Monthly Archives: April 2010

Coming soon…

Mary Nethery, author of The Famous Nini, created a book trailer!

Proofs and f&g’s!

Kerry Martin—senior design editor over at Clarion—sent me all kinds of goodies from the print production of The Famous Nini!

Here are proofs and f&gs.

Proofs show all the spreads from a book.  A spread is two pages side-by-side as they appear in the book, like Pages 14/15.  The printer provides these so the art director may check them for color.

I don’t have one here to show you, but the actual press sheet is big enough to show 8 pages on each side, adding up to 16 pages, or a signature.  Two press sheets equal 32 pages, the typical number for a picture book.  When you see a press sheet, the pages appear not to belong together:  Page 1 will be next to Page 16, Page 2 will be next to Page 15.

F&Gs—folded & gathered—are the press sheets that have been cut into 2-page pieces then scored and folded.  These are gathered together in sequence (Pages 1 through 32) so you can see how they’ll read as a book.  At this stage it suddenly makes sense that Page 1 and Page 16 should be next to each other.

F&Gs have not yet been stitched together or bound into a cover.

Kerry also generously sent me one of the few hardcover copies—Nini won’t be in stores til June.  More info on book production here.

In Transit

Yippee!  I’ve been approved; signed the paperwork and forked over my rent & security deposit.  I’ll begin renting a studio space in Oil City’s Transit Building on May Day—the maddest, merriest day of all the glad new year.  In the meantime, those funereal purple walls definitely need a cheerier coat of paint.  Dig those fabulous cast-iron radiators on their marble plinthses (or plinthae?).  I hadn’t fully appreciated the handsome window molding last visit, either.

So, my stuff needs to be packed, I have to call the telephone/internet people, rent a truck, paint the walls, and probably a bunch of other items that I’ve forgotten about.  It will all get done.

Amazing library cat

An interesting little article about a real-life Clarence the Copy Cat—although this kitty seems to enjoy his de-mousing duties.

Have a sense of proportion!

My friend Paul sent me the link to this fun time-waster called Balldroppings.

It’s simple: balls drop from a hole on the upper-left corner of your screen.  By clicking and dragging with your mouse you can draw lines on the screen—barriers for the balls to bounce off of.  When a ball hits a line, it sounds a note.  Several lines will play a tune as they’re hit.  I tried to adjust the length of the lines to change the pitch of the notes, but it doesn’t work that way.  I had supposed that by lengthening the line you could lower the pitch, just like in real life.

Which reminded me that the Greek mathematician, Pythagoras, came up with that idea: if you pluck a string it will produce a note.  If you halve that string and pluck it, the note produced will be one octave up on the scale.  Halve it again and pluck it, the note goes up another octave.  So he developed the scale we’re familiar with today, Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do by using fractions.

How do I know this? you may ask.  I come by this information the hard way.  I watched it in a cartoon.

Walt Disney

Disney’s Donald in Mathmagic Land is one of my favorite cartoon shorts, and a great teaching tool.  I used to show it to my students when I taught life drawing at Pittsburgh Technical Institute. For a time, the life drawing class was under threat of being dropped from the curriculum because it wasn’t apparent what value drawing the human form had for graphic designers.   The value is: proportion.  If you spend some time drawing human beings, you will acquire a sense of how long an arm is in relation to the size of a foot, how far down on the face the eyes should be, &c, &c.  Even if you never again need to draw a person after you graduate from art school, you’ll still need to see different elements of a design in relationship to each other.

Pythagoras theorized that all beautiful proportions are so because they follow mathematical laws.  His perfect ratio of one thing to another was 1:1.61—the Golden Mean.  Go here to see a diagram of how to arrive at a rectangle using this ratio.

In a brilliant sequence, Donald Duck and we are shown examples from nature and classical art & architecture using Pythagoras’ Golden Mean.

Today in Europe, that ratio is used in standard paper sizes.

Rob Richards captured some of the fantastic background artwork for Donald in Mathmagic Land over at his blog, Animation Backgrounds.

The cartoon is available in DVD (I should update my videocassette) and of course I highly recommend it.  Not only will you gain an appreciation of the relationship between mathematics and beauty, you’ll learn how to cheat at pool.

Walt Disney

PSI newsletter

The April 2010 Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators’ newsletter, PSInside, is here!

Listening to books

I’m a big audiobook fan.  While I stand and paint, or drive to out-of-town schools, I devour books by listening to them.

Sally Alexander, a friend of mine through the western Pennsylvania chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, wrote an inspiring piece about her love of audiobooks.

There’ll be some changes made

Okay, right now it doesn’t look like much.  Add a filing cabinet and it becomes an Edward Hopper painting.  But if I’m approved, this is the studio space I’ll be occupying beginning next month.  I need to move out of the dining room and into something different—a place where I can possibly train another younger artist to help me to illustrate picture books. This space is in the Transit Building, Oil City, Pennsylvania.  Used to belong to Rockefeller.  Now it’s an arts center. I’d be surrounded by a variety of other artists.  I really hope this happens!

Nibble Yer Greens!

For a truly rip-roaring sea-shanty singalong, you can’t beat this old buccaneer bunny favourite. Nautical rabbits have enjoyed this one for centuries, and can oft be heard belting out a chorus in lusty bunny voices (to the tune of Blow the Man Down):

Oh, Buccaneer Bunnies roam o’er the salt seas—
Yo-ho, nibble yer greens!
Our booty be cabbage and carrots and peas—
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

Our lives short & merry, our ears long & soft—
Yo-ho, nibble yer greens!
We jump to the ratlines at “All hands aloft!”
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

Come cheer up, me bunnies, to glory we sail—
Yo-ho, nibble yer greens!
Wi’ cutlass & pistols and white fluffy tails—
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

Our clothes be expensive & jewelry’s dear—
Yo-ho, nibble yer greens!
At two bucks for earrings, that’s one buck an ear—
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

So now I ups anchor & bids ye ‘adieu’—
Yo-ho, nibble yer greens!
I’ll drink your sweet health wi’ a flagon or two—
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

March has been an incredible month for school visits.  For most of them I’ve dressed as a bunny pirate and read Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, followed by a painting demonstration.  While I paint, we all sing Nibble Yer Greens.  A couple of students have asked me where the song came from.  The answer is: several places, mostly from sea-shanties sung by 19th-century British sailors.

Blow the Man Down provided the tune and the form for the refrain: ‘Blow the man down’ is imperative—it’s an order.  The phrase I needed also had to be imperative, so I came up with ‘nibble yer greens.’  Incidentally, Blow the Man Down was also the inspiration for the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song.  Fun fact: Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob, hails from my hometown of Syracuse, New York.  It’s rumored the pirate who sings the theme song is a tribute to cartoon show host Salty Sam, a star of local 1960s Syracuse television.  I remember Salty Sam well.

Back to Nibble Yer Greens.  Some of the lyrics come from Hearts of Oak:

Come cheer up, my lads! ’tis to glory we steer,
To add something more to this wonderful year;
To honour we call you, not press you like slaves,
For who are so free as the sons of the waves?

and Spanish Ladies:

Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies,
and adieu to you ladies of Spain,
For we’ve received orders to sail for old England,
And hope with good fortune to see you again.

We’ll rant and we’ll roar, like true British sailors,
We’ll rant and we’ll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of Old England,
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.

‘A short life & a merry one’ was the motto of Bartholomew Roberts.

The ‘buck an ear’ gag has been around at least since I was a kid.  I fleshed out the verse with help from Blood Red Roses:

Our boots and clothes are all in pawn
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
And its flamin’ drafty ’round Cape Horn,
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
Oh, you pinks and posies,
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.

And now, adieu—

Let every man here drink up his full bumper,
Let every man here drink up his full glass,
We’ll drink and be jolly and drown melancholy,
And here’s to the health of each true-hearted lass.


Shiver me timbers, I forgot about my reason for writing this post in the first place!  Last month I visited Northwestern Elementary School, and was treated to a concert by the Second Grade classes.  Each class wrote new lyrics for Nibble Yer Greens—which they sang while their music teacher, Mr Fies, accompanied on the pianoforte.

Additional Words by Northwestern Elementary Second Grade Students

(Ms. Sell’s Class)

One bunny named Henry, who liked to read books.
Yo Ho! Nibble yer greens!
He read about weather and making neat things.
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

(Mrs. McCloskey’s Class)

We swab the deck five times, we slipped only once.
Yo Ho! Nibble yer greens!
We climb up the ladders and jump to the sea.
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

(Mrs. Bettler’s Class)

The hurricane came to wreck the salty carrot.
Yo Ho! Nibble yer greens!
It sunk all the jewlry, they started to scream
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

(Ms. Mizak’s Class)

The Island’s sand is yellow and orange.
Yo Ho! Nibble yer greens!
They built a two-story house, made seaweed stew.
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

And now, adieu!—I really mean it this time.