Saturday, December 13, 2014

I turned in some finished art this week...

...and this is how I feel. There’s still much more to do, but hitting the “send” button feels pretty satisfying during my marathon year of picture book making. Be on the lookout for The Wrong Side of the Bed in 2016 (yes, another year to wait) written by Lisa M. Bakos, and illustrated by me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Miss Marple’s Musings and Author Turf Interviews

It’s always nice when people take interest in your work, especially when commitments have you isolated and chained to the drawing board, as I have been over the past few months. Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a few very fun interviews, by some terrific bloggers. Here are two I forgot to mention on this page.

If you are a fan of #kidlit, no doubt you are aware of Miss Marple’s Musings and Author Turf. Both were a hoot for me, and provide a little insight into my illustration practice—if you are so inclined.

Miss Marple’s Musings
Author Turf

Thanks Joanna and Brittney!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

We Tell Stories

It was just five years and some months ago that I graduated from the School of Visual Arts MFA program, Illustration as Visual Essay, a two-year experience that, to be blunt changed my life. On view now in the school’s Chelsea galleries is “We Tell Stories,” an exhibition showcasing the vast array of work produced by three decades worth of graduates. Organized over two years by founding Chair Marshall Arisman and Director of Operations Kim Ablondi, it covers the breadth of the illustration world with editorial work, children’s books, graphic novels, and more on display. 

Very near and dear to my heart is the room dedicated to children’s books, designed with extraordinary florescent flare by alumni Aya Kakeda and Sara Varon—I mean, just wait until you see their rugs! About a month ago, the two hosted a bunch of us children’s book artists to paint an assortment of furniture for the room. (I had the pleasure of painting a lamp—grumpy on one side, happy on the other). But it’s the impressive display of picture books that takes center stage, from the likes of Brian Floca, Lauren Castillo, Paul Hoppe, You Byun, Stephen Savage, Andy Rash, Dasha Tolstikova, Sybille Schenker, John Hendrix…I could go on, and on. I am so proud to have some of my work included—some of my birds even made the cut.

There’s a public reception this Tuesday evening which I’ll be attending, since I spent almost all of my time socializing at the alumni reception last week, and not looking at the walls. It’s really an amazing show for fans of illustration; I hope to see you there. And finally, many thanks to this amazing duo who have nurtured the lives of so many artists — viva Marshall and Kim!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Re-Imagining Sendak at the Enoch Pratt Library

If you’re a fan of the work of the late, great Maurice Sendak and in the Baltimore area this fall/winter, head over to the Enoch Pratt Free Library for  Maurice Sendak: The Memorial Exhibition. Illustrators (including yours truly) have submitted images inspired by the master that have been collected and curated by illustrator and Maryland Institute College of Art Professor Shadra Strickland. It should be a lot of fun. Here’s a sneak peek at my contribution, fondly titled “Higglety Pigglety Pooch!”…

Friday, October 3, 2014

An Interview with Featured E-Magazine

Recently, I had the pleasure of answering a few questions from Featured E-Magazine. You can read all about my journey to becoming an illustrator (mid-life crisis?), and the reasons why I don’t consider myself a watercolorist here

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What’s News with Me

By golly, I’ve been a bad blogger. Between looming deadlines and a vacation over the summer, I’ve really neglected this space. Anyway, here’s what’s news with me…

I’m hard at work finishing up illustrations for The Wrong Side of the Bed, by Lisa M. Bakos, to be published by Putnam in 2016. If you’d like to see some teaser details, check out my tumblr or  instagram feed. Then, it’s onto the art for Little Card, by Charise Harper also due out in 2016.

In the meantime, if you find yourself in the Midwest this month, I’m participating in a really cool exhibition at The University of Missouri that opens on October 7th. Assistant Professor John Malta has organized “Process Work: the Process Work and Illustrations of Contemporary Illustrators,” and the roster of artists is amazing—see the list on the fabulous poster John designed below. I’m showing the ugly underbelly for my sloths piece from World Rat Day.

More soon, or who am I kidding? Soonish...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

NY Comics and Picture-Story Symposium

I’ll be giving a talk this Monday evening, August 4th, 7pm at Dixon Place on the Lower East Side as part of the New York Comics and Picture-Story Symposium. My pal, the fabulous Sophia Wiedeman will also be speaking about her process creating comics. For more information, click here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What’s Up?

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this page with what’s on my drawing board. A lot, it turns out…

First up, I’m finishing the cover art for another non-fiction picture book by David A. Adler, called Teeth, Slides, Seesaws and Other Simple Machines, to be published by Holiday House next Spring. If you ever wondered how a small cat could push a box of bowling balls up a hill, and perhaps a few more relevant things, this book is full of answers.

I’m also having a great time painting the raucous art for The Wrong Side of the Bed, a picture book by Lisa M. Bakos, to be published by the fine folks at G. P. Putnam’s Sons in 2016.

Next up is Little Card by Charise Harper to be published by Candlewick Press in 2016, and is a book I’m super excited about.

And if you’ve every grown zucchini in your garden, you’ll understand how Zora’s Zucchini by Kathy Pryor will sneak in here in abundance, to be published by Readers to Eaters in Fall 2015.

Whew! I need to get back to work, but one last thing—in case you missed it on my tumblr last week, here’s a bit of my work for Kiwi Magazine. In the most recent issue, we learned how to shuck corn, so of course I turned the spots into a striptease. It plays quite well with any soundtrack of your choice, but I’m partial to Atomic by Blondie…

Thursday, July 3, 2014

SVA Summer Residency

While you might have been focussed on the World Cup this month, I had the pleasure of teaching an intensive class in Illustration and Visual Storytelling at the School of Visual Arts Summer Residencies. It was a terrific group from around the world—a global mix to rival any international football competition—with representatives from Uruguay, Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, and Japan to name just a few.

Several months ago, while discussing the nature of my class with the Residency Director Viktor Koen—one of my former and favorite instructors in the SVA MFAI—we decided students should come away with “a series of something.” Since the bulk of my experience is in books and narrative illustration, that seemed a natural fit to me, and would differ significantly from the other classes taught by Viktor, and illustrator/designer Paul Hoppe which were centered on editorial illustration, professional practices, and comics. I had students come to the first class with a text of their choice, and we took it from there. What you see below is a sample of their projects, a collection as diverse and impressive as the individuals themselves. It’s amazing how much great work they produced in just one month.

On a personal note, I’d like to give a big shout out to these fine folks, to thank them for making my first post-graduate teaching experience so rewarding. Bravo!

Adriana Miralles
Anuranjini Singh

Ashleigh Green
Brian Britigan

Esther Aarts
Catherine Liu
Ignacio Serrano
Jo Lee

Karina Dimitriu
Mai Moroe

Pablo Londero
Paola Pagano

Shane Cluskey

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The New York Times Found Poetry Contest

For the 4th year in a row, I had the pleasure of illustrating the announcement for The New York Times Learning Network’s Found Poetry Contest. Students from around the country submit poetry sampled from articles in the paper. Each year, the contest gets more and more popular among students and teachers, and this time, there were over 2000 submissions. Thankfully, editors are in charge of the judging—I get to draw.

As in past years, we’ve chosen to feature the most popular subjects in the illustration. If you’d like to read some of these lovely works, click here. Thanks again to Katherine Schulten at the Times for including me in this fun event.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Things That Float at the White House!

You might have heard of the White House Easter Egg Roll that takes place on the South Lawn each spring. This year, in keeping with the theme of First Lady Michele Obama’s “Let's Move” initiative, the event focused on health and fitness for kids. Imagine my delight to learn that Things That Float and Things That Don’t was one of the science books featured! 

Many thanks to my publisher Holiday House for donating books, and for SB&F Online for tweeting this fantastic photo. In the words of a friend, “these girls know where it’s at!”

And this just in…
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) posted more information and photos from the event here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day and everything…


I hope fans of Ornithoblogical aren’t too disgruntled, but I haven’t had much time for birds lately. However—lucky me—on this Earth Day, I’ll be painting a bucolic setting for an upcoming picture book full of mountains and trees. I might even go out and hug a tree for real later, before the rain starts.

I’ve also been working on a few new pieces for Kiwi Magazine’s regular “Cooking with Kids” feature. Last issue, we learned how to prepare an artichoke for slaughter…

In the next, we learn how to shuck corn, or in my anthropomorphized version, perform a cornhusking striptease. You’ll have to wait a few months to see that full frontal, but if you want a little teaser, I do share details and sketches of what I’m up to over on Instagram.

Speaking of Instagram, here are two sneak peeks at some details from the same book I’m working on today (sorry, Facebook and Twitter friends—old news to you)…

Okay, it’s back to the picture book trenches for me. I hope your Earth Day is full of sunshine and daffodils.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Teaching at SVA’s Illustration Summer Residency

Since graduating from the masters program at the School of Visual Arts in 2009, I haven’t given 
much thought to teaching. Primarily, I’ve focused on my own illustration career in the children’s book market, with a bit of editorial work. So far so good, I’d say, as this year has me working on more books than ever. But when my favorite (and toughest) instructor in the Illustration MFA, Viktor Koen, asked me to join the faculty of SVA’s Summer Residency, I jumped at the chance.

The Summer Residency brings together students from around the world to spend a month studying in the discipline of their choice with professionals working in New York City. Here’s a quote from the website on the illustration program:

“With guidance from award-winning illustrators, participants will complete a body of work comprised of images created for assignments, as well as personal projects, aiming to showcase their individual style and aesthetic direction. The goals are to advance to the next level of artistic practice and to attain an enhanced position in the illustration marketplace.” 

For my class, students will create a series of images to accompany a narrative text, to be encompassed in a book or visual essay. If you’d like to read more about the Summer Residencies and for information about applying, visit the School of Visual Arts website here.

It will be a high-intensity month of June. I look forward to meeting this group of international professionals, guiding, and watching their work evolve. The Residency culminates with an open studio exhibition, a few images from which I hope to share here in a future post.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

BIG NEWS: I have an agent

There are certain milestones in every career that serve as a kind of validation for the course you’ve chosen. I reached one of those this week, and am proud to announce that I now have a literary agent: Marcia Wernick of Wernick & Pratt.

Just shy of five years ago, I finished graduate school, switching careers from design to illustration. It has been a whirlwind getting it all going, but despite my twenty-plus years in children’s publishing, I’ve learned a lot managing it all on my own. This year promises to be my busiest year thus far as an illustrator, and also marks the moment when I realized I needed some help. 

Wernick & Pratt has a great reputation in the industry, and represents some of my favorite artists of the moment, including the brilliant Mo Willems, and recent Caldecott Honor winner Aaron Becker, among others. I could go on and on, but if you want to learn more about them, visit their website here. Meanwhile, for all book inquiries, please contact Marcia. Now, back to the drawing board!

Monday, February 10, 2014

MICA and Charm City

At this stage of my career, I don’t get the opportunity to take many business trips. The occasional subway ride to an art supply store in an outer borough of NYC is as close as I get, and the majority of 2014 will see me chained to my drawing board. So when Shadra Strickland invited me to speak to one of her classes at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art), I jumped at the chance. 

Shadra is the illustrator of several picture books, including Bird, for which she won the Ezra Jack Keats Award. She’s also an amazing and generous teacher, as I observed in her Advanced Book Illustration class last week. We began with my hour-long talk about my journey into an illustration career with some (hopefully) helpful tidbits about how to help students establish trust in themselves and with art directors, and continued with a critique of the students’ character studies for their book projects. It was such an impressive and talented group; I hope I will be able to see more of their work as it develops.

Just a quick note about Baltimore—also know as “Charm City”—with its excellent museums, deliciously inventive restaurants, and gorgeous architectural gems. Sure, there are some enormous economic and social problems, but it’s a place whose history and potential has really charmed me. With that in mind, I leave you with a photo of one of my favorite spaces in Baltimore, the Peabody Library. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

the story of a groundhog

When my friend, editor Tracey Keevan, asked if I’d like to help her with a belated holiday card to send to her authors and colleagues, I really wasn’t sure if my schedule would allow. 

Then she described what she wanted, and I was hooked. It had been a few months since I’d sent out any promos of my own, and with a small window in between a few large projects, I knew it would be even more months before I’d get my act together for a mailing. I decided if I could figure out a way for the piece to serve me as well, I’d do it.

On the surface, Tracey’s idea was simple: a groundhog in winter, at work on his home typewriter, composing letters. But she wanted a way to personalize the cards with a note of her own. This would be in the form of a separate piece of paper emerging from the typewriter that she could compose, cut out, and affix to the card for mailing. 

I also knew in the interest of time management, I’d have to collage some of the more complicated elements—namely the typewriter and wallpaper. I haven’t done that much in my work, and but it seemed like a really good solution in this case. For Tracey’s version, I added a little holiday card on top of the bookcase which reads “Keevan’s Greetings.” Get it? Here’s the sketch...

I love a puzzle, and this one seemed to satisfy my designer and illustrator brains. But I knew I wouldn’t have time to compose and assemble letters for my entire mailing list of 100 plus children’s book editors and art directors. The card also had to function as a simple two-sided postcard to suit my time-crunched needs.

Lately when I’ve been sending out mailings that aren’t associated with one of my books, I like to tell somewhat of a story with the images. I remembered a painting I did around the holidays of a little village where I could imagine this groundhog fellow vacationing or something. Here it is...

And below is the final product, dummied up with a letter. This was such a fun project, I wrote a really long process blog entry for it. And I think there’s potential for a complete story for this little guy too—I do seem to like painting rodents.

If you’ve read this far, thanks and here’s hoping the little guy doesn’t see his shadow—this winter has been brutal. Happy Groundhog Day!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A look at the year to come

Happy New Year! I hope yours it getting off to a great start. For me, 2014 is already shaping up into a busy year. 

As I mentioned on this page a few months ago, I’m in the process of sketching 2 new picture books that will be released in 2015: The Wrong Side of the Bed, by Lisa Bakos, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons; and Simple Machines, another non-fiction picture book by David A. Adler, published by Holiday House. I look forward to sharing a few teaser images as I get further into the painting process.

And great news! It looks like I’ll be illustrating another book for Candlewick, my World Rat Day publisher. I’ll share more details at a later date. 

My work for Kiwi Magazine continues. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to eat more leafy greens, then the current issue’s “Cooking with Kids” section is just what you’ll need to learn how to clean and prepare kale, minus the army of industrious green peas, of course. 

If you were unable to see the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators over the last few months, you might be able to catch the traveling show. For more information, click here. I was very pleased that my image from World Rat Day was included.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014!