Behind the Scenes with Tom Lichtenheld

ThisIsAMooseRemember Moose and his motley crew? He’s hard to forget with that superhuman (supermoosian?) determination and antlers tuned toward mischief. Let me turn the reigns over to Tom Lichtenheld himself, so he can give you a look at his process, sketches, and creative problem solving. It’s a fascinating look at how an illustrator responds to an author’s manuscript, and a glimpse at the evolution of a picture book.

Welcome back, Tom! breaker This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldWhen I receive a manuscript and like it, the first thing I do is start doodling. That initial moment of inspiration only comes once, so I try to capture the first images that pop into my head. When I receive a manuscript and like it, the first thing I do is start doodling. That initial moment of inspiration only comes once, so I try to capture the first images that pop into my head. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldThen I start refining and exploring options. Then I start refining and exploring options. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldThe director was initially a raccoon, but a duck felt more manic. The director was initially a raccoon, but a duck felt more manic. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldI spent a lot of time on film sets during my career in advertising, so I know it’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. I spent a lot of time on film sets during my career in advertising, so I know it’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldNo, giraffe don’t live in the woods, but I like to draw them, so a giraffe it is. No, giraffe don’t live in the woods, but I like to draw them, so a giraffe it is. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldLots of gags get left on the cutting-room floor, but it’s all part of the process. Lots of gags get left on the cutting-room floor, but it’s all part of the process. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldBoom! Boom! This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldAn idea revealing that the movie was actually made, which makes no sense. An idea revealing that the movie was actually made, which makes no sense. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldFirst crack at a title page.  First crack at a title page.  This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld (click to enlarge)

First version of the opening scene. The narrator was a monkey, and part of the scene. We quickly realized that the director had to be “off-camera” until the end. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldFirst version of the spread where Director Duck realizes none of the animals are playing by the rules. I liked the simplicity of having only his eyes move, but it was a bit too subtle, so I changed it to his entire head looking from side to side. First version of the spread where Director Duck realizes none of the animals are playing by the rules. I liked the simplicity of having only his eyes move, but it was a bit too subtle, so I changed it to his entire head looking from side to side. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld (click to enlarge)

The Moosenest 

Turning this marvelously manic manuscript into a logical sequence of pictures required complete immersion, so I made a foamcore enclosure around my desk, with only Moose material within my sight lines, and dubbed it The Moosenest. It sounds like a joke, but there’s a point in sketching out a book where you need to have the entire book suspended in your mind at once, so you can mentally move the pieces around without losing sight of any elements. It’s challenging, but one of my favorite parts of the process and I don’t think I could have done it for This Is A Moose without The Moosenest.

breaker A marvelously manic manuscript with mayhem in the pictures. Thanks for letting us in to The Moosenest, Tom!

(I love that moose-like alien. I’m glad he got his day here.)

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Frog & Friends, Owl & Friends

 by Joyce Wan

{published 2013, by Penguin Young Readers Group}

Here’s the thing. I adore Joyce Wan! I wrote about her here! And here.

She’s a brilliant artist and a fun friend and I hope to be raising a glass with her at the SCBWI conference in LA in August! (Are you going?!)

 And just look at her newest delightful duo of board books! They are on shelves TOMORROW, June 27th!

I’m just giddy over this sneak peek. And giddy is exactly how I am, too, over the design of these books.   I had a few questions for her about their striking look, and am thrilled to introduce her to you! {You’ll love her.}  I had a few questions for her about their striking look, and am thrilled to introduce her to you! {You’ll love her.}  {ME}

Joyce! I’m mostly curious about how you used texture in these, because that natural, wood grain feel is different for you, right? (Apart from the sleek, glistening, rub-me graphics of YOU ARE MY CUPCAKE and WE BELONG TOGETHER.) I feel like there’s a story there, either artist-wise or art-wise. Is that true?

{JOYCE}

Although I do love sparkly and shiny (what girl doesn’t?), there is something about wood that I’ve always found to be warm and inviting. I’ve always loved wood textures and even offer a line of cards printed on actual birch wood veneer from sustainably harvested trees. My business card is also printed on wood too.

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I wanted to incorporate wood textures into illustrations for my next book which naturally led to the idea of some sort of tree book. The original manuscript was written as a picture book about a tree (very close to what Owl & Friends is like) which the publisher broke down into two board books when it was acquired. The textures were created by scanning actual wood and then incorporated into the art using Photoshop.

 {ME}

And the form – the foldout! It’s so clever. How did you dream up that novelty?!

{JOYCE}

I love surprise endings in books (and movies for that matter). Ones that beg a another reading or watching and make sense when you go back over the entire book/movie. These books offers a surprise ending and done in such a way for the wee’est of readers. I wanted the ending to be BIG (size-wise) and I wanted readers to smile when they see the ending! So an ending that opened up somehow seemed liked the way to go and it makes it more interactive and fun!

Isn’t she spectacular?! I didn’t show you that big surprise ending, because some things are extra magical on a first read, and this is one of them. I can’t wait to give these to some teeny twinsies that I know!

Thanks, Joyce! Big fan!

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Joyce Wan designed her first greeting card when she was in first grade for a city-wide greeting card design contest. The design won first place and was subsequently sold through a major department store chain. Twenty years later that design would inspire a design studio called Wanart whose products featuring Joyce’s designs are now sold world wide. Joyce also teaches courses on greeting card design and art licensing at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Joyce is inspired by Japanese pop culture, modern architecture, and things that make her smile. Joyce is the author and illustrator of Greetings from Kiwi and Pear (Blue Apple Books, 2009), You Are My Cupcake (Cartwheel, 2011), and We Belong Together (Cartwheel, 2011), Frog & Friends (PSS!, 2013), Owl & Friends (PSS!, 2013) and several forthcoming titles including: Hug You, Kiss You, Love You (Cartwheel, 2013), Mama, Mama (Cartwheel, 2014), My Lucky Little Dragon (Cartwheel, 2014), Whale in My Swimming Pool(FSG, 2015) and will be illustrating Sleepyheads by Sandra Howatt (Beach Lane, 2014). Joyce hails from Boston, Massachusetts and currently lives in New York City. Through all her work, Joyce hopes to inspire people to embrace the spirit of childhood and follow their dreams. Visit her online at www.wanart.com.

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. Greg2 My 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.
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.

Greg3 Basically 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_007 text007 I’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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I’m PiBoIdMo-ing

Not only is it Picture Book Month, but it’s also PiBoIdMo!

Would you believe Tara Lazar let me loose to post on her blog?

Come on over and gobblefunk with me!

Jennifer Young’s Let’s Ask Series {guest post}

Here’s something fun for the weekend:

I’m guest blogging over at my friend Jennifer Young‘s home on the internet!

Come by and hear about my clunky pirouette skills and why I am so obsessed with The Stinky Cheese Man. 

Happy weekending!

Emily’s Runaway Imagination {guest post}

Speaking of sentimental favorites, check out this other gem I found at my parents’ house recently:

Once upon a time, I was seven, and was already obsessed with books.

The lovely ladies at Lost in A Book invited me to post a nostalgia review, and this is the book I chose. Happy reading!