copy of Once upon a Poodle you can see my Store page, or the author’s site http://www.wellbredbook.net.

ouap_wp3You can find out more about the book and Smith’s school presentations by contacting her directly at chrysa@wellbredbook.net – she’s a lifelong feature writer, pet-lover and children’s book author. ouap_wp2Chrysa’s journey as a children’s book author is also featured in the fall issue of Bucks County Magazine – you can see the article online at http://www.buckscountymag.com/launching-a-poodle-posse/

 

A Painting a Day: Maasai Folk Tale

For Day 6 of A Painting a Day: I painted this cover for The Lion, the Ostrich and the Squirrel, a traditional folk tale published by the Maasai Cultural Exchange Project. I learned so much illustrating on this book with my friends at MCEP, whose work helps to build wells in Kenya and pay for education of women and children in the Rift Valley there. It is typical for the grandmother in a family to gather the grandchildren under an acacia tree and tell stories, and that is the setting we chose for this story about a jealous lion, a mother ostrich and a clever squirrel. I am happy to say the book is in schools and libraries in Maasailand, and is especially useful because we have the story written in both English and Swahili. The book is available for purchase, with proceeds going to MCEP, on their site at http://www.maasaiculturalproject.org/annual/annual.html .

loscover_artonly

Honored to Win First Place in Book Illustration at Phillustration 7

I am very honored and grateful to the Philadelphia Sketch Club and the judges for Phillustration 7, for awarding my illustration “Ghost Tour” First Place in the Book Illustration category this year. I painted this piece last fall for the children’s book Let’s Visit New Hope, written by Gayle Goodman and Roy Ziegler and sponsored by the New Hope Historical Society.

lvnhartghosttour96

(c) Pat Achilles

There were no shortage of terrific illustrations in this year’s show in several different categories. Other members of the Bucks County Illustrators Society, of which I’m a co-founder, also had outstanding work exhibited, including Glenn Zimmer, Deb Hoeffner, Pam Hamilton, and Rebecca Rhodin. Joe DeVito served as one of this year’s judges and his pencil concept sketches for a King Kong project he is working on were also prominently featured.

The crowd at the Sketch Club was large and enthusiastic for the opening reception yesterday – Pam Hamilton took this wonderful panoramic shot of the gallery:

phillus7pamhpanoramic1

The Sketch Club is a venerable Philadelphia institution, having started in the 1860s, and is considered the oldest continuously running organization for artists in the country. Outstanding painters and illustrators of the past who have been members include Thomas Eakins, N.C. Wyeth, Henry Pitz, Walter Baum, Edward Redfield, Daniel Garber; and Ranulph Bye, among many others.

phillus7gayleroypat4

Sketch Club President Rich Harrington and the staff created a varied and exciting exhibit that I recommend to everyone who enjoys ‘fine art that tells a story’ – which is how good illustration is defined. I am thrilled and grateful to receive this recognition, and thankful also to authors Gayle and Roy for writing the book that inspired my illustration!

The Sketch Club is located at 235 S. Camac Street in Philadelphia, and this show is up until November 27, with gallery hours Wednesday, Friday,  Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

My Illustrations for a Rescue Dog Book: The Adventures of Charli

charli1wpMy friend, interior designer Franca Caserta, never dreamed she would write a book.  Then a little rescue dog came into her life, a dog whose adorability saves it from getting reprimanded too loudly for the many scrapes it gets into around Franca’s lovely home. Charli is the rescue pup that Franca says rescued her – and when she started taking pictures of Charli and posting them online with Charli’s thoughts added in, Franca won a lot of hearts, and unwittingly wrote a book about Charli.

Franca had plenty of great photos of Charli when she first spoke to me about the book, so I had good reference to start sketching. She wanted the scenes I drew to be fairly true to the photos with just a little whimsy thrown in, and since it is Charli’s personality that everyone came to love online, I agreed I should stay close to the candid situations in which Franca snapped Charli.

A few pencil sketches below.

charli2wp

Franca’s book is a series of vignettes in this pup’s life, each page a funny little moment in a day, and you can tell Charli has a special place in her heart. I think anyone who owns a rescue dog, or owns a dog that gets into a fix sometimes (I guess that cover any dog owner) will enjoy Charli’s adventures.

charli3wpcharli4wp

At the back of the book Franca has included many photos of the real Charli, so you meet her for yourself. If you’d like to get a copy of The Adventures of Charli, it will soon be available on Amazon.com, but if you are in the Bucks County, PA, area you could stop by The Learning Experience in Doylestown (1715 S Easton Road) on October 10 where Franca will be selling and signing copies of the book from 11 AM to 2 PM.

charli5wp

My illustrations for the delightful new “Adventures of the Poodle Posse” children’s book

pp5vmmcoveryellowfrontI’m delighted to announce another book in my collaboration with author Chrysa Smith – this makes five in the series – who writes for kids about the fun shenanigans of a family of poodles.

The latest book is a Christmas story, A Very Merry Mixed-Up Christmas, and it follows our bunch of excited poodles through a possible threat to the holiday (when Elfluenza strikes the North Pole), and an unexpected and delightful present for the posse. There are also fun activities after the story including a hidden picture and a Canine Countdown to Christmas.  The book is perfect for young readers from second grade on (and dog lovers of all ages).

pp5wp1Chrysa’s Poodle Posse series has been awarded a silver Mom’s Choice Award, top pick on Amazon’s Children’s Bookshelf and an endorsement from The Dove Foundation for excellence in family-friendly media. Reviews have been heralded as ‘awesome’ and ‘engaging.’ She is available for author visits to schools and organizations, where in addition to storytelling she teaches the children writing, comprehension and observation skills. Information on buying the book and Chrysa’s author visits is on her site at www.wellbredbook.net .

pp5wp2I have a lot of fun illustrating Chrysa’s stories, where the poodles behave like regular dogs while their owner, Mrs. Flout, is around, but become real characters when they are left on their own. Other books in the series are built around other seasons and holidays – a beach story, a Halloween story, even a Groundhog Day story! The poodles all have their distinct personalities – Woody is the oldest and wisest, Archie is a sweet rescue dog, Daisy likes the finer things in a dog’s life (like her tiara), Bobby is a whirlwind of activity.  I highly recommend these fun books, there are sweet hidden lessons in these bouncy stories, and kids will take them happily from the Posse.

pp5wp3

More of my cartoons for “A Woman’s Book of Dirty Words”

A few more chapter headings from Mary Fran Bontempo’s very funny book about the ‘dirtiest’ words to women – a book with some great commonsense advice on how to ‘clean up’ the language too. Below are two chapters with a couple of the more positive words in a woman’s vocabulary, like Balance and Adventure:

wbdwbalancewp

wbdwadventurewp

A Woman’s Book of Dirty Words is available as an ebook here, and will soon be in paperback version.  To see a few more of my cartoons for it, scroll up on my blog to the previous two posts.