Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Duchess of Whimsy is officially released today!

Randall and I are delighted to announce that The Duchess of Whimsy will finally hit bookstores today! We will be doing readings and signings in various places in around New York throughout the next month or so and hope you will have a chance to join us.
First off and one of our most important events is this Sunday, November 1st at Books of Wonder, the biggest children's bookstore in NYC. It will be a reading/signing/sketching/eating of grill cheese sandwiches/pub party kind of thing from 2:00 to 4:00.
And it's BYOK.
We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

that's TWO for the books

I am proud to have the opportunity once more to blag ( I thought I coined this word first, but apparently I didn't) about being partly responsible for an actual entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Many years ago, I illustrated a very small pop-up book of Aesop's Fables which was designed by a fellow named Roger Culbertson. It was a minor affair and my work for it was admittedly middling, but still it was fun to illustrate a pop-up book and to invent amusing pop-uppish ways to tell the stories. Roger, was quite passionate about pop-ups and decided to recreate the book, but scaled up to a relatively enormous height of 4ft., thereby breaking the current World Record, and officially placing it in the Guinness Book of.
In an equally unintentional way, I have found myself once again associated with a record breaking entry. This time for an ice sculpture of a colossal Scrat, holding his acorn aloft and measuring 45 ft. high. To be clear, I just drew the thing and never picked up a chainsaw. That job was left to a crack team of fourteen ice sculptors who worked feverishly through the night to complete it in time for a promotional event announcing the release of Ice Age, Dawn of the Dinosaurs on Blue Ray and DVD.

The ice sculpture was unveiled yesterday in Santa Monica under brutally sunny California skies.

Sorry, I don't have any good photos of it and I'm not authorized to show my actual design, but it looks something like this:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dwuh and Swuh

I'd like to introduce you to two very nice and very funny fellows named Dwight and Swain. These guys have created a wonderful series of podcasts on the topics of illustration, comics and pop culture in general, which are posted on a site they call Sidebar Nation. Each installment is an hour long interview with an artist discussing his or her career. They were gracious enough to invite me to their show and I have to say, it is one of the most enjoyable hours I have spent giving an interview. 

You can find it here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


There are quite a few things to mention about my trip to Paris for the opening and book launch, so I might as well begin here. One of the very best things about traveling abroad and showing my work is having the privilege of meeting artists whom I've admired but never thought I would ever actually get the chance to meet. Such was the case with Juanjo Guarnido, the scary talent who illustrates the now classic Blacksad series written by Diaz Canales. it's an ultra pure film noir detective story that takes place in a Dashiell Hammett universe populated not by people, but by completely anthropomorphized animals, all perfectly cast to suit the character they are portraying. John Blacksad, the titular character, is a detective and a black tom cat, very much in the mold of anti-hero Sam Spade or in this case Spayed ( I had to say it!) The criminal underworld is portrayed by likewise suitable fauna-- thugs may appear as apes or rhinos, the police chief and his squad are vigilant canines and the kingpins of crime can be anything from a Greenstreet-ish albino tiger to a Soprano like frog. All of this is set in a quintessentially noirish city of the mind, tinted with the unmistakable patina of New York in the fifties.
Beyond the beautiful characterizations, Guarnido is a dazzling master of perspective and uses it in a powerfully cinematic way. It is easy to imagine this animated on the big screen ( but be careful, whoever you are, it will be a very delicate thing to get right).
One would think this guy would be a bit intimidating to meet, but I'm relieved to say he's a very nice fellow and humble to a fault.
My hosts, Jean-Jacques and Diane Launier kindly invited me to their home just outside Paris to see their amazing collection of artwork, movie and comic collectibles before meeting Guarnido for dinner at a restaurant nearby.
The restaurant,which happened to have a giant one hundred foot long sculpture of a plesiosaur skeleton hung from the rafters ( I'm still not certain why), served us a delicious meal. In the meantime, Guarnido and I got to exchange notes on artistic influences and found we have many heroes in common . He loves Rountree! He loves Sullivant! He loves Kley!  Look at their work and you'll see why. (more on those masters at some later post).
I made him a gift of my book and he surprised me by doing the same in kind. He gave me a precious, signed limited edition of his Blacksad book , Ame Rouge.  A glass of wine or two later, I fished out my pen and handed him back the book. He knew why and didn't bother to protest. Below, are photos of the two of us, (me, with the better end of the bargain).

After dinner, Guarnido was kind enough to drive me back to my new place near the Luxembourg Gardens. Having changed my sleeping arrangements three times since arriving a week before, I was a bit confused about exactly where my hotel was located. When we finally figured it out, Guarnido let out a sigh of relief and confessed he was glad he didn't get us lost, which apparently happens to him all the time. We were both laughing as he drove off and just as he turned the corner and drove away, I realized I was in front of the wrong hotel.

Oh well, there are worst things than being lost in Paris.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Any one who has known me for even a little bit, knows of my fondness for the work of Honore Daumier. He is one of France's best loved caricaturists and political satirists of the late nineteenth century and spent most of his energy attacking the hypocrisies and excesses of the bourgeoise. For me, his work has always embodied the ability to capture the essence of a character, with detail and rendering as lesser priorities.
On Tuesday, Randall, and my assistant and friend, Malia Hughes joined me for a trip to the Musee D'Orsay along with my two girls, Paulina and Fia. It's a spectacular place which was once a vast railway station at the turn of the century. Combing the various galleries, we stumbled upon a room devoted to the work of Daumier and there in a huge glass case were over thirty busts of the parliamentary figures of the day, molded in his characteristically energetic and unapologetic way. They look like as if he was rushing to capture the individual spark of each personality and if you look closely enough, you can still see his fingerprints in the clay. They are just as loose as his lithographs for which he is more widely known and are as alive as the day they were first molded into existence.
The following day, I was interviewed for a french television program about my work and influences. Daumier was fresh on my mind and I spoke a lot about him. Afterwards, I decided to take a different route back to the apartment we are renting in the Marais and strode along the Seine, taking my time. There, right before a bridge that would take me back to my temporary home, I happened to look up at a small building with a plaque set in it's face. "Here lived Honore Daumier" it said. Much of Paris has not changed physically since Daumier's time and it was easy for me to imagine him pulling open the front door and leaving the building with drawings tucked under his arm, ready to be printed by Le Charivari. It was a wonderful moment for me. I hope you enjoy these little sculptures. And if you aren't familiar with Daumier, than it is my pleasure to introduce you to him.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Crime of Passion

Above is Diane Launier, proprietress and co-curator of Galerie Arludik and me, in front of a broken window where my little one man show will open this Thursday evening in Paris. She is very upset because sometime in the wee hours of the parisian night, someone smashed the window of the gallery and made off with only one thing, a copy of my new book, A Sketchy Past
I'm not making this up! 
Naturally, she was very unhappy about it. 

Naturally, I wasn't.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Big but Graceful

That was the assignment I posed to Bobby Chiu's chuistream audience last night: draw a character who is both Big but Graceful, and it brought out some impressive results, especially considering the very short amount of time everyone had to do the piece and submit it. In the end, I chose the drawing below by Charles Santoso. Here's my note to the folks who submitted ( also posted on chiustream): 
I'm going to go with the majority here on this drawing signed Chao. I like a combination of things about it and the fact that it works on more than one level. It certainly fits the basics of the assignment" Big and Graceful". Like many of the submissions, (including my own) there is a character delicately balanced on one foot. I think it's interesting and maybe a little alarming how many of us went to that exact idea. It's a good lesson for us all to try and think of an unusual way into an assignment and hopefully come up with a solution that no one else has. That said, the drawing here has a beautiful sense of volume, weight and at the same time, delicacy. I am also impressed by the added emotional layer in the way the face is drawn. There is grace there as well. When creating a character it's crucial that we consider not only what it looks like but also how it "feels". What emotion does the design evoke from the viewer? After all, the face will be the most important aspect of your design- it is what the audience will need to relate to most. 
Congratulations to all on doing such great work in so little time. And also congratulations to the two runners up. Great job, folks!
Good luck to all of you.
all the best,
On my last post, I also neglected to say that there was a prize for the competition, which was my own answer to the assignment which you can see above. I hope you like it, Mr. Chao.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Good Lord!

Look at the time!!
I suppose I should have mentioned it earlier, but I am going to appear on Bobby Chiu's great experiment, the chiustream at 11:00 EST this evening. It's a brilliant idea for a streaming show. Each episode features a different illustrator who poses a drawing challenge to the artistically inclined viewer. Everyone has an hour to complete the task and send in a scan by the end. In the meantime, Bobby conducts an interview with his subject. Tonight it's me. Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Paris, part IIIa

Here are yet a few more from the Arludik show.  That apeman drawing is very reminiscent of two drawings I can see in the back of my skull. One is a Neal Adams and the other is by Frank Frazetta.
So sue me.