Monday, June 25, 2012


I'm reading a teen book right now and I can't help but complain about a few words that I have noticed repeated a few times too many. Those words are "blinked" and "swallowed." Blinked is used when one of the characters doesn't know what to say, or there's a silence, or they're shocked, etc. Swallowed is sort of used in the same way. I'm going to make up a fake sentence as an example: She saw how far down the climb was and swallowed." Or, "She swallowed hard when she saw the creature's horrifying features." I'm tempted to count the number of times that this author uses these two words but I'll resist this temptation. The problem is that once you notice a pattern like this the usage becomes so abhorrent that it's like nails on a chalk board.

Does anyone else have any pet peeves?

Thursday, June 21, 2012


We all know that McDonald's fusses with the look of their hamburger for their ads... but it's interesting that McD's Canada is out in the open about it. I like that they take us step by step:

Now that I work in the bookstore kiddy dept. again I'm seeing MUCH MUCH more digital art than I was about 4 years ago. This concerns me. Where are we going with this? It's certainly quicker to color art on the computer and there is a place for it but I've seen it done badly and it can look gross. It can also look nice and I'm quite accustomed to it in graphic novel form. I'm just wondering: am I going to be one of the last remaining illustrators to be painting on paper??? Will everyone else be doing at least some part of their work digitally ala McDonald's style? 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


As soon as I saw this series I was in love. So fun!

Page one introduces the characters...

And since it's a "mash-up" in this Romans and Dino book the characters will be just that. I love the way the cartoons are drawn. I also think that the artists make full use of the two color palate and they make the pages very inviting by coloring the backgrounds in ala-crayon. It's just goofy fun.

Spread two shows you the materials you'll need to get started. On the first page it says, " You'll need these... drawing tools." Then it reads, " These are the 3 tools Nikalas and Tim used to create the artwork in this book. Felt-tip pen or marker - pencil - crayon. Using different tools helps create great drawings." 

This is what I love! Not only is this book encouraging kids to read and color their own stuff but it's explaining how the book artists did it. It's showing kids that it really isn't that hard. I've never seen this done before. LOVE IT. I wish there was something like this for me as a kid. I would have eaten it up. 

On the facing page is the "Texture page." The character at the bottom says, "There are lots of ways you can add texture to your artwork. Here are a few examples." I encounter a lot of kids who tell me that they aren't good artists... but they want to learn or draw anyway. This book is a great way to encourage these kids! This book is also a great way to encourage those kids who DO like to draw and color. It's great for both the reluctant and non! 

Then the story starts and on each page it will tell you to add something to the page-- Like, "Stick a parrot in the window. Or, "Texture the ship to look like wood." "This pole needs a Pirate flag!" 

There isn't a lot of reading in these books but if you have a kid who doesn't like to read and loves to draw this is one way to nudge that child to read... at least a little bit. I as a youngin' would have certainly fit that bill!

Below is a fun video promo for one of the books.

And this is a fun look inside the artists's studio....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I can't recall how I stumbled upon this guy, but behold:

He cuts masked, like he's in some Jason movie... only in the background of his videos he play annoying Japanese pop music so it's certainly an interesting juxtaposition. I love watching anyone do art that's different and this is certainly different.  The films are kind of long and I wish they were sped up by A LOT so if I were you I'd just pull that little button along when need be. You just want to get a feel for it - and of course you want to see the finished product -from tree stump to manga cuteness! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I stumbled upon a super cool manga/graphic novel for young readers today. And guess what? It's completely wordless! Wordless books don't mean that you don't have to pay attention though (if that's what you may be thinking). I'm saying this from experience. I have major problems paying attention so looking at detailed pictures inside of boxes can be more of a challenge sometimes than reading text. 

Anyway, appantly the store only has Volume 5. No matter. I bought it anyway. It's called GON. 

This is a photo I found of the illustrator/author:

I looked for other books that he might have authored or illustrated but couldn't find any. These books were originally published in Tokyo, I believe. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

This is the product detail posted on Amazon for GON Vol 5: "Story and art by Masashi Tanaka. Gon goes underground in this book length adventure. Things start out small, as Gon fixates on an anthill. From there, he defends a colony of prairie dogs from a mother coyote and her cub. Enemies become allies when an earthquake opens up a huge fissure, sending Gon and his companions into a mysterious, underground world filled with strange creatures. Will a giant spider prove to be Gon's match?"

As I was looking for images from GON I stumbled upon Goodreads. The first review of the book that I saw went like this: 

"The artwork was only black and white and the detailed lined drawings were so busy I had trouble focusing on the images. Generally I like wordless books to be extremely expressive, but the creatures of Gon were too realistic to express much emotion and I felt the story suffered as a result."

Oh my god, what??? This is why I don't go on there. The ONLY reason I picked up the book was because of the art. I don't really care what the plot or story line is about.  This may be obvious since the bookstore only had number 5 in stock and it starts with chapter 16. I just don't care. The artwork is too cool not to buy! First of all, the animals all express much emotion. There are cute critters and mean looking critters... and as I am now flipping through the book I can see the agony on the furry cute little critter's faces as they are being chased by large predators... and boy, do those things look angry! So, emotion? Yes. The beauty of this art is how detailed it is. The pen and ink cross hatching is really well done. Where to use a heavy line and where to use a light line is chosen with care. I can FEEL things TEAR and EXPLODE and BREAK and RIP. This is a testament to good craftsmanship. And I love this all the more because I've seen it done poorly lately or seen it replicated by the use of computer (this seems to be the recent trend). My only wish is that the art could be printed on nice white paper instead of the cheap manilla that's standard for a mass paperback. It should be treated more as a graphic novel than a cheap manga book. Then the art would really shine. 

I think kids will enjoy this. It's eye candy for sure... even though Mr. or Ms. Goodreads thinks otherwise.

Friday, June 8, 2012


I've gotten the cutest/best letters from kids. One class sent me photos of some creative things they did with one of my books and a whole list of questions they had for me. Because I wanted to write a nice letter back I just never did because I didn't have the time! Now I know it's the end of the school year (may even be too late) so I'm going overboard. Observe:

I've made a 6X12 inch page out of cardstock and am drawing a little robber on each and signing my name at the bottom. I'm drawing the robber character since Steal Back the Mona Lisa is the book the kids wrote about. I always think about what I would like as a kid. I mean, I would think it was very cool to have an author write back and answer questions and yeah, it would be nice to have a bookmark or something like that but how great would it be to have my own personalized drawing? The one memory that sticks in my mind like glue is when I mailed away for a spy kit that came in a Captain Crunch box. My sister got hers back in the mail but mine never came! I couldn't stand it! All I remember about hers was that there was some small round thing you looked through that made everything red. It was a "decoder." Just that color red was good enough for me to be VERY jealous. 

Anyway, that's what drives me. Memories like that. My mom always tried to make everything fair for us kids but now tells us that she wished she didn't because she tells us now that "life isn't fair." That is very true but I don't understand why you can't enjoy being a kid. You only live once. Why be miserable your entire life? Why do you need to have adult worries when you're a kid? So that's why I want every kid in the class to have a little drawing. 

I don't know if all of that made any sense but I tried. You can't always follow my nutty logic....

Friday, June 1, 2012


I did a school talk a few days ago and I got an interesting question from a girl after a segment of my talk. It's the second time I've gotten this question. This is what I was talking about:

First I projected this painting, which I did in college:

I explained how it was for a class assignment. We were given one word. "Blue." My solution for the word was to paint the above painting. The animals are supposed to be tamed by the blue ball at the bottom of the painting. Then I gave a brief story of how a boy painted his face bright blue and proceeded to sit in the corner of the class. We had to watch him sit there for about 5 min. in silence. 

The question the girl asked was, "Did he get in trouble?" 

Since this is the second time a child has asked this and I don't normally call on kids when they're raising their hands in the middle of my talks I must wonder: how many kids wonder this? Classes in elementary school are so structured that I guess they can't imagine why a boy who would do such a thing wouldn't get in trouble! 

Something to think about. I'm glad I went to art school.