Tag Archives: Books

Improv Illustration

I consider myself fortunate to be able to do what I love in order to pay the bills. So when I have the opportunity to work with talented and creative people, it’s a bonus. And a very enjoyable one.

Last year my friend Mark Peters asked me to illustrate his book Bullshit: A Lexicon, which was a blast to do. Soon after, Cathy Salit asked me if I wanted to draw cartoons for  a book she was writing about how learning the principles of improv can boost your job performance. I was happy to say yes.book cover

Cathy is the CEO of Performance of  Lifetime, a group of individuals grounded in improvisational theatre who help companies to take their work to the next level through an understanding of performance. A few of us cartoonists had performed at a POAL event, so I knew her already. She told me that the book was based on the Becoming Principle, the paradoxical idea that we don’t discover who our authentic selves are until we are allowed to play and improvise, trying on different roles in life.

I’ve never taken an improv class, but I knew that one of the core ideas is that, by saying “yes, and…” to your teammates (and by them saying it to you) you can safely venture past your self-imposed limits and into unexplored territory. I told Cathy that, although she might have initially hired me to read the chapters and then draw cartoons reflecting the concepts within them, I thought it would be fun to try something which honored the spirit of the book – something improvisational. Maybe something I, or we, had never done before, kind of figuring it out as we go. Maybe create a new form of illustration!

I met with Cathy and her team and we came up with a bunch of interesting ideas click here to read the rest of this post

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Filed under book, Illustration

Three, Two, One…Three!

FB event invite

My children’s book finally hit the shelves after several years filled with a lot of work and a lot more waiting – picture books take a looooong time to print! It’s the story of the Number Three having a bit of an identity crisis, and to see the published version is satisfying. It’s my first book, and it’s the first time I’ve worked in color on any substantial project. And I love how it came out.

The main hurdle in getting the book was to get the permission of Number Three himself. He knows that he’s kind of a big deal, and he put us through the ringer during contract talks (as you can see, we had to hire John Kerry himself, just to negotiate the foreign rights). Once that was over, though, I was able to start roughing out the book, which I wrote about previously on this site.

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The book was actually adapted from an unpublished graphic novel that I wrote: similar concept, and Number Three was still the main character, but this thing spiraled out in all kinds of directions, both philosophical and humorous. For the kids’ book I had to scrap 99% of the story, pretty much, and write it from scratch. As is often the case, less was definitely more. This was the proposed cover for the scrapped version:

cover

We had to change the title to It’s Not Easy Being Three, so that it didn’t look like we (we, meaning me) were copying The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, which, contrary to this theory posed by a GoodReads reviewer, I had not even known about by the time I had already written this story. And then we had to add the word Number Three in the title so that three-year olds – those pompous threenagers! – wouldn’t think the book was only about them.

The process of doing finished art for the book was pretty new to me, but it still was based on the same way I do drawings now: carved ink on scratchboard. I refined my rough sketches until they were ready for ink, and then I did my black & white drawings. In some cases, several of them were layered on top of each other and color added to the layers. So this sketch from my proposal:

entry

eventually became this spread from the book:

page 20-21

And this:

entry3

eventually became this:

page 26-27

And so on.

entry4

page 14-15

More about this book in a day or two.

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Complete B.S.

Who says Twitter isn’t good for anything? I met Mark Peters there a few years ago, we traded some ideas about collaborating in addition to stupid jokes, and then something cool happened: Mark wrote a book, I illustrated it, and it’s now a real thing you can buy. Bullshit: A Lexicon was just published by Three Rivers Press, a division of Penguin.

books

Mark’s a terrifically funny guy in general, having written for McSweeney’s, among others, but he is also an etymologist with a PhD in English. So you could say he knows what he’s joking about. As soon as he told me he wanted to write kind of a dictionary of all the synonyms for “bullshit,” I said yeah – that sounds like a winner to me.

It’s out just in time for the holidays, wink wink! And according to my calculations, the world is never, ever going to run out of bullshit, so it will always be relevant. And if you want to know how to work a word like codswallop into your next TED talk, then you’ll find this book incredibly useful.

wolf

Because the words are all very similar in meaning, I had to be pretty literal with the illustrations, and I tried to do the whole book without resorting to drawing actual crap. For some reason I really like this drawing I did of a piece of tripe, for the entry for tripe, naturally:

tripe_book

But I thought I’d share some of the things that didn’t make it into the book. This was me fooling around with click here to read the rest of this post

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#FridayReads

KantYelp

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May 22, 2015 · 3:03 pm

Better Book Covers

Here is a blog that goes under the category of “I Wish I’d Thought of That! But, On Second Thought, If I’d Thought Of That, Then It Wouldn’t Be Nearly as Good.” At Better Book Titles, Dan Wilbur redesigns the cover of a well-known piece of literature with what would have been a more honest or direct title. They’re the ultimate “spoiler alerts,” like this alternative title for The Professor and the Madman, below. A lot of them will make you cringe and laugh at the same time, which is gold. And it’s expert Photoshopping as well. See for yourself.

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Filed under Graphic Design