Sunday, September 30, 2012

Character sketch for Elizabeth the First of G. Britain. Did a bunch of different studies of the Queen for "The Pirate Meets the Queen", a book I wrote and illus.d for Phylomel/Penguin&Putnam back in 2003. The Pirate in the title is Granwuaile O'Malley or Granny, Cheiftainess of the O'Malleys in Co. Claire, Ireland. The British were squeezing the old Celts and their system of rule out of Ireland, hence, Granny's attempts to maintain her people by attacking British merchant ships off the west coast of Ireland got her the title of pirate in British reports to the Crown.  The Celtic word for the British usurpers was "Sassanach" (sass-eh-nak), derived from the tribal delineation "Saxon" but could also generally mean outsider or foreigner. The O'Malley's took a particularly nasty beating from the British (burning villages, destroying crops, killing cattle, rape, whipping at the crossroads, the usual) and afterward referred to the hated Queen of Britain as "Red Liz". I thought a leaner looking Liz helped convey this point of view.
In '98, '99 and then again in '01 I made trips to sites related to Granny in Ireland and to London to view paintings of Liz in the National Portrait Gallery. Pencil, 2002. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

A spec sketch of Puck and Lysander for "A Midsummer Night's Dream".  "Spec" work is where an editor or art director asks you to do some sketching, even finished art, prior to awarding you the contract so they can see how you'll handle the material they wanted illustrated. I was still fairly new to the publishing business when I was asked to do this sketch and another by an editor. I liked this one. They didn't. I didn't get the job. Phooey. Pencil, 1988.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Big Doin's!
The shippers just left. In the back of their big blue truck they're carrying 13 of my babies- alright, they're not my babies- my illustrations are on their way to the Appleton Art Museum in Ocala, Fl. ( they'll be hanging in
 the Maurice Sendak tribute exhibit in November next to some way cool art by the likes of Chris Van Allsburg, Chris Raschka, Leo and Diane Dillon, Brian Selznick and Mo Willems! Woot! Very excited. But I'm feeling a little "empty nest-ish" just now. My babies!

13 of my illustrations are heading to the Appleton Museum of Art in Florida for the Maurice Sendak tribute show in November!

Here we see shipping/packing experts Bill and Ted. First they wrapped the two framed pieces. Then they built a cardboard bow for each and then wrapped and encased the 11 unframed pieces.

Shippers Bill and Ted putting my babies on board the big blue truck!

Just look at those shippers Bill and Ted taking such good care of my babies! 
And so we say "Farewell" to shippers Bill and Ted as they and my babies wend their way southward to the lovely Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala, Florida! Bon voyage, you brave young shippers! Have an excellent adventure!

Sketch of Rinvyle Castle (or it's remains), near Mt. Tully in Ballynakill, County Galway, Ireland. I was traveling with a couple of RISD pals, Mike Rafferty and Mike Dorsey, and up to this point in our travels we'd gone from Dublin up through N. Ireland and then back down through Donegal, Sligo, Claire and were about to meet up with my old Arlington High School pal Chris Mattheisen in Galway. It was early in the evening, we'd been touring all day, and as we came over a rise we found this ruin. Not unusual in Ireland. There're ruins just about every few feet out in the west especially. But this one was particularly  enticing in the early evening moonlight. I sketched out the basics and then hopped back into the car with Mike and Mike and finished drawing using my flashlight. Very bumpy ride. Actually, I was very happy to have this drawing to concentrate on because one of the Mikes was somewhat aggressive in his driving technique on the winding, skinny, treacherous country lanes and I probably would've been weeping otherwise. Makes sense that one of our mottos for the quest was "Let's not die or be horribly maimed." Pen&Ink, 1989.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Grumpy giraffe waiting for snacks at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, Mi.. Pen&Ink, 1995.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

So, this is the sketch and final art for a single page illustration I created for a book called "Black Belt" which I wrote, publ.d by Knopf.  The book was edited by a great publishing creative (and now literary agent -she represents last year's Newberry Medal winner, Clare Vanterpool) Andrea Cascardi. Don't recall why we cut the three characters on the left of the sketch but I do like the layout of the final better. Back lighting characters in a night scene for a picture book can be tricky. The exposure of a night time image has to be fairly bright so the details can be picked out by the viewer's eye. I really enjoy rendering moonlit scenes. The cool light casts a warm shadow- almost violet. Again- tricky but fun.
Pencil, water color gouache, 1998.

Monday, September 24, 2012

If you're an editor with a big budget and a hankering for way cool yet somewhat odd manuscripts, holysmokes, I have the book for you:
Once per year, in a little town not too far away, the Bunnies, consumed with "Burrito Lust", mob the streets, searching for that elusive perfect burrito. Sketch for a graphic novel I wrote for 9 year olds (and those who sometimes wish they were still 9 years old) called "Mad Bunnies On Parade!". Pencil, 2009.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ok, so I made a pseudo-autobiography called "The Box" and it's all about me when I was about 7 or 8 years old and eventually tells the tale of the profound and lasting effect which television had on me.  It will be difficult for many of you to believe but I was a bit of a handful at that time. So much so that my mother made me sit and draw and not talk (I was also a bit of a storyteller- which my mom mis-classified as fibber) for one half hour every afternoon after school. Here we see me being harangued by my mom (that's not really what she looked like, but she did used to wear those metal cylinder things in her hair sometimes).  Such drama. Pencil, 2009. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Master Hare. Rabbits are funny. Some times I see them as harmless, fuzzy little guys. But now and then, perhaps when I've heard a Native American story that displays a truly powerful bunny character, I start to see that they are "other worldly". In more than a few ancient stories, rabbits are the gate keepers to the "Other Side" and you can see that reflected in the more recent "The White Rabbit" character in Lewis Carroll's "Through The Looking Glass".  Bunnies- so much more than meets the eye. Pen&Ink, 2009.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A story that could be true:
(Names and stuff have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent)
Handsome young illustrator step-dad Clark sat in the middle skool curriculum meeting for his bonus kids on Thursday night. Having already read and memorized all the material on the yellow curriculum brochure and, he decided to draw goofy pictures of middle schoolers in margins while the teachers talked about the stuff on the brochure which, as you may recall, handsome young Clark had already memorized. Suddenly, one of the teachers began to shake and writhe! The teacher raised a trembling hand and shreeched at Ma... I mean Clark- "You're scribbling, Mister! Put down that pen and pay attention!" Handsome young Clark calmly and with great grace and compassion stood and said "Dear teacher, this is not scribbling. It is drawing. And it's just as important as writing and math." A stunned hush wafted from the crowd of parents. Clark smiled beatifically then went on to repeat everything that had been said during the meeting, quoted word for word every word on the brochure, shared the periodical chart of elements (adding two new elements which he'd discovered while fixing the disposal unit in the kitchen that afternoon). Afterward Clark created an exact replica of the Sistine Ceiling on the promethean board, did drawings of everyone in the room and hugged all the teachers who apologized for disrespecting drawing and admitted that they were way grumpy after having to teach all day and then stay after school for five hours (without pay). Applause roared through the halls and a promise was made by the school administration to restructure the whole educational process (with an emphasis on making the arts as important a core element as math and writing) as handsome young Clark left the building.
The end. 
Pen&Ink, 9/20/12

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It was 4 years ago and Shepard Fairey's poster was everywhere. I was feeling agitated about the outrageous stuff I was hearing coming from the crowds at the McCain/Palin rallies. So I grabbed a piece of panel and painted this and stuck it on the front of my house. I'm quite sure it's what tipped the electorate towards President Obama. Oil on panel, 2' x 4.5', 2008.

Ok, it's my birthday so I'm making two posts today. Here's number two. This is page 36 from my book "Gaijin-American Prisoner of War", to be publ.d by Disney Koji and his mom Adeline were walking home from church when two trench coat FBI men cornered them and questioned them about Koji's dad. This wasn't uncommon government agent behavior during the frightening days following the attack on Pearl 
Harbor. FBI agents arrested all Japanese American men in the San Francisco area between the age of 25 and 45. Anything that had Japanese content- Wedding photos, calendars, Kimonos etc., were confiscated by the FBI. Anything that could be used as a weapon, including baseball bats, was confiscated. All radios were confiscated. Like all Japanese Americans on the west coast, Koji was just the wrong color in the wrong place at the wrong time. Water color, gouache, 2012.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Early character sketch for Jelly (short for Julius), one of the heroes from "A Taste of Colored Water", written and illus.d by me, publ.d by Simon&Schuster. Funny to find this sketch. Made me think of how long I'd actually been working on this project prior to it being published. I remember when I first started formulating the story was back in 1998 when I'd heard an African American woman on NPR speaking of her childhood in the South and the age at which she stopped thinking the water in the "colored" water fountain was fruit flavored. A simple mistake, really. What kid wouldn't want to believe that the water fountain with the sign "colored" over it pumped ice cold grape juice on a hot summer day?  Makes sense. A heck of a lot more sense than it's real purpose. Pen&Ink, 2006.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Single page final art for "Scatter Brain Sam", written by Ellen Jackson, illus.d by me and publ.d by Charlesbridge. I think I pushed the edges on this one a bit. The original text set the story in Wales, a very long time ago. I plunked it down in 1920's Tennessee. I know. There aren't a lot of windmills in Tennessee. Water color, pen&ink, 1998.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sketch of William Tecumsah Sherman, Union General during the U.S. Civil War. Kris just asked me why I made his head so much smaller than his body. Good question, Honey. Hmmm... well, General Billy's face is so angry that it draws your eye 
directly to it. By making his body bigger I feel it balances out the design. Also, If I had drawn his body to scale I think it would've made the pose less comical and then I wouldn't have had as much of a comment on Billy's demeanor. And I definitely wanted to make a comment on his demeanor. Pen&ink, 2009.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cover art for "Trick or Treat On Monster Street", written by Danny Schnitzlein and illus.d by me, publ.d by Peachtree. This was an especially fun book to illustrate. I love the idea that in some parallel universe there is a street where the monsters like to give each other a thrill by dressing up as scary humans on Halloween. Water color, gouache, 2007.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pencil layout sketch for "The Pirate Meets the Queen", a picture book I wrote and illustrated for Phylomel. These thumbnail sketches differ from the more detailed intermediate sketches I do in that in the thumbnails a. I focus more on the p
lacement of characters within an environment, b. I investigate the camera angle and simple light source in the thumbnail and c. the thumbnails are done at about 1/4 size of the finish and the intermediates are done at 1/2 to 3/4s the final size and 4. I don't show the thumbnails to the editor. I was not satisfied with the title of the book. My original title was "An Ban Rí" which is Gaelic for "The Woman King". Granny O'Malley, the hero of the story, was the chieftain of the clan after her father. The Gaels didn't have a word for chieftainess so the called her the An Ban Rí. I argued for the original title but lost the battle. No worries. I had big fun making the art and the book did pretty well. Pencil, 2002.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Matt's Mantra for Today: Don't think. Just draw. Pen&Ink, 2010.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sketch for my autobiographical graphic novel- "The Box". Mrs. Duffy, my 6th grade teacher, did not appreciate the fine portraits I created of her. One day she developed a fond pet name for me- Mr. Scribbler. We spent many a recess together- her devising devious ways of torturing the class and me writing "I will not scribble during my fractions quiz." a thousand times on the black board. Pencil, 2009.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children."
Sitting Bull
Pen&Ink, 2009.

Monday, September 10, 2012

He just seemed to sort of... glow.
Pen and ink, 2009.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Final art for "Trick or Treat On Monster Street" by Danny Schnitzlein, illus.d by me and publ.d by Peachtree. Older brothers giving a little kindly mistreatment to their younger sib. Water color, gouache, 2008.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Full page sketch illustration for "Cricket" magazine. Pencil, 2009.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Work in progress. Page 18 of "Gaijin- American Prisoner of War", a graphic novel written and illustrated by me, publ.d by Disney, 2014. It's December 8th, 1941, the day after Koji's 13th birthday and, coincidentally the day after the raid on Pearl Harbor. Koji didn't sleep well the night before. His dad is still stuck in Japan and they haven't heard from him in months. Like so many other Japanese Americans, Koji was just the wrong color at the wrong time in the wrong place. And his U.S. citizenship didn't make a difference. Pencil, water color, gouache, 2012.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A color character sketch for a book I wrote and illustrated called "The Pirate Meets the Queen", publ.d by Phylomel. On this page we see Granuaile O'Malley, the hero of the story. She's pictured as a child (left), a mother/pirate (lower right) and as a grandmother/pirate (upper right). Granny was a complicated figure. Some in Ireland consider her to be the heart of the nation- an example of courage, ingenuity and grit. Others consider her a traitor for dealing with the British Crown. I think she is simply fascinating. Water color, gouache, 2003.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A sketch portrait of one of my College for Creative Studies Students. In 2000 I organized a trip to the Brandywine Valley, Pa. where there is what I consider to be the Mecca of Illustration- the Brandywine River Museum- which holds a fantastic collection of dozens of America's most note worthy illustrators from the 19th and 20th century. We rented a bus and about 30 students and teachers trucked it all the way from Detroit to Brandywine, about a 9 hour sojourn.  I had a great time. I think they did too.  This is one of the drawings I did during the ride. Can't remember the students name. We were drawing each other. When he looked up I looked down to draw and vice versa. A good exercise in patience. Pencil, 2000.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

This is a thumbnail sketch for a book I illustrated called "Black Belt", publ.d by Knopf. Back in the day (as they say) I used to hand cut the copy and stick it onto the sketched layout. Now, of course, I just scan the art and place the type in photoshop. However, every now and then I still like to place the text by hand. It give's me a better sense of the text block as a design element when I can hold it in my paws. Speaking of design elements- what kind of knucklehead puts the villains head directly in the middle of the gutter?! Keep the important stuff out of the gutter! Geesh. If any of my students, former or present, are watching, please do as I say and not as I do. Domo arigato. Pencil, 13" x 6", 1997.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A character sketch and a couple of thumbnails for "You're On Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt!" by Judith St. George and illus.d by me, publ.d by Phylomel-Penguin&Putnam. Teddy R. had a very serious case of asthma when he was a boy. Doctors recommended high altitude, coffee and cigar smoking as a cure (ya, I know...). He also had recurring bad dreams that involved a werewolf. I took it upon my self as illustrator to add these two elements in the visual story telling and brought the werewolf into the scene whenever Teddy was suffering a bout with asthma. Pencil, 12" x 15", 2003.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

In the summer of 1998 I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the Yeats Festival in Sligo, Ireland. While there I got to meat cool people like Sarah Bowen-Walsh and Seamus Heaney! I spent 6 weeks there and got to explore the gorgeous countryside to my hearts delight. One day while riding around Knocknarea Mountain I spied this bull with a twisted set of horns standing in a field that overlooked the bay. Meanwhile,across the water and the mist, was Benbulben Mountain. Luckily I had my traveling water color palette and pad. The bull was quite kind and stood still for quite a while. This was the result.  Water color, gouache, 1998.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Illustration for an ad that announced the move of an advertising executive who'd just made the big transition from NYC to Miami. Pen and Ink, 1988.