Archives for posts with tag: children’s books

Loni Sue Johnson is an an illustrator who has had enormous success. Her whimsical watercolor illustrations graced the pages of the NY Times and six memorable New Yorker covers. Then one day in 2007 she fell ill with viral encephalitis, a rare condition, sometimes carried by mosquitos and ticks. She survived the virus, but large portions of both sides of her brain suffered devastating neurological damage.

Drawing from the Right and Left Side of the Brain:

Her mother, Margaret, invented drawing games to rehabilitate Loni Sue. She would draw a partial drawing then ask Loni Sue to complete it. Very gradually Loni Sue began to draw again. Shown artwork by famous artists she had studied in school, like Vincent Van Gogh, Loni Sue failed to identify the artist. But shown her own artwork, pre- or post illness, she recognized it immediately as her own creation. This suggests how very deeply one’s drawing style becomes ingrained in one’s self-identity.

Watercolor childrens' book illustrations © Loni Sue Johnson

Watercolor children's book illustrations © Loni Sue Johnson

An exhibition originally organized by Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum can be seen at Morven Museum and Gardens, Pricenton, NJ, through June 3, 2012. It is a wonderful show. Two Johns Hopkins University scientists, Dr. Barbara Landau, an old friend of Loni Sue, and Dr. Micheal McCloskey have been studying her art.

Loni Sue Johnson drawing, from the the Johns Hopkins video, link below.

Most illustrators are familiar with Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  Dr. McCloskey describes Loni Sue’s recovery portfolio as a sort of scientific detective story. The left brain/right brain divide may be more porous than we thought. There is a remarkable short video at the exhibition, in which Dr. McCloskey states, “I think if we were to make a map of the brain which showed which parts of the brain were important for art it would be pretty much the whole brain.”

Loni Sue on NPR: Radio seems a nutty way to consider illustration, but Guy Raz’s poignant interview with Loni Sue and her sister Aline is well worth a listen.

detail from Morven Museum announcement. Art above © Loni Sue Johnson 2011

See more of Loni Sue Johnson’s art via the links on her blog.

photo courtesy Jonathan Bean

Once upon a time, a young man named Jonathan Bean  stopped by KU’s beloved old Communication Design House. This must have been nearly a decade ago. He was a recent grad from Messiah College in central PA with a small portfolio and large ambitions. He was wondering about topping off his bachelor’s degree from Messiah with a BFA in illustration from Kutztown. Of course, we might want to steer a talented young artist toward Kutztown University, but I find a second bachelor’s degree redundant. Like adding a side of cheese fries to your cheese steak. At KU a second degree, especially now with our new gen ed requirements takes three more years of schooling.

In my opinion, a recent grad who wants more illustration classes is better off earning a two-year MFA in illustration. That’s the advice I gave Jonathan. They have a limited residency MFA at Marywood in Scranton called Get your Master with the Masters,  for example. Jonathan decided to apply to SVA, The School of Visual Arts, my alma mater, in NYC. Flash forward to 2011: He has recently moved back to nearby Fleetwood, PA and he stopped on campus earlier this semester to tell me how it went. It worked out OK.

New book by Lauren Thompson, Artwork by Jonathan Bean

He has no regrets about going to SVA. It was expensive, for sure, but he found living and working in New York City exhilarating. He also said he was very lucky to be part of a really talented and supportive MFA class. On his website he has links to his SVA classmates’ work, including Paul Hoppe and Taeeun Yoo among others.

Jonathan has had great success as a children’s book illustrator. He is already working on his twelfth children’s book. His most recently published book is One Starry Night, a retelling of the Christmas Story (the original one with the birth of Jesus, not the one where Flick’s tongue gets stuck to light pole.) One Starry Night is written by NY Times bestselling author Lauren Thompson. The text is nicely complimented by Jonathan’s deceptively simple art. To my eye his work harkens back to the classic style of Wanda Gag. Kirkus Reviews calls it “an artistic tour de force. ” The Society of Illustrators has honored Jonathan by including artwork from One Starry Night in their current exhibition, on view through Dec.29, 2011.

At Night, words and watercolor paintings © 2007 Jonathan Bean

He wrote and illustrated At Night, a Boston Globe Horn Book Award Winner. Here is what the NY Times said about At Night, “Bean’s debut as an author is sweet and resonant, as calming as a mug of warm milk…he captures the solitary sense of being the last one awake…the peacefulness that comes with discovering a restful space of one’s own.”

Sketchbook page from ©2011 Jonathan Bean

Take a look at his website. He has had many more accomplishments than the few described above. It is wonderful to see the well-deserved success of this talented young man. Hopefully, we can get him to visit our illustration classes this year at Kutztown.

Elaine Cunfer, Kevin Cornell, Matt Twombly, and David Bullock

We had a full house, an audience of 177, for the David Bulluck Return of the CD Grads. Prof. Elaine Cunfer deserves a lot of credit; she did a great job organizing the event. Both speakers shared their passion for illustration. Matt Twombly talked about his internship at Marvel Comics. A highlight of that experience was a personal portfolio review from Joe Quesada  Marvel’s editor-in-chief. He also talked about the four months he had to move back to his parents house, before landing his job at Science Magazine. He had some good news to share. At the end of this month Matt begins a brand new job for National Geographic. In his free time Matt is creating his own Western-themed comics.

copyright © 2011 Matt Twombly

Kevin Cornell punctuated his presentation with fond recollections of KU. He showed a hand-written index card on which I had scrawled a note,” Kevin, you have  12 recorded absences and I only took attendance 22 times. This is an insult to the concept of a studio class!”

Over lunch at the Tavern Kevin graciously told me I was on the mark with the criticism. During his presentation he said that students can’t expect to be “taught illustration” by a professor. One needs to do lots of work to gain illustration skills. He also had other painful truths, like, “Don’t expect your first job to be glamorous.”

Kevin illustrated Moustache! written by Mac Barnett, a brand new book published by Hyperion-Disney. So new, that it arrived in the KU bookstore on Friday, one day after the Return of the CD grads. Check it out. Kirkus Reviews praised the artwork “Cornell ushers the story forward with cinematic artwork, framed in elaborate medieval-like borders, but paced sequentially like a comic book.”

from "Moustache" © artwork 2001 Kevin Cornell

Poster by Kim Beyer. KU CD, class of 2012

Kevin Cornell and Matt Twombly will present their artwork at “The David Bullock Return of the CD Grads,” Thursday October 20, from 1 until 3pm.  Location: Kutztown’s McFarland SUB, Alumni Auditorium. These are two very successful guys who do very different sorts of illustration. Some samples are posted here, but you should really check out their websites, by clicking on their names above.

Sketch by Kevin Cornell © 2010

Why is it called the David Bullock Return of the CD Grads? Professor Emeritus David Bullock was a founder of the CD dept and the longtime chair, so the event is named in his honor. Among his many contributions to the CD curriculum, Prof. Bullock developed the History of Graphic Design class. Prof. Elaine Cunfer works hard to put this popular annual event together, and this year the focus is on illustrators.

Comic page 2010 Matt Twombly

All C.D. student are expected to be there, but there will be extra seats and the public is welcome.  For C.D. students with class conflicts, this is like a field trip. KU CD faculty will ask faculty across campus to allow you to make up lost classwork. There will be pizza and drinks available prior to the event at 12:30. Prof. Cunfer has thought of everything.

Giraffellow, © 2007 Kevin Cornell

Kevin Cornell’s brilliant, entertaining, and award-winning web site, gets several thousand hits some days. The artwork above was plucked from his massive gallery. Kevin has illustrated several books including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Matt Twombly’s web site, is brand new and it showcases his illustration, comics and graphic design projects.

Life after KU and Weis Markets:

From series, "How to Get Fired from Weis Markets" © 2009 Matt Twombly

We often do a project in illustration classes, a staple of illustration programs everywhere, the old “How To… instructional illustration.’ We see a lot of “How to use Chop Sticks, Check your Oil, How to Back Up your Hard Drive.” Matt Twombly worked at the local supermarket while he attended Kutztown. I recall seeing him restocking yogurt in the dairy aisle. I guess he didn’t like it  much. He did a wild series of illustrations on “How to get Fired from Weis Markets.” He now works as a designer for Science, a Washington, D.C. based publication, and he loves his job. He gets to do a new illustration for Science nearly every week.

The illustration Concentration blog has written about both of these talented individuals before. If you missed those entries read more about Kevin here, and Matt here.

Dallas Clayton & KU CD Student Janaya Buck.

Update: The Awesome Happening announced below already happened. It was a sunny morning in Kutztown. St. John’s PreSchoolers,  Kutztown Elementary students, and lots of KU students joined Dallas Clayton for a morning frolic on the lawn. Dallas was a hit. He gave away, by my count, something like 180 of his Awesome books! We didn’t even give him gas money, Let’s hope his generosity boomerangs back at him a hundred times over. We’ve added one photo of the event above, and will add more soon.

Does the name Dallas Clayton ring a bell? KU illustration student Janaya Buck is a big fan. When she heard about the L.A. writer / illustrator’s Awesome Back to School Tour she invited him to visit Kutztown. You are invited, too, this Weds, Sept 14 at 11. The official room is SH 209, opposite the dean’s office in Sharadin. The classroom may not be big enough, in which case we will spill out into Sharadin’s awesome atrium. If the atrium isn’t big enough, we will spill out onto the lawn. If the lawn isn’t big enough we will go dance in the awesome fountain.

Dallas Clayton's book tour stopped at Borders, perhaps a bit late.

Clayton self-published his first children’s book, The Awesome Book. It was so successful Amazon decided to partner with him. Now he has another book, The Awesome Book of Thanks. Both are available for free on the internet. If you buy a book, he donates a book to a bookless child in a hospital or shelter somewhere in the world. This buy one, give one, philosophy is contagious. First, there  was Tom’s Shoes, then the retro eyeglass site  Warby Parker sent over 50,000 pairs of glasses to needy people worldwide.  Now Dallas Clayton is doing it with books. I’ve never used the word paradigm, and I’m not going to start now, but something is happening, and it may be, um, awesome.

From what I see of Dallas Clayton he is in sync with the New Sincerity Movement. “New Sincerity ” according to Wikipedia, “is a term used in music, aesthetics, film criticism, poetry, literary criticism and philosophy,  to describe art or concepts that run against prevailing modes of postmodernist irony or cynicism.”

Clayton’s illustration style is charmingly simple: it reminds me a bit of the great Shel Silverstein. So, unless you are a postmodernist cynic, please join Janaya Buck in welcoming Dallas Clayton to Kutztown’s campus.

Note: Apart from Janaya Buck’s poster, all artwork © Dallas Clayton from the websites: and


Where the Wild Things Are, © 1963 by Maurice Sendak, all rights reserved.

Rohrbach Library is having a Maurice Sendak exhibition,”In a Nutshell.” Best known for his 1963 book Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak created over 90 remarkable illustrated books. He is still working and has a new book, Bumble-Ardy, coming out this fall. There are a number of local events associated with the Sendak show. Here is a website with more info. I’ve highlighted some of the noteworthy FREE events below.

His newest book, Bumble-Ardy, © 2011, Maurice Sendak

Sept 1: 7:00 pm. Opening Reception. Rohrbach Library. Illustrated talk by Patrick Rodgers, Sendak scholar and Curator at Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum. Rodgers has interviewed Maurice Sendak and has many stories to tell about the great man.

Still from Spike Jonzes' film, Where the Wild Thing Are (2009, Warner Bros.)

Sept 9: 6:30 pm. Free movie, a feature film based on one of Sendak’s most-beloved books at the Louisa Gonser Library. Note: this local public library is in Kutztown, but not on campus. It’s near Young Ones. Enjoy the 2009 Spike Jonze film and a chance win a copy of Sendak’s new picture book, Bumble-Ardy. Kids of all ages welcome.

Sept 24: 10:00 Am-Noon. Rohrbach Library. Rumpuspalooza for Kids! Games, crafts, treats, KU Performing Arts Series tix, the Scholastic Book Fair, and a big Wild Thing—all part of KU’s Family Day.

Author 'Lewis B. Montgomery' is a pseudonym for Kutztown's Mara Rockliff (right)

Oct 5: 7:00 pm. Rohrbach Library. Children’s Publishing 101: Meet Kutztown resident and author Mara Rockliff along with illustrator and KU BFA Grad, Amy Wummer. Editor Juliana Hanford will also be there. This is the creative team behind the popular Milo & Jazz Mysteries. They will offer an inside look at how kids’ books are made. Bring your questions about illustrating and writing for the children’s publishing industry.

In a Nutshell runs from Sept 1 to Oct 14. KU Librarian Bruce Jensen has created a special web library guide about Sendak and the exhibition. It has extensive links to interviews and essays about Sendak.

Illustration from Digging the Yucatan

Jean Charlot was born in Paris in 1898. His name is pronounced in the French manner, something like “Jahn Sharlow.” Oddly enough, Charlot was a great Mexican illustrator. His mother was from Mexico and after World War I, she returned to Mexico with her son, Jean. By that point he was a young man, having served in the French Army during the war and studied art in Paris. In Mexico City he began teaching printmaking and writing about Mexican art history. He sought out the great muralists and befriended artists who sometimes didn’t get along with each other, Siqueiros and Rivera, for example. He worked with Diego Rivera on several monumental mural projects. He spoke and wrote in fluent French, Spanish, English. He also spoke Nahuatl, one of Mexico’s many indigenous languages.

Illustration from Digging the Yucatan

Charlot was an influential member of the Taller Grafica Popular. The TGP, or Taller de Grafica Popular (Workshop of the Peoples’ Graphics) printmaking collective was founded in Mexico City in 1937. The TGP still exists today and is well worth a visit. I wrote about my 2009 pilgrimage to the TGP here in the webzine, There I held original prints by Charlot in my hands, including the one below. Like most TGP prints it is unsigned, but I have little doubt this is his work.

Worker: unsigned woodblock print attributed to Charlot photo: K.McCloskey, 2009

20th Century Mexican artists, Charlot included, did not look down on illustration, the way most North American painters did. Until Andy Warhol, many U.S. fine artists denied ever doing illustration, even when they had done it well. Edward Hopper, for example, was a notorious denier.

In 1926, Charlot was one of the official artists hired by the Carnegie Institute’s Maya Expedition to document the excavations at Chichen Itza. He later illustrated Ann Axtell Morris’s bestselling book for young adults about that expedition, Digging the Yucatan. The bold silhouette-style illustrations reproduced here are examples of his extraordinary genius. Clearly, the two years he spent in the Yucatan drawing copies of Maya murals and relief sculptures made him the ideal candidate for this assignment. These images are remarkable for their unusual use of white space. I’ve reproduced a few with the text included to give a sense of the book’s dramatic page design.

Illustration from Digging the Yucatan

Illustration from Digging the Yucatan

Charlot’s life was so eventful I can’t even scratch the surface of his accomplishments in this note. I hope to write more about him soon. Interested readers should visit the web site of the Jean Charlot Collection at the University of Hawaii.

Credits: Art from Digging in Yucatan came the Jean Charlot Collection web site. Copyright statement from that site: This material is copyrighted 2001 by John Charlot, the Dorothy Z. Charlot Trust, and the Jean Charlot Estate. The text of these web pages may be reproduced in whole or in part provided that proper credit is given and reproduction is not for commercial purposes.

Above: Watercolor of Jean Charlot’s quarters at Hacienda Chichen Itza by Kevin McCloskey, July 14, 2011.

Craig Frazier has a great illustration studio website.

art © C. Frazier from

Beyond that, he also has a wonderful blog about children’s picture books called 36 pages. I heard him speak at an illustration conference in Philadelphia, PA, around 2003. He is an interesting artist. The art shown at right, lifted from his blog, demonstrates that he is at the designerly end of the illustration spectrum. You probably have used one of the postage stamps he’s illustrated. I do admire how Frazier manages to convey complex concepts with deceptively simple figures and sparse landscapes.

I often use one of the exercises he shared in Philadelphia in my Visual Thinking class. He is the guy who came up with the idea of taking four inches of black drafting tape and cutting it up and placing it down on a white rectangle to make graphic representations. The paper should be roughly twice the size of the tape’s total area. Use all the tape!

I find 3 X 5″ index cards work well for a surface. This is a nifty exercise in composition and balancing black and white.

I’ve done three examples below. Actually, I did six this morning; these are the best of the lot. Craig Frazier gives much better examples in his book, The Illustrated Voice. It is worth looking for.

Black Tape Exercise #1, K. McCloskey 2011

Black Tape Exercise #2, K. McCloskey 2011

Black Tape Exercise #3, K. McCloskey, 2011

Thanks to Craig Frazier for letting me share this exercise!

Mara Rockliff, is a talented and prolific children’s book author who lives here in Kutztown, PA. She sent me a note to share with illustration students about a scholarship opportunity from SCBWI. That is the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators. They have grants for students to attend their NYC or L.A. conferences. Details on the SCBWI student scholarships are here. Next deadline is Nov.1.

Mara Rockliff’s most recent book is Get Real: What Kind of World Are You Buying.  -“This frank, teen-friendly manifesto reveals what you’re really buying when you spend your money on a burger, a cheap t-shirt, or a cell phone–and points the way to better choices, both for people and the planet.”

By the way, a number of Mara Rockliff’s chapter books (written under the pseudonym Lewis B. Montgomery) have been illustrated by a Kutztown U grad, Amy Wummer. A portfolio of Amy’s artwork can be seen here.

artwork by Amy Wummer ©2011, from her online portfolio, link above.

Beth Krommes recommended joining SCBWI when she was on campus last month. I must admit I am no longer a dues-paying member of SCBWI. I did attend their NYC conference one year, and I’ve also participated in the portfolio day SCBWI holds at the Society of Illustrators. Personally, I found the Society of Illustrators event more worthwhile. The conference I attended was at the Roosevelt Hotel and for an added fee I was able to set up an easel on a table. I felt it was overcrowded and claustrophobic, like a science fair on steroids. At the Society of Illustrators a limited number of artists participated. Illustrators could leave a portfolio, cards and other promotional material on a table. Then artists leave the premises for a couple of hours. When you come back, you count your promo cards to see how many have been taken and look. Ideally, an art director has left an encouraging word or requested a meeting.

A nice thing about SCBWI is that they have an active Eastern PA chapter. Here is a page  where you can check out local member/illustrator’s work. SCBWI has much info, (like market tips) that is password protected for members only, but they do also have useful info for interested visitors on their main site.

Another valuable site for anyone interested in illustrating children’s books is the Children’s Book Council. They are a trade group composed of many of the best and most reputable publishers. I find their members list page is especially worthwhile. That’s where you will find if publishers are even considering submissions. Like SCBWI some of the CBC site is password protected, but much of the info is freely available.

Jerry Pinkney speaking to KU Communication Design students

In 1992, nearly 20 years ago, Prof. Elaine Cunfer and I went to Philadelphia to hear Jerry Pinkney speak. Mr. Pinkney was being given a lifetime achievement award by Drexel University. If he had been struck by lightning, or hit by a bus that day in Philadelphia his place in the pantheon of great children’s book illustrators would have been secure.

Cover art for 'The Lion and The Mouse' © Jerry Pinkney 2009

He hasn’t rested on his laurels in the past 20 years he has amassed many more awards, including a silver and gold medals from the Society of Illustrators, multiple Coretta Scott King awards, five Caldecott honors, and the ultimate prize in children’s book illustration, The Caldecott Medal in 2010. That Caldecott was for The Lion and the Mouse, his wordless retelling in watercolor of the classic Aesop’s fable set in Africa.

Illustration students getting advice from Jerry Pinkney

He has had three major museum shows at the last year including one in Lancaster at the PA College of Art and Design. He had a show at the Schomberg in NYC and a major retrospective at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts.
There is no doubt Jerry Pinkney’s artwork is suitable for framing. We even exhibited his artwork at Sharadin Gallery during the Dornish Collection exhibition. Some curators don’t believe illustration belongs in gallery. In some cases this is an old elitist fine artist aesthetic bias. A reasonable argument can be made, though, that his artwork is best seen in print, in a book, in the context of illustration. Not to diminish the achievement of his museum shows, but watch someone in a gallery the stop and look at a picture. Count, one, two, three, I find most people look at an individual picture for about 5 seconds max.

Cover art, The Old African, © 2005 Jerry Pinkney

Jerry Pinkney is a master of line, color, and composition.  His work rewards those who take the time to look at it longer that 5 seconds.

Now try this. Read one of his books to a youngster, someone 5 years old, in his target audience.  Children’s eyes will linger over every page far longer than the gallery-goers eyes might. When you try to turn the page, the child might turn it back to look at it longer. Children know greatness when they see it.

Mr. Pinkney gave an informal slide talk to Communication Design students. Dean Bill Mowder of the College of Visual and Performing Arts helped fund Mr Pinkney’s visit to KU Children’s Literature Conference. I sensed that a number of these CD students realized they were in the presence of greatness. Mr. Pinkney talked about his early career. For a time he worked at Rust Craft Greeting Cards in Boston. Insurance rules kept the illustrators in their studio space, far away from the onsite printing presses. He  said he would sneak down on occasion. He loved to watch the magic of mechanical reproduction, and “loved the smell of the ink.”

My favorite anecdote was from earlier in his career.  Young Jerry Pinkney, aged 12, had a newstand in the Germantown section of Philly. Between sales he would sketch the view of the shops across the street. One day a cartoonist named John Liney stopped by the newsstand and admired these sketches. He invited the newsboy up to see his studio and gave him a handful of art supplies. John Liney was the man who drew Henry, a comic strip originated by Carl Anderson. Henry was one of the most popular newspaper comics of the time. Pinkney warmly recalled the studio visit that gave him the ‘first glimmer of an idea’ he might be able to make a living as an artist.

John Liney's Henry, illustration from Wikipedia.

By the way, there is another blog by a KU faculty member, Dr. Marty Rayala of Art Ed & Crafts. It is called andDESIGN. Clearly, Dr. Rayala is much more efficient that I am. His posts about Jerry Pinkney and Beth Krommes have been online for two weeks already. He calls andDESIGN -“the online magazine for people interested in Design Education in K-12 schools.” It is well worth a look.


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