Felix Scheinberger's Urban Waterclor Sketching

Felix Scheinberger’s Urban Watercolor Sketching

Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color by German illustrator Felix Scheinberger.  What a wordy title! Maybe it’s all one word in the original German? – Something like, um,  -“AguaZityKunstenKolor.” *

Detail from a two-page spread about blue. All art © Felix Scheinberger

Detail from a two-page spread about blue. All art © Felix Scheinberger

I found this book quite wonderful, though it might not be ideal for an absolute beginner. Scheinberger does provide how-to lessons on stretching paper, selecting colors, and brushes. The best pages, though, are overflowing with his illustrated musings on the expressive potential of the medium. Watercolor is unfortunately often associated with hobbyists. This book will be a kick in seat of the pants for artists wanting to attempt something bolder, more inventive.

Ivy © Felix Scheinberger

Ivy © Felix Scheinberger

According to the vita on his website Felix was a drummer for various punk bands before studying illustration in Hamburg. That makes total sense, his best drawings have a punkish intensity.

A bold portrait in wash that lets the paper provide the white.

A bold wash portrait lets the paper provide the white. © Felix Scheinberger

He has a section called ‘Pimping Watercolors’ in which he writes, “When you re-wet watercolors, they lose their luminosity. Watercolors are at their most vibrant when they are left to dry without lots of manipulation.” Personally, that’s something I love about working with watercolors, they force you to take a break, now and then, to let the page dry.

Fanciful pageful of bugs displays the brilliance of clean color © F.S.

Fanciful pageful of bugs displays the brilliance of clean color © F.S.


Scheinberger is clearly a globetrotter. He shares one surprising workaround for sketching alpine landscapes in sub-freezing weather. He substitutes vodka or clear schnapps for water when sketching such icy landscapes. He specifically advises against using Jaegermeister and reminds us to wash the brushes thoroughly.

Beer bottles show how a dash of color adds life to a sketch. © F.S.

Beer bottles show how a dash of color adds life to a sketch. © F.S.

Felix Scheinberger has illustrated over 50 children’s books in Europe. Must admit I haven’t seen them, but the work he shares in this volume demonstrates a ferocious talent.

Illustration © Felix Scheinberger

Illustration © Felix Scheinberger

Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color is published 2104 by Watson Guptill, $22.99. Available online and wherever books are sold.

Sketch of House in Transylvania. © F.S.

Sketch of House in Transylvania. © F.S.

* Note: The true title in German is “Wasserfarbe für Gestalter,” or according to Google translate, Watercolor for Designers.

Dino Day Out, cover detail © 2014 Gabby Shelley

Dino Day Out, cover detail © 2014 Gabby Shelley

Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Shelly, class of 2014, shared a coloring book available at Amazon. I asked Gabby to tell us a bit more about the project.

Gabby Shelly, KU Communication Design grad, 2014.

Gabby Shelly, KU Communication Design grad, 2014.

Gabby: “Dino Day Out was created primarily for my Senior Illustration Seminar at Kutztown University with Prof. Denise Bosler. I created it for the class, but also kept in mind that I wanted to make something marketable,– something that was believable enough to hold up in the real world of publishing.”

From Dino Day Out ©2104 Gabby Shelley

From Dino Day Out ©2104 Gabby Shelley

Question: You graduated from KU with a degree in Communication Design, -What were your concentrations?

“Graphics and Illustration, which I tried to combine in this project.”

Q: Where did you intern?

” Lunchbox Communications in Manayunk, PA. I helped to design printed pieces to aid in pitching possible new television shows and documentaries. Their on-staff designers, Leah Houck and Nick Madeja, also went to Kutztown and are awesome people!”

Dino Day Out art © 2014 Gabby Sheeley

Dino Day Out art © 2014 Gabby Shelley

Q: Why dinosaurs?

“Well, I love drawing animals! Drawing people has never really been my thing; it is a lot more fun to draw adorable creatures. And as a little girl I was always more interested in dressing up as a dinosaur for Halloween than a princess. There is also an educational element to the book; there are recognizable dinosaurs along with the lesser-known ones.”

From Dino Day Out © Gabby Shelley

From Dino Day Out © Gabby Shelley

Q: What was the hardest part about the Dino Day Out project?

“There were a few things… I am still struggling a bit to find my style as an illustrator, so drawing different creatures in a cohesive style was difficult for me. Also, there are (obviously) no photographs of dinosaurs, so it can be challenging using other artist’s representations. You have to put a certain faith in them that their drawings are accurate; You also have to be able to compile those references into a generic idea of this creature that lived so long ago, then be able to “cartoon-ize” it. And besides all that, I had to match the right dinosaur with the right activity – their anatomy can make certain positions completely implausible. Try making a t-rex do anything with his tiny arms!”

Playing Cards, designed and illustrated by Gabby Shelley. ©2014

Playing Cards, designed and illustrated by Gabby Shelley. ©2014

Q: What media and software did you use?

“The drawings were done at first with good old pencil and pen. I then scanned and vectored the drawings using Adobe Illustrator. That part went pretty quickly. The book itself is assembled in InDesign.”

Q: Why did you choose the POD (print on demand) publisher Createspace rather than other platforms, like LULU, for example?

“To be quite honest, I had never heard of LULU until now. I only knew about Amazon’s print-on-demand, -Createspace.”

Jack of Spades from Gabby Shelley's Unfriendly Forest deck. ©2014

Jack of Spades from Gabby Shelley’s ‘Unfriendly Forest’ deck. ©2014

Q: What do you have in mind for your next project?

“Ha, my major project now is finding a full-time career in design, or at least some rewarding freelance work in design or illustration. On a personal level, I want to try to improve my hand-lettering skills. I’d like to take a printmaking class, since it never fit into my schedule at KU.”

Monsters of the Deep posters © Gabby Shelley

Monsters of the Deep posters © Gabby Shelley

Gabby’s “Monsters of the Deep” bus shelter ads (above) are based on her original linoleum prints. Visit Gabby Shelley’s website at Behance to see her virtual portfolio book and a wide variety of illustration and design projects. Let her know of any job leads!

Murray Tinkelman awarded the Rockwell Artist Laureate Award.

Murray Tinkelman awarded the Rockwell Artist Laureate Award.

I know of 3 Norman Rockwell Museums*, but only one Murray Tinkelman. The best of the Norman Rockwell Museums, the one in Stockbridge, Mass, bestowed the honor of “Artist Laureate” on Murray Tinkelman this weekend. He is only the third person to receive the honor, after artists Barbara Nessim and David Macaulay.

Self-portrait © Murray Tinkelman

Self-portrait © Murray Tinkelman

Tinkelman’s distinctive pen and ink drawings have gained gold medals from the Society of Illustrators, The NY Art Directors Club, and the Society of Publication Designers. Tinkelman began his illustration career in 1951 inking backgrounds for Sheena of the Jungle Comics. “Just vines and leaves, they never let me draw Sheena,” he said. Now in his 80′s, the man is still as sharp as a push-pin.

Tinkleman did many Sci-Fi and Fantasy covers in the 60's and 70's.

Tinkleman did many classic  Sci-Fi and Fantasy covers in the 60′s and 70′s.

Murray Tinkelman has taught hundreds of illustration students at Parsons School of Design, Syracuse University, and now at the Hartford Low Residency MFA program.  Bob Dahm, a 2007 grad of the Hartford program, rightly calls Murray “a walking encyclopedia of illustration.”

Knight on Rhinoceros, pen and ink, 1971, © Murray Tinkelman.

Knight on Rhinoceros, pen and ink, 1971, © Murray Tinkelman.

I learned that Murray is color blind. He jokes that he prefers the term “chromatically challenged.” Perhaps this explains why his most iconic work is black and white, done with a technical pen and india ink. His Knight on the Rhinoceros was on exhibit at the Rockwell Museum. The drawing is surprisingly large, about 20 inches square. It won the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal in 1971 and led to editorial work for the op-ed pages of New York Times, the Washington Post, and Atlantic Monthly.

58 Caddy, pen and ink © Murray Tinkelman

58 Caddy, pen and ink © Murray Tinkelman

His wife and partner, Carol Tinkelman was by his side during the event, as were their daughters and grandkids. Murray Tinkelman has a lot of accolades on his resume, but it was clear that he was touched by his new title bestowed by The Rockwell Museum: Artist Laureate.

The award is based on a sculpture by Peter Rockwell, Norman Rockwell's son.

The award is based on a sculpture by Peter Rockwell, Norman Rockwell’s son.

Illustration superstars attended the gala award ceremony, including Istvan Banyai, Kinuko Craft, and William Low.  Mark McMahon, who taught with Murray in the 90′s drove out with his wife Carolyn from Chicago. But, Bob Dahm certainly came the greatest distance – from Dubai!

NY Times Op-Ed Illustration © Murray tinkelman

NY Times Op-Ed Illustration © Murray Tinkelman

Many former students, now teachers, were there. Jack Tom and Cora Lynn Deibler came from Connecticut. Deibler is a Kutztown U grad who earned her MFA with him at Syracuse. She recalled Tinkelman forcefully insisting (“He nearly grabbed my lapels!”)  that she never neglect her own creative work for the sake of teaching. That jibes with my first Tinkelman sighting. In 1972 I took continuing ed illustration classes at Parsons in NYC. I never studied with him, but I saw him working in his faculty office on a massive line drawing during his breaks between classes.

Ted Michalowski, Bob Dahm, Murray and Carol Tinkelman.

Ted Michalowski, Bob Dahm, Murray and Carol Tinkelman. (photo courtesy of Bob Dahm)

I am grateful for the pleasure of carpooling to the event with the irrepressible Scranton-based illustrator, Ted Michalowski. During the drive to and from Massachusetts, Ted regaled me with legends of Tinkelman.

Norman Rockwell's art studio, Stockbridge Mass. Photo: K.McCloskey

Norman Rockwell’s art studio, Stockbridge Mass. Photo: K.McCloskey

* NOTE: Years ago I visited the Norman Rockwell Museum of Philadelphia. It is now long gone. I’ve also visited the Norman Rockwell Museum of Vermont in Rutland. It is a sweet little place with some memorabilia and quality reproductions of Rockwell’s work. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass, however, is the real deal. This was my first visit. The museum is substantial and houses an impressive collection of original Norman Rockwells. The view from the grounds of the museum is postcard perfect.


Caitlyn McGurck in the secure holdings are of the Billy Ireland Library

Caitlin McGurk with in the secure holdings are of the Billy Ireland Library

Caitlin McGurk has had the 2 coolest librarian gigs in the world. Now she is at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University. The Billy Ireland is the world’s largest academic research facility documenting printed cartoon art. Before landing this job she was the founding librarian at the Schultz Library at Center For Cartoon Studies in Vermont. She took me deep into the climate-controlled safe room where rare comics are kept. She told me the holding rooms have weapon grade security. (If a door is propped open for 60 seconds cops arrive.) She shared a clipping from an old Mutt and Jeff strip. The collection has 2.5 million such clippings, over 300,000 original cartoons, and so many rare manga volumes that scholars come from Japan come to study their own comic traditions in Columbus, Ohio.

From Bud Fisher's Mutt & Jeff, circa 1938.

Panels from Bud Fisher’s Mutt & Jeff, circa 1938.

Caitlin told me the library is named for Billy Ireland (1880-1935) a beloved editorial cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch. I know little about Ireland’s art. I picked up his biography by Lucy Shelton Caswell and will write more about him in a future post.

Card belonging to Chester Gould, creator of Dick Tracy.

Card belonging to Chester Gould, creator of Dick Tracy.

Dick Tracy © Chester Gould (From Wikipedia)

The Mystery of Chester Gould’s Blackened Drawing Table

Caitlin also shared the strange tale of the table Chester Gould used to draw Dick Tracy. When the table was donated to the collection it was displayed horizontally, its blackened edge on the bottom.

Chester Gould's drawing Table at the Billy Ireland Collection.

Chester Gould’s drawing Table at the Billy Ireland Collection.

The curators logically assumed those carbon black stains were spilt india ink. When Gould’s daughter, Jean O’Connell, now 87 years old, visited Columbus and saw the desk displayed she said, “NO.NO. You’ve got it all wrong!” The blackened edge belongs on the right side, she insisted, as her father positioned the table vertically. He kept a box of kitchen matches on his taboret at his right-hand side. Seems he was always drawing against tight deadlines. When Gould finished drawing a comic strip he’d strike a kitchen match and run it lit beneath the bristol board to dry the ink faster. Caitlin says they checked the underside of Gould’s original art and found carbon marks consistent with match smoke. Jean O’Connell’s memory was correct and her dad’s drawing table is now displayed vertically.

Yukon-Ho cover, ©1989 Bill Waterson, watercolor with ink overlay,

Yukon-Ho cover, ©1989 Bill Waterson, watercolor with ink overlay,

In keeping with Ohio State’s tradition as a land-grant university, anyone can visit the library and see nearly any part of the collection, academic credentials are not required. So if you are a scholar, or just a dedicated fan of a particular comic strip, The Billy Ireland is the place to visit.

Willie Nelson © Richard Thompson on view until 8/3/14 at Billy Ireland Museum

Willie Nelson © Richard Thompson on view to 8/3/14 at Billy Ireland Museum.

Right now the Billy Ireland Museum galleries have 2 exhibitions: Exploring Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson and The Irresistible Force Meets the Immovable Object: A Richard Thompson Retrospective. Both shows will be up until August 3, 2014.

10363481_708167229241311_5049042458637648788_nHours and details of future exhibitions can be found here. Even if you can’t get to Columbus, the Billy Ireland blog is a great resource worth exploring. The galleries at Billy Ireland are free and open to the public. There is admission charge for the Wexner Center for the Arts, which is next door and well worth a visit.


Tom Corbett Space Cadet rocket on display.

Tom Corbett Space Cadet. Wow! That’s my Governor’s name!

We will leave with one final image from the amazing Billy Ireland collection. The original artwork for The Legend of Wonder Woman #1 by Trina Robbins …

Wonder Woman © Trina Robbins, Billy Ireland collection, Ohio State University.

Wonder Woman © Trina Robbins, Billy Ireland Collection, Ohio State University.

Trina Robbins at PIX, photo 2014 Kevin McCloskey

Trina Robbins at PIX, 2014, photo by Kevin McCloskey

In the 1980′s I drew the occasional cartoon for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, an alternative weekly newspaper. Trina Robbins, the great underground cartoonist, drew a strip for them, too. We never met until last month at Pittsburgh’s PIX comics convention. Trina is the foremost expert on the history of women in comics. Her newest book, Pretty in Ink: North American Women Comics 1896-2013, published by Fantagraphic, is the definitive work on the subject.  She showed me the hefty book. It is an impressive and important volume. I ordered a copy for Kutztown’s Rohrbach Library. Any school with an illustration major or a women’s studies major should order a copy for their library, too.

Illustrator Rose O'Neill became a millionaire  with her invention of Kewpies.

Illustrator Rose O’Neill became a millionaire with her invention of Kewpies.

Rose O’Neill

A free sample chapter from Pretty in Ink can be found here.  It is a quite fascinating chapter about the Irish-American Rose O’Neill. O’Neill began her career in her teens, so young that nuns would chaperone her visits to Manhattan art directors. O’Neill’s 1896 comic strip may have been the first ever published by a woman. Her most famous creations were the Kewpies and the Kewpie doll, cupid-like sprites she claimed visited her in her dreams. She was the first woman to draw for Puck and in 1917 the first woman inducted in the all-male Society of Illustrators.

Rose O'Neill

Rose O’Neill

She studied abroad, including sculpture lessons with Rodin. She held great parties at her Washington Square townhouse studio in Greenwich Village. The press described her as one of the 5 most beautiful women in the world. She managed to be a suffragette, a sex symbol, and a doll-maker.

Detail of a father at wit's end by Rose O'Neil. Puck Magazine, circa 1900, from Bonniebrook Historical Archives.

Father at Wit’s End, detail, Rose O’Neil. Puck, circa 1900, Bonniebrook Historical Archives.

O’Neill’s pen and ink drawings for Puck are brilliant. The Rose O’Neill Museum, Bonniebrook, in the Ozarks in Missouri has an archive of hundreds of images, like the one above, worth exploring.

Mary Blair

Poster for Mary Blair exhibit at Disney Family Museum San Francisco

Poster for Mary Blair exhibit at Disney Family Museum San Francisco

When I told Trina Robbins I taught the history of graphic design, she challenged me to tell her which female illustrators I included in my lectures. At the moment the only woman I could think of of was Violet Oakley, who painted the magnificent murals in the Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg. Then Trina asked me if I taught about Mary Blair. Mary Blair? I had to admit I’d never heard of her. Trina shook her finger at me and told me I owed it to my students to look her up. She told me Blair is the subject of a show at San Francisco’s Disney Museum. (Full disclosure, I didn’t even know there was a Disney Museum in S.F.)


I did look up Mary Blair and learned she created much of the concept art for Disney’s greatest animated features including Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Blair’s Little Golden Books are enjoying a renaissance as new readers appreciate her timeless style. Blair, who died in 1978, was inducted this year, 2014, into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

Mary Blair concept art for Alice in Wonderland.

Mary Blair concept art for Alice in Wonderland.

I asked Trina Robbins if it was hard finding historical information about women in comics. She said the research was tough in the beginning, but once she published her first essays, people came out of the woodwork to share comics by women. She had more to say in this 2008 interview at the International Museum of Women site.  “I knew that there had been more women cartoonists, and the guys would always justify their attitudes by saying, ‘Well, women just don’t draw comics. Women have never drawn comics.’ And I knew that wasn’t true. So I did a lot of research and, of course, I was right. I found hundreds of women cartoonists. Really, really great women cartoonists.”

I’m happy I got to meet the legendary Trina Robbins. It is quite wonderful the definitive history of women in comics is written by a woman practitioner. I will read Pretty in Ink cover to cover and add more slides of women’s work in my historical survey of graphic design class. I promise.

Rosie the Riveter © Trina Robbins

Rosie the Riveter © Trina Robbins

Visit trinarobbins.com to learn more about women in comics. Trina has a free gift for visitors, an ebook, The Golden Age Comics of Lily Renée. The entire 200-page book is available in multiple formats, Kindle, Ipad, or pdf.  Who is Lily Renée? –Another of those amazing women artists Trina Robbins wants the world to appreciate.

Comic Art by Lily Renée, learn more at TrinaRobbins.com

Comic Art by Lily Renée, learn more at TrinaRobbins.com




Kutztown University is offering an affordable opportunity to study  in Oaxaca, Mexico with Prof. Kevin McCloskey. Oaxaca may the best place for a visitor to experience art in all Mexico. This beautiful colonial city is famed for its markets, street art, and printmaking studios.

Oaxaca Street scene, art by Arte Jaguar. photo ©K.McCloskey

Oaxaca scene, street art by Arte Jaguar. photo ©K.McCloskey

Students will experience many things they can’t do in Kutztown. For example: We’ll climb and sketch ancient pyramids. Visit a papermill that makes fine art paper from indigenous plants. Work with local artists. Drink spiced hot chocolate in the lobby of the chocolate hotel.

Corey Reifinger sketching a pyramid in Queretaro,  Mexico

Corey Reifinger sketching a pyramid in Queretaro, Mexico, 2008.

Located high in the mountains of Southern Mexico, January weather in Oaxaca is typically sunny with highs around 80°F

CDE 375: Drawing on Location in Oaxaca is a 3-credit Communication Design Elective. A hand’s-on course, students will complete a sketchbook documenting their personal response to the travel experience. Includes a 3-day relief printmaking workshop in a fully-equipped artist’s studio. Field trips to museums, markets and historical sites will provide immersion in the unique cultural traditions of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca Street art by Swoon. photo © K.McCloskey 2012

Oaxaca Street art by Swoon. photo © K.McCloskey 2012

The cost?  For in-state (PA) undergrad tuition, airfare, shared accommodations, printmaking workshop, museum entries, and daily breakfasts should total approximately $2,400. Out-of-state students’ will be need to pay more. (Fees must be approved by KU council of Trustees.)

Young girl in one of Oaxaca's many parades. photo ©K.McCloskey 2012

Young girl in one of Oaxaca’s many parades. photo ©K.McCloskey 2012

Prof. Kevin McCloskey has been visiting Oaxaca for over 30 years. In 2007 he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to study the visual arts of Oaxaca. He received a second NEH fellowship in 2011 to explore the visual culture of the Maya regions of the Yucatan and Belize.

Kevin McCloskey with one of his woodblock prints at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca.

Kevin McCloskey with one of his woodblock prints at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca.

He has written extensively about Mexican political prints. He has curated eight exhibitions of Mexican prints across the U.S, notably at the Fowler Museum, UCLA. In 2012, he was invited to Princeton University to lecture on Mexican prints at the Woodrow Wilson School of International Studies. Here are two of his recent  articles on the Oaxaca art scene, one at Project Bly, one at Printeresting.

Interested students can email for more info: mccloskey@kutztown.edu


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As noted in prior post, December grad Melissa Rae Reinbold, who goes by Mellen, landed a job a Crayola.

Mellen, photo by Ben Hallman

Mellen, photo by Ben Hallman

She also was awarded the Don Breter Award for Best Illustrator in KU’s class of 2014. I sent Mellen a few quick questions about her success in landing such a great job. I’d heard folks at Crayola were impressed with how she incorporated her zines into her portfolio.


Q. What was the book you sent to Crayola?

Sketchbook spread from Mellen's self-promo book.

Sketchbook spread from Mellen’s self-promo book.

A: The book I sent to Crayola was an original Pop-Up book I handmade (one of ten) that talked about who I was and what I do best… Illustration + Design!

Mellen included her zines, like 'Bediquette" in her self-prom pop-up book.

Mellen included her zine ‘Bediquette” in her self-promo pop-up book.

Q. What is your job title?

A: Freelance Illustrator.

Mellen tipped in her Zines, like Tonight, in her self promo book.

Pages from the  small zine “Tonight” in her self-promo book.

Q. How did day one go?

A: Day one went very well. I was given my own desk (so fancy) and learned how to log into my company email and calendar. They explained the servers they use and how to access them. I also started working immediately on creating digital mock-ups for store displays and more! Everyone was very friendly, and employees came over to my desk throughout the day to introduce themselves.

3 talented KU illustratos at MOCCA '13. Hannah Stephey, Lauren Gillespie, and Mellen.

3 talented KU illustrators at MOCCA ’13. Hannah Stephey, Lauren Gillespie, and Mellen.

Q. Was there something you meant to say to current students in your recent ‘Taking the Plunge’ talk that you didn’t get to?

A: I meant to say a lot of things in my Taking The Plunge talk that completely slipped my mind. Here is a list of cool stuff I completely skipped over :

- Explain where I was earlier that day. -In Brooklyn, New York filming February’s Creative Mornings talk. I do this work through Hallman Productions, a videography company run by my boyfriend, Ben Hallman. Creative Mornings is a great project to be a part of, overflowing with creative people within the industry!

- Explain creative and freelance jobs (some not in my “field”) I held before Crayola and how they helped me (not only monetarily) but also to prepare for a full-time job.

from "The Mountain" illustrated storybook © Mellen

from “The Mountain” illustrated storybook © Mellen

- Explain how many, many, many, many people told me NOT to pursue illustration as my concentration. I was told on so many occasions that I’d never get a job with a portfolio full of tons of illustration. Illustration is what I love though, so I ignored their warnings and went for it.

An illustration concentration does not mean all you can do is draw. I have many skills, and they showed through. Even in my illustration heavy portfolio.

Coraline cover, a  KU class project. © Mellen

Coraline cover, a KU class project. © Mellen

This year Kutztown University is fortunate to have truly exceptional illustration talent in our senior class. Congrats to Mellen, a December grad, and congrats to the other talented illustrators graduating in just a few days. 

from Tuesday © David Wiesner

from Tuesday © David Wiesner

The great children’s book illustrator Davis Wiesner (WEEZner) came to Kutztown to talk at the 16th annual KU Children’s Literature Conference. The 3-time Caldecott Award winner visited a Communication Design class to share his art and creative process.

David Wiesner sharing his work with Kutztown University students.

David Wiesner sharing his work with Kutztown University students.

Oddly enough, he considered attending Kutztown University but was put off by our art test used in our admission’s process. Instead he attended RISD, Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied with great illustrators including David Macaulay.

March 1989 Cricket cover by David Wiesner

March 1989 Cricket cover by David Wiesner

One of his illustration jobs after college was a cover for the kids’ magazine Cricket. He said he always enjoyed the art school assignments that were the most vague, and this magazine assignment was wide open. The editor said there were several stories about frogs in the issue. Once he began sketching, he discovered, to his great delight, the shape of a frog centered on a round lily pad resembled the classic flying saucer seen in cheesy 50′s science fiction films.

From Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, 1956, © Columbia Picures

From Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, 1956, © Columbia Picures

His cover was a hit and David was inspired to take the imagery further into a full 32-page children’s picture book. The resulting nearly wordless book, Tuesday, won the Caldecott Medal for the best U.S picture book in 1992. David shared his four stage process of book creation. Stage 1: Storyboard, rough little pencil thumbnail sketches of all pages that will appear in the book. Stage 2: a dummy book, or prototype made to the same scale as the final. Stage 3: Detailed drawings for each page.

Stage 2 and 3: dummy, then finished drawing © David Wiesner

Stage 2 and 3: dummy, then finished drawing © David Wiesner

Compare the dummy to the final drawing and you will notice the houses are a lot more detailed. This is because at Stage 3 he gets serious about his image research. In this case, he found photos of homes in Provincetown, Mass, to serve as models from the neighborhood under aerial amphibious attack. He also constructs clay models like the frog below to help him envision the final image.

model by D. Wiesner

Frog model by David Wiesner

Stage 4: is the final exquisite watercolor painting. For Tuesday he used traditional transparent watercolor, (no black or white gouache) applied with kolinsky sable brushes. He makes his own low-tech graphite carbon paper to transfer his finished drawing to stretched Arches cold press watercolor paper.

Detail from Tuesday © by David Wiesner

Detail from Tuesday © by David Wiesner

This was a wonderful opportunity for our KU students to interact with one of the great masters of the childrens’ picture book. David Wiesner is a very busy artist. He is working simultaneously on two big projects now: an interactive tablet-based tale, and his first full-blown graphic novel. The graphic novel is a collaboration with writer Donna Jo Napoli. It has an octopus in it; I can’t say any more.

David’s own web site, www.davidwiesner.com  has much more information about his creative process. I was especially blown away by his step-by-step documentation of the development of one single page from his picture book, Art & Max.

Kevin McCloskey meets Box Brown at MOCCA Fest, 2014

Kevin McCloskey meets Box Brown at MOCCA Fest, 2014

I met cartoonist Box Brown at MOCCA. He is the creator of my new favorite book, Andre the Giant.

K.Mc: Is there a big comics scene in Philadelphia?

Box: Yeah, pretty big. There is the Philly Comix Jam, a monthly meeting of artists at a bar. Anywhere from 10 to 40 artists show up. It’s been going on for about 5 years now. There’s about 5 or 6 comic shops in the area and a few small conventions. I hear about new artists all the time via internet and stuff. too. Of course, Charles Burns also lives in Philly but he’s not really part of the comics “scene.”

From 'Operation Pizza' by Box Brown

From ‘Operation Pizza’ zine by Box Brown

K.Mc: Did you study illustration, take a course in cartooning?

Box: I didn’t r-e-a-a-a-l-ly study art formally, at all. I just started drawing comics one day in my 20′s and slowly got more and more interested until finally one day I decided to pursue it in earnest. I was really inspired by James Kochalka to do a diary comic strip in 2005 and since then I’ve drawn at least one comic page a day. I did take Tom Hart’s continuing ed. comics class at SVA twice in a row.

From 'Beach Girls,' a Retrofit Comic by Box Brown

From ‘Beach Girls,’ a Retrofit Comic by Box Brown

K.Mc: You created Retrofit Comics. Promoting and working with other artists must take time away from your personal work, but did it pay off for your personal career?

Box: Well, I think ultimately it’s raised my profile. I made money the first year, lost money in year two, and then found a business partner who knows what he’s actually doing. So, at this point I’m only editing really, whereas before I was doing every thing including shipping. I think working with other artists this closely has been really beneficial to my own work.

Sticker by Retrofit Comics artist Jack Teagle.

Sticker by Retrofit Comics artist Jack Teagle.

K.Mc: Willing to share something about the economics of your comics income?

Box: It’s hard to say where money comes from. Ha-Ha! Lately, I’ve been doing freelance poster design and other illustration jobs as they come. I have hopes that Retrofit will again turn a profit (at least enough so I can get paid again). Selling my personal zines and stuff helps too.

From his store at www.boxbrown.com

From his store at http://www.boxbrown.com

K.Mc: How much does the sale of original art help?

Box: Over the past year original art sales have become a decent amount income, believe it or not. It’s not constant, but once in a while it’s a great boost.


K.Mc: How did it come about that Andre the Giant is published by a major publisher?

Box: At one point I had a literary agent who was trying to sell my “Everything Dies” project as a graphic novel. Through that process I got to meet my editor at First Second. So, when I started working on Andre and conceived of it as a long book I sent Calista (my editor) an email submission (along with other publishers) and :01 liked it. (Note :01 stands for First Second Books .)
K.Mc: Can I take images from your site, like your round self-portrait and one of your original pages for Andre?

images-1Box: Yeah, no prob.

K.Mc: Got some advice for students who want to break into to indie comics?

BOX: Work. Work. Work. Self-publish! Self-publish the hell out of everything you can. Online, zines, go to conventions interact with other artists, get on twitter and follow your favorite artists and interact with the community. Read comics a lot, immerse yourself in the culture. If after a decade you feel it wasn’t a worthwhile pursuit you can give up.

Beginning in May, Box Brown will be on his Andre the Giant tour. He will visit Kutztown University on Sept 17. He will be speaking in Sharadin 120 at 7pm. Free and Open to the Public.tumblr_n2n429DbmZ1qlps06o1_500




I was reading multiple great books: a novel set in Mexico; a literary biography; a history of the U.S invasion of Iraq. Then I opened a padded envelope to find a review copy of Box Brown’s Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Those other books got thrown out of the ring.

From Andre the Giant © Box Brown

All drawings from from Andre the Giant © Box Brown 2014

Looking at the title and cover art, I expected a quick, fluffy read. This book is much more than that. Andre the Giant is a serious biography that reads like a graphic novel. It is a series of fantastic vignettes from the life of Andre Roussimoff (1946-1993.) Andre’s eventful life is artfully woven from the whole range of human experience, at times funny, poignant, ridiculous, noble, generous, tragic. This gentle giant was, by and large, a wonderful human being, but he also could be a big jerk, especially when he got drunk. Box Brown has done a brilliant job of portraying Andre’s multidimensional life.

Andre the Giant in late 1980's from Wikipedia

Andre the Giant in late 1980′s from Wikipedia

Box Brown says in the book’s frank and philosophical introduction, “The idea of truth in professional wrestling is certainly elastic.” He also explains that as an artist he had to improvise dialog and envision scenes he never witnessed to tell the this “true” story.

From The Princess Bride

From the cult film, The Princess Bride

I was only dimly aware of Box Brown’s work. I knew he was a Philadelphia-based zinester who had some success using Kickstarter to produce Retrofit Comics. His deceptively simple illustration style is perfect here. His line drawings of Andre are spare, with just enough tonality to impart a sense of mass. He artfully designs the pages so that often his drawings of Andre fill individual panels to capacity.


There is a lot aspiring cartoonists can learn from a careful observation of Brown’s style. Consider the two panels above where the narrator’s voice overlays the ring announcer’s speech balloons. I first noticed this multi-track cinematic effect in Daniel Clowes’ work. You don’t see this in the works of a novice.


Brown ends the book with a complete bibliography. He clearly enjoyed his research, reading obscure wrestling magazines and freeze-framing Wrestlemania DVD’s.  For me the story rings true. I never saw Andre wrestle, but I did see Gorrilla Monsoon wrestle Bruno Sanmartino in Asbury Park. And I just watched a midnight showing of The Princess Bride at Kutztown’s Strand Theatre. Sure, he was typecast, but Andre did great as the giant, Fezzig. According to Brown’s book, making The Princess Bride was one of the happiest time in Andre’s life. It shows.

I have been raving about this book since the moment I finished it. My daughter is pleading with me, “Dad, Can you please stop talking about Andre the Giant?” I guess I can’t.

Next post we will have a brief interview with Box Brown. Hope to get him to visit Kutztown next fall. Andre the Giant will be published in May by First Second Books. Ask your local indy bookstore to order you a copy.

UPDATE: Box Brown will share his story of Andre the Giant at Kutztown U, Weds. Sept 17 – 7pm, Sharadin Arts Building Rm 120. Free & Open to the public. He will bring books to sell and sign.


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