Golden Cram Written on October 16, 2014, by Zack.
Like the main character of Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum, Magpies are famous for their hording habits, especially shiny stuff. So when James at the picture book review site Magpie That asked me to contribute to his collection of corvids, he struck gold.
Four square inches and twenty-two objects later, I had me a miniature Midas Magpie.
And carpal tunnel syndrome.
Into the wild Written on August 20, 2014, by Zack.
(thanks to Judi Rock, Amanda Piercey, Heather Sutter, Elizabeth Mandeville and Chris Rae for the photos!)
Yesterday my first book dropped into the world. And like any newborn, it has been focus of international public criticism and analysis. Happily, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, and Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum has been featured on some of the internet’s most reliable sources for picture book news and reviews.
Below you’ll find all the features, reviews and interviews in one convenient, updated-as-needed place. Almost every one tackles a different aspect of the book and my process, so you could read through them all in one go and not be mind-bogglingly bored. By why do that? It’s a beautiful day out, go adopt a Whippet and take it sailing.
Here we go:
Kirkus Reviews review (in which it’s remarked “Hudson’s droopy, liver-spotted mug is so realistic readers will want to scratch him behind the ears”)
Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves review (in which the book is given “100,000,000,000,000,000 thumbs, five pinkies, two index fingers, and a pointer finger way way UP!”)
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast feature (in which a painting that took me 17 days to complete is ready in 10 seconds thanks to the magic of animated GIFs)
The Book Sniffer interview (in which I share some advice and some sketches)
Children’s Illustration blog post (in which the illustrations take center stage)
32 Pages blurb (in which my book is teased)
Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves interview (in which some embarrassing childhood photos and paintings are revealed)
Design of the Picture Book interview (in which the secret butt is exposed)
Magpie That review (in which my illustrations are heaving with intricate and fascinating details)
32 Pages review (in which my book is compared to a Terry Gilliam film, which I’m still reeling from)
Picture Books Blogger interview (in which I speak of stabbing cats and wreaking homes)
Brain Burps review (in which, at minute 7:00, I receive my first audio review)
More coming soon!
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]