In the last few months I’ve been all digital. For much of my career I used pen and ink and watercolor, later brush & ink- the rougher the better, with color added digitally. Winsor & Newton stopped making the 994 series brushes a few years ago and I never did find a replacement that I really liked. I scoured the country online and by phone and bought up every 994 that I could find. Eventially, the laquer in the ink breaks them down and they wear out…
I was tallking to Leo Espinosa one day and he showed me a variety of digital brushes- Kyle Webster’s for starters, and I started using them and exploring what can be done by altering their characteristics and combining effects.
As always, everything I do starts with problem solving, so the idea behind the image is most important to me with technique supporting the idea simply and directly.
That’s my editorial approach. Of course, doing a picture book, if the story calls for full blown watercolors, throw the computer out the window and get out the paints.
Usually, It’s somewhere in between.
This was a back Cover for Live Happy Magazine, a new venture that you'll find in Whole Foods and like stores. I subscribed. We do enough death and disaster.
Death & Disaster department: Urgent books to read this year about the various crises threatening the vary existence of humankind, etc. For Chicago Tribune Book Review.
This is a combination of brush and digital- the sketch was done with a brush in my sketchbook, and sometimes it's just impossible to capture the energy of the sketch in the final. So, with photoshop, one can just draw on top, leaving the best parts. 'Yelling is the New Hitting", Wall Street Journal.
Here's Vlad. I don't often do caricatures or portraits, but people commission them anyway and Putin's easy. When I worked for Time, I'd just cut out a photo of a head and stick in on a crudely drawn body, the rougher the better. Always thought that was hilarious. This was for Jenny Livengood, art director, National Journal.
This was for Slate, and it was a piece about the difficulty of dating when one has a past history of mental illness.
Also Slate, if you've been there, you know this drill.
This is for David Syrek, Chicago Tribune. I gave him two options, one with a color background, and one with white. I used to feel awkward about this, but if both options work, choice is good. He knows the printing and the colors on the page. Let the art director direct.
Slate. Because it's online, I'm going simpler and bolder with Slate, almost icons. This is about the futuristic toilets they have in Japan. When I do presentations for my kids books, I show this (and others) to the children as my day job. They howl.
This was a piece for UU World Magazine, for the Unitarian Church. Great people. It's about how all women feel threatened by unwanted advances from men, and how hard it is to tell a harmless nuisance from someone really dangerous.
Barron's. One of those deadly pieces on changes in mutual fund management. I get these all the time. Challenging.
Here's a tear from the NYT Business section. I do this column every week. Playing with the digital brushes, I'm flirting with more of a sixties look. I've looked at Ben Shahn and other mid 20th century illustrators for their use of bold line and bright color. It's been really fun.
This is from the Times, using dollar collage again, but hopefully in a fresh fun way. I included this because I liked the line quality.
Older drawing, done of my wife as a birth announcement with the old 994 brush. I do miss it sometimes, especially it's freshness. Digital is slower and more deliberate. To a certain extent, technique determines style, so new ways of drawing are opening up as I explore this new toolbox.
"Winter is for Snow" is a book that grew out of a picture. I'd created this image, in a rougher version, as a pro bono Christmas card for a hospice. I sent some cards out as a promo, and Rotem Moskovich at Disney (Hyperion Books) pinned it to her bulliten board- for five years. Meanwhile, Dolly's Bookstore in my little ski town wanted me to do a winter book - the tourists are always asking for winter books by local authors. Dolly's is a wonderful indy, Dolly being the cat. They have lots of everything printed and the smell of paper, fresh ink and chocolate fills the air- a chocolate factory is up front. They carry all my books. "Winter" is for Rotem, my editor, & Dolly's, my bookstore. Without further ado, here's what the NY Times Book Review had to say:
“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 is the editor of “The Journals of Spalding Gray.”
The book also got a nice mention in USA Today, um, today...
P.S. You can buy the book at your local Indy, or order it from Barnes & Noble. Amazon is sold out for now.
I take these images from my originals, so I just toss some type on to let you know what the words are...
Anybody who's ever had a kid knows this one.
He works hard on her, and she comes around...
This is the cover image. Tanya Hughes, my designer, left the title off on the inside cover- it's just on the dust jacket- so all you get is this, slightly cropped. It's really great. Sophisticated.
This is something completely different. When my Joey was small, she was learning to read with these little paperbacks with simple words and funny, badly drawn outer space creatures that had virtually no story or any real content. They were serviceable enough, I guess, but I wanted to do something more. So I devised a series of history texts using only a few words per page and involving a red dragon who pulls the kids into the computer and roams the internet for knowledge.
I dummied up five books, Boom, Zoom, to the Moon, stuff like that, dropped them off with my agent, Linda Pratt of Wernick & Pratt, and she showed them around. No takers at first, but Linda was behind the project 100% and kept showing it even after I'd moved on to other books and other things.
Then, as it turns out, Scholastic was looking for just such a project, and we had it in hand. I'm working with the delightful Jenne Abromowitz and she's a wonderful editor. We upped the reading level to level two- from about level 1/2... and I got to add more detail... It's still edited very simply and I try to show as much, more, information with the pictures as with the story.
The first introduces Red, the Time Dragon, and we chose the Middle Ages to start because, he's well, a dragon. It's distilled way down, but if you want to know where my information comes from, "A Distant Mirror" by Barb Tuchman & "A World Lit Only by Fire" From William Manchester are a good start. Marketing liked "Days of the Knights" for a title, but I preferred my own "Me de Evil?"
The second book is the incredible story of the Flying Cloud, a clipper ship, piloted by Eleanor Creesy, that set the world sail speed record from NY to San Francisco in 1853 and it stood for....138 years. My primary reference for that is "Flying Cloud" by David Shaw- an excellent adventure.
Here's our first cover. The hardcover retails for $16, but the paperback- 6"x 9" goes for $3.99 and will be sold in schools. I'm very happy about that, I want these to be affordable for all kids.
Below, we see Red steering the ship. It often took two strong men to handle the wheel in a storm, and since Red is as strong as the Incredible Hulk, he got the job.
Ellen guided the ship down the South American coast, around the Horn, and up through the doldrums with a sextant, a compass and lots & lots of math, pencil & paper...almost never in sight of land. There were storms, whales, mutinous sailers, and fish for lunch. And dinner. And breakfast. I have these two swabbies discussing the menu throughout the book....
The Doldrums were no fun at all... the legend goes that sailors could summon the wind by whistling... so Red brought them home...
The first Red book will be released in February 14, and the second, Racing the Waves, comes out in the fall.
Another project that I'm working on, below, is "The Problem With Not Being Scared of Monsters" with Dan Richards & it's sequel, from Boyds Mill Press, Rebecca Davis, editor.
And last but not least, a little book that's in the development stage, just sent off to the publisher. Will they like it? We shall see...
I've been buried in book deadlines, and I've been missing Drawger. It's funny how editors ruminate over layouts and sketches and then everything is due all at once. I'm clear for awhile, so I'll be digging through all the fun posts. The book work has been really fun, but you're never really off duty until the entire book goes to press. That's a later post...
The lovely thing about editorial is that it's finite. One or two pictures and out! Done! Here's some of my more recent editorial efforts...
For The Wall Street Journal. Ron Plyman, AD. for a philisophical article on a man's changing outlook on life.
Back to school night... Slate.com
This was for the Chicago Tribune about a nurse's life experiences. The hardest thing she ever experienced was a dying baby who no one was able to save.
Chicago's Black Clergy struggle with the idea of gay marriage... Chicago Trib.
This was for The Wall Street Journal about a Writer's workshop on the Amalfi Coast, Italy. Christine Silver, AD.
Selected drawings from a series in Marquette Lawyer Magazine about individual paths in education. Douglas Frohmader, A.D. This was fun.
Pro bono piece foe my daughter's school..
Fear of hospitals... the editor wanted a screaming woman, so that's what they got...Slate.com
Shadenfreunde: How we love to see the mighty fall. Chicago Trib.
Collaborating Poets. Chicago Tribune
Feds allow joint tax filing for gay married couples. New York Times
As long as were doing flags, here's a sketch for a drawing on Obamacare for Saturday's NY Times.
This is the one we're running as a second spot.
This is a sketch that I'd like to have done....
This is what we're going to run. Sometimes just a simple, direct image tells the story- Health insurance choice with Obamacare. James Best, A.D.
My new book, Linus the Vegetarian T-Rex, was released today. I had a lot of fun with this from the character design to the painting... I used a textured background over an ink drawing and layered color on with photoshop. In some of the spreads, I scanned some real plants, and I used special brushes that I made from plant drawings to fill in some of the jungle.
My editor on this is Andrea Welch, Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster. I started with the idea that Linus was just too friendly to eat his friends, which really upset dinosaur expert Ruth Ann. Later, he saves her from the velociraptors because, after all, he is a big T-Rex. It went from very dramatic and wordy to the more subtle and simple version that we finally published.
Cover, of course.
Here's Ruth Ann, she's big on museums...these are from my raw files, so the type's not on.
Ruth Ann knows everything about dinosaurs. When she happens across a new exhibit and goes through the curtain, she meets Linus...
He invites her to LUNCH...
"Um, what's on the Menu?" asked Ruth Ann.
"That depends,"said Linus. "Let's go hunting!" First Linus attacked...
Some yummy Broccoli! Then he pounced...
Several pages on...I added a little type to these spreads so you could see the story.
Lauren Rille, my wonderful AD, used Souvenir, very elegant. This is Cambria, what I had at hand....
Ruth Ann's not real happy with Linus.
"You're supposed to be..."
Linus saves the day without actually eating anybody.I figured I needed a car chase or something. The working names for these guys were Nasty & Stinky...
All's well that ends well.
didn't use this...
Andrea and I threw all kinds of dialogue around.
Ruth Ann hollering at Linus.I thought it was fun to use the teeth as a chopper...this was changed in the final draft.
I print the final pencils out in blue on watercolor paper, and ink directly on them. The blue is discarded after scanning. This is how comics were done- blue pencil that the old analog cameras couldn't see.
Here's a detail from Linus's journey.
And another. I named the triceratops after my neighbor, Ellen, because it's fun...
Back cover. Many thanks to Lauren Rille and Andrea Welch at S&S for all their great work on this book. The design, color and printing is perfect.
This was one of those really nice preliminary drawings that we cut. We found a place for it on the title page....
Linus was pink for awhile. Why not? He's a different kind of dinosaur.