Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators

It was a great honor and thrill to be included in this year's Original Art show at the Society of Illustrators in New York. I finally made it up to see the show and it really is wonderful. If you are in New York, you still have until December 29th to catch it.

The Intern was duly impressed but my piece did not receive the same reaction as a certain turtle. Upon seeing the painting in question, she let out an extremely excited shout of "MELVIN!!!!!" which echoed throughout the historical Society of Illustrators building.*

A special thank you to the wonderful people at Candlewick Press for the lovely frame.

* The Intern was of course referring to Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo which is our favorite picture book of the year. Look for it!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Original Art SALE on Etsy!

Critters in Sweaters!

Need a nice gift for the knitters, critter lovers, and sweater aficionados on your list?

I have 10 pieces of original art for sale at my Etsy shop. They're small, but so is the price. Each critter is drawn on Cartiera Magnani Italia Acquerello paper with water soluble pencil, crayon, and a bit of watercolor here and there. Each is 6x6 inches (15x15 cm).

 Details at my Etsy Shop!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Storm in the Barn MOVIE News!

I'm very happy to announce that The Storm in the Barn has been optioned for a feature film! Grady Twins Productions is developing the book for a live action movie. Marti Noxon, writer/producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mad Men (two of the best shows ever), is producing and David Goodman (Fringe, Angel) is writing the screenplay. I'm involved in a sort of advisory way. Everyone at Grady Twins has been great and I'm convinced that Storm is in the right hands.

It's a long road to the silver screen, but we are certainly off to a good start.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wells Library Fundraiser

On October 22nd, the Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a fundraising event for the Hurricane Irene-devastated Wells Memorial Library. There will be a silent auction of more than 50 items, including this pencil & watercolor sketch I drew for the occasion. Event details are HERE.

If you are in the area, please stop by and help out a great cause. Thanks to author Kate Messner for spreading the word and helping to organize the event.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Around the World Has Launched!

Initial cover sketches.

My new graphic novel AROUND THE WORLD is finally available! The book is based on the true stories of three intrepid adventurers who circumnavigated the globe alone at the end of the 19th century. My own journey to tell the stories of Thomas Stevens, Nellie Bly, and Joshua Slocum felt, at times, as arduous as trekking across the earth. In the coming weeks, I'll be posting some tidbits about how I came to create this book. I hope you'll check back for the journey.

Abandoned "travel journal" concept.
A fine way to procure this volume is through your local bookstore (if you are lucky enough to have one of these rare emporiums in your area). How do you find one? Try Indiebound's nifty store locator or order online from any of the indie stores. You can also order directly from my publisher Candlewick Press, or find it at your online purveyor of choice. And don't forget your local library!

Final cover sketch.

Cover painting of the three. Makes me want to write a fictional team-up.
And just for fun, here's the trailer once again (and yes, that is me on the ukulele) ...



Thursday, October 06, 2011

ATW Review Round-Up

Joshua Slocum faces a wave of enormous proportions.

With only 5 days to go until the release of AROUND THE WORLD, I thought I'd round up some of the nice things being said about my new graphic novel...

Kirkus Reviews (star)

"By focusing on the travelers’ faces, he captures their distinct characters (and shared rock-steady determination) with such force and clarity that readers can’t help but be swept along by Stevens’ aggressive mustache, Bly’s steely glare at male doubters and nay-sayers, the aching heart visible behind Slocum’s tough, grizzled countenance.”

Booklist (star)

"Chronicling the true trip-around-the-world adventures of three nineteenth-century adventurers gives Phelan the opportunity to once again examine the Great American Narrative, as he did so effectively in his beautifully mythological The Storm in the Barn (Booklist Top of the List, 2009)... In addition to tight research and a gift for evoking both an era and the personalities that lived in it, the stories are greatly abetted by the magic of Phelan's art: washes of light and darkness that set the tone and effortless, uncomplicated (yet highly distinctive) faces that are the very essence of determination and adventure."

School Library Journal (star)

"The small, specific pleasures of Phelan’s work–the faces of miners emerging from the darkness as they converse, the way slanting rays of sun illuminate a large interior, the expression on Bly’s face as she eavesdrops on steamship sailors singing–are showcased in panels laid out in horizontal bands, reinforcing the linear, ever-onward nature of each narrative."

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (star)

“Phelan invests each tale with its own distinct mood and style—the humor of Stevens’ bumbling machine, the quick cuts between Bly’s travels and her employers’ journalistic maneuvering, the heart-aching loneliness and eerie hallucinations of Slocum’s peril-ridden voyage. Deftly controlled splashes of translucent watercolor tease along the outlines of Phelan’s spidery ink lines and sure-handed pencil dashes; the buttoned-down neatness of frames and gutters is an effective counterpoint to the daring and uncertainty of the adventures themselves.”

Horn Book

“Phelan successfully weaves graphically told stories with third-person narratives, the travelers’ own words, and, in Nellie Bly’s case, words of reporters. This volume is as stunning as his Scott O’Dell Award–winning The Storm in the Barn (rev. 11/09), with more text and with eye-catching illustrations rendered in pencil, ink, gouache, and watercolor.”

Fuse #8

“Like a good movie director he switches effortlessly between close-ups, scenic panoramas, and other angles and approaches. Phelan has a knack for avoiding the static... By bike, by sail, by train, they circled the globe and lived to tell the tale. And Matt Phelan knows just how to bring such tales to life. Great stuff.”

End of horn blowing. Thank you for indulging me.

500th Post!

Wow! This is my 500th post which means I've had this blog for 500 days... Okay, I'm not that consistent, but still, it's been a few five years of relatively regular posting. Not too shabby.

To celebrate, here's a sketch of a sort of porcupine/hamster critter. Step 1: slosh some watercolor on your paper in a random manner. Step 2: forget about it for a few days. Step 3: take a brush and ink and draw whatever comes to mind.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Around the World Events!*

The October 11th release of Around the World is almost upon us! I'm getting ready for a bunch of events at schools, libraries, bookstores, and festivals. Here's the schedule thus far:

10/4    Haverford Township Free Library, Havertown, PA.  Presenting alongside my pals Eric Wight and Brian Biggs at 4 pm. Directions here.

10/15 & 10/16    Southern Festival of the Book, Nashville, TN. On Saturday, I'll be talking about my illustration process at 3pm. On Sunday, I'll be talking about picture books and graphic novels with Bob Shea and Jules Danielson from Seven Impossible Things at 1 pm. Here's the complete event schedule!

10/22   Book Release Signing at Children's Book World, Haverford, PA!

10/27  Keystone State Reading Association Conference, Lancaster, PA. I'll be speaking about graphic novels and signing books. Registration required. Here are the details.

11/4    Annual Author & Illustrator Night at Children's Book World. The most star-studded event of the year!

11/5  Family Reading Festival, Pottsville, PA. Some details are here.

11/11 & 11/12  Lititz Kid-Lit Festival, Aaron's Books, Lititz, PA. On Saturday, I'll be doing a drawing workshop with Eric Wight and signing books with the rest of the gang. Expect a good time, chocolate, pretzels, and possibly exotic meat. It's Lititz, after all. Details here!

11/25  Clinton Book Shop, Clinton, NJ. Signing from 12-2.

All events are free and open to the public except for the one that isn't! I'll be adding more events in the coming weeks. Hope to see you!

Interested in having me visit your school or library? How about a special free SKYPE visit

Send me an email:

* Events are for the book Around the World, not a tour "around the world". However, I am leaving the state of PA, to head to Nashville. That's something, right? It's Nashville!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Arrivals, Part 1

Hooray! I recently received a box full of my very first board book! I'm so excited that Alice Schertle's Very Hairy Bear (2007) will now be ambling about in a sturdy, well-nigh indestructible form. It is a full version of the original, a great size, and the reproduction is terrific.

The folks at Harcourt have impeccable timing. Here's what arrived the day before...

(Baby not included with purchase)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


One of the vaudeville cameos in my new graphic novel is the great tap dancer Bill Bojangles Robinson. Lots of great clips on you tube.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Shoe-Box Diorama Studio!

Since it's back-to-school time, I thought I'd share some photos of my favorite school visit souvenir. Some New Jersey public school students made this amazing gift for me a couple of years ago. Is there anything better than a shoebox diorama? No. No, there isn't.

Le Studio

Crumbled up drawings litter the floor, just like in real life.

Past books line the walls to remind me that I can, in fact, finish the current book. 

And my absolute favorite part is the note they attached to the box. I re-read this often.

Dear Matt, Thank you for taking out time from your schedule to come to our school. Good luck on the future books you illustrate. It means a lot to us. Sincerely, Mrs. Abella's Class.

Thanks, guys. That means a LOT to me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Main Characters

Sketches for the graphic novel I'm working on now...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Around the World Book Trailer!

My new graphic novel, coming to a bookstore near you in October 2011 from the fine folks of Candlewick Press!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Exploring Tide Pools

A watercolor sketch from my recent vacation.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Panda #124

Water-soluble crayons are kind of neat.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Keaton studies

Here are some watercolor studies of young Buster Keaton and his dad for my next graphic novel. I'm using Cartiera Magnani hot press watercolor paper for this one. It is verrrry nice paper.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On My Drawing Board

Still working through the thumbnail sketches for my next graphic novel. The script, which I always write first, is above the sketch pad. Although at times this stage of the process seems endless (211 pages total), it is really my favorite part. These little doodles are where most of the big drawing decisions are made.

My goal is to have them all finished before I leave for Book Expo next week...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Storm on the Stage!

I am thrilled to announce that the Oregon Children's Theatre will be mounting a stage version of The Storm in the Barn in April of 2012! My book will be adapted by playwright Eric Coble (who's previous credits include an adaptation of Lois Lowry's The Giver for OCT) and will feature music composed by Chris Funk (guitarist for The Decemberists) and his band Black Prairie. Storm is in fine hands and I cannot wait to see this production!

The plan is for this to be a play with music, not a musical. For more on Black Prairie (and to see why they are perfect for this) check out this piece from NPR. Better still, listen to their album Feast of the Hunter's Moon. It only took me a few seconds of Track 1 to be utterly convinced.

The show will run from April 28-May 20, 2012. I'm sure I'll be posting more about this as it develops (although my actual role is limited). I can guarantee you I'll be in the audience on opening night. Who's up for a trip to Portland?

(I'm reposting this for a few reasons: 1) I knew about this for awhile, but couldn't announce it. When I wrote the draft of the blog post, I assumed it would take the date of when it was posted. I assumed incorrectly. 2) The draft was written on April Fool's Day. This isn't a joke. 3) It's so cool, it deserves two postings.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

ABA Silent Auction at BEA

Here's my contribution to the ABA Silent Auction: The Unstoppable Nellie Bly (and McGinty). The auction will be held on Wednesday May 25 and will benefit the ABFFE Fund for Free Speech in Children's Books. I'll be there ogling the art and bidding with or without noise. Say howdy if you see me.

TLA Recap (plus Around the World Cover!!)

The cover for Around the World was unveiled at the Texas Library Association conference a few weeks ago. Candlewick was handing out free advanced reading copies which had the color cover, but unfortunately only lowish resolution black and white scans of the color interiors. It's a necessity at this stage, but I can't wait for people to see the full color version.

At any rate, I had an absolute blast in Austin. The Maverick graphic novel panel went very well (with a pretty large crowd in a gargantuan conference room). It was great to chat with Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, and Hope Larson and learn about their process.

I signed boxes of Around the World, Storm in the Barn, Flora's Very Windy Day and more. Conferences are always a whirlwind, but everyone there couldn't have been nicer and it was truly fun. I particularly lucked out at the Bluebonnet luncheon, where Elizabeth Bluemle and I got to sit with a table of students who had entered an essay contest to attend. Keep writing, all of you!

Below are some moleskine sketches from the plane ride home. Now that I look at them again, I think my subconscious was summing up the trip for me.

Friday, April 22, 2011

And the winners are...

This morning I put all of the names into the traditional hat and had my intern pick the winners. And those winners are...

1) Run goes to Jeannie Birdsall!

2) Leap goes to Jarrett Krosoczka!

3) Play goes to Abigail Halpin!

Thank you to all who threw their name into the hat and/or contributed to Team Nora!!!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

CHF Fundraiser #3: Play

pencil & watercolor on Magnani paper (7"x6")

Price: $150. If you would like to purchase Play, please leave a comment here or on Facebook. I will pick a name from those interested tomorrow and contact you if you win.

All proceeds go to the Children's Heart Foundation via the Congenital Heart Walk and Team Nora. Your donation is also tax-deductible!


CHF Fundraiser #2: Leap

pencil & watercolor on Magnani paper (7"x6")

Price: $150. If you would like to purchase Leap, please leave a comment here or on Facebook. I will pick a name from those interested tomorrow and contact you if you win.

All proceeds go to the Children's Heart Foundation via the Congenital Heart Walk and Team Nora. Your donation is also tax-deductible!


CHF Fundraiser #1: Run

pencil & watercolor on Magnani paper (7"x6")

Price: $150. If you would like to purchase Run, please leave a comment here or on Facebook. I will pick a name from those interested tomorrow and contact you if you win.

All proceeds go to the Children's Heart Foundation via the Congenital Heart Walk and Team Nora. Your donation is also tax-deductible!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Original Art Sale for a Good Cause

Each year, my family is involved with raising money for the Children's Heart Foundation. This time I thought I'd try something a little different. I'm offering three original pencil and watercolor drawings for $150 each with every penny going to our team in May's Congenital Heart walk.

How it works:

Here are the drawings (pencil & watercolor on Magnani paper) created specifically for this cause:

On Thursday 4/19, I'll post each drawing individually here on the blog and on my Facebook page. If you would like to buy one, just leave a comment on either post.

On Friday, I'll randomly pick a name (if there is more than one name) and post the winning bidders on the blog and Facebook. Then you can email me your address and we'll work out the details. Note: This isn't an escalating auction. If your name is selected, then the price is $150 for the drawing you chose. And remember 100% will be donated to the Congenital Heart walk.

If $150 is too steep but you'd still like to donate, you can do so here. We personally appreciate each donation for this great cause.