Monday, November 29, 2010

Etsy Shop is Now Open!

Although I've had the account for 2 years, I have finally opened the shutters on my Etsy shop. There are three original art pieces for sale now with more coming. Eventually, I will also be selling prints there.

Cue REM song...

At last June's ALA conference, Gene Yang told me that I would never make the deadline for my next graphic novel, Around the World.

WELL, he was... right, actually. However, I did finish the the interior art last week. It's a wee bit past my deadline, but who's counting (besides Candlewick)?

The last of the three stories was the tale of Thomas Stevens, Wheelman (it will appear first in the book). Looking through my archives, I discovered that I failed to photograph any of the process for the Joshua Slocum section for the blog. I can assure you that I did finish that, too. Actually, it's all a little bit hazy. Graphic novels are like marathons and there are times when you get caught up in a blur of creativity. It is always best not to question the sanity of the endeavor, but to move forward each day.

I am very happy with the way the book has turned out and — for the most part — I did enjoy the process immensely. I'll be talking more about Around the World in the months leading up to its 2011 release. But for now, I shall rest... as soon as I finish the cover.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Collingswood Book Festival

Just a quick post to say that I'll be at the Collingswood Book Festival in NJ this Saturday (10/2) from 10-4. At 1 pm I'll be talking about all things Storm in the Barn and other than that, I'll be at my little table signing books and chatting. Stop by if you can.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Flora's Launch Party!

The official launch party for Flora's Very Windy Day at Children's Book World was a rousing success and loads of fun. The store was all decked out with a wall of books, balloons, and an eager crowd and Jeanne Birdsall was decked out in super-special heavy-duty red boots.

Jeanne and I chatted about how the book came to be and the collaborative nature of picture books. Then Jeanne riveted the crowd by reading a super-secret excerpt from the upcoming third Penderwicks novel. Speaking as a Penderwicks fanatic myself, it is going to be a looooooong wait until the book is published in May of 2011.

And to top it off, the good folks at CBW even had a delicious cake made. Thanks to everyone who came by and thanks to CBW for the grand send-off!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Flora's Very Windy Day Round-up!

I'm a bit tardy with this post, but I wanted to take a moment to trumpet the arrival of Flora's Very Windy Day by the incomparable Jeanne Birdsall. Flora was one of those books that was a joy to work on from start to finish. I jumped into this book after spending a year in the downtrodden Dust Bowl, so spending my days drawing two kids being tossed about in the wind was certainly a treat.

Speaking of treats, Jeanne Birdsall is joining me at the wonderful Children's Book World for the Official Flora Launch Party on Saturday, September 25th at 2 pm. Hope you can join us!

(An early sketch of Flora)

Reviews have been pretty glowing so far. Here are some clips:

As realistic as the mixed feelings it captures and as fanciful as a conversation with a rainbow, the first picture book by Birdsall, author of The Penderwicks (2005), blends homely and fantastic elements as naturally as a child at play... A fine picture book with a fierce, bold and (deep down) compassionate heroine.
- Booklist (STAR)

Phelan's illustrations are simply wonderful: His line floats and traces the air currents, his colors are subtle but strong and he captures Flora's multiple emotions and Crispin's silent toddlerness in every rosy-cheeked image. Emotionally true from cover to cover.
- Kirkus (STAR)

This gem of a book will resonate with older siblings everywhere.
- School Library Journal

...crisp and delightful...
- Publishers Weekly

And there's been some great reviews from the blogosphere including What We Read and What We Think and A Patchwork of Books!

Don't forget 9/25 at Children's Book World. Stop by and say hi to Jeanne and me!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Stack of Bly

A big old stack of finished art for Around the World. This is about a third of the book.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Win Some...

I've been asked a few times about this so I thought I'd address it once and move on. Some have noticed that the new cover on the paperback version of Lucky Breaks is not only different from the hardcover, but is not even drawn by me. This is true. Sadly things like this happen occasionally in publishing. I went through my archives and found this sketch. It was my one proposal for the cover of the hardcover and also the paperback. It was rejected both times, but I still like it. I guess that's what sketch blogs are for.

Anyhoo, more positive posts coming soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oh No! An Auction!!!

Uber-talented illustrator Dan Santat sent out a challenge to a bunch of fellow illustrators: Create an illustration inspired by his new book Oh No! (written by Mac Barnett). The idea was to come up with an image that would take place within in the story but still be separate from the events in Dan and Mac's book. So I added this little moment after the end of the book... the giant robot has been booted into the bay by the giant frog (really, check out this book) and this little boat comes across it.

Although a fun experiment, the REAL reason behind this project is that ALL of the original art will be auctioned off this week. All proceeds benefit the non-profit writing center, 826LA.

Here's the poster with details of Auction #1 (which is where my painting will be):

For more details, go HERE! Happy bidding!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ripple Blog on Wednesday!

This is my donated drawing for Kelly Light's fantastic Ripple blog. The idea is simple and great: illustrators donate original art dealing with the oil spill disaster, Kelly auctions them off, and ALL proceeds go to help the bird and marine life of the area. This month is Great American Illustrator month and she's already sold some amazing cards from folks like Mo Willems, Frank Dormer, and Jarrett Krosoczka.

My card goes up for auction this Wednesday, July 21 at 6:30 PM EST.

Above is a slightly enlarged view. The actual card is ink on 2.5 x 3.5" watercolor paper. It's called A Day at the Beach. For details on how the bidding works, go to the Ripple blog and look at the right side column.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Around the World via My Studio

This summer, I'm hard at work on the art for my next graphic novel, Around the World (due out in 2011). The first of the three stories in the book that I'm drawing involves the unstoppable Nellie Bly. Above is a picture of the 6x4' bulletin board in my studio (I love that thing).

Heather, the book's amazing designer (she also designed Storm) made this incredibly useful mini-version of the rough sketches for the story with temporary placement of the dialogue. This way we could all get a sense of how the story was working. As I drew each page, I started marking them with scraps of post-it notes.

Here it is about a week and a half ago... which means that now I've finished drawing the whole Nellie Bly segment. So now I'm painting and finishing all of the pages. When that's done, I'll start on the second of the three stories. Then repeat.

OK, break over...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Friday, June 04, 2010

More Good News Plus Victorian Bears

More good Storm in the Barn news:

Storm took the gold in the graphic novel category of ForeWord Reviews' Book of the Year Awards!

And has been included in the master list for the Kentucky Bluegrass Book Award!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Moleskine Ape

And this just in... Storm in the Barn is in the Top Ten of Graphic Novel Reporter's Core List of Graphic Novels for Teens. That's pretty darn cool.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New York Events This Week

Here's a picture of little Mabel. Do you like it? Do you like it like it? Well, it can be yours if you go to the ABC's Not a Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction next Tuesday. There's mingling, the announcement of the E.B. White Award winner, David Weisner's keynote speech, and an auction of work by a gaggle of children's book illustrators. If you see me, be sure to say hello.

And don't forget I'll be in Brooklyn this Saturday for the Graphic Novel for Kids Spectacular event at WORD! It will live up to its name!

Monday, May 17, 2010

A BIG Thanks to SCBWI-NE!

I had a really, really great time at the SCBWI-New England conference this past weekend. I gave two workshops; one about my approach to writing graphic novels and one about my approach to illustration. It was an interesting experience for me because I had to examine what it is I do (mostly on an intuitive level) and organize it in a way that people other than me could hopefully understand. The feedback I received was very good, so I think it went well.

On Sunday I gave a joint 4-hour Illustration Academy workshop with Yolanda Scott (editorial director, Charlesbridge), Ann

Stott (art director, Candlewick) and author/illustrator David Hyde Costello (click on the link for a look at David in his studio). We couldn't have done it without help from Casey Girard who made everything run smoothly. It was an intense experience for all of us, but I think it also went very well. Heck, I was inspired.

And you can't beat the finale that Yolanda and David worked out... a literal showstopper of a number about the combination of words and text.

David, who is as cool and nice a guy as you could possibly meet, brought an extra uke for me. It added to the shall we say celebratory atmosphere that rocked the Courtyard Marriott on Friday night. SCBWI people are a very social bunch.

Thanks to Casey for the pix. More pix and general round-ups can be found at the conference Twitter page.

In addition to my co-Illustration Academy team, I met and/or re-met a ton of fantastic people including but certainly not limited to Jo Knowles, Frank Dormer, Cynthia Lord, Kate Messner, Abigail Halpin, Mitali Perkins, Cynthia Leitich-Smith, Dawn Metcalf, Kelly Fineman, Jennifer Morris, Kat Black, Deborah Sloan, Michelle Henninger, Anne Sibley-O'Brien, Anna Boll, John Bell, Jennifer Carson, Anindita Basu Sempere, and a host of very cool attendees. Thanks to everyone for making this such a blast.

One of my favorite things about the conference was that I had the chance to meet for the first time in person two authors that I've had the honor to work with: Ann Stott (Always) and Jeanne Birdsall (Flora's Very Windy Day).

Monday, May 03, 2010


Happy May, everybody! Just wanted to post a heads-up for the New Yorkers in the audience...
I'll be appearing at WORD in Brooklyn on Saturday, May 22nd at 1 pm as part of their Graphic Novel Spectacular for Kids event! Also appearing are Eric Wight, Jarrett Krosoczka, Chris Giarusso, and Frank Cammuso! This should be an A-1 blast, so I hope to see you there.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Free Library Fest This Weekend!

If you are anywhere near Philadelphia this weekend, swing by the Free Library Festival! It's huge! It's fun! It's literary! I'll be there talking about the making of The Storm in the Barn and signing books on Sunday at 12:30!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010

International Children's Book Day!

I thought I'd celebrate International Children's Book Day with a look at a couple of titles of international appeal.

You can't escape Alice in Wonderland at the moment. And although I haven't seen Tim Burton's movie yet, from the trailer, it's clear that Wonderland gets the thorough Burton treatment in its disturb-o design. Dark and creepy seem to be where most illustrators go when illustrating Alice, and while I love many of these interpretations (Tenniel, Rackham, Blair), I think my favorite version of Wonderland comes from the great British illustrator, Helen Oxenbury.

Her version of Wonderland is bright and sunny, dare I say welcoming. It doesn't sugar-coat the text or make the characters less odd, but it presents a fully-realized Wonderland that has the added benefit of being a place that the average little girl wouldn't run screaming back up the rabbit hole to escape. And of course, because it's Helen Oxenbury, it is beautifully drawn with a delicate approach to watercolor that makes a very difficult medium look effortless. So while I like dark and creepy as much as the next guy, this is the version of Alice in Wonderland that actually makes me want to sit down and read the book.

Years ago, FSG editor Janine O'Malley gave me a copy of Olof and Lena Landstrom's Will's New Cap and I will forever be in her debt. Simple in the best and most difficult way and hilarious to boot, the Will books (and everything else by this team) are the kinds of books that fall under the category Just Buy Them. You can't go wrong.

So those are my picks. It's a beautiful spring day, so grab a good book and go find a nice cork tree to sit under.

Update: Apparently ICB Day was yesterday... well, this still stands.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Review... plus a squirrel

Here is a fine review of Two of a Kind posted by an eight-year old reader named Sonia. It is always good to get feedback from one's actual audience. Good work, Sonia!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spilling Ink!

This week sees the release of Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. I was pleased as punch to contribute a series of drawings for this amazingly detailed and highly entertaining look at the writing process. I think this book will be invaluable to any young writer in your life and I really wish I had something like this when I was growing up.

I'm not alone in this opinion. Bruce Coville calls it "wonderful, funny, wise" and Nancy Springer deemed it "outstanding".

Anne and Ellen have launched a fantastic website that is going to be an ongoing resource for writers and teachers. The site also features a Creativity Blog that will host a series of guest bloggers. I was honored to be their first guest. Read my post here.

And leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Spilling Ink signed by Anne and Ellen!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Latest from the Ring

Check out how The Storm in the Barn fared in the Anita Silvey-judged 1st round of the Battle of the Kids' Books...

(spoiler: Yes indeed, Storm had a spectacular editorial and design team in its corner.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Top 10 and more!

The Storm in the Barn has made the 2010 edition of Booklist's Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth!

In other Storm-related news, the SLG Battle of the Kids' Books is getting ready to begin. You can check out the brackets for your office pool here. Storm's bout is set for March 23rd.

Also, while you're there, why not vote for Storm to come back as a zombie if... well, you know... if things don't pan out for it. Just a suggestion. The Undead poll closes on March 14th.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hey, Pennsylvanians!

I will be happily attending the 3rd Annual Author & Illustrator Reception at Harleysville Books TONIGHT from 6-8. There will be authors aplenty, books being signed, cheese being nibbled, and local wine being imbibed!

Check out all the details including the very long list of featured authors and illustrators. It promises to be a hoot. If you're in the area, stop by and say howdy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ensign Enigma

A sadly forgotten crimefighter. While villains tried to decipher the meaning of his chest symbol, Ensign Enigma would punch them in the nose. It was oddly effective.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Just a Mug

Polychromos pencil and Liquid Pencil.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Harp Player

Graphitint pencil and wash sketch.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Washington's Birthday

Just a quick pencil and wash sketch of His Excellency on his birthday. A new and very nice review of Anne Rockwell's Big George can be found at the All-en-A-Day's Work Blog.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dolphins in the Barn

I haven't actually seen one, but here's the "new" cover.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

5 Questions

I answer 5 questions from Roger Sutton in the new issue of Notes from the Horn Book...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

SCBWI-New England Conference Registration!

Ahoy, New Englanders (or Yankees, if you prefer)! Registration for the SCBWI-New England conference starts on Monday, February 8th. The conference will be held from May 14-16 in Fitchburg, MA.

On Saturday, I'll be teaching two workshops (one on illustration, one on writing graphic novels). On Sunday, I'll be joining illustrator David Hyde Costello, editor Yolanda LeRoy, and Storm in the Barn designer extraordinaire Heather McGee in an epic 4-hour Illustrator Academy workshop.

Also on the conference bill are Marla Frazee, Allyn Johnston, Jo Knowles, Kate Messner, Jennifer Morris, Kara LaReau, Kelly Fineman and many, many more (seriously, this line-up is pretty impressive).

Conference details (including faculty bios and workshop descriptions) can be found HERE or if you prefer your info in Tweet form, you can find it HERE.

It should be a lot of fun. Hope to see you there.