Sunday, March 22, 2020

Monday, September 9, 2019


I am thrilled to announce the launch of my new website,! In addition to a completely new and much more beautiful look, the new site includes a lot of new content and features. The site is divided into two main categories, “Children’s Book” and “Illustration” with 42 illustration examples in each, almost doubling the previous number of pieces shown. Being more children’s book focused and interactive, the site also includes two new sections, “School Visits” and “Games & Guides”. The School Visit section provides information about my author visits as well as 12 photos of past visits. The “Games & Guides” section features downloadable content for children and teachers including 5 activities and 3 curriculum Guides. The site was designed by my wonderful wife, Diann, and created by web developer, Myles Angell- I am very appreciative to both of them for all of their wonderful work! I also appreciate the support of the Hartford Art School and HAS Inc. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Comic Books and Me

When I was a boy, I loved comic books. Comics were one of the major reasons that I pursued art as my career. My interest in comics began when I was seven years old and was directly connected to my first love- the Chicago Bears!

At that time, my family lived in the Chicago suburb of Addison, Illinois. The Chicago Bears weren't very good in those days, but they did have the best player in the National Football League... the legendary linebacker, Dick Butkus! My brother and I had Dick Butkus football cards, jerseys, and a huge Dick Butkus poster adorning a wall of our bedroom. However, despite living near Chicago, we had never been to an actual Chicago Bears game and had only seen Butkus on T.V. That changed when we visited my uncle in Atlanta, Georgia in November of 1970. The Bears were playing the Atlanta Falcons during our visit and our uncle got us tickets for the game- we would get to see Dick Butkus play in real life!

When we went to the game, the cover of the program featured a group of superheroes and the headline, "Beware the Linebacker".

In a feature inside, the program compared Marvel superheroes to NFL linebackers of that time. Since Dick Butkus was the greatest linebacker ever, I wondered who he would be compared to. As I found the page where Butkus was featured, I saw a drawing of a big, green monster mirroring the pose of a photo of Butkus. I instantly became captivated by the depiction of this green behemoth, The Incredible Hulk!

My beloved Bears won the game (a rare win in those days), and I got an added bonus- my introduction to the Marvel universe. When I got home from the game, I repeatedly tried to copy the Hulk drawing, failing miserably at every attempt. The Hulk illustration was done by an artist named John Buscema and his incredible skill was way beyond my 7 year old capabilities. My mother, who is very talented, tried her hand at copying the drawing and did what I thought was an amazing job. Incidentally, John Buscema and his brother Sal were two of Marvel Comics' most talented artists and helped create the marvel universe... both would have a major impact on me for many years to come as the two most influential artists of my childhood.

A few months later (in February of 1971), I was home sick from school with a cold. My mother went out to get me some medicine, and remembering the Hulk drawing, she also picked up a copy of the Incredible HULK #139... my first comic book! That comic made me feel much better than the medicine ever did and began my childhood obsession with comic books and drawing. 

I just loved the Hulk and his adventures. I also discovered a new artist, Herb Trimpe (the artist that drew Hulk comic books), and I marveled at his powerful perspectives and visual storytelling. I tried to copy his drawings, but similar to my earlier attempt at copying John Buscema's Hulk, I failed miserably. However, this time I didn't get frustrated. Instead, I kept trying. And trying. And trying. Each month I bought a new Hulk comic book, and each month the cycle continued. I would try to copy the drawings contained within those magical newsprint pages and I would always fail. However, my skills slowly developed with the constant practice, and fewer drawings wound up in my garbage can. I eventually even created my own superheroes and told their stories through my art. Comics taught me about drawing, anatomy, perspective, composition and telling a story with pictures. But most importantly, those experiences fostered my love of art and shaped the future direction of my life. My work still reflects the things that comics taught me all those years ago.

My copied drawing of the Hulk at 10 years old.

The Black Claw, a comic I created at 12 years old.

Epilogue: Since comics were at the very roots of my artistic career, I wanted the walls of my studio to reflect their importance to me . I have been lucky to find some of the actual vintage original art that inspired me throughout my childhood including the drawing that began my journey. Here are a couple of vintage original drawings that surround me while I work:

Original painting from Bears vs. Falcons program, John Buscema (Nov. '70)

Original art Hulk #139, page 9, Herb Trimpe (Feb. '71 issue)

Monday, November 28, 2016

THE TYPEWRITER Original Art Exhibition at the Southington Community Cultural Arts Building Through December 31

I am very excited to have an exhibition of the original art for my book, THE TYPEWRITER, along with other assorted work at the Southington Community Cultural Arts Center at 93 North Main Street in Southington, Ct. The exhibition runs through December 31 with an opening on Thursday, December 1 (7-10 pm) and a special children's presentation on Sunday, December 4 (1:00 pm). Please see the link below for details.

Friday, October 28, 2016


If you are near Vernon, Connecticut on Saturday, October 29, please come and see a nice children's book exhibition including my original artwork at Arts Center East 709 Hartford Turnpike Vernon, CT 06066. I will be making a presentation about my work, participating in a panel discussion and signing books tomorrow at 2pm)!

Saturday, October 8, 2016


If you are near Warwick, NY on October 8, you can visit me at the Warwick Children's Book Festival from 11am-4pm, a WONDERFUL event sponsored by the Warwick Public Library celebrating children's literature!

Friday, March 11, 2016

THE TYPEWRITER: An Evolving Creative Process

My latest book, The Typewriter, celebrates the power of words and fuses imagination with writing in a dramatic visual adventure. The Typewriter follows CHALK and FOSSIL as the final chapter in my trilogy of wordless books. Each of these books explores a different elementary school subject through the lens of a child’s imagination. The Typewriter intends to foster creativity and encourages young readers to view writing as a fun and powerful tool. 

The Typewriter, CHALK and FOSSIL were not only created to entertain young readers, but I hope they will serve as educational tools as well. Wordless stories require the participation of young readers and offer the opportunity to create unique narratives by interpreting what is seen in the illustrations. This allows readers to develop an understanding of story structure, establish characters and settings, and hone prediction, sequence and inference skills. Wordless books can function as a visual prompt to build confidence for beginning or reluctant readers, as a "story starter" for older children, and as a possible launching point for creative activities or discussion. Creative educators across the country have utilized my books in wonderful ways with their students, and I hope The Typewriter will be put to similar good use. 

For me, creating a book is an evolving process. The Typewriter began as a written synopsis that was very different than the book I ultimately created. After refining my initial story idea, I drew small thumbnail sketches to clarify the story and work out the vantage point of each illustration.  As a comparison of my first thumbnail sketches with the finished book would demonstrate, the ending of the book completely changed from what I originally drew. But this isn't unusual- I constantly try to improve upon my initial idea and make many changes throughout the entire creative process.

Here is my thumbnail sketch for an illustration depicting what happened after the children typed the word, "ice cream." This illustration underwent went more changes than any illustration in the entire book (and maybe any book I have illustrated).

After settling on my idea, I always shoot reference photographs to provide visual information to draw and paint from. This helps me make every element of my painting look equally convincing and believable. My youngest son, Ethan, was the model for this illustration, and you can see him holding an ice cream cone similar to my sketch.

While photographing my other models, I realized eating small ice cream cones wasn't a very dramatic or grand visual. While I wanted to show ice cream as something kids could relate to, I thought a large bucket of ice cream would be much more spectacular and fit better with the beach. I quickly doodled an alternate sketch idea with the ice cream being in a giant beach bucket and shot additional photographs to go along with that idea. I liked it much better and moved the illustration in that direction.

Here are the photographs that I took for the various other elements of the illustration. Photographs provide visual reference that help me make the lighting and form consistent and believable. But as you can see, I alternated things significantly (especially their heads and faces). These two models, Mikayla and Hilton, were students I met while visiting an elementary school- they were WONDERFUL! I also took photos of Sunset Beach, North Carolina, our favorite family vacation spot. I use the best information from many photos as the starting point for my drawing, and then change freely to create the best and most convincing painting I can.

I draw the illustration in graphite on a piece of Crescent #115 Watercolor board.

Then I paint over the entire drawing with a thin coat of Gesso and Yellow Ochre Acrylic paint. This gives the entire image a warm "sunshine" base color.

The black areas are painted next to establish the darkest darks.

After that, I mask off everything except the sky. To make the sky completely smooth, I use an airbrush.

I really don't like using airbrushes because I have to cover my entire studio with plastic. Airbrushes throw a mist of paint in the air and everything in my studio usually gets covered with light dusting of color. My studio is messy enough without the addition of colored airbrush dust.

Then I use the airbrush to apply the sky color.

After the mask is removed, the blue sky is complete while everything else remained its original warm base color.

But despite my best efforts, a light blue dusting still found its way all over my studio.

Next, I mask off the sky and figures, leaving only the sand areas exposed. I apply various values of light tan sand colors with toothbrush to create a fine speckled texture.

After the mask is removed, the sky and sand are complete and I paint the water with F.W. Acrylic Inks. I like to work from back to front, so I always paint the background elements of my illustration first. I really like the contrast in texture between the smooth airbrushed sky and speckled sand- it is beginning to feel like the beach! I also add some light blue/violet acrylic washes to give all of the shadow areas a cool tone.

Next I paint the bucket, ice cream, and birds...

… and then the skin tones, beach ball, and typewriter...

…and the kid's clothing. 

And finally, I go over everything one last time with very sharp Prismacolor colored pencils.

After the illustration was complete and delivered, my editor and art director had some concerns about the green bucket and asked if I would consider changing the color digitally. Creating a book is a collaboration between a publisher and author/illustrator, and I am always happy to explore other possibilities if it will improve the book. As a side note- I hadn't realized it at the time, but every bucket I have ever painted was green. It was time to venture out of my comfort zone (ha, ha).

I explored several different color variations with Photoshop to show possible alternatives. Because the bucket appeared in three illustrations, the color had to work equally well on multiple illustrations.

After trying a variety of color options, we settled on the orange bucket. I like it much, MUCH better because it relates to the Monarch butterfly that connects the three books in my wordless trilogy. As complimentary colors, the orange also really pops against the blue sky.

The designer made the final color adjustment in production and this is what the final illustration looks like in the book.

Creating a children's book is a long journey and there are often many changes and adjustments along the way. My constant goal is to produce the very best book that I possibly can for young readers to enjoy. The story is MOST important, so I never allow myself to get too attached to any one particular aspect if I can possibly make it better. In the case of this illustration, I believe that flexibility resulted in a much better illustration and improved the story overall. I think the ice cream bucket was a MAJOR improvement, and I also like the bucket's color change much better as well. I might not always be smart enough to get it right the first time, but by continually striving to improve and being open to change, I try to get there in the end.

As the concluding chapter in my wordless trilogy, I really wanted The Typewriter to be special. I spent more time on this book than anything I have ever done. From drawing reflections on each of the typewriter's forty-six keys to carefully painting the letters adorning its reflective case to demonstrating the function of this beautiful vintage writing machine- creating every meticulous detail of this book was a true labor of love.  I hope you enjoy reading The Typewriter as much as I enjoyed creating it, and that it brings the power of words to life for young readers everywhere!