Monthly Archives: August 2010

Why we’re not rich

For all illustrators: here’s an important article about reprographic rights. Don’t know what they are?  If you were a musician, you’d be getting a regular check from all the times your song was played on the radio or jukeboxes.

Your images are probably being reproduced without you ever seeing a nickel.

Can’t wait for Christmas


As if it were Christmas morning, a fantastic present for me arrived in the mail.

I don’t know how much I should be giving away here—the book isn’t to be released until October—but I’m so excited I can’t wait to share this.  Last winter I worked on a very fun title for Marshall Cavendish: The Year Without a Santa Claus. I showed you my character designs for Santa here.

You may already know The Year Without a Santa Claus as a Rankin/Bass animated Christmas special. The original story was written by Phyllis McGinley in the 1950s.  In my opinion the original is way better than the special it inspired (I’m not sorry that the Heat and Cold Misers are not in her story).  Phyllis McGinley writes this poem with a master writer’s attention to meter and makes some fun, unexpected rhymes.  It’s a little on the long side for a 32-pager, so we expanded the book to 40 pages.  She provides plenty of imagery for an illustrator to revel in.

The story was first published in 1956.  I got my hands on a used copy.  The drawings that accompany the text are really more decoration than illustration.  They have a loose, watercolory look.  My favorite image from that edition is the one on the cover of Santa relaxing in an easy chair, smoking a hookah!

Anyway, back to this fantastic present.  It turns out that Boris Karloff narrated The Year Without A Santa Claus in the 1960s around the same time he narrated How The Grinch Stole Christmas! Marshall Cavendish has decided to re-release the recording along with the book.  Editor Marilyn Brigham very kindly sent me an advance copy of the cd.  It is glorious!  Boris Karloff never sounded better.  Listening to it makes me wonder what an animated special in the hands of Chuck Jones might have been like.  But, if that had happened, I wouldn’t have had the marvelous opportunity of illustrating this lovely story.

It looks like you can get the cd now (here), even before the book is available.  Definitely get both.  Absolutely.

My dad’s caricature—cont’d

Because I’m an idiot, I forgot to take a photo of the finished caricature I did of my dad for his eightieth birthday (here it is in progress).  Luckily, my talented friend Sarah Rossborough was there and she got a shot of it with everyone’s best wishes written all around the image.

If you have a wedding coming up and need a fantastic photographer, give Sally a call!


When I begin a new book project, one of the early steps is to create a storyboard—a series of small, rough thumbnail sketches that shows all the action of the story.  Here’s one for a project that got canceled early this year.

August PSInside

Get your copy here.


If you’re an illustrator or art student anywhere near western Pennsylvania you want to sign up for the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators’ first annual illustration conference.  I’ll be conducting a workshop on children’s book illustration and then joining Mark Brewer (humorous), John Blumen (fantasy), Phil Wilson (advertising and nature), and Ilene Winn-Lederer (editorial and book) for a Q&A panel discussion.

You don’t need to be a member of Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators, and they’re even giving non-members 15 bucks off for signing up before September 8.

Painting my dad

My pop turned 80 last Saturday!  Relatives traveled from all four corners of the globe to convene at my sister’s house.  I painted a caricature for everyone to sign.  Here are the early stages:

Why pay more?

Here is a glimpse into the heart of an unscrupulous art buyer.

I don’t use the word ‘unscrupulous’ lightly.  He may defend himself by saying he merely pays what these artists ask, and in a free market parties may enter into contractual agreements and it’s no one else’s business—but a buyer who treats his suppliers with such disrespect is in the market for the short-term while leaving behind long-term damage for the rest of us.  It’s difficult for a working illustrator to demand reality-based prices when there’s always someone who’ll do the same job for next-to-nothing.  And it’s difficult for ethical art buyers not to be tarred by this guy’s brush.

Artists! please, please join the Graphic Artists Guild or at least get a copy of their Pricing & Ethical Guidelines handbook.  If you don’t know how to calculate how much your time is worth, or how to estimate a project, you’ll inevitably fall prey to people like this guy.

Parents: the main linked article can be read by kids, but there may be language issues in the comments section.

National Watermelon Day

And the perfect way to spend it.