Monthly Archives: April 2017

Author/illustrator school visit tips from your old Uncle John

I got an e-mail from an author/illustrator colleague who is about to do her first school visit—she asked for some tips about how to make it a success. Here are a few ideas that came to mind.

First of all, don’t be nervous. The students are going to treat you like a rock star. You’ll be new and different and fun. They’ll love you.

Dress like you’re going on an interview.

Have you read the story aloud yet? Rehearse before you go in front of the students. Read it to a friend or two this weekend, just so you can get comfortable with doing that. BE AN ACTOR—be sure every character sounds different from the others. Don’t be afraid to go over the top with the voices. I’m a ham, and wear some kind of hat that fits with the story—a cowboy hat, or bunny ears—because the narrator is also a character. Relax, don’t rush through your reading, and enjoy the experience.

Ask for water. Ask for a microphone if you’re speaking to an assembly. If it’s just 25 or so kids, no mic.

Know how much time you’re allotted and keep an eye on the clock.

I have a few of my books in jpeg format. The school should have a computer and projector—ask for it ahead of time, along with a tech person. You bring your jpeg file on a flash drive. Bring at least one backup on a different flash drive. You can project your images while you read the story.

If you feel comfortable doing it, draw the kids a picture afterward. An easel with a big pad and a chisel-point marker is all you need. Keep it simple. Draw something you’re good at drawing—a cat or a dog. Describe what you’re drawing as you draw it as if you were doing a presentation on the radio.

If you do Q&A, keep the answers simple. Preface your answers with things like, “That’s a really good question.”

When the show’s over, thank everyone and turn the class back over to the teacher.

Vampire wearing bat slippers

mummy_03Had I shown you this before? I think I painted this picture a few years before I started blogging, so maybe not. It’s Baby Mummy meeting Drac—just as he’s getting ready for bed—in Carolyn Crimi‘s* wonderful story, Where’s My Mummy?

Today is National Garlic Day. Vampires are supposed to hate garlic, so why not post a picture of a vampire on my blog? Enjoy the day, everybody!



*rhymes with ‘shimmy’.

Country mouse in the city

Mela, my agent, asks her artists every so often to create images keeping to a theme. This time it was City/Country. I decided to update the old Æsop fable about the country mouse and the city mouse.

To feel the city from a mouse’s point of view, I used some crazy linear perspective—with a vanishing point in the sky—and aerial perspective, making the nearby colors vivid and the faraway colors pale. One rainy afternoon I happened to be stuck in midtown Manhattan traffic, so I took a few photos. I’m glad I did! They provided perfect reference for this scene.

Oh, that Samson


So I’m trying to work up a character design for a project. It’s Samson, from the Bible—you know, Samson and Delilah, one of the judges of Israel, gets all his strength from his hair—and I want to show how he looks before he gets a haircut, and after. Here’s the problem: in the ‘before’ sketches hardly any of his face shows, right? Samson took a Nazarite vow never to let a razor touch his head. Between his hair and beard, only his eyes and nose can be seen. Below his beard, of course, is Samson’s magnificent physique. Get a load of those delts and pecs!

Now I want to show the same character after Delilah shaved him. No more beard, no more hair. You can see Samson’s face, but since you never saw much of it before, how do you recognize him after? That’s okay—everyone can still recognize his muscles. Except Samson lost all his strength when he lost his hair. His physique has to sag a bit. Kind of tough to see who it is. Hey, what about those eyes? Eyes are the windows to the soul—we’ll be able to tell it’s our boy from his eyes. Er, no. Those rotten Philistines blinded Samson as soon as they knew he was too weak to fight back. I put sunglasses on him. I can’t even let you know who it is with his eyes. What’s left? Samson’s NOSE. That’s it. That’s pretty much all I can give you to clue you in that it’s the same guy, before and after.

You can read Samson’s story if you have a Bible handy. It’s Judges Chapters 13 – 16. Samson is a not-so-bright lunk with a weakness for pretty girls. Maybe better you should click on this link. It’s G rated.