A Very Fuddles Christmas and an interview with Frans Vischer

FuddlesCoverby Frans Vischer

(published 2013, by Aladdin, an imprint of Simon and Schuster)I’ve said in public and in writing that I’m not a huge fan of cats. I’ve also admitted to not being a fan of Saturday morning cartoons as a kid.But then I met Fuddles. His misguided glory and chubby rump bowled me over. What a fabulous feline. Frans Vischer created this sly cat, inspired by his own ginormous kitty.

breakerHow loveable is that guy?This book is gorgeous. Its pages are sleek and the endpapers a lush, rich, wintry green. Such a warm contrast to the ivory cover and jacket!

My favorite page turn plays with the shape and direction of a chimney catastrophe.And thanks to the verso, I know that the typeface is Wade Sans Light. (You font-o-philes can purchase it here.) It’s a gentle and restrained choice, a fantastic foil to Fuddles’s antics. I asked Frans a few questions about his art and inspiration. What an honor!

Your bio tells us that you arrived in America at the age of 11! How did you stumble on cartoons and can you tell us a little about their inspiration on your childhood?

In Holland there were only three TV channels at the time, and they rarely showed animation. Arriving in America, I was blown away by all the channels- cartoons were everywhere! I was introduced to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tom & Jerry, Droopy, as well as all the Disney stuff. I didn’t speak English then, but the cartoons communicated visually, and I was instantly hooked!

What types of stories were you telling as an animation obsessed teenager?

I took a creative writing class in high school where I wrote very silly, Monty Python-inspired stories. Characters would make appearances without any intro or lead-in, and I would go off on tangents with entirely new story-threads, and just as abruptly drop them to return to my earlier story. I also did a number of school projects with my high school friend, Dave Waters, (also a Monty Python fan,) doing absurd story lines. We made 8 mm films together, poking fun at TV commercials, and shows like “The Waltons.”

Who are your artistic and literary heroes?

Growing up I always loved Disney. Michaelangelo’s sculptures had a great effect on me for their strength and subtlety. I read and drew from many European comics, such as Lucky Luke, Asterix and Obelix, Tin Tin. In high school I admired, (and still do,) the editorial cartoons of Pat Olyphant and Jeff MacNelley. When I attended Cal Arts I was introduced to Ronald Searle, Ralph Steadman, and A.B. Frost, among many others. Bill Peet’s transition from Disney story-artist to children’s book author/illustrator was a true inspiration, and Roald Dahl’s books and short stories made me want to write my own stories. Currently, I love David Small’s draftsmanship, David Catrow’s humorous drawings, and Holly Hobbie’s color. I could go on and on, but I won’t.

Are there any easter eggs or hidden trivia we should know about in your books?

There aren’t any hidden items, but I did include furniture from our home in Fuddles’ house. Being a big soccer fan, I had to have a soccer ball in both Fuddles books. And on the last page in A Very Fuddles Christmas, Fuddles sits by the fireplace on Christmas Eve beside a note from the kids to Santa. If you hold a magnifying glass over the note you can read it!

I see we are quasi-neighbors! Do you have a go-to takeout joint? (I could infuse some fresh tastebuds into my delivery rotation.)

We support our local places as much as we can. In Montrose, we love the Star Café and Zeke’s.

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Thanks, Frans! There you go, friends. An irresistible addition to your Christmas canon.
Need more? I wrote this list last holiday season for Design Mom!
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You’re a Rude Pig, Bertie {book trailer}

This summer I got to work with the fantastic folks at NorthSouth Books to create a trailer for an upcoming release by Claudia Boldt, You’re a Rude Pig, Bertie!

Bertie is definitely a rude pig, but he’s also irresistible and will endear himself to you the second he reveals his true heart. And I adore Claudia Boldt’s work – a muted and restrained palette, unexpected shapes and proportions, and a charming cast of characters.

(I wrote a teensy bit about her previous book, Odd Dog, over at Design Mom, so what a thrill to create something for a creator you admire!)

Anyway. I love the result, and hope you love it, too!

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What do you think? Adorable, right? And super catchy. I guarantee that song will tag along with you the rest of the day – and you’re welcome!

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P.S. – I haven’t heard from the winners of the Sassy board books. Are you out there, Olivia De Hamilton and Sara Floyd? I’ll pick new winners on Friday if I don’t hear anything. Stay tuned!

Hooray for Hat! {book trailer}

Do you know Brian Won? You should. You will.

Remember a while back when I made that Brian Regan/snowcone/more favorite reference? That’s what it’s like looking through Brian’s portfolio. Just when I think I’ve picked a favorite piece – BAM. There’s the next one.

When his picture book Hooray for Hat! comes out in the spring you can bet I will be first in line. (And hopefully doing as impressive a highstep as Zebra. Watch. You’ll see.)

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Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure

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by Matt Luckhurst

{published 2012, Abrams Books for Young Readers}

Matt Luckhurst’s playground home on the web is a whimsy-thrill for your eyeballs. I particularly love this page of Paul Bunyan goodies, including the trailer:

breakerI think you can see what I mean before I even want to tell you about it. THAT TYPE.

Rewind.DPB_TypographyI read a fantastic interview last week on the KidLit Artists blog – did you see it? Illustrator Lisa Anchin interviewed Martha Rago, a creative director at Harper Collins. That piece is here, and you should totally go read it and then come back here.

Martha Rago said this, and it’s been bouncing around in my brain for a while now, and I love it:

Once I learned how to look at a font in a careful way, and how to use it, I was completely taken with type and design.  It was an emotional connection at the time, without any intellectual analysis as to why I liked type and design so much. But now, when I think about it, I see typography is a kind of 2-dimensional sculpture. A font is so carefully constructed, and each  form relates in a different way to the space surrounding it – letter to letter, word to word.

This book popped right into my head. It’s exactly that – a two-dimensional sculpture, both art itself and the words that carry the story. See what I mean:

 Matt Luckhurst’s retelling of Paul Bunyan is larger than larger than life. The exaggeration is exaggerated and the hyperbole is, well, you know. It’s a winky nod to the traditional oral tale, and twists truths with outlandish moxie.

Doesn’t it make sense? The words that originally told this story weren’t written. And then they were. And now, in a picture book, those words are the pictures?

You’ll love it.

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P.S. – I’m tickled by that yellow and gray graphic I made once upon a time, and how it looks like it says ‘granny’ in the bar at the top. The irony that a graphic on type has that kind of gaffe is not lost on me!

The Watermelon Seed and an interview with Greg Pizzoli

TheWatermelonSeed

by Greg Pizzoli

{published 2013, by Disney Hyperion}

I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time, mostly because that cover is SPECTAZZLING. But also cause I follow Greg Pizzoli on Twitter, where he is clever and quippy and shares things like THE ENDPAPERS. And then this is what the publisher teased us with, so I was pretty much in love with this book right away:

With perfect comic pacing, Greg Pizzoli introduces us to one funny crocodile who has one big fear: swallowing a watermelon seed. What will he do when his greatest fear is realized? Will vines sprout out his ears? Will his skin turn pink? This crocodile has a wild imagination that kids will love.

Yeah. SO INTO THAT. The Watermelon Seed hits stores TOMORROW, May 14th, so you might want to go ahead and get in line. After you meet Greg, of course.

So I’ve also been looking forward to this post for almost as long. I’m thrilled to have Greg Pizzoli in for a visit. Welcome, Greg!

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I call him “Kroc”. Sometimes my editor calls him “K-Roc” or “The Krocster”. Boy, does he hate that.Greg2My background is in printmaking, and I built a silkscreen shop in my studio, which is how I generate a lot of my work. I think my preference towards limited and deliberate colors comes from the printmaking. It could be laziness, but I’m going to say printmaking.

Even the first sketches of this book were in just a few colors. It just made sense to make the whole book feel like a watermelon. Plus, he’s a crocodile, so the green is already there.
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Everyone at Disney*Hyperion was very supportive of my trying out different inks and paper choices to get the feel just right. We did CMYK v. Spot color tests and there was just no comparison. I think it would be tough to get that pink, and that green with CMYK. At least for me. We tried a few different paper stocks, too. I’m super picky.
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Greg3Basically you make a drawing in black and use that to make a stencil on a screen. Doesn’t matter how you make that drawing – by hand on tracing paper, with construction paper, in Photoshop – whatever you can use to get a drawing in black. Your screen, which is a frame of aluminum with a fine mesh stretched across it, is covered in photographic emulsion, and you expose the screen to light. Wherever the light hits the emulsion, it hardens and becomes water resistant.

BUT if you put your black drawing between the screen and the light source, the emulsion that is blocked by your drawing (which remember, is black, thus very light blocking-y), that emulsion stays soft. And you can wash it out with water. So everything that wasn’t blocked by your drawing is water resistant, and your drawing washes out of the screen, making a water resistant stencil in the shape of your drawing. You make one of those for each layer, or usually, color. WATERMELON was offset printed obviously, but I did a lot of screenprinting textures, etc to make it feel very printy. The spot colors definitely help there, too.

I’ve been teaching screenprinting for about 4 years at The University of the Arts in Philly. It’s where I met Brian Biggs. He took a continuing ed class I was teaching in 2009. He introduced me to my agent. I dedicated a book to him, but it hasn’t come out yet. I still owe him big time. I still teach! I love it.

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Humor usually keeps me interested in whatever I’m doing.

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I like to work with texture for sure, too. And shapes. Shapes, yeah, shapes are good. I know this is great interview material here. Breaking news, Greg Pizzoli “like shapes”. Today on Buzzfeed, 23 shapes Greg Pizzoli likes most.

Anyway . . . I was really into shapes and texture with THE WATERMELON SEED, and the next book I’m doing with Hyperion (NUMBER ONE SAM, Summer 2014) comes from a similar place. We’re doing spot colors for that one, too. But four this time, which opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of overlapping layers and colors.
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Like most people, I like lots of stuff. I never get tired of looking at Eduardo Munoz Bachs posters. He obviously had a lot of fun making his work. A lot of people you’d suspect probably, Sendak, Ed Emberly, Tove Jansson, Charles Schultz, etc.

Carter_007text007I’m really lucky to have so many talented buddies in the Philly area, too. I host occasional drink ‘n’ draws at my studio and Zach Ohora, Matt Phelan, Bob Shea, Tim Gough, Amy Ignatow, Brian Biggs, Lee Harper, Gene Baretta, Eric Wight, and several others have come by. It’s a good time. Sometimes we do this thing where we each draw for five minutes and then pass the paper to the right and draw on top of that drawing for five minutes, until we get all the way around the circle or run out of beer. You can imagine just how bad these things look. Joe Strummer, Iggy Pop, David Bowie. They’re my heroes.

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No way! I love coffee. I think I quit for a while last year and it just floated around my online profile for a bit. I did stop drinking as much. I am down to like 2-3 cups a day which feels great for me. I was drinking like 8-10. Oh yeah. I’m nicer now.

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Greg Pizzoli, people. Is he awesome or what?

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So yeah. That’s pretty much my favorite thing on the internet right now. Did you catch the part where the period at the end of the sentence becomes a spotlight for good old K-Roc?! I love that detail.

The Watermelon Seed! Greg Pizzoli! Thanks for hanging out here! We love your book. And you are top notch, too.

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The Gingerbread Man Loose In the School {book trailer!}

I love this trailer.

Laura Murray is just as sparkling as her 2011 debut picture book, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School. We had so much fun plotting and planning and I’m so proud of how this turned out.

And also? It was a huge honor to take the amazing Mike Lowery’s illustrations and slice and dice them for animation.

Enjoy!

If you are a teacher, know a teacher, or love a teacher, spread the word about this trailer and let the Gingerbread Man loose in your school! Laura has buckets of teacher resources on her website for using this book in conjunction back to school lesson plans.

What do you think?!

A Long Way From You – Book Trailer

How about a book trailer?

I recently had the privilege to read (!) a sweet contemporary YA about love and friendship and dreams and art and Texas and New York City and it was just absolutely delightful. Kitsy Kidd is the kind of girl I would have madly wanted to befriend in high school. The author, Gwendolyn Heasley, is just as wonderful as Kitsy, and you should probably-definitely-right-away check her out as well.

Check out the trailer, and mark your calendars for June 5.

Fun, right?!

This book was a really fun package on which to tie a few design ribbons.

The opening scenes of the trailer reflect the book’s prologue, where we get a glimpse into Kitsy’s heart and motivations. I thought it would be fitting to reveal the pursuit of her dream with color, transforming from a bland and quiet past to the bright lights and colorful energy of NYC. Also, some of the later moments are a mixture of highly saturated photographic scenes and the same scene as portrayed in Kitsy’s sketchbook. She is an artist with both a pencil and a camera, so combining colors that way was a perfect fit.

I also wanted to nod to the title cards’ copy with the design element of shape.

If wishes can come true anywhere, it’s here.

But no matter how far you are from home, it always has a way of finding you.

That sentiment struck a clear visual with me, so the circle made a recurring appearance over the course of the trailer. As a subtle character, that shape reminded me of Kitsy’s journey, and her connections with home.

Don’t miss this book! Or Gwendolyn’s companion novel, Where I Belong. This summer, pour yourself a glass of lemonade, and pull up a chair on your front porch or penthouse balcony. Wherever you are, A Long Way From Home will be a good friend.

AND A HUGE PS:

Something really great is coming on Monday. Something that has to do with this tweet and my unabashed love for these two:

AND A SMALLER BUT STILL FUN PS:

Do YOU need a book trailer? Holler. I’d love to help.