I know I promised to eschew advertising on my blog but, come on, people, it’s in my blood! I can’t help it. So here’re a few announcements, updates and, yes, ads about things I’m doing that you might like. to know about.
The gist: Sketchbook Skoolkourses are now available on-demand rather than by semester. Sign up and plunge in any day of the year. We’re like Orange is the New Black — but with a full palette of colors.
• Next, an exciting announcement: we have just completed the final nips and tucks to the design of Shut Your Monkey: How to control your inner critic and get more done and it heads to the printer next Tuesday! You can preorder your copy today, however.
• My other new book, the Art Before Breakfast Workbook has just come back from my editor and I am ready to continue work on the design phase of the book. It looks quite gorgeous already, I must say.
• On Saturday night, I will strap myself into a Lufthansa flight to Switzerland to work with the students, teachers and parents of the International School of Basel. I have been working on lots of little films and projects to inspire them and can’t wait to see the art we make together during my artist-in-residency.
I am also excited to see Basel which I hear is brimming with dozens of amazing museums. I also plan to eat chocolate. I’ll post news of my trip here, maybe even before I get back.
• Next, I will RyanAir to Rome to spend a few days with Jack who has just begun his semester abroad (he’s in Abruzzo today). He has promised he will take me to his favorite places to draw. We also plan to eat pasta.
After three years of thinking and writing, Shut Your Monkey is finally complete. The words are written, the illustrations are completed and the layout is stunning. We just sent the final files to my editors this week and the book will soon head to the printer and be in your hands before Thanksgiving.
The hardest part of creating a new book is working out the cover design. No matter how many fancy adjectives I’ve used, no matter how many revisions I’ve written, in the end, we know the book will be judged by the cover.
I don’t usually read my books for a long time after I write them. I’ll have some occasion to look back and read what I wrote and the experience will be quite odd. Sometimes it will seem familiar, and very much me. At other times, I’ll think, “Did I really say that?”, sometimes with pleasure, sometimes with dismay.
Often I am possessed by some other version of me when I write, a version that is a co-creation of the book itself, the inexorable march of ideas and words that surge forward as I write at length, ideas taking on their own voice, connections stopping out of the shadows. That’s one of the prime pleasure of writing, how the process takes over.When I wrote a novel a few years ago, I was constantly surprised at things the characters said, at the way bits of plot came full circle to tie up ends, at the life the story had quite beyond me.I sometimes think back on the characters, wondering how they are now, as if they lived on even though I stepped away from the keyboard.
I can have the same feelings when I draw. I begin with an impulse of what sort of drawing I want to make but invariably where I end up is pretty different. Making a drawing, like writing, is an exploration, an adventure. The destination is subject to change. My mission is to discover myself. And sometimes what I find may be pretty unfamiliar and surprising.
I write my books. But I read them too. And I hope I’ll always get lost in their pages, lost so I can find something surprising and new.
My uncle Michael published half a dozen books. Everyone in our family prominently displayed their set. A foot-long row of familiar spines standing proudly together — his books, his name repeated across them. I envied the pleasure I imagined that gave him, that cube of honored real estate.
I made my first book when I was six. A stack of deliciously thick paper. The smell of library paste, a smell I can taste (probably because I did). A clear plastic sleeve filled with a rainbow of markers. Brass paper fasteners.
I treasured the pleasures of bookmaking. Carefully lettering my name on the title page. Alternating pages of drawings with pages filled with large, neatly penciled letters. Numbering all the pages. Making up the front matter: the publisher, the copyright, the dedication. Conjuring up blurbs from my favorite authors to put on the back.
My biggest regret: my books never had a proper spine. I couldn’t run my name and title and the Dewy Decimal number down the edge. It didn’t look right on the shelf.
But that was a minor blunt to my pleasure. I was still “an author”.
A half century later, whenever I visit a book store or a library, I always, eventually, wind up looking for my books on the shelf. I can spot them from across the room, familiar faces in a sea of stripes, like spotting my son on a crowded playground.
No matter how many books I publish or sketchbooks I fill, that boyhood thrill is still there. I love the shelves of books I’ve made, all together, spines aligned like little soldiers.
Oh, BTW, I am soon gonna add a new spine to my collection. Shut Your Monkey: How to control your inner critic and get more done is in the design/illustration phase and will soon head to the printer. It’ll be on the shelves of your local bookstore this fall.
An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers is my newest book, a collection of illustrated journals from 50 different artists. It’s 272 pages of four-color inspiration at an amazing price! Buy Now From Amazon
Maybe it’s because of my initials, but when I was little, I was determined to become a vet when I grew up. In fact, I got my first job at the age of 11, working for a vet at the local dog pound. It was only when I was in high school, and proved abysmal at Chemistry, that I realized I’d have to take another career path.
At any rate, I have always loved dogs. The dogs I loved the most weren’t the Lassies and the Benjis, the dogs that rushed to the rescue and did tricks and were cute and cuddly. No, my favorites were the ones that got into trouble, that showed character and individuality, the dogs that are bad.
For the past few months, I have been concentrating on drawing bad dogs of all types. And, inspired by Ogden Nash and Edward Gorey, I’ve been moved to write some little poems about dreadful pooches.
All of which leads me to the surprise part.
I love my new publisher and can’t wait for An Illustrated Life to come out this Fall. In fact, I am so impatient for a new book that I decided to print up a limited edition book on my own, collecting about forty pages of those bad dog drawings and painted ripped from my sketchbooks.
This little book is only a limited edition. It’s four-color and I am really happy with the quality of the printing. I think it really captures the intensity of the watercolors I’ve been doing. Some of the drawings are done with a Rapidograph but most were drawn with a dip pen and they have a good energy that captures the mischief nature of their subjects. There’s a lot of experimentation with the quality of the line and the way I’m using color. It’s a bit of a departure for me, an intense exploration of a single topic but the folks who’ve seen it so far think it’s pretty funny and beautiful.
So, as part of this publishing experiment, I’ve decided to share this little book, Bad to the Bone, with my readers. I’m selling it more or less at (a super-low) cost, because I’m interested to see if this is a good way to make and share books. If you like it and want me to make more books of this sort, let me know and I’d be willing to give it a go.