Renee French Illustrator Update Updated Even Further

Renee French courtesy Guillarme Paumier, Wikipedia Commons,

Update 1/7/11:  NYC Exhibition Extended through Jan 22, 2011. See gallery link for more info: Adam Baumgold Gallery.

We’ve had over 3,200 visitors to this blog in its first five months. Thanks to the way WordPress works I’m able to see which search terms people used to get here. “Renee French, Illustrator.” is one of the most frequently searched terms. Folks enjoyed our email interview with Renee. Thanks to Dr. Tom Schantz we have some updated news about Renee to share below. Oddly enough, a lot of people also search for “French Illustrator” and end up on this blog because of Renee’s surname. I feel sorry for these people. Renee is from New Jersey.

French Illustrator, Tomi Ungerer, from

Okay, Okay, if you are looking for a French Illustrator, check out Tomi Ungerer. The man is a genius. He has his own museum in Strasbourg, France. Just this week Prof. Cunfer walked into my office with a wild Tomi Ungerer book that she found in the Reading Terminal Market. I’m so glad she reminded me of my favorite French illustrator.

Back to Renee French, illustrator and KU grad. Her latest book, H Day, got a thoughtful review from  comics scholar Douglas Wolk in the NY Times. It appeared around Halloween, appropriately enough: “Renée French’s graphic novels … tend to split the difference between adorable and horrifically gross. The wordless H DAY , its cover informs us, addresses “her struggles with migraine headaches and Argentine ant infestation.” Wolk also notes, “You can skim through the whole thing in about four minutes or spend hours puzzling over how it all fits together.” You can read the entire review just as it appeared in the NY Times here.

Here’s how the NY Daily News explains H Day“Renee French’s first graphic novel in four years, the artist illustrates her struggles with migraine headaches and Argentine Ant infestation through her haunting pencil drawings. H Day can be read both as an oblique autobiography and as a suspenseful fantasy story.”

You can meet Renee French and get a signed copy of H Day on Monday, Dec 6 at 7:00pm at The Strand Bookstore, New York, NY. She’s doing a book talk with Myla Goldberg. The Strand now has 18 miles of books. They must have a whole wall of French illustration.

Slug Girl @ Renee French 2010


Renee shared another bit of exciting news with Dr. Schantz. One of her characters is going to be turned into an Japanese designed action figure. In this case, it is more like an inaction figure, Slug Girl. Just in time for the holidays the resin cast figure will debut at the Galley Meltdown in L.A. this November. According to Renee, Slug Girl is “based on a drawing that was part of a series of little girls and rabbits with various ailments and prosthetics.”

The first edition of Slug Girl is limited to 100 pieces. Details at the Gallery Meltdown blog. Renee French continues to amaze. Check out her blog.Renee French’s one woman show will be up Adam Baumgold Gallery, 60 E 66th St, NYC starting on Dec. 7 through Jan. 15.  Gallery hours: Tues. thru  Sat, 11:00 – 5:30. The gallery is closed for the holidays Dec. 23 to Jan. 1.  An extensive selection of her works from the exhibition can be viewed at the gallery website.

What’s SpongeBob Really Like?

SpongeBob© Copyright 1999 Viacom International Inc.

“He is much more multidimensional than I expected!”

Amanda Geisinger knows SpongeBob better than most of us. She designs the Official SpongeBob website.

Amanda’s job title is “Web Designer” at Nickelodeon’s “” She stopped by the Communication Design Dept. last week on a rainy Friday. Originally from Stowe, PA, she graduated from KU in 2008 and gave one of the most memorable commencement addresses ever. During her speech she spoke about being a stellar art student in high school. Her art teachers and guidance counselors advised her against KU, saying, “You’re so good! Why aren’t you applying to a real art school? (Alas, some high schools are biased against state universities.)

Today Amanda has her dream job. She has a Manhattan skyscraper office on the 33rd floor with a Hudson River view. Her high school teachers were right about one thing; she is good. (So is KU’s Communication Design program.)

from Amanda Makes Things © 2010 Amanda Geisinger

Amanda’s Mom always asks her what she does, so she created a blog called Amanda Makes Things. It is filled with quirky personal cartoons, sketches and photos of New York City. Amanda likes WordPress, the same blogging tool we use here. Though she does websites for a living, she likes the simplicity of WordPress during her leisure time.

Originally Amanda got to Nickelodeon via an internship she found herself. When she first got the internship, she knew nobody in New York City. Illustrator Brian Selznick was visiting KU just before she moved to the city. Amanda asked him for housing advice and he actually hooked her up with a sublet in hip Williamsburg. After the internship, she got hired by Nickelodeon Magazine. When that magazine shut down, she says it was traumatic, but she landed on her feet at the website,

At Nickelodeon magazine she was the “Comics Designer,” and worked with famous artists including Jeff Kinney, creator of the Wimpy Kid. She has worked with many famous cartoon characters. I asked her, “What is SpongeBob Squarepants really like?”

SpongeBob© Copyright 1999 Viacom International Inc.

“He is much more multidimensional than I expected. One of my jobs at was to watch every SpongeBob episode from the last ten years to select screen grabs for the website. So, I’ve seen a lot of different sides of SpongeBob. He’s great to work with.” She recently designed the SpongeBob Mystery page in two days.

Only a select group of approved illustrators are permitted to draw SpongeBob, but Amanda is allowed to design using their approved artwork. An example being this SpongBob button:

Advice for students? Amanda: “Figure out exactly where you want to go. Go for your dream internship. It worked for me! It can happen, because they don’t have to pay you. Try to work for free after you graduate and they will think you’re crazy.”

I asked Amanda for three pieces of advice for illustrators. Number one: “You absolutely need a web site. It doesn’t have to be fancy. At the magazine we never looked at an illustrator without a website, and for each job we looked at hundreds of illustrators. Sites need to be simple to navigate.” Amanda says it is best to avoid using Flash, the Adobe software which doesn’t allow “grabbable” images. Amanda explains she often needed to grab files to share with an art director.

Number two piece of advice: “Don’t underestimate old-fashioned forms of contact. Good postcards, for example, are keepers. Just make sure to have a web address on the postcard.”

Number three: “Location doesn’t matter as much as it used to, however, it is good to be in the same time zone as the client.” She has worked with illustrators from Europe and Asia, but illustrators in the same time zone have one small advantage, – art directors know when they should be awake. So, wake up, illustrators!

UPDATE: Since SpongeBob gets so much interest, I contacted Robert Dress, a freelance illustrator for several SpongeBob books. Read more here.