Brett Helquist visit

Brett Helquist signing a book for Kimberly Beyer, illustration student.

Brett Helquist, illustrator, visited Kutztown in April during the 2010 KU Children’s Literature Conference.

Best known as illustrator for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Brett Helquist’s personal success story sounds like a series of fortunate events. He grew up in the tiny red-dirt town of Gonado, Arizona. While he was studying at Brigham Young University in Utah, his one elective art class led him to change his major from Engineering to Art. There he met NY-based illustrator Robert Neubecker.  Neubecker, an avid skier, came to BYU as a visiting artist, in part, because of its proximity to world-class skiing.

Helquist eventually moved to NYC and Nuebecker offered him an internship. Helquist fondly recalls the moment he stepped off the plane in New York and he felt the city’s amazing energy, something he had experienced just once before on a mission trip to Hong Kong.

He found work as a production artist for Martha Stewart Living and freelanced illustration on the side. His client list grew to include Ranger Rick and The New York Times. Then one day he got a call with an offer to illustrate a book by an unknown author with the unlikely name of Lemony Snickett. This was his first book job ever, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Helquist has since illustrated many books, including Milly and the Macy’s Parade, and a picture book version of Dicken’s Christmas Carol. He wrote and illustrated Roger the Jolly Pirate. He generally works in oil paint on watercolor paper. He shared with students the architectural photo reference he personally shot in Chicago and many, many preliminary sketches that led to the cover art for the book Chasing Vermeer. Upcoming projects include illustrating a book by the legendary Neil Gaiman, entitled Odd and the Frost Giants.


Matt Twombly Science Illustration

artwork©Matt Twombly 2010

Matt Twombly did two internships while at Kutztown, one at the Allentown Morning Call and another at Marvel Comics. He won the Don Breter Illustration Award when he graduated in December of 2008, entering into the worst job market in decades. He found work in Washington, D.C, as an Art Associate at Science , a weekly magazine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general-science society. His primary job at Science is as an editorial production artist in the news department, but he has also done a number of original illustrations for the magazine.

Staying Afloat (above) is a conceptual illustration for a story about science funding. Matt says the news story was about “a breakdown of how federal stimulus money was being used so that university science programs, could ‘stay afloat’ and ‘weather the storm’, so to speak. ”

“Ocean Diversity (below) was the opening image for a story about why there are far fewer species in the oceans than on the land. Something like 85% of visible species live on land. There are several theories as to why this is, and the story goes into some details, but for an effective banner image, I just went large and tried to show the stark contrast between speciation in the sea and on the land.”

Asked about his working methods, Matt says, “Both illustrations started with pencils. In the case of these two, I inked them by hand as well, then scanned them and I did colors in Photoshop.”

Besides his work at Science, Matt has also found time to collaborate on a comic book project with a writer he met at Marvel, Karl Bollers. At this point they don’t yet have a publisher, but Matt will keep us posted.

Gary Phillips wins Illustration Award

Gary Phillips is the recipient of the 2010 Pennyslvania School Librarians Outstanding Author/Illustrator Award. He is a Kutztown University Communication Design grad (BFA 1982) and has also occasionally taught illustration classes here. His illustrated childrens’ books include Animals are Sleeping and 86 Years: the Legend of The Boston Red Sox. He has done freelance artwork for magazines including Ranger Rick and Highlights for Children.

The Outstanding Pennsylvania Author / Illustrator Award is presented annually to recognize a creative individual who is a present or former Pennsylvania resident or whose work represents or reflects Pennsylvania and who has made a notable contribution to the field of literature for youth.

To give an idea of the company the Gary has joined here is a random selection of previous PSLA Award winners: James Michener, Jerry Pinkney, Aliki, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Jerry Spinelli, Mr.Rogers, and Lloyd Alexander.

“The Pigeon Guys” illustrated by Kevin McCloskey Free E-Book


I had fun doing the illustrations for The Pigeon Guys: Recollections of Vinnie Torre and Lynne Earing. Click on the title above to download the entire 40 page book in pdf format for free. It is part of the Vanishing Hoboken Series, made possible by a grant from the John Wiley & Sons Publishers, and in this case, the Hudson County Pigeon Club. The text is an edited version of a Lisa Sartori’s interview of Vinnie and Lynne. The art director/designer is Ann Marie Manca. Bob Foster contributed additional photos.

The Hoboken Historical Museum publishes this wonderful series of little booklets on all things Hoboken. You can also download more  chapbooks including my favorite title- I’d Rather Lose a Clam than a Customer, Recollections of Michael “Brother” Yaccarino. The Hoboken Oral History Project is edited by the brilliant Holly Metz, who years ago collaborated with famed illustrator Sue Coe on the graphic novel How to Commit Suicide in South Africa.

I used to live in Hoboken, so I drove in to see my brother Brain and he joined me for a tour of Vinnie’s loft one spring morning. Vinnie and Lynne graciously posed for sketches and told us some amazing things about pigeons. For example, mother pigeons nurse their young!  I know it is unbelievable, but go ahead google pigeon milk, or ask your local ornithologist.

That morning in Hoboken reminded me why I love illustration, because it is about sharing interesting stories.

-Kevin McCloskey

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