Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Hanukkah Hop!

In 2010 I was invited by Alexandra Cooper at Simon & Schuster to illustrate Erica Silverman's The Hanukkah Hop! She'd seen some of the concept sketches I'd done for the Story of Belle & Wissell and thought I'd be a good fit. I agreed immediately. I loved the simplicity and energy of Erica's story and was especially glad to have a chance to work in a different style than I had in the past.

I began work with concept sketches of the character designs. Rachel, the main character, was the jumping-off point for everything else. I started with her.

After some experiments with heavier, middle-aged parents, it was suggested that the mom and dad characters should be younger and hipper. They went from this...

To this...

I purposefully drew upon some of my favorite influences for the design of this book. The layouts were largely inspired by the classic Little Golden Books of the 1950's and the character designs were stylized after Mary Blair, Alice and Martin Provensen and the advertising art of the post-war era. This direction wasn't random, however. I wanted a style that helped communicate the music and fun of Erica's story, and the energy and whimsy of this approach seemed to help push this.

In general, I'm not particularly concerned about wearing my influences on my sleeve. For me the end justifies the means. If the pictures tell a good story and children enjoy them, that's really all I care about.

The Hanukkah Hop! was released by Simon & Schuster October 2011.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Suki The Very Loud Bunny

In February Dutton Children's Books released my fifth book with Carmela and our first book outside of the Ella The Elephant series, Suki The Very Loud Bunny. If you take a look at the concept artwork from my November 2008 post you can see how the final illustrations have evolved into something lighter, brighter and bit more in the vein of the rendering style of the Ella books.

With the character design for this book I tried to straddle a line between "real" bunnies and something a little more anthropomorphic. They can sit upright, but I never show them walking or running on their hind legs. Like real bunnies, they don't wear clothes or have opposable thumbs, however, their facial features were arranged in a somewhat more 'human' fashion to help convey emotion.

The environments of Suki's world didn't turn out to be quite as complex as I'd originally envisioned in the concepting phase, but they did end up being more detailed than the backgrounds for Ella.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Harley-Davidson Museum: True Evel exhibit

I had the pleasure of reuniting with the Belle & Wissell studio to do some illustration work for the Harley-Davidson Museum's 2010 Evel Knievel exhibit, "True Evel". You can view a video of the final installation here.

The museum installed a life-sized "mug board" for visitors to stand behind and get their photo taken. I reworked a classic photo of Evel gesturing to the crowd using brushes and blending tools in Corel Painter 11. The idea was to emulate the kind of 70's commercial art illustration used on lunchboxes of the time.

A motorcycle jump video game was also developed for the exhibit. In addition to the environment and motorcycle artwork, I created original poses for Evel and his female counterpart, Derry Daring. These were used on the character selection screen and on the sides of the classic video arcade kiosks.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bacteria fun!

These character designs were developed for the LOTT Alliance in Olympia as part of a series of illustrations created for their new learning center scheduled to open Spring 2010. LOTT is a massive wastewater management facility that serves Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Thurston County.
The charicatures needed to be based on the real-life appearance of each micro-organism. A nearby microscope will allow kids to see the actual organisms up close.

This is one of four exhibits I was contracted to illustrate through Aldrich Pears Associates in Vancouver, B.C..

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tower Records

From 1986 to 1990 I was the display artist at Tower Records in the University District of Seattle. Back in the day, life at night was a blur of concerts, clubs and band practices, but days were filled with the spray paint, foamcore and X-Acto blades of my small studio in the store basement.
Good times.

One of my early windows was for R.E.M.'s Document album. The panels and graphics here are all painted 1" Foamular cut with a hot wire and hung with fishing line. I liked using "real" props like tree branches when I could. I don't know what they had to do with the album but they seemed to work.

Most of the construction for freestanding displays were made from laminated sheets of foamcore. Except for the photos or posters, everything was usually hand cut and painted. Sometimes after spraying paint all day I'd blow my nose and different colors would come out.

Displays for Green River and Mother Love Bone led to the job of creating the lettering sculpture on the cover of the first Pearl Jam record. Jeff Ament remembered my work when they were concepting the cover and gave me a call. Looking at the Green River board I was wondering why I didn't use thick foam instead of flat foamcore for the lettering, then I remembered. People walking upstairs would always bump into stuff in the stairwell and knock the letters off.

I was a big Pixies fan and I worshipped the work of Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson at 4AD. I coated this board with black paint and then drizzled and rubbed solvents over the top to give it a marbled texture. The dissoved areas created sepia tones similar to the ones on the Surfer Rosa cover.
One of the few I actually took home.

Because the window space at the store was huge, I rarely devoted the entire thing to one album. But there was a big push by Capitol for Heart's Bad Animals and I figured out a way to fill the whole thing with crumpled butcher paper. Sometimes the simplest solution was the best. My pal Astrid was the Capitol rep at the time and she probably gave me a stack of promo CDs to do this. Windows often went to the highest bidder... haha.

This Queensryche display was on the wall for like a year and a half. I tended to leave local artists up as long as I could. The images on the board were done using a projector to sketch, then hand paint.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ella Poster Puzzles illustrations

I did these illustrations of Ella, Belinda and Tiki as part of the Poster Puzzles game on the Ella site. You can play the game by going to the Fun Stuff section here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vintage SI spots

I recently dug up some of the illustration work I did when I began working at Smashing Ideas in 2000. The very first project I worked on was a collaboration with the lovely and talented Ms. Jessica Barnes for a company called Safe Harbor. I created a series of retro-looking spots in Flash that were used throughout the piece.

Another client I worked with back in the day was Post Cereals. We did a lot of games and activities for their Postopia website early on. These spots are from one of the first games we did for them, although I can't remember the name of it. Something to do with treasure, looks like.