A bad drawing Written on June 15, 2014, by Zack.
The above is a sketch I did for my upcoming picture book, As Yet Untitled Wildly Successful Pig Vehicle. It depicts the untitular pig reading upside-down atop a statue of a proletarian accountant (it makes sense in context) (sort of).
Keen viewers will notice the building behind the statue’s left arm has been left unfinished. And with good reason: I gave up on it. Why? Because this drawing is what we refer to in the illustration business as “irredeemably bad.”
Here’s the same scene again, with the bad removed:
So what’s the difference? Why is the bottom illustration more engaging that the top?
Lots of reasons: cooler-looking buildings, the first statue has that dumb tie, etc. But the most important reason, especially for a picture book, is that the original illustration has no obvious subject. The statue, pig, and buildings are all vying for the viewers’ attention. So what was needed was a better composition to direct the eyes to the subject of the illustration.
Creating a composition with a clear subject can be done using color (putting a warm-colored subject on a cool-colored background, or vice versa), tone (putting a dark subject on a light background, or vice versa), by arranging the elements of the piece to frame or point to the subject, or some combination of the three.
Subtle artists will nuance the image elements so the viewers won’t even know they’re being guided. On the other hand, I basically made the statue into a giant arrow pointing at the pig.
And in case you didn’t get it, the building below the pig also points in his direction. Nearly every element points towards the tiny pig. LOOK AT THE PIG, GUYS.
Of course, there’s many examples of great illustrations that straight-up flaunt compositional clarity and still end up looking dope. But this is how I work. And this is why I work slo-o-owly.
An illustration in honor of my new neighborhood—Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, rumored to have the highest birthrate in Europe. Babies are everywhere, they’re like some hot new fashion accessory; wearable taxidermy is OUT, tiny puking humans are IN. Hence, the baby.
Also, I can’t draw babies very well. Hence, the distracting hovering geese.
Ant, P.I. in “Hot Under the Collar!” Written on April 28, 2014, by Zack.
The hangover hounded me all day, left me seeing spots, sick as a dog. I’d spent the night previous chasing my tail at the old watering hole, trying to forget the lady (the tramp) that marked my heart like a fire hydrant. She told me she’d always be loyal. And she was, right before she up and strayed. It was going to take more than a few Greyhounds to shoo her memory away.
As I self-medicated with a little hair o’ the dog, there came a knock at the door.
“Come in,” I whimpered.
He didn’t have to throw me a bone. All it took was one look to know the guy wanted to see me at the end of a rope. Or, more specifically, a leash.
“Hey buddy,” he said, giving me puppy eyes big as a dinner bowls. “You look a little ruff.”
“What’s it to ya,” I growled back, but my bark was worse than my bite. He was going to get what he wanted, sure. But I wasn’t going to beg for it.
“Heard you howling last night,” he said, “thought maybe a walk would cheer you up.”
He had the scent all right, I had been inside with my tail between my legs for too long. Maybe if I got some fresh air I could forget my troubles for a while, let sleeping dogs lie.
“Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy!?” he panted as we trotted out the door. I didn’t bite. Good? Bad? What’s it matter when we all end up in the same place. The important thing was I was feeling better. And as long I focused on putting one foot in front of the other in front of the other in front of the other, maybe, just maybe, I could find a way to heel.
[Commissioned piece. RIP Ant]
Dinolympics Written on February 17, 2014, by Zack.
Stick a fork in it. Written on January 6, 2014, by Zack.
The book is done.
What started off as vision of an antique store helmed by a talking bulldog clerk that wandered into my head during a midnight ramble ended up a 32-page adventure through lands marked by fiery rebellions, sea-sunk civilizations, stone giants, and dark nights of the soul. Oh, and there’s also two scenes in a sushi bar for some reason.
All it took to get from that quaint flight of fancy to a real deal book was a pinch of imagination, a little luck, and an unhealthy amount of work. It was like giving birth, only it took 11 months and I was in labor the entire time.
Copies will be showing up on bookshelves this fall. I know it’s a ways off, but I’ll remind you when the time comes, and often. And I’ll share more images from the book in the run-up to its publication.
In the meantime, enjoy this little watercolor of the bulldog himself, inspecting a famous animated ball (painted for a friend who was kind enough to give me a tour of Pixar last summer).