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Rob Dunlavey
Progress Report
posted:
In 2010, I steered my little art boat in the direction of children's book illustration. Enough personal work had accrued that appeared to be a children's book illustration portfolio. I showed it to a number of publishers in Paris and New York and some commissions came in. It looked mostly like this:
"Owl and Tern" personal work 2010
Thanks to Barry Blitt and to the interest of Lee Wade and Rachel Cole at Random House, my first picture book was published by Schwartz and Wade in 2014. "The Dandelion's Tale", written by Kevin Sheehan,  describes the ill-fated relationship of an old dandelion flower and a friendly sparrow. Reviewers appreciated a picture book about loss and liked my slightly "retro" style and the warm colors. Words like "style and "retro" seem very strange to me.
sample spreads and the cover of "The Dandelion's Tale:" we have birds and the intimate relationship of two very different characters like the Owl and Tern in my portfolio. So far so good.
Around the time "Dandelion's Tale" was wrapping up, I was fortunate to be asked to join Pippin Properties in beautiful New York City founded and led by the inspiring Holly McGhee. My rep there is the creative and hard-working Elena Giovinazzo who had a tailor-made manuscipt waiting for me from Simon & Schuster written by Kathi Appelt: "Counting Crows." It was published last March.
My preliminary sketches for this book were pretty detailed scenes. After several drafts, Debra Sfetsios-Conover, my art director at Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, wisely envisioned a bold typographic design solution. Then things fell into place. The drawings are done with various pencils. The color was added digitally. The final printed cover is embossed and has red flocking for the red shirts and scarf.
Last year, Schwartz & Wade asked me to illustrate another book which will be published in July. Like "The Dandelion's Tale" there's a climactic scene of a dark and violent storm ( a hurricane nonetheless!).  "Over In the Wetlands" is written by Caroline Starr Rose and it tells how Louisiana bayou animals experience a life-changing yet natural event. Caroline's poetry is measured and varied as it builds with the storm's arrival. The cimactic spreads are nearly completely black. As the hurricane retreats and the animals emerge from their refuges, they see a new "jumbled" world ready to be explored. The accompanying rhymes breathe once again and we are brought fulll circle and safe, steady and ready for a peaceful starry night. Perfect for 4-8 year olds.
Final cover design and examples of spreads. All art directed by the always-marvelous-to-work-with Rachel Cole. Mixed media: mostly watercolor and collage.
A third Schwartz and Wade book is in the works. it will be published in 2016. Here are a few sneak peeks at the early sketches:
character sketch
baby owl can't sleep (pencil, digital color)
Strangely, and this is difficult for me to sort out (because creating Art is so fulfilling and fun, I feel there is more road ahead of me. The proof is that I continue to make lots of Art (like in 2009 and 2010, etc.) that looks a whole like children's book illustration. Hidden somewhere in the tangles and jungles of my searching there is some sort of picture book… I do not know what form it will take. I wish I did. Push push push!
Thank you for reading and looking.
There's a lot of "process" involved here and art-making is a form of therapy or relaxation. It's my life-line and lifestyle. It's a shame not to monetize it a wee bit more in a way that keeps the capricious spirits satisfied.


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