Monthly Archives: November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, folks!  This week, I received my Moleskine in the mail for the Sketchbook Project 2011, a nationwide tour of thousands of themed sketchbooks submitted by artists.  I signed up just in time, and as someone who doesn’t regularly keep a sketchbook, it sounded like a cool exercise for the next two months.  My theme?  Happy thoughts!

Before I got into brainstorming concepts and drawing away, I thought I’d celebrate the holiday by writing a list: everything that makes me happy.  Free association. In no particular order.  It was a lot of fun, and as I look it over now, I couldn’t be more grateful to have all these things – and especially, people – in my life.

What’s on your list?  As we head into the holiday season, count the things you’re grateful for . . . I’m sure there are plenty of reasons to be happy today!


Celebrate The Haul-idays With Chronicle Books!

The ever-amazing Chronicle Books is having a Celebrate The Haul-idays contest: post a wish-list for up to $500 dollars of their books, and if I’m randomly selected, I could win the whole list.  I’m SO there!

It gets better – if you post a comment here, YOU could also win the list.  So go ahead and give a shout-out . . . you never know, you could take home $500 worth of Chronicle Books, too!

Here’s my Chronicle Books Wish List:

for myself

The Exquisite Book by Julia Rothman, Jenny Volvovski, and Matt Lamothe / $30 / I’ve heard so much about this book through their blog tour and Brooklyn event announcements, so I can’t wait to see the collaborations created by 100 artists for this epic version of the Exquisite Corpse!

This Is NPR by Cokie Roberts, Susan Stamberg, Noah Adams, John Ydstie, Renee Montagne, Ari Shapiro, and David Folkenflik / $30 / On quiet days of scanning and typesetting in the office, I’m addicted to getting my news and “didja know?” info from NPR.  Plus, who can live without This American Life and Radiolab?  And Diane Rehm?  My personal experts.

All My Friends Are Dead – by Avery Monsen and Jory John / $10 / Preview here.  Bahahahahaha.

The Little Book Of Letterpress by Charlotte Rivers / $25 / My mild obsession with letterpress has already been discussed.

Creative, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho / $17 / This self-proclaimed “Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business” sounds like a perfect refresher course to all the tidbits I learned in art school.

Let’s Bring Back by Lesley M. M. Blume, illustrated by Grady McFerrin / $20 / I first became enamored with Ms. Blume’s blog when she published her Mad-Men edition, and as a sucker for everything vintage, I’m sure I’ll be a sucker for this, too.

Shadow by Suzy Lee / $16 / I think Suzy Lee’s first book, Wave, is one of the most thoughtfully-designed contemporary picture books out there.  Shadow, her follow-up wordless book, is just as playful, and I’d be super excited to own it.

Doodles: A Really Giant Coloring Book by Taro Gomi / $20 / This is one of those books that I already purchased as a gift, and, um . . . I kind of wish I kept it for myself!

How To Cook Like A Top Chef / $30 / Before I even attempted to cook, Top Chef had me inspired.  Well, at least to eat, anyway.

Fanzines by Teal Triggs / $40 / Maybe the most hipster thing about me is the fact that I really love zines.  Love ’em.  Even took a class on making them.

Tiny Art Director by Bill Zeman / $15 / This little girl would be the scariest boss imaginable, but I can’t stop laughing at her critiques!

for gifts

Antipasti: Fabulous Appetizers and Small Plates by Joyce Goldstein, photographs by Paolo Nobile / $20 / Known in our family as “grazing”, small plates is my favorite way to eat, and I’m sure my mom and Aunt Beth could work wonders with this cookbook.

The Book Of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks by Bethany Keeley / $15 / A little bit of humor for Grammar Nazis writers like my mama.

Lobel’s Meat Bible / $40 / Because now that he’s out in Minnesota farm country, my dad can grill with the best of ’em.

Photobooth Dogs by Cameron Woo / $15 / I’m not sure that JaXOn, our Great Pyrenees, would actually be able to fit in a photobooth, but this looks appropriate for my dog-loving family nonetheless.

Craft, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco / $17 / This one’s for Deb, my super-talented stepmom who has mastered every craft from beading to scrap-booking, and I’m sure would love to make a little extra change doing it!

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace / $15 / As the self-designated aunt who gives only books for holidays, this’d be first on my list for my own “little peas”, niece Alexis and nephew Thadd.

Simms Taback’s Safari Animals by Simms Taback / $13 / Simms Taback is one of my very favorite illustrators whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with at Putnam, and I’d be first to pass along any of his Chronicle titles to Alexis and Thadd as well.

Look!  It’s Jesus! by Harry and Sandra Choron  / $13 / What to get for a 19-year-old guy like my god-brother, Ryan?  Oh, maybe a humorous book, about “Amazing Holy Visions In Everyday Life”.  Why not?

Funnily enough, I would also get this for my Aunt Mary.

Ernie: A Photographer’s Memoir by Tony Mendoza / $13 / Before there was Maru, there was Ernie – this 1985 bestselling story of a photographer and his cat.  I bet it would crack up my Aunt Beth and Uncle Chris, perpetual owners of cats with large personalities. 

Like I Give A Frock by Michi, illustrated by Kat McLeod / $19 / Irreverent style tidbits of wisdom – this goes straight to my favorite critic-thinker-fashionista, Rebecca, and my hetero-life partner, Abby.

I ❤ Macaroons by Hisako Ogita / $15 / There are two people in this world who would appreciate this elegant book on the “real” macaroons – Rebecca and my world-traveling soulmate, Janelle.

Roomies by Kathryn Williams, illustrated by Jason Snyder / $13 / My roommates are my BFFs, but let’s be real – we need all the help we can get!

The Small Object Labels and Stickers by Sarah Neuberger / $11 / I can just picture Paula going to town on various first passes, expense reports, contracts . . . the sky’s the limit!


The Original Art Show: Part II

As I mentioned, I already attended the Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Show during its opening, but the hustle and bustle of the event kept me from really getting a good look at all the pieces and reading the actual books.  So the Putnam art and editorial crew took a field trip last Friday to spend a few hours there in relative quiet and share our likes/dislikes.

All of the books are obviously winners, and of course, there were plenty that I already knew I loved: Peter Brown’s Children Make Terrible Pets, Jan Jutte’s Sleepover At Grandma’s House, Lane Smith’s It’s A Book!. But I wanted to mention a few new titles that I discovered along the way.  Here are my favorites:

1. Tao Nyeu – Bunny Days (Dial)

I was literally cooing and gasping with laughter aloud when I read this, as I couldn’t believe that a single book could be so adorable and disturbing at once!  In three parts, Mr. and Mrs. Goat find various ways to accidentally muddy/trap/maim a group of baby bunnies, and Bear comes to the rescue… with, um, interesting solutions.  Well-meaning Bear subjects the bunnies to the washing machine (and hangs them to dry!), a high-powered fan, and a sewing machine. AND THE BUNNIES ARE STILL CUTE! AND NOT DEAD!  Hilarious.

2.  Carmen Segovia – Brownie Groundhog and February Fox (Sterling)

This was one of my favorite designed books at the show.  I just love the wintery limited color palette with pops of red… reminds me of a modern version of classics like Mary Wore Her Red Dress. Plus, predator (Fox) and prey (Groundhog) become friends and share toast.  Aw.

3.  Laura Ljungkvist – Pepi Sings A New Song (Beach Lane Books)

The creator of Follow The Line comes out with a new – totally fun – picture book!  Pepi the perpetually wide-eyed parrot puts a crazy spin on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for his stargazing owner, Peter.  I always feel that word books and digital illustrations can go so easily BLAH, but Ljungkvist brings both to a whole new level.

4.  Steven Savage  – The Fathers Are Coming Home (Margaret K. McElderry)

Sniffle alert!  Margaret Wise Brown’s post-humous bedtime story is simple and touching, bringing a tear to my eye as all the animal fathers (and one returning sailor) come home to their babies at night.  I’ve been enamored with Steven Savage’s atmospheric textured prints since he came into one of my illustration classes a few years ago, and as with Polar Bear Night, they’re once again the perfect complement.

5.  It was raining cats and dogs this year!  I’m not normally a fan of “big black eyes” on characters, but Emma Dodd’s I Don’t Want A Cool Cat makes it work (plus, the book rocks). Emily Gravett’s Dogs is just that: all the breeds you can think of, animated with her classy British restraint. And one of my favorite original art pieces on the wall was Jon Klassen’s Cat’s Night Out… it’s a crying shame that the printed book had a polluted, sepia hue not in the art itself.  Klassen’s adorable little cats deserved more!

Despite what you may think, the show had more than picture books.  I haven’t read Tony DiTerlizzi’s The Search For Wondla (I’m woefully behind on my middle-grade and YA novels), but the design was spectacular. Color in the interior!  Gorgeous chapter openers!  I wanna do that!  The other book I must get my hands on is Jon Klassen’s The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place Book 1: The Mysterious Howling.  Like A Series Of Unfortunate Events, it looks like something I’d love as a kid, but is sophisticated enough for adults.

Now that I’ve checked out all (okay, most…) of the books in the show, I definitely recommend that y’all do the same before it closes next week.  Go to there.

Tarot Cards: The Art Of The Future

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with magic and the occult.  Blame it on Harry Potter.  I’m not a true believer or anything, but I’ve definitely been known to whittle stick wands (age 11), write fluently in the Runic alphabet (age 13) and ask everyone, “What’s your sign?” (last week).  What can I say… it’s my idea of FUN.

So last night, I sat down with my clairvoyant gypsy roommates to – what else? – have my cards read.  Normally a basic reading consists of 3 cards, but I decided to go for the big one – a 10-card celtic cross variation. The exercise begins with picking one card from the deck that represents yourself.  And since I don’t know much about the meanings, I chose simply on what visually “speaks” to me – and ended up with the 10 Of Cups, above.

The 10 Of Cups just so happens to be perfect for me!  Also known as the “Happily Ever After” card, the 10 Of Cups represents peaceful contentment and personal happiness.  The idyllic scene shows a man and woman, boy and girl, surrounded by the ones they love.  Since this is my “identity” card, it’s not that my near future holds sunshine and rainbows, but that the ultimate dream of family, friends and joy is what’s most important to me.  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

What else did my card reading hold?  Well, it was mostly work-related.  I’m supported by the Ace Of Pentacles – financial stability, thanks to a steady job, but I’m going to have a hard time keeping it all together soon (the Four of Pentacles, reversed). No worries, I’ll learn how to juggle it all in the end (the Two of Pentacles).  All in all, it sounded like an eerie premonition of… dun dun dun… student loans.  Also in the reading: a friends-based, party-loving lifestyle in my college past (the Three of Cups), and my roommates’ game attempt at relating the confident Ace Of Wands to “a new day” in my love life.  That’s pretty much it.

Even if you could care less about the readings, Tarot is full of incredibly interesting visual elements.  In most types of illustration, the pictures complement and draw out meaning from the words, but the words come first and foremost. But in Tarot, the illustrations ARE the meaning, the artwork holds all the power. Every composition and symbol on the card can be interpreted, so each kind of deck holds a potentially different future for the reader. With hundreds of decks from the 15th century to the present, that’s a lot of illustration divination!

Some classic decks, like playing cards, are based solely on their suit:

Thoth Deck from SuperTarot

17th-Century Vieville Tarot from Alec Satin

Some contain a bit more symbolism:

Morgan-Greer Tarot from Auracana

Old English Tarot from The Card Reader

And others, well, are a bit more interpretive, illustrative, or just plain kitschy:

Housewives Tarot from Wizard & Witch

The Victorian Romantic Tarot from Auracana

I can’t get enough of the crazy variety of art on Tarot cards, so for more info, check out tons of decks at, a lot of useful basic info and videos at Big Tarot blog, and, of course, the Tarot Wiki.

The Quidditch World Cup!


Yes, that’s right.  This weekend was the actual, Harry Potter-inspired Quidditch World Cup in New York City!  Don’t laugh – there are hundreds of Muggle colleges around the country with legit Quidditch teams (nearly 50 playing this weekend), and the sport itself, which, keep in mind, must be played with one hand on broomstick, is actually surprisingly athletic.  This is no game for nerds. The players  have to be tough-as-nails to survive this competition, and the variety of action far surpasses any measly one-ball games like basketball and football.  I don’t care for sports in general, but the atmosphere at the event was SO positive and fun, it was irresistible.  Why, why didn’t we start a Quidditch team at Pratt when I was in school?!

Check out the photos below, and the official site for more info on Quidditch. Harry would be so proud.

Illustration Week Round-Up

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – just like Ian Falconer’s Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris.

Phew, what an exciting week we had on the blog for the 1st annual Illustration Week! To be honest, when I first put out the idea, I completely underestimated what an amazing response I’d receive from my talented fellow illustrators, and what a positive reception the entire idea would get on the internet.  Thanks to everyone for tuning in!

I’d like to thank everyone who got the word out last week about our New Artist Showcase, starting with kids-lit blog gurus Betsy Bird at School Library Journal’s Fuse #8 blog, and Jules over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for their fantastic write-ups!  Also a big thanks to featured artists Chris Harrington, Heather Sisson, and Daniel K. Harlow for the nice words on their own blogs.

I also can’t forget to mention that numerous people gave this blog event a shout-out on Twitter… so if you have Twitter, go on over and follow them, please!  Thanks to my publisher Nancy Paulsen @nancyrosep, advisor for emerging illustrators Jon Woodward of Zero2Illo @jonwoodward, top-notch illustration blog A Journey Round My Skull @roundmyskull, starchitect/roommate Adrielle Emilia @adrielleemilia, alma mater Pratt Career Services @PrattCareer, too-hilarious writer/blogger/badger Merit Badger @meritblog, and one of the best children’s book news bloggers in the biz, Travis at 100 Scope Notes @100scopenotes.

Did I miss anyone . . .?  Let me know!

While I don’t think I could ever keep up with posting daily, I will continue to feature up-and-coming illustrators. I personally learned a lot from the artists who were interviewed, and I can’t wait to expand it more.  So if you are/know someone who would be great for the New Artist Showcase, do let me know!

In the meantime, here’s a round-up of all the artists of this week (in case you missed any), and don’t forget to check out today’s finale illustrator, Chris Harrington!

Danny Quirk: website / blog

Kevin Stanton: website / blog

Heather Sisson: website / blog

Dan Masso: website / twitter

Dan Harlow: website

Christee Curran: interview

Chris Mulvey: website

Alexander Doig: website

Shaina Koval-Kim: website

Alexa Macfarlane: blog

Chris Harrington: blog / youtube

New Artist Showcase: Chris Harrington

Chris Harrington


Christopher Scott Harrington graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY in 2010 earning a BFA in Communications Design with a concentration in Illustration. He primarily works in watercolor, ink, and colored pencil to create humorous, fun, illustrations that are narrative in nature. When he’s not at his desk sketching and painting he enjoys juggling, unicycling and having a good time.

What kind of projects have you been working on lately?

Personal projects, I’ve been working on drawing kids, kids are a bit of a weak point for me but not going to shy away from them, they are a work in progress as is everything. But whether it’s a job or just for fun I approach it the same way…It’s all fun. As far as freelancing goes I’ve been doing mostly some animal character designs here and there…A lot of fun!

What do you do to keep new ideas flowing and stay fresh creatively?

I am constantly on the look out for new ideas, I can’t stand when I get “artist block” so to fix that I sometimes take day trips to a park, or to the mall, sketchbook in hand and jotting down notes and crude looking doodles of the things I see or hear. My mind is always thinking in narrative although sometimes my ideas are just babble that doesn’t make any sense what so ever, and wouldn’t be a successful illustration conceptually…But I’ve found that real life is a good source of inspiration. Hearing or seeing something tweaking the story making it your own creation. What comes next? Who are these people, animals or things? When asking myself those type of questions it keeps me fresh because the possibilities of what actually could come next are endless…And up to you.

How do you go about promoting your work?

I try and target certain places where I think my work could fit. Researching the client first and foremost finding out what they publish, what they want and look for. Depending who the client is, some prefer e-mails, or snail-mail, and sending a postcard every 3-6 months. Although I bug them a little more then they might like with postcard samples…They can either give me a job or a restraining order. But I’ve found the internet is the way I like to promote myself, although I do enjoy sending postcards with my illustration on the front and contact info on the back. I enjoy getting mail…Do they?

Anyways the internet, it’s easy, it’s accessible to many, and don’t bother finding a postage stamp. Although it’s easy to send it’s also easy for art directors to click delete. Regardless you never know who may come across your website, blog, youtube account, or that cute picture you took of your dog sleeping. You never know if the right person is viewing your work and say your perfect for this type of job. I try and display my art wherever I can, in public places I’ll be sketching and someone might come from behind and watch me for awhile ask me a few questions, I also try and carry business cards or some kind of sample to give out.

I think of it this way, it’s like planting seeds unsure if it will grow but you plant them anyway.

What has your involvement been like in the online community?  How is having an internet presence been helpful or inspiring to you? Why?

I keep and maintain a personal illustration blog, been familiarizing myself with YouTube and numerous social networking sites mainly to prompt my illustration work online. As well as joining a couple illustration blogs all similar but slightly different they all have the same basic idea or objective. Each week they list a topic that you will have to interpret through illustration means. Being active in a few of them and given a week for each illustration is kind of equivalent to a illustration/freelance job. You have to budget your time and meet a deadline. It’s been helpful in numerous ways, such as beefing up my portfolio, getting helpful advice from fellow artists and illustrators some published some not. Also a great creative outlet to explore and experiment.

An art director calls you up and offers you the ultimate “dream job/assignment”.  What is it?

Good question! I really enjoy drawing animals, they are my favorite. If an art director called me up one day and asked I need a cover illustration with a variety of animals as if they were posing for a “family portrait” and a wee bit dysfunctional. Actually I take that back not a cover illustration, make it like a movie poster? I would start that project even before the conversation was over. I would be so happy!