December 4, 2009

Alexander Steffensmeier

As I was searching through the shelves at the library where I work to find some good examples of illustrators who work in watercolors, I came across a couple of really great books by an author/illustrator named Alexander Steffensmeier. The books are called Millie in the Snow and Millie Waits for the Mail, and they're all about the adventures of a cow named Millie who loves the mail. The stories and illustrations are absolutely amazing. I highly recommend you check them out to see for yourself!
And on top of it all, the author/illustrator is German - wie ausgezeichnet ist das? Die zwei Buecher wuerde eigentlich auf Deutsch geschrieben, und sie heissen Lieselotte lauert und Lieselotte im Schnee. Wen sie Deutsch lesen koenntest, vieleicht koennen Sie diese Buecher in einer zweiten Sprache geniessen!
Und hier ist die Website fuer Alexander Steffensmeier -

November 23, 2009

Altar Boys

Creative expression definitely runs throughout my family.

My brother is an actor/dancer/model who just finished touring as part of the hilarious production of Altar Boys. The fam' drove down to Louisiana last weekend to see him perform, and it was absolutely amazing! For those unfamiliar with the show, the concept revolves around the last concert performance of the Altar Boys - a Christian boy band out to save the lost souls of America through their pop music and awesome dance moves. If you get the chance to see the show, I guarantee it'll be a great time. And be sure to check out my brother Joshua David on Youtube!

(Josh - aka "Matthew"- is the one in the middle!)

November 17, 2009

New Work, New Media...

I've been working lately with watercolors and ink pens, two media very different from my usual choice of acrylics. And I have to say, I'm really liking the results...

Here's one of my favorite characters - Ralph S. Mouse from
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary.

And from
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville, a portrait of the dragon Tiamat.

October 22, 2009

3rd Place!!!

I just got the news... I won third place in the SCBWI Southern Breeze 2009 Illustration Contest!!! I can't believe it! Holy cow! I'll post more about this later, but I had to go ahead and share the news!


October 20, 2009

Update on Jeremy Thatcher...

Although I did have to put the project on the back burner for a while, I've been able to start up work on my Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher illustration again. To bring everybody up to speed, I've decided to scrap the initial design concept and my first attempt at the painting.

Using my new favorite "sketch" tool Photoshop, I've gone back in and reworked the original sketch of Jeremy, changing the position of his hands. I'm still tinkering with the background details. But here's a quick watercolor sketch I finished tonight just to feel out the colors:

October 19, 2009

Just a fun halloween experiment with watercolor...

I love this time of year!

The Illustrator's Quest...

For those who've waited patiently to see final piece for the SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators Workshop, here it is! I have to say, I'm quite proud of it, and I got lots of great feedback from my fellow conference attendees, too!

September 21, 2009

Variation on a sketch

Just a variation on yesterday's sketch - the little guy's looking more skyward now, into the future (which is full of possibilities!).

September 20, 2009

Another sketch...

Here's another sketch for the Illustrators Workshop - I've combined aspects from a couple of earlier sketches...

September 17, 2009

Southern Breeze Illustrators Workshop sketches

These are some of the concept sketches I've created for the Southern Breeze Illustrators Workshop based on the theme "It's All About YOU!" My concept is a kind of metaphorical self-portrait idea: I've really been feeling lately that my experience of pursuing a career as an illustrator is like an epic quest. I'm on this journey, and I'm carrying with me the "tools of the trade" and the artistic and literary influences that have made such an impact on me.

September 16, 2009

Busy, busy, busy...

Good grief! There's so much going on right now, and I haven't had a solid block of time to comment on any of it lately here on the ol' blog. So here's quick look at the latest:

  • I've been painting steadily on my Jeremy Thatcher mock book cover. There's a lot going on in the composition, and it'll take some time to finish. Plus, I'm really attached to the piece, so I want to do the best I can!
  • I've started working on my ideas for the Southern Breeze Illustrators Workshop piece based on the workshop theme, "It's All About YOU!". The experience so far has been great - challenging, but great. The first 25 of us to sign up for the workshop were given the opportunity to have one-on-one consultation with illustrator Mark Braught throughout the process of creating the illustration. Read more about the workshop here.
  • And finally, last weekend was the Decatur Book Festival - holy cow, what an event!!! Lots more to report about that when I've got more time.

Hope this is just enough to keep ya satisfied till I can give more details!

September 2, 2009

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher

My absolute favorite kids' book of all time is Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by the incredibly talented Bruce Coville. If you've never read it before, I highly recommend that you take some time and read this great story. I love it for several reasons: the creative storyline and general concept, of course; the fantasy element; the illustrations; and the personal connection I have with the main character (a boy named Jeremy who loves to draw).

There have been several cover designs created for the book since its first publication in 1991 (I was 10 years old then!). This is the original I remember buying at a Scholastic book fair...

Then there's Tony Diterlizzi's interpretation (and a very good one, I have to say)...

So when I was trying to decide on my next illustration project, I figured what better to do than to create my own jacket cover design. I can definitely say I've been really happy working on ideas for this one. This book has a special place in my life, and I really wanna do it justice! Here's the basic inked design...

Jeremy's there in the middle holding the dragon egg. Hyacinth Priest is shelving books on the left, and on the right, Mr. Elives is looking down from behind the counter in his magic shop. Tiamat soars overhead by moonlight. Stay tuned for the final painting in color!

August 17, 2009

So what is the little guy anyway?

I've finished a new piece featuring the little critter from my PJ series! So what is he exactly? I'm not sure yet what to call him, or what his "species" is either, but here's a view of him finally from the front! Inspiration came from several places - squirrels, kangaroo rats, cats, and my dog Basil.

August 5, 2009

PJ and the little critter find the cave...

I've finally finished the second painting in my "PJ" series!!!

In the end, I reworked PJ's posture and clothes a bit, as well as some of the cave's positioning in the foreground, but I really like where the piece has come since its early sketch stages.

As I was thinking about the idea for this piece, I kept coming back to a concept that there's a constant going into or coming out of a tunnel/passage leading from one world to another - basically the gateway to and from the supernatural. In the first painting, the little critter (I'll eventually give him a name and figure out just what he is exactly) is venturing out of his realm through the log into PJ's world. Now we've got the reverse - the little critter has convinced PJ to come into the supernatural world through this mysterious cave.

I'm definitely not finished with the story I'm developing with PJ. I've already got ideas of what it might possibly look like when we finally get to the other side of the tunnel and see the little critter's world. I'm thinking of creating a third piece for the ol' portfolio, but I'm hooked on where this story is going, so I'd love to crank out several more paintings... maybe even write out the entire epic saga!

July 24, 2009

PJ's story continues...

So I'm working on filling out my portfolio, trying to fill in some gaps and get things ready to show to publishers, and particularly to show at the SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators Workshop coming up in October.

I really liked how my Illustration Contest entry came out (check it out in an earlier blog post), so I decided to continue building on the concept with another piece. In this scene, we'll see that PJ and the little furry critter have made friends, and the little guy has convinced PJ to help him on an adventure. Their quest is going to lead them first to a mysterious cave, and then into the cave and beyond.

Here's the initial sketch:

This is the final drawing on acrylic paper and the background inspiration image from an old copy of America - Land of Beauty and Splendor (Reader's Digest):

Stay tuned to see the final painting!

July 7, 2009


Way back when I was about 12 or 13 years old, I sat down with paper and pencil and created a little green dragon I named Torch. In the original drawing, I used a set of really cool markers I got as a gift to add color. I've kept the sketch all these years (it's now 15 years old - if you look in the lower right corner, you'll see my initials and the date). Torch quickly became my favorite character, sort of like Mickey was to Walt Disney. I drew him over and over, putting him in all kinds of situations. I also ended up putting a lot of myself into his personality.
Then I went several years without drawing him, and I have to admit, I truly missed the little guy. So I decided to break out my brushes and acrylics this week and spend some time bringing Torch to life again. I really enjoyed working on this project; it was like getting to hang out with a good friend you haven't seen in a long time.

plan on doing a series of illustrations with Torch, so check back for more of this little guy!

July 1, 2009

New Deviant Art Webpage

So my bud Trey finally got me hooked up with a new webpage through a site called Deviant Art. It's another great tool to promote your art on the web. Trey's had a page there for years and has been encouraging me to get on board. Now that I am, I'll be posting my illustration work there along with some of my other artwork outside of illustration. Take a minute and check out both our pages! Jeremy's page Trey's page

Thanks Trey!!!

June 21, 2009

GC&SU Alumni Exhibit

Several months back, my wife Erin and I were invited to participate in an alumni art exhibit at our Alma mater Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville. Thought I'd share some of the pics on the ole' blog! It was really great getting to see our professors again, and the new college art gallery is so cool. I chose to exhibit one of my illustrations, and Erin selected Brushy Mini.

Southern Breeze Illustration Contest

It's finally finished! I've been working hard for the past three weeks or so on my submission for the Southern Breeze 2009 Illustration Contest. We were given the prompt, "PJ reached in and..." and were asked to finish the sentence with a creative illustration. I wrote out a TON of ideas for how to complete the prompt, but I decided to go with an idea that my wife really loved:

"PJ reached in and thought he saw something hiding behind the baseball."

The idea is that PJ is out playing a game of baseball with some friends, and the kid at bat hits a good one way out of the park. PJ, who's playing in the outfield, has to then search through the woods to find the ball. He comes across a fallen tree, and something draws him closer to look there for the ball. When he looks down a hollow branch, he sees the ball... and something else hiding behind it!

Once I got the idea together, I started the painting process. First, I drew out the illustration on acrylic paper, traced the lines with a Sharpee, then taped the paper to a board on my easel:

Next, I covered the whole image with a layer of gel medium, and then a dark brown glaze layer for my underpainting. Once both dried, I started blocking in the painting with basic colors:

From there, I built up the painting in layers, adding more details to give form to the figures, working with highlights and shadows, etc:

I reworked PJ's facial expression and the shadow on his hand a few times as well as the color of the little critter's fur and cape before I felt satisfied with the piece. Here's the final product!

Click here to see last year's winners!

June 8, 2009

New Project

I've been working on a new illustration project. I just finished this sketch last night:

SCBWI Bulletin - May/June 2009

It's here!! The article I wrote for the SCBWI Bulletin is now in print, and I finally received a copy!

Here's the backstory on how it all came to be...

I was about to leave the SCBWI National Conference in NYC this past January when Aaron Hartzler (director of communications and design/webmaster for SCBWI) approached me out of the blue. He asked if I would be interested in writing a short article for the SCBWI Bulletin about my first conference experience, and of course I said yes! I came home, wrote the article, and sent it in to Aaron. And a few months later, there it is in print! Hope it encourages others to take the leap of faith and get involved with the SCBWI.

May 12, 2009

My New Hand-Bound Sketchbook

A couple of years ago, I really got interested in personalizing my sketchbooks, and in particular, binding books by hand. I checked out a few books from my local library on the subject, and I knew I had to try out some of the techniques I learned from them to take my sketchbooks to the next level.

The first style of bookbinding I attempted was a traditional Japanese technique. I basically took a generic sketchbook you can purchase from any arts and crafts store, deconstructed it, and rebound it using the Japanese technique. I was really stoked about the results!

This past weekend, I attempted a second technique for creating a multi-signature hardbound sketchbook. This method turned out to be way more challenging. I had to start with supplies from scratch in order to create all of the parts of the book: book board, pages for the text block, book cloth, end pages, etc. Instead of just rebinding the parts of a pre-made sketchbook, I was going to be building this one from square one. In the end, I think I'm really satisfied with how it turned out!

May 7, 2009

Illustrators Exhibit

Coming up on Friday, May 22nd, at 5:00pm, Decatur's own Little Shop of Stories will feature an exhibit of children's book art created by local illustrators. The exhibit will be on display through May 31st. I definitely plan on attending - hope you will, too!

May 5, 2009

First Big Steps

So here's a little bit of back-story to bring things up to the present...

Last summer (2008), I started taking some of my first big steps to becoming a real illustrator. I had been checking out picture books on a regular basis from my local library to get better acquainted with the world of children's books, and in particular with authors and illustrators. And somewhere along the way, I came across the work of author/illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka. I read Punk Farm and Baghead, and really liked Krosoczka's style. I visited his webpage, and eventually wrote him an email to say that I liked his work and to seek his advice on getting into the world of children's books. I was thrilled to get a reply from him, and the biggest piece of advice he offered was to join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Later on in September, I learned that Tony Diterlizzi would be coming to Atlanta for a book signing of his latest title Kenny and the Dragon. I had read and loved Spiderwick Chronicles, and thought it would be a great opportunity to go to the book signing and meet the author/illustrator. It was a great experience. Not only did I get to hear Tony read an excerpt from Kenny and the Dragon in person, but I also got invited to come up and create a sketch of a dragon with him! Later on, I asked Tony for his advice on getting into the world of children's books, and he said something I had heard before: "Join SCBWI!"

(Tony draws a dragon as I describe it.)

Needless to say, I took their advice and became a full-fledged member of SCBWI. By the time 2009 rolled around, I had booked a flight to New York City to attend my first SCBWI New York Conference. It was an amazing experience. I even got to meet Jarrett Krosoczka and thank him in person for his advice!
(J and J - yeah, that's how we roll.)

(My wife Erin, Pamela, my brother Josh, and me in NYC after the conference.)

Since the conference, I built my website, created some new illustrations, and started going through my copy of Children's Writers and Illustrators Market to find out more about contacting publishers.

And that about brings us to the present!

April 26, 2009

My First Blog Post!

So today it's official: I now have a blog and will begin posting updates and news on a regular basis as I pursue my career as an illustrator!

Check back often to see what I've got going on in the studio, with publishers, and with life in general!