Monday, September 24, 2012

Crouching figure

Figure in dry brush and ink wash for upcoming Cricket Magazine piece. It's going to appear in the final image quite a bit smaller than this. Sometimes this is a good thing and tightens up the figure, sometimes not so much. Sometimes I end up losing a lot of detail and texture. With this one I'll probably get a little bit of both.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Great Joe Maneely

There's a little known cartoonist from the 50s whom I'm a big fan of, Joe Maneely, who worked for Atlas comics before it became Marvel Comics. He was Stan Lee's favorite cartoonist before his premature death in 1958 after getting hit by a streetcar. He was primarily known for his war and western comics, but also worked on The Yellow Claw, a knock off of Fu Manchu author Sax Rohmer's character of the same name (unfortunately these titles contains some very overt racial stereotypes that were all too common at the time). The Black Knight, another copycat book, was meant to emulate ECs brief post code Valor, an odd move when you consider the failure of ECs post code books, but that was Atlas. Anything they thought other people had success with, they duplicated. Unfortunately Maneely never saw Marvel's success with superheroes, but then he wasn't very suited to the genre.

He was said to do little penciling, preferring to rough things out first and go directly into pen with a technique oddly reminiscent of Robert Crumb. Though Crumb was reading comics at the time, it's unlikely that Maneely was an influence, since Crumb was mainly inspired by funny animal comics, Carl Barks and the Dell titles, but the similarity is there, maybe because of the influence of Thomas Nast. Maneely's work is also a little reminiscent of his contemporary, Jack Davis' work on EC's war titles.

I'll let his work speak for itself. Again, fair warning: there's some very blatant racial stereotypes here, but the images are still beautifully executed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Witch Girl

A recent piece for the Red Fox Literary halloween promo book.  This was fun to do. Another piece modeled for by Ella. I do wish I had a boy to model for reference who was as unselfconscious performer as Ella is. She doesn't seem to mind, but she says it "tires her out." But nothing like a real kid to give you real kid gestures, no matter how simple the style.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Imbibing a Magic Potion...

Work in progress for a halloween piece, with a little sequential action. I'm continuing to work on the Cricket pieces--2 full pages an a half, so lots of work ahead. Sketches have been approved, so that's what I'll be doing for the next couple weeks. They give roomy deadlines so I try to use the time to do the best pieces I can while I have it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Kerouac Haiku

The theme of this week's Foxy Friday on the Red Fox Literary Blog is beatniks, and so I did Ella, keeping it cool to the rhythm of a hand lettered Jack Kerouac Haiku.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Witch Girl

This is for a halloween piece in progress. The beatnik piece is done, but I'll post that tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ella the Beatnik

Here's a work in progress for Red Fox Literary's Foxy Friday, our version of Illustration Friday. This will be a sequence of three figures. The theme, of course, is beatniks in honor of the upcoming On The Road film.

I've got a about three projects going at once right now so I barely have time to write this blog post. My geese compositions, of which the sketches bellow are only a part, went over well with Cricket, so now I'm in the process of doing finishes. Or should be soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Another Study for Cricket

Another study for the Cricket project. Lots and lots of drawing. I got to get back to it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Another Mini Book Spread: The Arrival

Busy at the moment doing Swan studies for a Cricket Magazine assignment which I'll be posting soon. In the meantime here's another spread from my mini book.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Two Possible Endpapers For My Mini Book

I'm trying to decide on the endpapers for my my mini book. Here are two options:

Endpaper #1

Endpaper #2

What do you think?  I could also use both, one on in the front and one in the back, but I like the continuity of having the same end paper on both sides.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Why Do Picture Books Have Fewer Words? Or: The Death of the Storybook

The current word count for picture books these days is anywhere from 500 to 800 words. It was once common for picture books, and their longer companions, storybooks, to be 2000 or even 5000 words. This trend is not because kids are less sophisticated. It's not because kids have shorter attention spans. The problem is that adults have forgotten the purpose of picture books.

We used to have picture books, fully illustrated storybooks, and everything in between. Now by the time kids are in 1st grade they're supposed to abandon picture books altogether. Adults are pushing their kids to read chapter books as soon as they are able. There's no transition point. It's parents at the advice of educators who are doing this, and the picture book market is responding in kind.

We're in a time when preteens and teenagers read more than they used to. The quality of the books vary, but YA fiction is more popular than ever. When we were kids, you didn't see an 8 year old read a giant 1000 page Harry Potter book. No one would have thought to write a book that size for a kid. No one would dare try to market it. Sure, there were kids who read at a higher reading level who were encouraged to read adult fiction, but there was less literature written for them. Now that's changed.

This trend with picture books is a direct result of the popularity of the YA market. Parents want their kids to be "advanced readers." So the picture books are written for a younger audience because kids are encouraged to leave behind picture books at an earlier age. The problem is that this transition point is critical. If kids are forced to jump right into chapter books before they're ready, you risk crushing their enthusiasm for books in general. If reading becomes an intimidating chore, there goes their love of reading.

So what's the difference between a 3000 word chapter book and a 3000 word Storybook? Pictures. Big, full color, sprawling beautiful pictures for the eye to explore. A few black and white illustrations in a chapter book just doesn't do the same job. That doesn't mean that illustrated chapter books are inferior to storybooks, they're just a different form. But it's not a mystery why a young child will be more attracted to a full color, beautifully illustrated book. It's not because of television or video games. It's for the same reason you and I loved them when we were kids. Kids immediately connect with images, and Images are a significant part of how they explore their world. It's part of what makes you a kid.

The bottom line is: let kids choose their own books. If the book is below the reading level you think they're supposed to be, but they love the book, let them make that choice and respect their tastes. The more they're enthusiastic about reading, the more they'll read, and the more they read, the more they'll be naturally drawn to more sophisticated material. There's no need to force this. All you need to do is encourage your child to read, period.