Monthly Archives: July 2010

Video Half-Day Friday: Happy 75th Penguin! + Austen-Mania

Happy Birthday, Penguin! Today, the revolutionary publisher of paperbacks new and old (also known to me as “work”), turns 75.  I couldn’t be prouder to be at a company with such a historically strong emphasis on design.  And what better way to celebrate than with this adorably informative documentary?

Video – Penguin Books 75th Anniversary – Penguin Group (USA)

(Can’t embed this for the life of me… so you’ll just have to clicky click!)

Now, on to some video fun, posted by Laura from Combreviations over at 100 Scope Notes:

… SO funny!!  I’m not a huge Austen fan, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Emma, my soul-sister in misguided matchmaking.  I’m always amazed at the many ways that Austen can be adapted, on- and off-screen, so I have probably seen more spin-off movies than read original books.

Penguin, as a publisher of classics, has done an amazing job of reworking old material for a modern audience, so it makes sense that Austen is perfect for them.  They’ve even expanded into “Austen-Mania” with this page on their website, so that fans can delve into the world of romance, long after they’ve read the books.

To show just how innovative Penguin has been with this one author, here are a few examples any Austen fan should check out:

1. I’ve been drooling over this Hardback Classics cover of Emma for months!  It epitomizes that delicious feeling of holding a really beautiful book in your hands. Make sure to take a look at the books by other authors as well.

2.  Penguin UK created a fun and simple project called My Penguin.  For just a few dollars, aspiring designers can pick up their blank copy of Emma (or another classic), and create their own book cover.  While submissions are closed, it’s really interesting to see the gallery of work that came out of it from bands, artists, and anyone else who wanted to contribute.

3.  Still not satisfied creating your own Georgian-Regency world?  The book, Lost In Austen (wasn’t this also a movie?), is a choose-your-own-adventure style tale through all six books.

3.  Ah, Penguin UK, why are you so pretty?  The evolution of Pride and Prejudice, here, here and here.  I even found an article from 2006 where the Brits turned Austen into chick lit, with Colin Firth and all.  Now that’s a little ridiculous…

4.  Want to read all the novels at once, just like that hot dude in The Jane Austen Book Club? Of course, Penguin Classics has a complete set.

Now, it’s a beautiful day, time to get to the park and celebrate Penguin by reading my book!


Must See Shows, Part 2 – Bound For Success

Bound For Success

May 19th – July 31st, 2010, The Grolier Club

Okay, don’t hate me, but I seem to be much better at advertising closings than openings.  So while Bound For Success: Designer Bookbinders International Bookbinding Competition is almost over, it is SO freaking amazing that you must make a point to go in the next 48 hours!  Really!

Bound For Success is an international showcase of bookbinders, organized by Designer Bookbinders, a British society for contemporary book arts.  For this year’s competition, the world’s best bookbinders were given the specially-commissioned anthology, Water, and asked to create an exterior that reflects it.

This ain’t yo’ momma’s book cover design – hand bookbinding is a fine art unto itself.  The creativity in concept and material blows anything created by traditional publishing out of the water (pun intended).  Leather, needlework, found objects, glass, resin, paint, plastic and wood, such as the book of the grand prize winner, Alain Taral of France (whose binding of “pear wood covered by a myriad of exotic veneers”, shown below), are used.

What interested me about the exhibit was that it made me approach the book in a whole new way.  As an illustrator, art is content – words and pictures on the page that tell a story in 2-D.  But for bookbinders, the pages themselves were almost irrelevant.  Sure, no doubt each artist carefully designed their look around Water, but in the show, the book exteriors became 3-D sculptures.  You could barely even see that there were pages behind the glass displays, let alone flip through the contents.

I actually loved that these fine art bookbinders were all about 3-D material.  It was fascinating to read through the alluring, mysterious techniques used (especially because I don’t know what they mean!): exposed hinge stitching, deckled edge paper, morocco goatskin leather, concertina fold, hand-sewn endbands, gold foil inlay, lithograph, applique…  mmm!  I spent the entire time in total awe, knowing that no matter how hard I tried, my craftsmanship could never even come close to that of these world-renowned bookbinders.

Well, what are you still reading this blog post for??  Get yo’self to the Grolier Club, stat!

Must See Shows, Part 1 – EARTH: Fragile Planet

image: Bill Carman‘s painting for EARTH: Fragile Planet.  Buy a print.

Like every other scarf-loving New York resident, the oppressive heat wave this summer has sent me fleeing for the most air-conditioned corners of the city.  And what better place to spend a few hours avoiding the burning sidewalk than art galleries?

Recently, I’ve hit up three very different exhibitions that I’m more than happy to recommend!  Here’s number one… it has been up for months (while I’ve apparently been living in a cave), act quickly and go before the end of the week!

EARTH: Fragile Planet

June 3 – July 31, The Society of Illustrators

This group exhibit of 120 illustrators showcases editorial and artistic commentary on the state of the environment today, using a variety of media including digital and traditional painting, video and sculpture.  To make the wide range of work more cohesive, the show is divided into five categories: water, wildlife, earth, air and energy.

Overall, it was poignant for me to see more illustrators getting involved with the environment, in light of all my thinking about the recent Gulf oil spill catastrophe.  Here were some of my highlights:


Peter de Seve, Thar She Blows (sketch)

De Seve’s character work (he’s known for the creatures of the Ice Age franchise and the Philomel book Duchess of Whimsy) is so fantastic that even a sketch stands out.  His New Yorker cover idea reminds me of the Ripple sketch blog that’s raising money to save wildlife affected by the oil spill.  Check out Peter’s own post on the show here.


Betsy Lewin, Blue-Footed Boobies (watercolor)

Ted Lewin, Impenetrable Forest (watercolor)

I’m always excited to see the work of my alma mater’s favorite couple… as a watercolor artist, I’ve been looking up to them for years!  Ted’s densely forested piece was right on track with his other work, but I was surprised at the realism of Betsy’s beautiful watercolor piece.  The book from which it’s excerpted, Booby Hatch, shows an early side to her art, pre-Click, Clack, Moo, that I wasn’t familiar with.

Tim O’Brien, Giraffe In The Alley (oil and gouache)

Even though I never took a class with Tim O’Brien, I was already on the lookout for Pratt professors.  But my mouth literally dropped open at the sight of his contribution to the show!  His imagery, of a giraffe in a dark alley, was right out of the sketches of a children’s book dummy I created years ago – High Hopes.  For artists, seeing someone else’s art with the same concept makes one’s skin crawl (I used to fear it before critiques).  In this case, though, I just had to marvel at the hilarity of such a strange image being thought up twice.  See his post on the evolution of the piece here.

Tim O’Brien vs. Annie – so weird!


Britt Spencer, Footprints Through Appalachia (gouache)

Like Peter de Seve, I’m a big fan of Britt Spencer’s animated characters and his true-story Philomel book (again!) about the giraffe (again!) who became famous.  More importantly, though, his personification of the “giant” mining industry, tromping through the delicate green Appalachians, brought up an issue I don’t often hear about.  Since Footprints Through Appalachia is a smaller piece, I loved its pairing with Justin Gerard’s Strange Friend, (mixed media) below.  Understated but meaningful.


Rudy Gutierrez, U Kill Me, U Kill U (acrylic on canvas)

Rudy was one of my all-time favorite professors (I signed up for his class year after year!).  To me, he is the master of storytelling through a unique visual language.  Whenever I’m reflecting on my style and questioning whether I’m being true to myself, I always go back to the advice I’ve received from him. This large piece is no exception to his way with words!  The violent energy of his painting only further brings out the poetry written throughout, and it is impossible not to really feel something on viewing it.  Truly inspiring.


Materials for the Arts, with Liz Lomax, 3-D illustrator, and Eric Lewis, sculptor

As I was checking out the downstairs gallery, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the short video on loop, and I’m so glad I finally sat down and paid attention!  The video documents two of the exhibition’s 3-D artists, Lomax and Lewis, visiting Materials For The Arts, a warehouse that collects donated items to recycle and supply to schools and cultural arts programs and organizations.  Tons of materials and found objects of every kind, otherwise trashed, are brought to their warehouse, where artists and educators can pick through for only the cost of a “thank you”.

It’s an absolutely amazing program, and I encourage everyone to take advantage and help MFTA keep being so successful!  If you have extra materials lying around your studio, please consider donating here.  And don’t forget to see the video and Liz’s work here, and with Eric’s work here!

Can’t get to the show in the next few days?  Get more on Earth: Fragile Planet at their Tumblr page!

What Form Rejection Means To Me

I wish I could take credit for Little Mr. Rejected Portfolio, but it came with my cube.

After rejecting a pile of samples (going back to 2009! yikes) last week, the Rejectionist‘s latest essay un-contest struck a chord.   Artists are rejected for all sorts of reasons, since each imprint is looking for something specific, so there are many illustrators that are wonderful, but we still have to reject them.  This isn’t about them.  It is the worst of the slush that haunts you in your sleep, and this ode is dedicated to those.

What Form Rejection Means To Me

Form rejection means never having to say “I’m sorry that you can’t draw”.  Instead, we say, “Unfortunately, we are not looking for any projects containing your style at this time”.

Form rejection is supplying words when you’re speechless.   Speechless at gruesome cartoons, horrifyingly inappropriate books about excrement, marker doodles, anime, scary babies, unintelligible collage, and even more unintelligible query letters.

Form rejection means please, please stop sending us oil paintings of your dogs.  No matter how good they are.  No matter how much I like them.

Form rejection means passing the buck on bad writing. “The art department does not review dummy books for manuscripts.  For editorial comments and selection, please submit separately to the editorial department.” It means wasting extra trees, postage stamps and editorial interns’ time (sorry, interns!).

Form rejection means returning your dummy book in a SASE so that it doesn’t go in the trash with the other samples, thereby saving a few trees.  Maybe.

Form rejection means signing your name as “The Art Department” because you’re afraid of stalkers and angry, unemployed illustrators calling your extension/burning down your apartment.

Form rejection means crushing hopes and dreams.  Of every mom, dad or grandparent in the country that has a story they love about their kids.  Of every artist who probably went to your school at some point.  Of children – and adults – that draw and send in pictures in crayon or colored pencil.  To them we say, “Thanks again for your interest and for sharing your work with us.”

Form rejection means feeling guilty for all of the children/parents/grandparents whose hopes and dreams are to illustrate children’s books.  So you keep copying and pasting individual comments,  finding something constructive in your heart to help them improve, and giving them a glimmer of hope that they could “feel free to send us samples of your work as you progress”… until you really don’t have a form rejection at all anymore, do you?  You’ve just made it personal.

“Best of luck in your future endeavors!”

New Blog Links!

image courtesy of Bookshelf Porn

Back in the early golden days of Walking In Public, I was just beginning to get the hang of Google Reader and gain inspiration from the blogosphere.  Now, months later, I cringed at the sight of the sorely outdated list at the bottom edge of my blog, and knew that it was time for a serious makeover.

So… please check out my new and improved list of blogs (below, right)!  I not only added many new and exciting places, but I also edited anything out that was

A) a website, not a blog or

B) never updated.

Now, feel free peruse the web to your heart’s content – because I bring you only the best!

While I tried to be comprehensive in finding blogs (via Twitter, etc.) for the “People I Know” section, I realized that I must not be acquainted with very many people who are out there blogging themselves these days!  So, if you’re reading this and keep a blog, contact me!  I’d love to give you a shout-out.

Meow, enjoy!

– Annie

Jonathan Tropper And The Magic Cover Design

I went to see Jonathan Tropper (interviewed by Allison Winn Scotch) speak at the Borders in Columbus Circle last Thursday night, simply because his book, This Is Where I Leave You, was on my summer reading list.  And his book was on my reading list because, well, I just liked the book cover.  Turns out, had it not been for some serious rebranding, I might not have ended up at that fantastic event at all!

From a design standpoint, I found it interesting to learn that Jonathan had several thoughts on the evolution of his book covers.  Until he moved to Dutton (the adult imprint, natch), his covers looked like this:

Not heinous, but not exactly future classics, either.  Luckily, Tropper’s latest book cover (under a new designer’s point-of-view) transformed his image, and the book skyrocketed into bestseller heaven.  But what amused me from Jonathan’s story is that, now, all his past books from other publishers have come out of the woodwork looking like this:

Magically branded – just like that!  I’m not sure how common this phenomenon is for best-selling authors, but it’s a super-smart idea, and I love the end result across the board.  Jonathan was clearly pleased too, and felt that the cover design played a huge role in the wild success of This Is Where I Leave You.

His comments brought up the long-debated issue of authors having control over the look of their covers.  As a writer, one would have a pretty good visual of the book they’re slaved so hard over, you can imagine that they would want a say in it.  Add to that the “make it or break it” effect that covers have on sales, and there’s enough pressure to make an author’s head spin over the very thought of a blah book design.  Still, as we all know, writers are not designers (at least, usually), and may not know what’s best for their own books (even if they think they do).  As with everything else in publishing, creating an amazing book is a team effort!

In children’s books, I often am asked why authors don’t get to pick the illustrator or make any directions as to the look of their picture books.  Here’s why: an illustrator, working beyond the constraints of the author’s “vision”, almost always creates something more fresh and inspired than what the writer could have imagined.  It is the same with designers – they add another layer to the project, not compromising their own skill and creativity for the author, hopefully resulting in a higher quality product that the author will love anyway.

Even more than that, editorial, sales and marketing teams all have years of expertise (and figures to back it up), that play a major factor in the outcome of a book cover.  So, while an author may not get exactly what they envisioned, they will get a thought-out solution – hopefully one that will sell.

So should book cover design be left to the collective knowledge of the publishing industry – or to the author who has poured their passion and words into the book itself?  Tough questions have no right answers, but feel free to share your feelings.

And go read all of Jonathan Tropper’s books – in their pretty new covers, of course!

Video Half-Day Friday – The Giving Tree

Half-day Fridays (for those of you not in publishing, this is when everyone mentally shuts down, gives up and heads home by 12:30 PM) are pretty much the best idea EVER.  So, in the spirit of summer publishing, I bring you a gem of hilarity to fill your lazy afternoon hours . . . in case you’re not sipping margaritas or catching a Megabus to a less-humid destination!

This video is too amazing to even bother introducing, just . . . enjoy!