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A Brand New Frieda B.

Frieda B. Meets the Man in the Moon

Happy to announce the newest adventure for Frieda B., by Renata Bowers. A delightfully poetic book where Frieda and Zilla travel into space to make a new (and rather large) friend. It was a joy to paint this book.

Here are samples from the hardcover.

Frieda's site is where the book is most readily available.

Covering My Styles

A few months back, Karen Kohn asked me to do the May/June cover of Cricket, a copy of which came in the mail today. I was thrilled to be asked. But, the road to the finish was not without its bumps in the road.

One of the stories in the issue is about the Boston Marathon so that was the theme for my art. Here is my concept thumbnail they accepted:

thumbnail

From this I went on to a finish which I drew out and then inked before painting...

first attempt

But as I sat down to paint, I realized I had no interest. I had drawn in a somewhat realistic style, making each runner a distinct individual. To jazz it up I had stuck in Abe Lincoln, a guy in scuba gear--even my faithful dachshund, Maggie--but regardless, to me it all just seemed... dull. I liked the details on the footings of the bridge, but the overall scene seemed busy and boring all at the same time, without any of the energy of the original fast and dirty thumbnail. I had no desire to paint it.

So, deadline looming, I started over.

Going back to the thumbnail sketch for inspiration, I redrew using its simple, fast gesture drawing style, and inked up an entirely new cover to paint.

2nd attempt

Incidentally, those strange marks in the sky above the bridge were added by my cat, Lucy, who jumped up and spilled the ink bottle across the art just as I finished inking it. Did I freak out? Did I staple her to the studio wall? No. I put her out the door (gently, sweetly), let the mess dry and watercolored the art anyway with the plan to take out the mess after I scanned it to digital.

May/June Cricket Cover

This I did with the result you see: Abe Lincoln and company running one rather strange marathon. My dog still made it in there as well--and Lucy the cat, too.

April 12th is D.E.A.R. Day

I remember that day I read my first chapter book all on my own as clearly as the first time I got up on a two-wheeler in the church parking lot across the street from my house on Branch Road. I was seven and I did not like to read, probably because I wasn't very good at it.

Henry and Ribsy

During our second grade class's library time, I usually sat alone at a long oak table in the older-grade section of the school library with a stack of books. Although I couldn't read them, I much preferred these more sophisticated fifth and sixth grade non-fiction space and science books over the easy readers--I liked to look at the pictures. The school librarian, Mrs. Andrejczyk, indulged me, leaving me to part from my class, always letting me take home whatever I wanted, no matter how far over my head the text was. But on this day she came over, leaned down to put a book in my hands: Henry and Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary. And for that I thank her.

I went on to read all the other Henry books, then Beezus and Ramona, Ramona the Pest, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle, a pretty new book at that time, and perhaps still my favorite chapter book from my childhood. They were all written just right, and wonderfully illustrated by Louis Darling in carefully crisp yet comically exuberant ink pen drawings. The books hooked me and I was caught.

Doing the math, that day in the Lemont Elementary School library, just me and Henry and Ribsy going fishing, was 42 years ago. I don't remember if it was April 12th, DEAR (Drop Everything and Read!) Day, but I like to think it was.

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary.

Remembering Colorforms®

Across my desk recently came a simple, sweet story to illustrate for the coming May/June issue of Ladybug Magazine. It all takes place in a kitchen. So, I thought I'd try something new (for me). Recalling those Colorforms sets I loved as a boy, I painted the empty kitchen to use as the same background for all four illustrations...

then drew the isolated characters separately acting out their parts in each scene...

painted them on blank white so I could select them easily...

Kitchen characters

scanned everything into my Mac, and pasted the figures in digitally, like playing with Colorforms stickers and backgrounds...

Kitchen combo

saving each scene as its own separate file...

Kitchen combo
Kitchen combo
Kitchen combo

It was indeed fun, but in the end, perhaps NOT as economical as I'd supposed. After all the Photoshop work—the selecting, cleaning, cutting, pasting and fussing about—I think it might actually have taken me slightly longer than had I simply painted the kitchen in behind each scene anyway.

Nevertheless, I can definitely confirm that...

"It's (still) more fun to play the Colorforms way!"

Frieda B. Herself

An Elephant Makes Some Friends

Elephant with friends

More Classic Tales

Billy Goats Gruff and The Teeny Tiny Woman

Copies of two new educational readers with my illustrations just came in the mail, fresh from Pioneer Valley Educational Press: The Billy Goats Gruff and the Troll and The Teeny Tiny Woman, both retold by Michèle Dufresne.

Available at the Pioneer Valley Press website

My Time at the Sheehan School

The Sheehan School under attack!

It was my distinct pleasure to work with the children and staff of the Sheehan School, in Westwood, Mass, as Author-in-Residence over five sessions this spring.

The first session was meant to engage and excite everybody and that it did! The Hank and Sam activity was quite boisterous, overflowing--even exploding--with creative brainstorming. I'm confident everyone got the gist that a tepid story can be made exciting with the right illustrations and creativity.

In our four subsequent Monday in-class sessions, I encouraged the first and second graders to create their own stories in the form of a picture book "dummy." (A dummy being the strange publishing term for the rough draft version submitted to a publisher for consideration.) Our first task was to think of an interesting character, or characters, and then give that character a problem or need. The solving of that problem became the story, in words or pictures or both. Then, each child broke or expanded his or her story into at least six pages. The idea was to think about our stories in book form. Throughout the process, we discussed the anatomy of a book and how a book is built. We also spoke about how illustrations can expand the written words. Over the sessions, we continued to work on our stories, trying to expand our ideas and add details. On the last day, we discussed a book's cover and its purpose. Then, everyone made their own book cover. We staple-bond all the stories that were finished.

And let me say, there were some amazing books made: The snowman who didn't like being cold, the puppy who escaped from the pet store, the two friends who had to play each other on different hockey teams, and the horrible exploding toilet man!—too many great ideas to tell them all here.

The variety and creativity of the stories I saw from the children was truly amazing and inspiring. I met so many earnest writers and illustrators. I am truly grateful for the warm welcome I received from the children, the staff and the classroom teachers. A special thanks to Patty Mahoney for all her hard work and help. My thanks to the Sheehan School Parents Association for making this possible. I hope I can return some day.

A big "Hi!" and "thank you" to all you kids at the Sheehan School.

Well, Look Who's Here

The Emperor's New Clothes

The Emperor in all his glory, hot off the press from Pioneer Valley Books. Michèle Dufresne has splendidly retold the classic Hans Christian Anderson tale of the ruling man too big for his britches. It was a joy for me to illustrate, "tighty whities" and all. I urge you to trust your own eyes and get a copy here at the Pioneer Valley Press website

A Trip to Somers

Michael Chesworth at Somers CT

Somers Elementary School welcomed me for a day. I was warmly received by the staff, teachers and students. Through four presentations in the auditorium, the kids were attentive, smart, polite and enthusiastic, offering some truly thoughtful questions. The power of observation was strong in these ones! As promised, here is the sketch and finish for the art in the photos for those who found more than three things that changed between them. Write and let me know whatever you find.

Thanks to all the teachers who brought their classes down to see me. My thanks to Ms. Forbes-Roberts for arranging an enjoyable lunch with art teachers Ms. McEvoy and Mr. Dailey.

Renata Bowers, author of Frieda B. Herself, stopped by to say hello and laugh at me all through the session where her son Gareth was in attendance.

Credit goes to Ms. Leiphart for taking these photos, which were very much appreciated along with her help in setting up the projector.

My thanks goes to the SES PTA for hosting me. The kids were great. What a wonderful school!

From My Sketchbook

Taxonomy of a Distant Planet

Classic Tales (recognize them?)

Emperor's New Clothes Grasshopper and the Ant Teeny Tiny Woman Billy Goats Gruff

These were some truly fun stories to illustrate. Samples from four educational readers to be published by Pioneer Valley Books.

Diogenes Finds His Way Back Home

Diogenes in Translation

Hey, this was wonderful news! The rights to the book were picked up by a greek publisher. And this is the title page in translation.

So I must presume that is my name there, in greek, after the bullet on the third line down.

Click to see a two-page spread.

The publisher's site is in greek of course.

Diogenes

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