Back to School Written on May 6, 2013, by Zack.
Growing up, I missed out on a lot of those traumatizing childhood experiences charitably described as “character-building.” Never broke a limb, never had braces, never broke a limb while struggling to detach my braces from the braces of my first kiss. Never saw Mac and Me.
And I never had to ride the school bus. So my entire understanding of how they operate is as follows: A) their wheels go round and round, and B) they are fueled by the ear-abusing shrieks of their delinquent passengers.
Little wonder, then, that when I got the assignment for The Normal School‘s Spring issue with the co-themes of “cutting class” and “4-H club,” the first thing that came to mind was a bus stocked with clamorous farm animals. It’s pure coincidence that both school kids and barnyard animals are ecstatic Beliebers.
The issue’s on newsstands now, so if you like quality literature and goats, snatch this up ASAP!
One week ago today I returned from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and I’m still futilely attempting to distill into words what was easily to best week of my life.
On any given day I’d find myself, say, escorting a 72-year old master illustrator back to his hotel as he described beating up a pickpocket the week prior, or talking Italian politics with my AirBnb.com rentees until 2am as water dripped from the above light fixture, or getting lost in an intestinal labyrinth of a medieval streets with nothing but a pedal-less bike and Beach House for company, or having a two-hour hot chocolate-induced panic attack hallucinations wherein an adolescent Jesus Christ is beating the literal hell out of me. It was stone cold BANANAS.
Prior to the fair itself I stopped in Florence, where you couldn’t walk five feet without running into a Renaissance masterpiece or the best meal you’ve ever eaten. The place was swarming with Michelangelos, Raphaels, Donatellos, Leonardos; ALL the Ninja Turtles! And nothing can prepare a person for the Duomo; it takes up your entire field of vision and occupies every atom of your imagination.
And David! I saw David! I stared at David for two hours and I still couldn’t believe I was seeing David. I didn’t know how to respond, I tried sketching him which ended in tears and then settled on taking an illegal iPhone selfie with David in the background.
Bologna, also incredible. Seeing my artwork up on the gallery wall was surreal, as was being publicly presented with a certificate of participation by some of my illustration heroes, as was the realization that I’d be having dinner with said heroes later that night and they were technically colleagues. Technically.
There was also the opportunity to collect the business cards and handshakes of publishers and illustrators from around the globe, make new friends, meet up with old friends, and get inspired by the foreign books I’d never see otherwise. Even bought a few of them. Google Translate and I are going to spend some quality time together.
[Right to Left: Sarah Brown, Katie May Green, Trudi Esberger, and Becky Palmer. Hire them for all your illustration/modeling needs.]
But the fair is over and I’m back in Seattle, no longer a minor celebrity. Just another pseudo-hipster in a cat fur-covered cardigan who spends too much time indoors.
Ah, well. There’s always next year.
Room with a view Written on March 19, 2013, by Zack.[click for larger view]
In preparation for my trip to Bologna Book Fair, I spent the last few weeks getting my portfolio into gear. This included a 20-day tenancy in the museum exhibition space above. Forty different exhibits on display there, not counting the canine. Took forever not only to think up interesting curios to show, but also to organize them on the walls and shelves. It was all worth it, though, because now my children’s book boasts both a human skull and a shining red butt. You’re welcome, parents.
Alright, I’m off! Wish me luck!
No Bologna Written on January 29, 2013, by Zack.
Not to be outdone by December’s book contract news, January has slapped me in the face with yet another dream come true.
Each year at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (the industry’s most important professional fair), the organizers set aside exhibition space to show off artwork of illustrators from around the world. At some point during the four-day event, the fair attendees–publishers, art directors, illustrators, etc–amble their way to the gallery, so it’s an incredible opportunity for the selected artists to reach an international audience.
It’s not easy to get in, however; last year, 2,685 illustrators submitted work, and only 72 were selected. Similar numbers this year, with my illustrations from Mel Goaté and the Purple Velvet Tuxedo padding the stats. Considering the stunning work being submitted just by my friends, I thought the odds of my musical goat stirring the hearts of the judges were slim.
And maybe they were. But that didn’t prevent the judges for selecting my work to be featured in this year’s exhibition!
That’s right, publishing professionals from around the world are going to be subjected to my terrible puns, and there’s nothing they can do about it! They’ll even suffer through them again in the Bologna Annual illustration book. And if you think my gags are painfully obscure in the Western Hemisphere, say a prayer for poor Japan, because the exhibition is also touring four Japanese museums. Soon the whole world will know the true meaning of “Bleat, Bahhh & Beyond”!
But seriously, this is a true honor. Every time I look at the illustrations from the book, I remember the endless months I spent detailing each little element, getting the woodgrain right on the victrola, making sure the county fair food glistened with the adequate amount of greasy glory, sitting motionlessly for hours in what could only be described as a pun coma as I devised names for barnyard musicians like Marvin Bray and Pjork, etc. I had no higher aspirations than getting a good grade in my MA course. Obviously, Mel Goaté had bigger plans.
So if you’re attending the fair this year and see a tall, lanky Yank with a perpetual look of shock on his face, stop and say hi! Hope to see you there!
Getting Creative Written on December 3, 2012, by Zack.
Some keen-eyed readers may have noticed a buried lead in the recent profile of me on the amazing Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog. Amidst the goat illustrations and Marmite gags was news that I’ve been working with the Creative Company to get my first picture book out the door. At the time, I had been collaborating with Creative’s editor and art director, pruning the superfluous elements and focusing some of the details of my proposal in an effort to tighten it up. I did not, however, have a contract for the book itself.
That all changed last week. After spending a lifetime drawing and dreaming of one day getting my own book into print, I’m inexpressibly happy to say I’m now officially under contract with Creative to have my first children’s picture book published in 2014!
Having a story I both wrote and illustrated living free range out in the world is going to be phenomenal enough. But it is an exceptional honor to have it published by the Creative Company. Few publishers in the world produce books as beautiful and poignant as those released by Creative. To give you a sense of what I mean, let me show you some of the other illustrators they’ve already worked with:
I’ll keep you updated to the progress of the book throughout the coming months. There’s still lots of work left to do, but knowing it’ll all add up to a finished book will spur me forward like a manic racehorse. Well, the congratulatory artisanal chocolate will help, too.
You have sent some congratulatory artisanal chocolate, haven’t you? HMMM?