Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shaun Tan (and other talented people) at a PEN panel on childrens books.


So, this was supposed to be highlights from a panel discussion on children's books with Neil Gaiman, Mariken Jongman, and Shaun Tan. I knew it would be a bit Tan-centric, since I am most familiar with his work, but once I started writing it up, it quickly became all Tan.

The other panelists were charming and insightful and funny. (Like when Neil Gaiman remembered his school teachers telling him, "Neil, dear, before you can be eccentric, you really should know where the circle is.") But since this is the Art Department I have the perfect excuse to focus on the only illustrator on the panel.

On childhood:
Shaun Tan mentioned that he grew up in a suburban town that was the perfect blend of idyllic and boring to help foster a vivid imagination. And, that he used drawing as a way to compensate for being the shortest kid in the class.

Influential books:
Shaun mentioned Where the Wild Things Are, especially the forest growing in the bedroom scene. He talked about the "tipping point, where everything starts to change."

He was also read Animal Farm as a young kid -- his mother assumed it was a kid's book.

Throughout the evening he talked a lot about being most interested in stories that are left somewhat unresolved.

Career Path:
He started as a science fiction illustrator and moved into children's books as a means to broaden his client base.

He also mentioned creating the picture book The Lost Thing as a means of pulling himself out of the pigeon hole of doing a lot of horror work. (Self initiated projects)

He feels he's hit a "Twilight Zone" between making books that for both for kids and adults.

Style and work:
Shaun talked about stripping stories and images down. Getting a everything down to it's bare bones and letting the child inhabit the story and fill in the details.

He seems to have very vivid memories of being a child and attribute his surrealism to remembering what it's like to live in a world were you can only understand 50% of what is going on.

He said that he used himself and his wife for the models on The Arrival.

He talked about spending lot of time struggling with a project, only to have a divergent project take off without trouble.

On hobbies:
When asked what he does when not painting, he replied..."Painting." But instead of fantastical images, he'll paint large scale portraits and town scenes for fun. He said they were very meditative allowed him to take stock in the world around him and observe details.

James Gurney's How-To book

Anyone that paints needs to be reading Jim Gurney's blog the Gurney Journey. Daily. It's such a deep fountain of information, I've seen seasoned pros get sucked into it for hours. Gurney has hinted at collecting the posts and making a How-To book of it, and so he has:

"The book is called Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist. It’s a big book: 224 pages, 400 illustrations. Andrews McMeel will be doing a beautiful job of production, and they are keeping the price down to $24.99.

This is the main project I’ve been working on during the last year. The material comes from my art school lectures and also from this blog. The reason I wrote the book—and this blog—is that there’s a lot of information that I think is crucial to imaginative picturemaking but I’ve never been able to find it in how-to art books."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jose Maria Sert at 30 Rock

I'm mostly posting this to see if I managed to link this blog to my Facebook page. But, for those not following along via Twitter (I have no idea what the overlap is, or how annoying the repetition is to ya'll) here are a few shots of Jose Maria Sert murals at Rockefeller Center.

Peguin Science Fiction Covers

Penguin Science Fiction covers.

[via SF Signal]

MicroVisions 4

MicroVisions 4, lookin' good.
The eBay auction starts May 2 and runs to May 9th. I'll re-post over the weekend when we have a direct link to the auction.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Funny for the day

Email to well respected illustrator I happen to know well. Paraphrasing:

Dear Artist,
15 color paintings, multiple figures
30 days
Response (also paraphrasing):

Jan Von Holleben: Dreams of Flying

Jan Von Holleben: Dreams of Flying

These are so full of summer time make-believe and all around goodness...I'll be smiling all day.

[Via ffffound.]

Monday, April 27, 2009

Goni Montes

Loving these drawings by Goni Montes. Everything looks like that dream you're glad you had, but thankful it wasn't real. (Like the dreams I had while taking malaria pills.) With a refined line and a great sense of color. Check out his blog and website.

[Thanks to Mark Braught for the heads up.]

Animation: "Bendito Machine III" and "Two Sisters"

Bendito Machine: Obey His Commands: When it comes to items of worship, it’s out with the old, in with the new. I love the way these little guys move about.

Two Sisters: This is a deeply emotional and dark story about a physically deformed writer and her caretaker-sister. One day their isolated lives are interrupted by a man compelled to meet the writer. Ten minutes of film that will stay with you for a long time.

For the full list of animation: Saturday Morning Cartoon Index.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Future of Publishing according to John Scalzi, Toby Buckell, Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Ron Hogan

Community building and the future of publishing. I'm just watching it now -- IO9 gives the highlights.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Illustration Academy website

The Illustration Academy just revamped their website with lots of cool goodies to steal away your time. Galleries of the instructors and students, podcasts, and mini demo videos. Includes Jon Foster, George Pratt, Gary Kelley, Sterling Hundley, Anita Kunz, and others. They also started a blog and, considering the artist at their disposal, it has potential to be an amazing daily stop.

The downside -- they use the flash/ajax/animated portfolio portal that makes me want to throw my laptop out the window...or just turn the thing off and go to bed. (You'll notice no actual paintings appear in this post.)


In celebration of Earth Day, here's an animation from my favorites, John and Faith Hubley. Apologies for the poor quality reproduction, but it's still a great film.

Death and Fertility bicker about overpopulation. It touches on medical futurism, nuclear war, pollution, state imposed birth rates...All while being funny in that cynical-yet-charming way.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kekai Kotaki

My latest arthrob: Kekai Kotaki.

He just handed in the above painting for Berserker Lord, the next installment of David Farland's Runelord books.

Kekai is a concept artist for ArenaNet Games. (You know, the guys that sweep the awards.) Typically concept artists are so specialized that it's tough to imagine them working on a narrative painting. Not so with Kekai. His work has epic scale, cool costuming, and is all movement. It's so hard to find artists that can portray movement without stiffening up, but he's got it figured out in spades.

Check out his blog and website.

Animation on "Parellostroy" and "Father and Daughter"

This week on animations:

: Of course I love all the Saturday Morning Cartoons equally but if I had to pick some favorites, the quiet and sweet outer-space visit in Leo’s Song would be among them. So, I was super thrilled when the creators contacted me last week to say they have a new animation out in the world. Once again, they have created something so simple and tender it can break your heart. (2.20 minutes)

Father and Daughter: This is also a favorite of mine. I’ve been impatiently sitting on this since the start of Saturday Morning Cartoons. From the filmmaker, Michael Dudok de Wit, “‘Father and Daughter’ is a film about longing, the kind of longing which quietly, yet totally, affects our lives.” (8.30 minutes)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Patriots' Day Weekend

We spent the weekend in the Boston area, mostly Lexington and Concord celebrating Patriots' Day by watching a series of reenactments of the first 24 hours of the Revolutionary War. It's amazing how many times you can hear Yankee Doodle Dandy on the fife and drum without getting sick of it. Really, I was shocked.

We were also able to to catch up with Dave Seeley and Rick and Sheila Berry for an evening. Any visit to Rick's studio is always a mind blower -- always a new body of work exploring new and great ideas.

We stole Sheila Berry for a day. Born in Arlington on the fourth of July, the love and enthusiasm for what, to her, is local history was infectious and redoubled our energy. We ended up in Boston proper and, without planning to, happened into Paul Revere and William Dawes trotting around town....Suddenly we were racing off to outpace Revere from the North Church to Concord, a ride that has been reenacted since 1904.

If occasionally a little hokey, these reenactments are always heartfelt and often poignant. None more so than the reenactment of the Battle at Lexington Green. Hundreds of people gathered on the green hours before dawn, despite the bitter cold. Luckily we were able to score press passes and got a front row seat. Just as the sun barely started to cut through the historically inaccurate fog, the British regulars marched into the square and giddy anticipation turned quiet and somber. Within twenty minutes eight men representing our first fallen veterans were laying on the grounds while the regulars regrouped and marched off to the beat of drummers. As the announcer called the names of the fallen minutemen, their proxies stood and were escorted to the burial grounds for a moving memorial ceremony.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Patriots' Day

Happy Patriots' Day.

We're up in Lexington and Concord, watching reenactments of the first 24 hours of revolution.

I'll bore ya'll with pictures later. In meantime, enjoy a few Paul Reveres: Harold Von Schmidt, William Robinson Leigh, Greg Harlin, and N. C. Wyeth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sf Signal's Cover Smackdown

A couple of Tor books up in SF Signal's new fun feature, "Cover Smackdown". Go and voice your favorites.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Some book covers featuring techno geekery, contemporary Shakespearean fantasy, and zombie-zeppelin-steampunk fiction.

I don't seem to be able to get to any real post writing. I hope to soon, but in the meantime I can show off some pretty covers for upcoming Fall books. This is the gray suite.

Makers by Cory Doctorow
Design by Peter Lutjen

Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Art by Sam Weber, design by Jamie Stafford-Hill

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Art by Jon Foster, design by Jamie Stafford-Hill

Intern Wanted

Hey college folks,

I'm looking for an art and/or design intern for the summer. 10-15 hours a week - flexible start and end dates.

The catch: It's unpaid and you must be able to get college credit for it.

The intern will be filing (it's fun!..ok maybe not so much, but necessary) helping us with image re-formatting for various uses, occasionally handling artwork, getting chromes made, help research for artists, and whatever else come up during the summer.

We do not hire full time illustrators so you will not see an illustrating art department at work, but we do hire lots of illustrators -- it's a chance to see the process from your future clients point of view.

To apply, please see the Macmillan intern page.
(Macmillan is Tor's parent company)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Animation on "Love on the Line" and "Cecil and Britches"

This week on Saturday Morning Cartoons:

Love on the Line
: Whether it’s email, txting, IM, or telegraph, it all leads to one thing...even for Victorian cut-out peoples. (5 minutes)

Cecil and Britches: Coal Car Stew: As the filmmaker says, “Cecil is a sock monkey. Britches is a wooden donkey. Together, they get into some things.” It's as simple and sweet as that. (3 minutes)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Stanley Kubrick art anthology?

Talk about two great things. After a little internet hopscotch, it seem that there is an illustration anthology inspired by Stanley Kubrick afoot. I know nothing about it other than these two pieces are for it. Anyone know of any other artists involved?

Erin McGuire

Eamonn Donnelly

Animation on "Fish Heads Figue" and "Tidy Monster"

This week's animation picks...

"Fish Heads Fugue" and "Tidy Monster"

Fish Heads Fugue and Other Tales of Twilight:
A strange and claustrophobic film of a little girl running through vignettes in an impossible rotating puppet theater. Although CG, it’s beautifully detailed with all the decay and style of Svankmajer and other stop-motion animators. (6:20 minutes)

Tidy Monster: Madness as portrayed by the madman’s environment. (Let the record show, my room is anything but tidy....I’m a little worried about Pablo, though.) (5 minutes)

For more movies, check out the Saturday Morning Cartoon Index.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Artist Hugo Nominee Spotlights

Over on, I posted quick spotlights on the five Professional Artist Hugo nominees. I asked them to send in 3 paintings from the past year and to give us a few words on their year or the work they chose to display. Come on over to see....

Bob Eggleton

Donato Giancola

Shuan Tan

Dan Dos Santos

John Picacio

Presets: If I know You

I declare this "on topic" because of the Warhammer figures at the start...and beautiful because if these kids were just a fraction older, more powerful, and graceful, it would loose all of it's grace and power.

(Via TickleBooth)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

MicroVisions: Michael Whelan, Wesley Allsbrook, and Francis Vallejo

The latest MiroVisions are here. Just a couple more and we'll get to work setting up the auction and the exhibit. In the meantime, enjoy....

The incomparable Mr. Michael Whelan. I have to admit, I was expecting him to knock himself out for this and "Wow!" was all I could say.

Wesley Allsbrook's amazing line drawings. We at Tor are huge Wesley fans. Go check out her comics, The Leviathan and Montmartre à trois.

And Francis Vallejo. I only have a few more weeks to say this so I will say it again: Holy Cow, I can't believe this kid is still in school. Francis is destined to be an illustration superstar.

Animation on

This week on's Saturday Morning Cartoons:

L’Homme aux bras ballants
Some jobs never get old. (4 minutes)

Sweet Dreams
Cupcake gets shipped wrecked on the land of vegetables. They learn to live together in a diverse and edible world. Warning: some confectionery nudity. The story is straight forward and yet somehow it’s incredibly strange. (10 minutes)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Reverie Days 3 and 4

Day 3 photos and Day 4 photos.

By day three, everyone had settled in to their painting and drawing lessons. Lots of demos, as always, even when a guest is presenting, there is always someone painting next to them.

Sadly, I didn't get to hear much of the lectures as I was looking through portfolios and watching everyone work, but what I did catch of them was great. Notably, Marko Djurdjevic's in depth presentation of his Marvel covers and Marshal Vandruff's sequential story telling via Windsor McCay seemed worth the effort of getting to Dallas all on it's own.

Greg painted a follow-up to his "Above the Timberline" video demo painting. He stood for seven hours without a break. He held a good crowd the entire time, even when there was a red tail hawk modeling around the corner.

Day 4 was all business and goodbyes.

Jason Manley and Sherry McKenna gave an in depth talk about contracts and rights. Shawn Barber, Bobby Chiu, Greg Manchess, and I gave a talk on the business side of illustration. This was followed by a few hours of portfolio reviews with various game and movie proefsionals, artists, a toy manufacturer, and myself. Lots of promise out there. I believe I stunned a few by speaking at 30 miles a minute. Must learn to slooow down.

The hole thing wound down with a thunderdome contest. This year the topic was to follow-up a presentation by HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere). The assignment was to create an im age that brought awareness of illegally and often deadly mining of materials used in laptops and cell phones in the Congo. Andrew Jones won the instructor contest, I didn't catch the name of the attendee winner but he made a great image.

After clean up and a quick round of "polish the turd" (where I got to make various scribbles an dteh artists turned them into drawings) at the bar, we headed up for the instructor's after party. Stephan Martinere made an appearance, it was great to catch up with him a bit. He seems very happy as a Texan. I spent a lot of time talking to Aleksi Briclot, who some day I'll get to work for us! Given his schedule it wont be any time soon.

Sad and heartfelt good-byes. A big thank you to Jason Manley for inviting us. I always feel guilty at these things, it seems like too much fun to be considered working. And thanks to Melissa Lee for getting us there. Most of all, thanks to all the attendees. Art is a solitary thing and tends to attract people that like it that way, it's a brave thing to throw yourself out in public and try to create something.

And now I'm home and tired, looking at a stack of notes and business cards that I'm looking forward to going through....after I get some rest.