This was an amazing opportunity. It just came in, another commission. The publisher chose me out of all the illustrators on the planet without knowing any of my shared history with Keith and his era. It was pure joy to work with Keith's sister, Kay Haring, and her loving manuscript. We worked closely with the Haring Foundation to showcase Keith's art, under the excellent guidence of Lucia Monfreid, editor, and with the deft art direction of Jasmin Rubero.
The task was to seamlessly combine my illustrations with Keith's drawings and paintings to tell his life story. It was tricky to showcase the art without cropping or retoucing anything. And we did the best we could respecting Keith's work. I got the advance copy last week and it came out magnificently. Many, Many thanks to Dial Books for making this possible, and to my lovely agent, Linda Pratt
From Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House) :
Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing:
This one-of-a-kind book explores the life and art of Keith Haring from his childhood through his meteoric rise to fame. It sheds light on this important artist’s great humanity, his concern for children, and his disregard for the establishment art world. Reproductions of Keith’s signature artwork appear in scenes boldly rendered by Robert Neubecker. This is a story to inspire, and a book for Keith Haring fans of all ages to treasure.
“Neubecker’s colorful illustrations capture the energy with which Keith [Haring] lived his life, and cleverly integrate some of the artist’s original works… Always upbeat, this story is a celebration of art and life.” — Booklist
“Neubecker neatly incorporates Haring’s real pieces into these zesty, bustling, digital-and-pencil illustrations…. Haring’s work pops; Neubecker’s compositions and enthusiastic crowd scenes do it wonderful credit.” — Kirkus
“An enlightening look at the merits of street art and how it allows those who may not ordinarily venture into a museum or gallery to experience and enjoy art….Children will relate to young Haring’s drive to pursue his calling despite naysayers.” —School Library Journal
“Cheerily energetic….Schools with “Picture Person” programs, as well as primary grades art teachers, will want to share this appealing title.” —BCCB
About Kay Haring:
Kay Haring is the younger sister of Keith Haring. She is a wife, mother, writer, hiker, lover of art and the wonders of nature. Kay has spent many years both working and volunteering for nonprofits, in management and fundraising capacities.
Published by Dial Books
Feb 14, 2017 | 40 Pages | 9 x 11 | 5-8 years | ISBN 9780525428190
I would have blown out the chalk drawing more, but it wasn't my call. In the book,it draws you in, and being somewhat faint, adds an intimacy.
Kay got a Jean- Michael Basquiat crown and I had a Kenny Sharf from my street art collection- I prowled the Village with my Nikon and Kodachrome in the 80's & 90's. I added some of my own stuff on the lamp post from that period, and a couple pics of my rocker friend Holly Beth Vincent of Holly & the Italians. A few references to CB's and some tags, and there you go.
This looks better in the book- color's better. We had to work with Kay's photos, in spite of the million dollar budgets that children's books have, we couldn't afford to buy rights to any photo of Keith's murals we wanted. The art was different as the Foundation owns the rights- so I designed around what we had and Jasmin and I restored the shot as best we could. I think it came out great. I once worked with J.C. Suares at Push Pin Press. We were doing a trade paperback called "The Great Disasters". I said to J.C." But J.C., the Hindenburg crash only killed 26 people- the Yellow River floods of the 1920's killed hundreds of thousands..." J.C. replied: "A great disaster is whatever we have great pictures of." Just so.
I wasn't at this opening, but everybody heard about it. I added a few people that I like, Klaus Nomi, Ann Magnuson (who I remain desperately in love with-I'll never forget the Lower East Side Ladies Auxiliary from Club '57...) There's Lou Reed and Jeni Muldaur, his bandmate. There's John Sex, Basquiat, Yoko, Grace Jones, and next to Andy, my dear friend Ronnie Cutrone, who worked as Andy's assistant for ten years and died too young. I kinda had to draw Shafrazi, Keith's dealer, although I never forgave him for vandalizing Guernica. Yeah, that Guernica.
What can I say. 80's hairstyles...
This was the only possible image for page 1
This is one of my Haring stats (as in photostat)
When I was a kid working at the New York Times, the grownups were all on vacation, and another kid, Lisa Powers, had the art direction of the Op-Ed page for a week. A piece on The Three Mile Island Nuclear Disaster came across her desk and I wanted to call Andy Warhol to illustrate it (hey, why not? it is the Times...) She called Keith instead. He came up with a beautiful set of nuclear themed drawings- something that he was very concerned about. At the Times, photostats were made and the originals returned. Later, the stats were discarded. I kept them. I shared these with the foundation, and the originals, sadly, are lost.
I never knew Keith, but I saw him often, and in doing this book, I am absolutely amazed at the quality, breadth and depth of his output in only ten short years. What a treasure he left the world, I hope this book will introduce a whole new audience to it.
That's it. I'll get in trouble with the publishers for posting too many spreads, but this is "to the trade", so there.
The book comes out Valentine's Day, as a tribute to Keith (Kay's idea.)
Robert Neubecker,Park City
It's been a while since I visited Drawger, let alone posted an update, so here's what's been going on in the picture book department; quite a lot, actually.
The delightful "I Won a What" by Audrey Vernick was released this summer from Knoph and has been included in the Society of Illustrators One Show. Our editor is Sarah Hokanson. I loved the gentle manuscript when I first read it. My characters are an ordinary suburban family with a rather large swimming pool- inhabited by a big blue whale, of course. Our hero, denied a pet for so long, is finally allowed to try for a goldfish at a carnival. He wins Nuncio, a giant blue whale (mostly a Sperm Whale, just bright blue...)
The press is often kind to me & my authors in reviews, but this, from "Lillian" a reader on Amazon, was especially nice to see:
"I personally have always loved picture books because images bring the story to life. Neubecker has done that with this book! I was astounded at the little details, like parents’ frustrations or the whale eating and there being leftovers in the pool. It’s these small details that my son picks out, asks questions about and while he is still learning to recognize words and read on his own, the pictures help him tell the story. I loved this because at five my son picks up this book and “reads” it to me….it’s possible he may already have it memorized. It’s become a quick favorite of ours!"
This looks like watercolor, but is done in photoshop. I have scans of washes that I layer on.
The next book is "Space Boy and the Space Pirate" by Dian Curtis Regan, released spring '16. Many thanks to my art director, Tim Gillner, and my editor Mary Colgin at Boyds Mills Press.This is #2 in a series of three. They are done as graphic novels- the stories revolve around a brother, his mischevious (and smarter) sister, and the cardboard spaceship in their back yard. It becomes real, of course, once you get inside.
I'd grown up on comics- everything from Tales From the Crypt (Uncle Creepy!), DC, Marvel, to Classic, and even Archie and Donald Duck. I imagined that Reed and Sue Richards were my parents. I was introduced to science through Superman & The Atom. I loved "Star Spangeled War Stories" - a WW2 tank crew, accompanied by the ghost of Jeb Stewart, are marooned on an uncharted island batteling dinoaurs. Hey, why not?
As an illustrator, I was fascinated with R. Crumb and the undergrounds, later Raw and Fantagraphics. So taking on a set of three graphic novels for kids was a treat and a challenge. Like most of my kid's book career, it's been on the job training. I think that with each one, they get better, but I've been gifted with great manuscripts so it's been fun and easy.
And, we're in the sketch phase for #3, Space Boy and the Snow Monster. As I've mentioned before, a few years back Winsor & Newton stopped making my favorite drawing brush, the 994 series. I scoured the internet and bought up every remaining brush I could find, but eventually, the lacquer based ink I use wore them all out. I never found a suitable replacement. I finally went all digital, and now I use a Cintiq and Kyle Webster's brushes. I'm still, after a year, exploring what I can do with these tools. For this third book, I'm thinking of using Kyle's Clean Comics #1 pen. Looks real comic/authentic. Not the same line I was going for in #2, but I think I can change it up a bit and get away with it.
This next book, proofs just in, is "King Louie's Shoes" by D.J. Steinberg. The story follows a diminuative Louis XIV who, searching for stature, invents platform shoes. The editor is our lovely Andrea Welch at Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, and the art director is Lauren the type genius Rille....
I had a lot of fun pushing the drawing with this one. It's all digital except for the #2 pencil used for thumbnails. I worked in watercolor for most of my career. I may go go back some day, but this is really, really, fun.
Some of the proofs- the color is a little rich,but that may be my scans. We've got great production people at Beach Lane, and Lauren is a relentless perfectionist.
"Fall is for School" Is a sequel to my "Winter is for Snow". We're in the final stages of getting her to press- Rotem Moskowitz, my editor, has lovingly shepharded this project through and Maria Elias is my art director. Published by Hyperion / Disney, Fall will be out next fall ('17). In this book, my brother and sister character's roles are reversed. Instead of big brother trying to persuade his little sister to go outside in the snow, she's pushing him out the door on the first day of school.
Here's a featured review from The New York Times Book Review for "Winter":
“Winter Is for Snow” is a tale of two siblings — a brother who loves the icy flakes pouring down outside their apartment window and a sister who is cranky about it all — by the prolific children’s book author and illustrator Robert Neubecker. These two start out like Desi and Lucy, disagreeing about everything. “Winter is for fabulous! Winter is for snow,” sings out the copper-haired brother. “Winter is for lots of clothes! And I don’t want to go,” deadpans his younger copper-haired sister. (Her blasphemy recalls a Carl Reiner quip: “A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”) These small urbanites argue back and forth in delightful, singsong rhyme, the brother joyfully throwing his arms up and kicking his legs out to add emphasis to his argument, which grows more elaborate with every page. “Winter is for glaciers, with walruses and seals,” he pleads, “diving in the icy sea for scaly, fishy meals.” Slowly but surely, he manages to dress his sister and edge her outdoors into a cityscape colorfully and whimsically depicted with a park jam-packed with people frolicking in an excellent variety of snow hats. Though she has resisted her brother’s — and winter’s — charms, even turning her attention to a beeping electronic device (at which point lesser brothers would have given up), we eventually see him pulling her along on a sled. And then, a little too easily, she finally changes her mind, declaring, “I love snow!” It’s nice to see her hardworking brother win the argument and to see them both out enjoying the fresh air. But she was such a good curmudgeon — I missed her old self a little when she was gone. (Nell Casey)
This final project is "Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing". Keith needs no introduction to most of us, indeed some of us are old enough to remember seeing him drawing in the subway or dancing in the clubs. But for new generations of kids his art is as fresh as the day it was created. This book is a great intro to his life and work, written lovingly by his sister Kay Haring. It chronicals his short, unbelievably prolific career from early childhood to his untimely death from AIDS at thirty.
Lucia Monfried is my editor on this (Penguin Random House) and I'm working again with Jasmin Rubero as art director. The Haring Foundation and Kay provided us with a treasure trove of Kieth's art and I did my best to frame it with lively illustrations of the 1980's New York art scene.
This is scheduled for release on Valentine's Day, 2017, as a valentine to Keith. Below are some of the page proofs, marked up.
The Haring Foundation found us a Basquiat crown and I had nice Kenny Scharf. I collected a ton of street art in the 80's & 90's with my Nikon. Both are used with permission.
And lastly, here's an editorial drawing from WSJ. That's all for now, folks.Thanks, R.
I got a call from Andree Kahlmorgan at Time on Tuesday, while the world was still reeling from this attack. Time was / is doing a piece on the effect of the Paris attacks on children, and how to explain the vast evil that is afoot in the world.
I do a lot of books for children, but editorial is my first love and mainstay- so it's not uncommon for editorial art directors to assign me articles that address children's issues. I had about an hour to come up with some ideas. In the end, they went with a photo, which is always a hazard in this business.
This was my first thought, and the best, I think, in context.
Going with a more obvious image, the Eiffel Tower has become a symbol of Paris & the attacks. Casting a shadow on the child becomes a easily understood metaphor. The trick is treading the fine line between clarity and cliche.
Blood is tricky: you want to respect the victims yet express the impact of the horror. I added these as an alternative to the more subtle images.
Here, I took the child out completely and used a symbol of childhood, of innocence lost. In any case, I know, from working at Newsweek, how these crash meetings go. In the end, when you only have a few hours before press, it's hard to analyze a drawing, adjust it for subtlety, whatever it takes- it's easier to print a photo.
If It had gone to finish, I would have kept the color to an absolute minimum.
There seems to be fewer outlets for visual editorial commentary than there was just a few years ago, and certainly a couple decades ago. The Eiffel Tower/peace sign that went viral on the internet was derided by some as simplistic, but I think it was an important reminder to the culture at large of the power of the drawn image.
It's been a while since I posted anything here- it's been a busy year, and often, at the end of the day, I'd rather just go outside and play. Last spring marked 40 years as a professional, having had my first illustration commissioned by Steve Heller for the New York Times letters page in 1975, while I was a student at Parsons. Over the years the publishing industry has changed, it's grown and diminished, the web has shown great promise and some dissapointment, magazines have risen and fallen- My career has been remarkably consistant, I think because my emphasis has always been on storytelling, communicating ideas using a visual language both cultural and personal. The metaphors and symbols might be from popular culture, art history, cartoons, whatever is in the cultural grab bag, but the point of view is personal. I had the excellent opportunity to study under J.C. Suares and Milton Glaser. The print magazine world has contracted, in my experience, since the recession, but illustration continues to flourish in it's different forms. The field seems to be reinventing itself. I love seeing what Yuko and Edel are doing, to name just two. Almost every illustration I do now has a web component and I've been having a wonderful time drawing books for children. I've started doing graphic novels, also for kids. Newspapers, although hit pretty hard by digital media, are surviving, some are doing quite well, and a good deal of my most interesting work comes from them. I still work for the New York Times, and I love reading it online- with art- and opening the big broadsheets on Sundays to see the illustrations and read the articles.
Below is a picture from each decade, followed by a bunch of recent work, which was my original intention to post in the first place...
Late 70's NYTimes. I did Leonard Silk's economics column, two a week, for years. This was rapidograph on vellum. I also did sports diagrams every Saturday morning. Free Yankees tickets. Lou Pinella. Reggie Jackson.
'91 Newsweek.Yeah, I know, it's not 80's but the '80s looked like this...
LA.Times Magazine Cover, '03 0r so.
'05 for Slate.com, after Andre Francois. The Tyco Scandal, where billions dissappeared and executives actually went to prison.
This is last month- Student debt, when parents cosign- NYTimes.
WSJ- Keith Webb art directed this. Always great.
This was originally an unpublished sketch for Live Happy Magazine, Katherine Finney, AD- it was about resilience. I finished it for a friend who'd just lost her husband in a motorcycle accident.
The Banality of Racism- Hartford Courant
This was a sketch for Live Happy, about forgiveness & the destructiveness of carrying a grudge
This is the final. I gave Kathryn two options, one where the creature is blue, but also this one, transparent, as a grudge is really just in your head...
This was drawn mostly in ink with a crowquill on crummy, bleedy paper. Most of these are done on a Wacom Cintiq
Chicago Tribune, David Syrek, AD. Solitary confinement for kids... Anyone remember Bascove? Reminds me of her. Did a million fat line bookcovers in the 70's...
Sketch for Solitary that we didn't use..
This was also for Live Happy, about overcoming disabilities...profiling a wheelchair bound athlete.
This was for Trent Johnson, Opera News, about bringing more people into the opera. I was playing clean up for someone who'd had trouble with the assignment, something I used to do often- and I had only a day or two to do it. I liked the big Brunhilda, but we went with the crowd instead. Crowds are hard, er, numerous....
Also (above) Chicago Trib Book Review A memoir about some not so nice guys who shaped the author's life.
This was for Science Magazine, a weekly column I do on first person career stories. This was about a woman scientist fleeing Syria after a brave and prolonged effort to stay. Lot's of fun with Kyle's runny inkers...
New York Times- this is the Your Money column by Ron Leiber- I do this nearly every Saturday, unless they have great photos (!). This one's about, well, it should be clear. The greatest gift you can give your kid is a debt free college education. Four years at a good private school clocks in at $268,000.00, give or take a nickle.
This was for Slate.com. It was on underground pro-anorexia websites. Just a note about Slate. We were started by Bill Gates as the first web only news magazine in 1996. Mike Kinsley from Time was hired as our editor, and Patricia Bradbury, from Newsweek, as the art director. Mark Alan Stamaty and myself were hired as the illustrators. Patricia and I negotiated a good contract from Microsoft- no mean feat- based on WSJ's print rate. Two a week, 1 time use, no sketches, straight to finish (no time). Slate rose and fell with the fortunes of the internet, rates fell, went up, and fell again with the market crash- and I went to one a week. But all that time, I had a wonderful experience working with all of the art directors and editors- Mike Kinsley, Jake Weisberg, Kathleen Kincaid, Vivian Selbo, Rebecca Markovitz, Lori Shen, Holly Allen, Natalie Mathews- and so many others who have been involved over the years. Thanks to you all.
I'm on an on-call basis now, not the weekly I did for nineteen years, which is fine- it was an astonishingly long run in our free-lance illustration world and there are other assignments to do, but I wanted to post a tribute to Slate and to all of the people who bring it to life and made it possible throughout it's history.