Logos for Youth Orchestra Events

The Youth Orchestra of Bucks County gives children in grades 4 to 12 the chance to meet other young musicians, participate in group activities, and get a taste of what it’s like to be in a real orchestra. I was happy to be asked to create some logos for their fundraising galas in the last few years.

The first gala, which was held virtually in the spring of 2021, had a Night at the Movies theme, and their coordinator suggested images of popcorn, theater curtains or movie reels. I came up with some ideas for them to consider –

They liked the popcorn theme, and with suggestions from their coordinator I developed a marquee-type logo for the final –

This year’s gala will be in person and has the theme Tropical Rhythm, so the coordinator suggested images of bright flowers, greenery and some type of rhythm instrument. I drew a basic idea and tried various fonts & details –

The coordinator suggested a great ‘tropical’ typeface and a revised logo for YOBC, and I modified the design to his suggestions, for the final logo.

He did like the toucan I put in the first design, so he may use that in the program book where some art is needed.

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.

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

Illustrating “Robbie to the Rescue!” Part 2

To read Part 1 of this process click 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.

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“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.

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

Children’s Classical Concert Returns!

I’m very happy to say that the Lenape Chamber Ensemble, a group of world-class musicians who perform several times a year for chamber music lovers in our area of Bucks County, will return to a live in-person concert for children on November 13 at Delaware Valley University. The Ensemble has been performing these delightful and educational concerts for kids for over 20 years; they play snippets of music from their adult concerts, teach the children about the composers and musical instruments, and even invite the little ones dance to the music as a finale – it’s just as much fun for parents as for the kids!

I always illustrate the flyer for the Children’s Concert with little animals playing instruments, and this fall is no different. The selections to be played will include parts of Telemann’s Tafelmusik, which was meant to played as entertainment at a banquet, so that became my theme. I started with a pencil sketch, and set it in the rainforest because I just wanted to have a toucan in the scene. I sketched monkeys playing the noted instruments, with a jaguar seated at a little table enjoying the music.

I traced the basic lines of this scene onto bristol paper and inked it in loosely with a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen. The finish is below.

For those who have attended before, please note the new time of the concert. I highly recommend this event to everyone – parents will love the informal and fun atmosphere and kids will easily learn to appreciate the beauty of the music and the joy of these musicians.

House Portrait of a Lovely Doylestown Home

I was asked to paint a charming home built in the late 1800s in my hometown, a house that catches many an eye with its sunny coloring and delightful front gardens.

I took a number of photos for reference and consulted the owners about what season to paint. I tried pencil drawings of both summer and spring.

And then I tried rough color sketches of both seasons in colored marker.

We determined that spring gave both color and a good view of the house, since surrounding trees were still lacy enough to see through. I also put in the small figure watering the flowers, the lady of the house, to make it personalized.

For the finished painting I used watercolor board and acrylic paints diluted like watercolors. Here are two partial views –

And the completed painting –

Poster art for The Sorcerer Musical, opening in July

Every year I design the poster for the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s musical comedy, and last year because of lockdowns we had to postpone the event. I’m happy to say the group is back in business this season and they will produce what would have been last year’s show, since the whole cast wanted to reassemble and perform it – and the show is Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Sorcerer. It will be performed LIVE, with a full live orchestra, on July 16, 17 and 18 in Doylestown. I love the wacky plot of this show, which involves a sorcerer in Victorian England who is asked to create a love potion of which an entire town unwittingly partakes, with chaotic and comic results. It strikes me as typical Gilbert & Sullivan silliness that instead of a cauldron like witches traditionally use to brew potions, this very proper Society Sorcerer’s potion is steeped along with a 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 the prop staff even had the large teapot that will be in the show on hand. 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, 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 give it a consistent feel of whimsy.

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.

The singers and musicians of Bucks Gilbert & Sullivan are busy rehearsing now and are thrilled to be back onstage live, with the full Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Orchestra accompanying them. I recommend everyone comes to The Sorcerer, performed at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, PA, to enjoy this fun show! Tickets are on sale now through Eventbrite HERE. And to enhance the audience’s enjoyment of the show, the group provides interesting background info on the show on the website HERE.

Drawing a Historic Building in Doylestown

I am occasionally asked by the Doylestown Historical Society to draw representations of existing historic buildings as they looked when they were first constructed. Recently an assignment involved a lovely stone farmhouse, built by Robert Kirkbride in the late 1700s, possibly the oldest building in our town, which is now integrated into a neighborhood of townhomes. Its property was then referred to as a plantation since it was primarily farmed for crops that were to be sold.

The drawing would be of the original main house with attached kitchen, smokehouse, large stone barn with attached stone wagon shed, and a log hay house. Entrance to the plantation was by way of a dirt road (now called Veterans Lane) over a small wooden bridge over Cook’s Run (which is still there) and into the farm complex, with fields and woods beyond.

My first pencil sketch of the plantation and buildings was rough, based on instructions and photo reference given to me by Kurt Spence of the Historical Society.

Kurt had some corrections: changing the position of the carriage shed and barn door, making the field flatter, the house smaller and kitchen larger. I sent a revised sketch of the house, to the side of which i indicated a kitchen garden:

and a revision of the barn area:

I dropped them into the scene and adjusted a few other details, then sent this pencil sketch:

I then added digital grays to the scene to give some dimension to the buildings and surrounding area – the finished illustration –

Today the farmhouse still retains much of its historic façade, but the farm has been replaced by modern townhomes – a photo of the present home is below.