Friday, March 28, 2014

Yeti Wash

Okay, so here's step 2 of my Yeti illustration. A slight watercolor wash. Just two colors, brown and blue, to fill out some of the shapes and give it a little texture. The image is now a mid-tone that I can work lighter and darker.

I'm starting to realize painting a Yeti in the snow, among white trees,  is sort of like the old "polar bear in a blizzard" painting.

From here on out, the painting will go digital. I may try a few different lighting scenes, to see what works best.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Building a new portfolio

If you've ever clicked through the PORTFOLIO link on my main page, you've seen my agent's site Shannon Associates. You've probably also noticed that the images in that portfolio have not been updated for...quite a while.

For the past few years, I've been so busy creating graphic novels, that I've neglected my work portfolio. I wish the graphic novels paid all of my bills--they don't. In fact, most years, at least half (sometimes more) of my income comes from illustration only--not projects I've written. Book covers, interior art for chapter books, textbooks, products--you name it.

Unfortunately, my illustration work has been a bit dry lately, due in large part to my non-up-to-date portfolio.

So I'm creating some new pieces--custom pieces--for my portfolio. Here is step one of an illustration of a Yeti chasing a skiing kid.

These are two things I've never done an illustration of: a skier and a Yeti.

This is black Prismacolor pencil. I'm trying some new techniques--the next step will be some watercolor washes. That'll be up tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guest post from a 4th grader

This drawing was shown to me after a school visit about Napoleon, Jefferson, and the Louisiana Purchase. It is by a 4th grader who enjoyed the assembly.

If you can't read it, it says, "I have bought ze moon! YAAAA!

I like the little pistol pocket. Who am I kidding, I like EVERYTHING about this.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Meet the Provost, and some news!

Here's the Provost!

Fun news this week. ONE DEAD SPY has climbed to #3 on the New York Times Hardcover Graphic Novel list! Number THREE! That's only two spots away from the top! If you have been waiting for a good week to pick up ONE DEAD SPY, this would be that week. Do it!

And along with that fantastic news, it's official: Hazardous Tales books #5 and #6 have been ordered by the publisher. The Research Babies are eyeball deep in research right right now.

It's a big week!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

2nd Graders and Leprechauns

I happen to be traveling at the moment and I don't have access to my scanner or my handy-dandy computer drawing system. My plan was to draw some blog posts with my iPad this week, but I'll start that tomorrow. Today, I'm giving you a rare peek into my school visit presentation.

Since getting into graphic novels and US history, my school visit audience is usually 3rd-8th graders. I don't visit many K-2nd grade classes anymore--which I did when I was doing mostly picture books. Today was fun, though, because I got to do my old picture book presentation. The finale is a group effort where the students help me draw a monster, or, since it was St. Patrick's day, a leprechaun.

I have a marker and an oversized piece of paper on an easel. I start with the head, and take suggestions for each monster part down to the feet, and then we name him/her/it. Since these are leprechauns, they all have the classic hat and belt--and a last name starting with "Mc".

These are what three separate groups of 2nd graders came up with:
 Fishy McShamrock has chickens for arms, and fish tails for feet.

 Gorilla McDonald has "wavey" fingers, and also "wavy" feet.

Fanae McWilliker has five arms and frogs for hands. We couldn't figure out how she eats with frog hands, or if she feeds herself by letting the frogs eat.

I've done this drawing exercise with kids for years. It's very strange to see the shifts in specific body part requests. Four years ago, there was not a SINGLE monster that didn't get a "Uni-brow". Kids were insane for the "uni-brow." More recently, it's been mustaches. Today's had a strange similarity, pointy noses and zig-zag mouths. All three groups, not knowing what the other groups had chosen, asked for those two traits. I drew them differently, so the monsters--I mean leprechauns--would be different when seen together.

Another odd similarity is animals for limbs. I was stunned at the weirdness of "chickens for arms", and then the third group asked for "frogs for hands."

I don't know what any of it means. But it's interesting.

As I'm posting these leprechauns, there are a few hundred 2nd graders who are writing stories about them for homework. The frogs for hands issue is now theirs to work out.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Quiet Celebration

One Dead Spy is now on it's second week on the NYT bestseller list. We've moved up to #4! And Batman got his revenge (a Batman book has jumped to #3).

Along with our celebration, we'd like to send out a big THANK YOU to everyone who bought ONE DEAD SPY--you put us on this list!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The author is too stunned to post

This is the New York Times best-seller list for graphic novels (hardcover).

Look at number 5.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dark Souls Day part 3

Another day of Dark Souls with me and Uly.

What is Dark Souls, you might ask, and why am I making posts about it here on my blog about children's fiction? It's a Playstation game--and it's my favorite video game series of the last decade.

It's Japanese, it's incredibly difficult and frustrating--just like the games I played as a kid. There's very little dialogue, no cut-scenes, no story arc, just grueling dungeons that test your skill and patience. My son and I have fairly difference tastes, but we can agree on this. This is our favorite game series ever.

My son's been sick with a cold for the past two days, he stayed home from school, so we have logged some serious hours passing the controller back and forth.

For long-time blog-readers, the long-ago Land Of Doom story (about surviving children's book publishing) was partially inspired by the first game in this series, Demon's Souls.

I'll do one more for Friday, then we'll move onto more wholesome topics. I know kid-lit fans are big fans of violent video games.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dark Souls day part 2

Our Dark Souls II special edition arrived. We stayed up way too late playing.

First boss: Defeated

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dark Souls Day

Today is a big day for my son and I. The sequel to our favorite video game, Dark Souls, comes out! Here we are, wearing our in-game armor, waiting for the UPS truck to bring our Special Edition Dark Souls II.

Uly's wearing the Havel armor and the Dark Knight Greatsword. I've got the Elite Knight armor gear and my trusty Lightning Shotel.

It's rare that I do fan art, but today's a special day.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Meet the Spy!

It's an oldie, but a goodie. MEET THE SPY, this was only seen by a few when the HAZARDOUS TALES series launched back in Summer of 2012. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Story of Tiny Rapunzel part 3

We launched Rapunzel and watched to see if other publishers would print large too. They did not. Everybody went smaller--this was right when the Wimpy Kid books started blowing up. That size, or thereabouts, became the golden size for middle-grade books.

One theory was that kids thought of large books as picture books--in other words, large books were for little kids, little books were for large kids. Middle-graders want to be anything but "little kids."

The middle-grader graphic novel shelf shrank to fit the smaller-sized books. Some of these shelves were too small for Rapunzel.

So, when the time came for reprinting a new edition of Rapunzel's Revenge (and Calamity Jack) we decided to go smaller. I was excited for a new edition, and suggested we do new covers. Not because I disliked the old covers--I just love alternate covers. Rapunzel never got an alternate paperback cover, I thought this would be a good time to repackage the books with a snappy new cover. Here's one sketch:

In the end, the alternate cover idea didn't take, and we stuck with the old, classic covers.

Now you know the story! What do you think of the new small versions?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Chimp says, "This is boring."

This chimp is wondering why I'm rebooting the blog with such a boring story.

C'mon, guys, nothing is more interesting than graphic novel format sizes!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Story of Tiny Rapunzel part 2

When we started Rapunzel's Revenge, I had never drawn a graphic novel, Shannon and Dean had never written a graphic novel, and Bloomsbury US had never published a graphic novel.

We had to make it up as we went.

The new generation of American middle-grade graphic novels had just started. There were a few books from Scholastic--graphic novel versions of GOOSEBUMPS, and the Babysitters Club, as well as reprints of Jeff Smith's BONE series. Kazu Kibiushi's first AMULET: The Stone Keeper had just come out. And BABYMOUSE was just two or three books along. All of those books were totally different sizes. See here:

Scholastic's books were somewhere between the American and European size--but many of them were black and white (like Manga). Scholastic learned pretty quickly that kids wanted COLOR. The BONE reprints, originally done in black and white, were soon brought out in color versions. BABYMOUSE was Manga-sized, black and white, but with one extra color (pink!). Amazingly, the one extra color worked! It worked so well, in fact, that many middle-grade graphic novels have since followed that format: Lunch Lady, Dragonbreath, and a little series you might have heard of called Hazardous Tales.

So, before we started Rapunzel, we had to decide what size the book would be--and if it would be in color. After finishing the inks, I admit, I sent an email requesting the book be black and white. Can you imagine Rapunzel's Revenge with no color? Size-wise, I wanted to go as big as possible--having long been a fan of the super-sized European-style comics (think Tintin and Asterix). Shannon and Dean's script had a lot to say, and I had a lot of scenery I wanted to draw. We went as big as the publisher allowed: not quite as big as the Europeans, but a bit larger than the Scholastics titles.

We went full color, bigger and thicker than a standard American comic book, but not quite as thick as a Manga. Essentially, we created our own new size and format--a size and format nobody else was using.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Story of Tiny Rapunzel: Why Did We Shrink the Book?

Some of you may have seen the new SMALLER versions of the Rapunzel's Revenge paperback. Pretty neat, right? Highly portable.

For the next few posts, I'll explain the reasons we went with a smaller version of the book. Nothing shocking or exciting, really just a look at graphic novels and their sizing. It should be interesting.

Really, I just wanted an excuse to draw a tiny Rapunzel.
Tiny with a huge head. Can you imagine if the whole book were drawn in this style?

Monday, March 3, 2014

State of the Nathan...

And we're back!

After being out of the blog-o-sphere since last summer, I'm jumping back in! Wish me luck. I'm going to attempt to maintain my old pace of every weekday.

This blog has brought me a lot of joy--and more than a few contracts (including the one for the Hazardous Tales books!) So back to business!