Archives for posts with tag: children’s books

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.

from The House in the Night © Beth Krommes, 2008, used with permission.

Beth Krommes was born and raised just over the hill in Emmaus, PA. She recalls applying to study art at Kutztown State College. Her portfolio was accepted, but she chose to go to Syracuse University, in part, because it was further from home and she longed to travel. After her undergrad painting degree there, she earned her Masters from U Mass, Amherst. She got to travel abroad when she studied for a year at St. Martin’s School of Art, London.

She and her husband have raised two daughters in New Hampshire. Today she works full-time as a children’s book illustrator out of her home studio. It the past she has worked at a wide variety of jobs, including that vanishing occupation “public school art teacher.” She was a secretary, an art director for a computer magazine, and has even worked in retail as the manager of a fine handcraft shop.

from The House in the Night © Beth Krommes, 2008, used with permission

Beth Krommes visited Kutztown this weekend for the KU Children’s Literature Conference. She gave three presentations, including one for local school children and one for the university community. She then thrilled conference attendees, mostly teachers and librarians, when she passed around her actual 2009 Caldecott Medal. Named for the great Randolph Caldecott, the medal is awarded annually to the finest picture book illustrator. At least one local librarian was moved to tears to hold the Beth’s medal in her hands.

Beth Krommes Caldecott, photo courtesy Kim Beyer

Beth Krommes is master of several media, including wood engraving. It is a very detailed, labor intensive way of making pictures. Wood engraving is one on the oldest forms of reproducing art. Today the medium is having something of a renaissance. Wood engraving is the refined cousin of woodblock printing. Engraving needs to be done on the end grain of the wood. Actually, Beth explains the process quite well at her website,  Below is a sample her wood engraving. You can see and purchase individual limited edition prints here.

Rooster © Beth Krommes 2004, Wood engraving, edition of 200

Since wood engraving is so time-consuming and unforgiving, her recent illustration work is done on scratchboard. Scratchboard has a similar look to wood engraving since it, too, is a subtractive way of making a high contrast illustration. If you want to learn more, a visit to her website will reward you with more information about her scratchboard technique, and a link to her moving Caldecott speech.

Beth ended her Kutztown conference speech with some tips for aspiring illustrators which I’ve taken the liberty of copying from her website:

1.  Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (the SCBWI). This professional organization is dedicated to those who write, illustrate, or share an interest in children’s literature. There are more than 22,000 members worldwide.

2.  Read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold D. Underdown. Of the many available books on this subject, this is my favorite.

3.  Read Writing With Pictures — How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books by Uri Shulevitz.  I especially like the chapters on designing a book.

Above is a picture of KU CD student Cheryl Sheeler signing a copy of her illustrated KU Lit conference poster for Beth Krommes. As Cheryl would say, How cool is that?

Amazing enough, Beth Krommes wasn’t the only Caldecott winning illustrator on campus last week. Next week I will write something about our other distinguished visitor, Jerry Pinkney.

What’s SpongeBob Really Like? is the most visited page on this blog. KU grad Amanda Geisinger, web designer of’s SpongeBob site, told us she can fiddle with SpongeBob art, but only a few select artists are actually permitted to draw SpongeBob. Of course, Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of all Bikini Bottom’s characters, is in that category. But who else?

An search reveals over 650 results for the term “SpongeBob” in books and at least a dozen illustrators. I was amazed to find these titles: SpongeBob RoundPants, SpongeBob SantaPants, SpongeBob SpookyPants, SpongeBob PartyPants and WhoBob WhatPants? Based on the cover art by Clint Bond, it seems our mellow yellow hero becomes a nudist in  SpongeBob NaturePants!

Seems I’m always reading 3 books at once. I am working my way through Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom and two SpongeBob Books. (If read concurrently with SpongeBob books, anything else seems rather dry.)

I’m reading  A Very Krusty Christmas by David Lewman and The Art Contest by Steven Banks. These choices are not random, but rather based on my background as a Santa turned illustration professor. Both books, it turns out are ably illustrated by NY-based illustrator Robert Dress. Dress’s blog is a lesson in illustration; the fluid line drawings that fill his many moleskine sketchbooks are a joy to behold. I wrote to him and he was good enough to answer a few questions.

From A Very Krusty Christmas, art by Robert Dress, Simon Spotlight/Nickelodeon

What is SpongeBob really like?

Robert Dress: “Um hmmm…I’ve never met Stephen Hillenburg.”

Has SpongeBob changed your life?

R.D. “Changed my life? Yes, he’s allowed me to work with some amazing illustrators and art directors at Nickelodeon.”

Identify SpongeBob's inspirations or go back to Art History class. (answers below ) art by Robert Dress from The Art Contest, 2009, Simon Spotlight/Nickelodeon books

What is the project you enjoyed working on with him the most?

“I love just sketching him and getting into how he’s feeling and reacting to a situation. He’s an emotional guy which makes him fun to draw. Because his eyes are so large he’s not too hard to get expressions out of. One of the hardest things to do when your drawing a character like SpongeBob is to pull out genuine feelings and the eyes are the most revealing features.”

Pencil sketches by Robert Dress, Spongebob and Patrick © Viacom

Can you share any sketches?

I have some sketches of him on my blog somewhere you can look at.”

Sincere thanks much to Robert Dress for his quick responses. As he points out, he is one of many  artists privileged to work with SpongeBob. He also wrote that he wasn’t permitted to dicusss future projects, but we hope to see more of his work. By the way, Stephen Hillenburg, SpongeBob’s creator, doesn’t do many interviews, but made exceptions for his alma mater, Cal Arts, here, and the Washington Post.

(SpongeBob’s paintings inspirations: Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Edvard Munch’s Scream, Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, and Jackson Pollock. The cover, above, channels Rene Magritte’s Son of Man.)

All SpongeBob characters are © copyright Viacom International and used here for review purposes only.

Pavlov, the real dog, photo courtesy Howard Campbell

Howard Campbell first told me the story of the real dog Pavlov at Zandunga, a restaurant in Oaxaca, Mexico. Pavlov is a bright and fun-loving dog, who learned a lot through positive psychological reinforcement. Pavlov had belonged to his late brother. The photo above shows Pavlov at George Campbell’s grave. Howard asked me to illustrate a children’s book he wrote about the shaggy hound. Below is how I drew Pavlov based on that one photo.

Pavlov, drawn in ink, colored in Photopshop @2010 Kevin McCloskey

Howard Campbell, PhD, of the University of Texas, El Paso, is an interesting guy. As an anthropologist he is one of the foremost experts on Oaxaca’s Zapotec culture. He also has the considerable courage to document the most terrifying stories of the border region in a new book, Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juárez. Alma Guillermoprieto’s recent essay The Murderers of Mexico in The New York Review of Books called this work “so breathtakingly sensible as to amount to genius.”

He told an El Paso newspaper writing the drug book was an “arduous process because of the delicacy of the topic and the need to handle it with scientific rigor.” A Dog Named Pavlov, on the other hand, he calls a “labor of love,” a memorial to his brother loosely based on his beloved and energetic dog.

Pavlov as a Puppy

For me, it was fun trying to draw Pavlov as he grew from puppy to adult. Technically, I got to try something different. I sketched in ink on paper until I got the right likeness, then scanned the ink drawing. I open the drawing in Photoshop. There is mode in Photoshop called Multiply. Basically, it makes my ink drawing into layer that can be “back-painted.”  I used a Wacom tablet rather than a mouse to lay down the color. The end result is much like an animation cel.

Pavlov at Play

A Dog Named Pavlov, Un Perro Llamado Pavlov, is a bilingual, Spanish and English children’s book published by Stanley Publishing of El Paso, Texas. The 44-page paperback tells just a bit about the famed Russian scientist, Pavlov’s namesake, then launches into the story of the shaggy dog’s life. Most bookstores should be able to order a copy in time for Christmas, but the quickest way to get a copy if you’d like one is to order direct from Stanley Publishing though this link.


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