Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Christmas Comic 2011

I've been feeling a little blah about my work lately and thought maybe trying something new was in order. So for Christmas this year I made little comic books to give out instead of Xmas cards. I've never really done much with comics, but this was a lot of fun. I've already got ideas for other Steve and Wessley comics.

You can see the whole comic here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chris VanAllsburg at the Wegmans in Northborough

Wow, it's true Wegmans is truly a grocery store that has everything. They even have Caldecott winner Chris VanAllsburg, at least for one day anyway. Chris VanAllsburg will be doing a book signing at the Wegmans in Northborough Mass on December 10th from 1:00-3:00. Details can be found at

Still Learning Flash

I'm still on an Adobe Flash kick and for the past couple of weeks I've been knee deep in ActionScript. Well, maybe more like neck deep. But after lots of Lynda training and lots more reading on top of that, I feel like I'm FINALLY getting the gist of it. My animation skills are still pretty rough, but I've been having lots of fun programming the ActionScript. Here are two games that a I created so far...

Here's the first one I did. It's a cookie game (of course Alfie the Alligator would need a cookie game)

And here's a train multiplication game I created for my train obsessed son to help him learn his multiplication tables.

If you try either game and find a bug, of if you have any comments or suggestions, I'd really appreciate it if you let me know.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bob Doodle

I needed an image to use as a demo when I talk about creating under paintings at the NESCBWI Illustrator Day this Saturday. So I started doodling and came up with this character. Can you tell I didn't bother looking up any reference for the clothes? Even so, he kind of reminds me of Bob Cratchit.

Here's what the under painting looks like...

Amazon Rankings

I confess, I'm guilty of watching my Amazon sales rankings. Okay lately I've been sneaking a peak every morning because for some reason "May I Please Have a Cookie?" has been doing crazy well (under 1,000). Sales rankings are one of those things I never paid attention to before I had a book in print. But I think everyone who is published has been mildly obsessed with checking sales rankings at one time or another. And of course I also check and see if there there are any new customer reviews. If you write a customer review on Amazon, I don't know if anyone other customers will read it, but I bet you the author of the book will.

I found a funny post by Bex Huff where he checks everyday to see what books are more and less popular than his. It sort of puts ones work in perspective.

So I thought it would be fun to see how my book fit into the the scheme of things. Since my book is written for preschoolers, I thought it would only be fair to compare it to other picture books. So today, Noverber 15, 2001, "May I Please Have a Cookie?" is less popular than "If you give a Dog a Donut" But more popular than "Rah Rah Radishes." Which just goes to show, everything is better deep fried.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

NESCBWI Illustrator Day, Nov 19th

I hope you will join us on November 19th in Manchester, New Hampshire for Illustrator Day. This is a program sponsored by the New England chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) The very talented Carlyn Beccia and myself will be doing an encore presentation of our Digital Painting Duels program that was first given at the 2011 annual conference. Here's a class description.

Digital Painting Duels

Are you new to digital painting and wondering what program to use? Or maybe you are an experienced user and would like to learn more than one program? Welcome to the Digital Painting Duels where artists Jennifer Morris and Carlyn Beccia spare off to demo Adobe Photoshop vs. Corel Painter in the bloodiest. knock-out, digital brawl of the century. See some of the hottest digital painting tricks including; secret brush techniques to mimic traditional media, creating rich textures and patterns, and ways to fix compositional problems. Learn which program to use in your art and place your bets on who will be left standing.

It's much more amiable than the description implies. Let's face it, we all know Photoshop is the most amazing product on the face of the Earth (wink). But we did cover lots of nifty tricks and tips that will help you with your digital artwork. If you missed our presentation in the spring, I hope you'll be able to join us on the 19th in Manchester.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Digital Painting Lecture and Demonstration

Come say hi on November 1st at the Lunenburg Public Library, Lunenburg, MA. I'll be giving a talk on digital painting techniques. Oh and best of all, it's free. I'll even bring some left over Halloween candy. :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Drawing from Life - Day 6

Today is my 6th day of drawing/painting from life. As a bonus, I think my coffee mug painting also works for this week's Illustration Friday topic, fuel. This was a pencil sketch that I scanned in and painted in Photoshop.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sponge Bob Drawing Tips

Check out these composition pointers from Sherm Cohen, storyboard artist for SpongeBob. These are great things to keep in mind when doing all sorts of illustrations not just goofy aquatic invertebrates. I've definitely been guilty of most of these things at one time or another.

Bloo Walk Cycle Test

I spent many hours trying to get my bird to walk. But my kids were much more impressed with this little animation of Bloo from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. I found instructions on how to create his walk cycle from Cold Hard Flash.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Learning Adobe Flash

I have been wanting to learn how to use how to use Adobe Flash for quite some time now. So this month I've finally forced myself to sit down and start hacking away at it. It has a bit of a steep learning curve but it's a lot of fun. Most of the art I create is not vector based so for my first stab at getting something to more across the screen, I wanted to try and animate something that I created in Photoshop. So this is what I came up with.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Drawing From Life - Day 4

LPC's, little plastic cows. A pencil sketch scanned in and painted in Photoshop.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Drawing From Life - Day 3

Didn't do much work today because I had a bunch of errands to run but I did get my drawing in. Did these pencil sketches at the coffee shop, in the car and at the orthodontist's office today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Drawing From Life - Day 2

I love Sharpies. When I was painting this I realized printed under the Sharpie logo it says, "Not for Letter Writing." Who says!?

This is day 2. 33 more days to go. (This was done in Photoshop.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Same Tree Different Finish

Maybe it's just me but I feel like the pencil phase and the final art phase are two completely different things. This is the same pencil drawing that I started with for the other tree, but finished in a different way. Also done in Adobe Photoshop.

Happy Fall!

I've been flipping through my new Peter de Sève book today and puttering with Photoshop. This is the result. This is a pencil drawing colored in Photoshop.

Drawing from Life - Day 1

I've made promises to myself for doing things daily in the past, exercising, drawing, picking up the house, and they never stick. Well eight weeks ago, I pledged that I would exercise every weekday morning for a lousy 20 mintues. 20 minutes isn't much so I figured maybe, just maybe I would stick to it. Twenty minutes is better than nothing, right? And voila, it seems like 20 minutes is my magic number. I've stuck to it for 8 weeks. SOOOOO, now I'm going to try drawing/painting from life everyday for 20 minutes. My goal is to stick with it for at least 7 weeks (35 days). Here's my entry for day one. I did spend more than 20 minutes today. Party because I was playing with ArtRage. This was done in Photoshop and ArtRage.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Character Study Silhouettes

I have been in serious need of some inspiration lately so I bought some new art books. One of which was the Skillful Huntsman. This is a book of concept art that could either be inspirating or just depress the heck out of you. Are there really folks that talented out there?!?

One technique that I got out of the book was creating silhouettes to explore character design. And since I got a nifty new Pentel pocket brush pen, I thought I'd take a stab at a monkey character for an idea I've had banging around for a while.

It seemed like when I tried to deviate too much it immediately stopped reading as a monkey. It was an interesting exercise, and it really made me think about what makes a character recognizable as a monkey.

I'm loving the brush pen BTW. I like it way better than those felt tipped brush markers. This is actually a brush with bristles, very cool!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


It has been quite a while since I just did something for fun. Our First LEGO League team needed a design for their t-shirts this year. So I had all the kids draw up designs. Since I didn't want to just take one kid's idea, I merged elements from all the designs into one. I took the ultrasonic sensor eyes from one design, cape and crown from another and the lightening from another. (I couldn't resist spiffing it up a little in Photoshop.)

It felt good doing something just for fun. I hope the kids approve.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Illustration Friday - Influence

I was in the car driving through Vermont Monday and there were some spectacularly fluffy clouds in the sky. And I don't know what it is about clouds but they always start to look like things. This one started looking like some weird big nosed spaced ship to me. It was starting to shift and break up by the time I found my phone to snap a picture. (I wasn't driving in case you were wondering.)

So here is cloud influenced space ship... the USS Proboscis.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yard Sale Finds

A friend was commenting today that artists like to collect things. And I would have to agree. My favorite places to hunt for treasures are yard sales and flea markets. It drives my husband crazy, because if something makes me laugh, I'll buy it.

What is the oddest, funniest, creepiest thing you ever dragged home from a yard sale? I'd have to nominate the "Soupers," a family of stacking soup mugs.

Monday, June 06, 2011

"Don't Panic Annika!" Release Party

Video from the release party for "Don't Panic Annika!" The party was held in England so I wasn't able to make it, but it looks like everyone had a great time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm a new fan of Terry Border

Check out Terry Border's work. What he does with wire and household items is brilliant. His little creations just make me smile - not easy to do on a gloomy Monday morning. I just found out my local book store has a copy of his book "Bent Objects" I may have to make a trip later this week.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


What a great weekend at the NESCBWI conference. The organizers did a great job of herding over 500 cats (I mean attendees) this year.

And as a bonus my Cricket in Times Square poster that I blogged about earlier won second prize in the poster showcase! My friend, and annoyingly talented artist, Carlyn Beccia won first place in the published category this year. I won 2nd place last year too but that time it was to another very talented guy, Robert Squier.

I think next year I'm going to have to pull a Tonya Harding and start breaking knee caps so I can win first prize.

But seriously, I had a wonderful time. It was so nice to see so many old friends and also make some new ones. And hanging out at the hotel bar with a big group of illustrators including the amazing Tomie DePaola was a pretty neat bonus.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Photoshop - Using Photos to Create Texture Brushes

I like creating my own texture brushes from all sorts of things. This tutorial will show you how to create texture brushes from your own photos.

Texture hunting makes for a fun afternoon. If you have little kids, it can be a fun family project. With digital camera in hand, and start looking for interesting patterns and textures. Rocks, trees, carpets, clouds are just a few things that can make neat texture brushes.

Once you have a some photos,upload them and open in Photoshop. This is a photo I took on vacation of a rock outcropping in Central Park...

This photo was already fairly monochromatic but that's not always the case, so the first thing I like to do is desaturate the image (Images->Adjustments->Desaturate). Then I create a levels adjustment layer. I want to boost the contrast in my image to make the texture more noticeable in the final brush.

Altering the levels isn't mandatory, you can leave more gray tones in your image, it will just mean that the textures will be more subtle. Experiment and see what works for you.

Next I use the round marquee tool to select a circle out of the middle of my photo. I then click Select->Modify->Feather and feather the edges of my selection about 10 or 15 pixels.

I then copy and paste my selection to a new file. So I have something like this...

Now I can create a new brush by clicking Edit->Define Brush Preset. This is what it looks like when I try and paint with it.

It's okay but I think modifying the brushes characteristics will make it a lot better. So I open the Brushes Palette and make a few modifications. First I increase the spacing. Right now some of the texture is getting lost in the overlay of the individual brush strokes. By increasing the spacing a little the texture will show through better.

Next, I find it bothersome that the pattern repeats so regularly, it gives it a mechanical feel. So, within the brush palette, I select "Shape Dynamics" I set the Angle jitter to 100% and checked the Flip X Jitter and Flip Y Jitter check boxes. This way the brush is getting flipped and rotated every time the brush tip is laid down. This makes it much more random and natural looking.

The last modification I'm going to do to this brush is to select Transfer and set the Flow Jitter Control to "Pen Pressure" so if I press lightly I get a lighter application of color. Once I did all that, I made sure I saved my new brush. If I didn't save it, then all my tweaks would have been lost the next time I went to use this brush.

Now lets try out this new brush. I selected my new "rock brush" and set the opacity to 60%. I then filled a page with overlapping scribbles of different colors. And I have to admit, I like the outcome. I thought I was making a very sharp texture but it turns out that it's capable of making a nice smokey sort of a texture.

Here are a couple of other brushes that I created from photos. This one is a photo of a ceramic bowl with a crackled finish from my kitchen cabinet.

I guess I shouldn't have put that one in the dishwasher. But oh well, it makes a interesting Photoshop brush...

And here's one that is made from an image of a circuit board.

This one, surprisingly, makes a nice texture that looks almost like fabric.

So again, I encourage you to create you own texture brushes. Here's an idea, the next time you're on vacation or visiting a special location, take some photos to transform into textures. It will make your art even more personal and special.

Why DID the chicken cross the road?

Sorry, I don't know.

But Henrietta here is going to help me with the talk I'm giving on Photoshop painting technqiues at the New England SCBWI conference on May 15th. I'm going to be deconstructing this image and talking about the Photoshop brushes I used and how I created them. I'm giving the talk Sunday morning with Carlyn Beccia. We'll be covering various painting techniques using Photoshop and Corel Painter. Carlyn is very talented and knows a lot about Painter, so I'm hoping to learn a few things myself.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cricket in Times Square - 5

This is the last cricket post. I just wanted to share the little cricket I added to the top of the mat. The music notes are on a circle of acetate, his feelers are cloth covered florist wire.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Illustration Friday - Bicycle

I wish I had time to make a new illo for this week's topic but since it's already Thursday, I'm afraid it ain't happening. This is a little piece I did for an Illustration For Kids promo last year.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cricket in Times Square - 4

Okay, here's the final art. But now I'm wondering if the other layout would have been better. Oh well, if I have time between now and the conference I may try and redo it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cricket in Times Square - 3

Well after weighing the options and and reading the feedback - thanks for the comments everyone. And thanks so much to the person that offered me easy ways to mail gift baskets to Bangladesh. I've decided to go with thumbnail #8. I was debating between 7, 8 and 11. But since this is a contest, I thought 8 would probably be showiest plus I was trying to appeal to that 3rd grader that stuck her nose up at the old cover and both of my kids opted for the versions with the bright city lights.

So next step is to clean up the thumbnail. First I wanted to get the perspective right on the buildings so I created a perspective grid and redrew the buildings. I used a vertical vanishing point to make it seem like the animals are looking up at the tall buildings.

To make my guides I created a bunch of lines in Illustrator emanating from a central vanishing point.

Then I copied and pasted those guide lines into Photoshop. I positioned one set of guide lines where I wanted my horizon line to be and a second off the top border of the image for the vertical vanishing point.

Following those lines I was able to clean up the perspective on the buildings. They are still really rough but better than before...

Next I'm going to start working on the characters.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cricket in Times Square Cover - 2

So I'm back working on my book cover remake for the New England SCBWI conference exhibition. Today I'm going to brainstorm different layouts. My goal was to come up with at least 10 different ideas for the cover.

The cover of the paperback version of the book is approx 5" x 7.5" so I made a page of thumbnails in those proportions. It's so annoying to design something and then have to wrangle it into a space that is fatter or skinnier, so best to start out with the right proportions. The other thing that I think is useful is to do the initial thumbnails in color. Maybe the colors will change but at least you have an idea of what it will look like. Sometimes images I love in black and white fall totally flat when I start adding color.

I was able to come up with a dozen ideas for the cover. These are messy and probably a bit hard to read, but is there any that catch your attention? (Click the image to enlarge)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cricket in Times Square Cover

I signed up to participate in the poster contest at the New England SCBWI conference this year. This year's theme is to redo the cover of a book that you consider a milestone in children's literature. I decided to do "The Cricket in Times Square." I chose that book for two reasons, one, because I really enjoyed it as a kid and two, I was helping out in the library at the elementary school last year and I recommended Cricket in Times Square to a third grader. When she saw the cover she curled her lip and said, "gee, it's sort of old looking."

So in the next few days I'll try and post my process for redesigning the cover for what it's worth. Maybe it will help someone else.

First, I was very lucky to happen to by in NYC earlier this week so I was able to take some reference photos of Times Square and actually sit down at a table and draw for a while and try to soak up the atmosphere. Note, right behind a police horse isn't the greatest location to draw.

Next I went to the book store (I went to Books of Wonder - Great kid's bookstore) and bought a copy of the book.

Then I started doing some online research. The first thing I did was google "Cricket in Times Square" I had remembered an animated version from when I was a kid and I also wanted to see if there were any other illustrations out there. I didn't want to duplicate something that's already been done. But check out what I found. The original cover art is actually up for auction! Sadly I don't have an extra $10,000 laying around. But it's pretty neat to see the original separations.

In the News

Here's an article from the newspaper in Chambersburg PA about my virtual author visit there last week.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Spring Postcard Mailer



My new spring postcard mailer. I printed these a few weeks ago but now with the spring peepers going to town outside my window, it seems very appropriate.