April 3, 2014

Middle School: Ultimate Showdown

Guess what? I illustrated a chapter book!  It came out this week and it's called Middle School: Ultimate Showdown by James Patterson and Julia Bergen.

This is book five of the Middle School series, starring Rafe and Georgia Katchadorian.  The series is in a "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" style, where the first-person narrator is also supposed to be making the drawings in the book.  In reality, Rafe's drawings are illustrated by Laura Park and Georgia's drawings are illustrated by Neil Swaab.

Well, the series is pretty popular, so Laura was busy drawing the next Rafe book and Neil was busy drawing the next Georgia book, so I was hired to draw a crossover book with both of the sibling characters!  This meant that I had to carefully match both Laura and Neil's drawing and lettering styles for alternating chapters.  Luckily, I was able to talk to both Neil and Laura to get the inside scoop on which drawing tools they use and what size they draw, etc. etc.

Here's an example of me drawing like Laura/Rafe (click to see bigger):

And here's an example of me drawing like Neil/Georgia (click to see bigger):

This was by far the biggest illustration project I have ever taken on.  There were over 200 illustrations and I only had four months to draw them all.  Pretty much everything else I was working on had to be put on hold from July 15th-November 15th of last year.  Here is my chart for this project - the line on the left was for pencils, the line on the right was inks and the straight blue line is the goal.  This really helped me stay on target and made it possible for me to hit the deadline exactly on the nose.

Tonight I went down to my local bookstore (Books Inc. in Alameda!) to pick up a copy in person.  I have made a lot of books but this is the first time I could just walk into a bookstore and it was there on the shelf.  Exciting!

It was also a pretty good feeling, seeing my name on the title page.  Wahoo!  I'm hoping this will be the first of many books that I illustrate.

Anyway, this book is everywhere, so look for it at your local bookstore!  It's a really fun series - I would have read these books like crazy when I was a kid.  It's amazing to think that there are probably kids all over the place reading it right now!

January 22, 2014

Highlights Hidden Pictures #2

Another issue of Highlights Magazine showed up in the mail a few weeks back.  If you see this issue on the newsstand, check it out, it's got one of my illustrations in it!

Most of the hidden pictures I have been drawing are for the "Gaby's Journal" feature, in which Gaby and her family travel the United States, seeing all kinds of historic buildings, museums, national landmarks and parks.  This time it was the dinosaur exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

Since these illustrations are based on real places, I usually start out by collecting a bunch of photo reference.  The internet makes this extremely easy!  I usually find some general "official" photos on Google Image Search and then try to find some more personal first-person photos on Flickr.  I've even found some 3D models in the Google SketchUp 3D Warehouse so that I can position a building just how I want.

My next step is to mash up all this reference in photoshop to work out the composition of my drawing.  Since illustration does not have to perfectly mirror the real world, I can grab one element from a photo that I like and flip it, or draw on top of it to extend it, and then drop other photos in the background or foreground, etc. etc. etc.  Here is an example that I made for this illustration, which uses three or four photos and a lot of digital drawing.

I decided I didn't like that one very much, so I made a second composition, which I ended up using instead.  Once I settle on the composition, I print this out and lightbox the general shapes onto my bristol board.  Then I can finesse the drawing, and make everything look consistent.  This digital "comp" technique saves me a lot of time, so that I'm not trying to figure out all of the perspective and angles of things from scratch.

The last step, of course, is to add the hidden objects!  ;)

January 14, 2014

Today in Weezer History #1

One of my favorite things on the internet right now is the Weezer instagram account which is run by the band's archivist, Karl Koch.  Every day he goes back through the Weezer archives and finds something interesting that happened with the band on that date.  With over 20 years of material, Karl has a lot of really cool, behind-the-scenes stuff to share.

The other day I got an email from Karl, asking if I would be interested in illustrating the infamous "Rhino Lad" story, which had no photo to accompany it.  As you can see below, I said "Yes!"  You can read the story of Rhino Lad in the official Weezer instagram post.

Karl and I both had a lot of fun working on this, so hopefully I'll get to do some more of these in the future!

January 1, 2014

Not in Harry's Name! Chocolate Frog Card #10

Happy New Year!  Here is my final design for the new round Chocolate Frog cards.  When I first got this assignment, I was asked to focus on members of the Order of the Phoenix.  I decided right away that I would draw Professor Snape!  I decided to draw him at the end of book six, right after he killed Dumbledore.  Initially I got a bit of pushback from my art direction team at the HPA.  "Snape?  Really? Of all the characters you could draw?"

I stood firmly by my decision.  Yes!  Professor Snape!  Harry himself states at the end of book seven that Professor Snape was "...probably the bravest man I ever knew."  This scene depicts not only his bravery but one of the biggest sacrifices made by any member of the Order of the Phoenix.

As a reminder, you can get one of these wizarding cards by ordering cruelty-free chocolate frogs from the Harry Potter Alliance!  I hope you guys enjoyed checking these out.

December 25, 2013

Not in Harry's Name! Chocolate Frog Card #9

Happy Christmas!  This week's chocolate frog card features another scene from the final battle in The Deathly Hallows.  Neville Longbottom hacking the head off of Nagini with the sword of Gryffindor!

As a reminder, you can get one of these wizarding cards by ordering cruelty-free chocolate frogs from the Harry Potter Alliance!

Next week: Professor Snape!