Designing Finnegan and Fox

 Finnegan and Fox: The Ten-Foot Cop will be available February 1st! You know what that means: I’ll be showing you sketches and paintings in progress. Here are character studies for Finnegan, the police horse and Fox, his policeman.

Finnegan is a powerful 10 year old horse—younger and more muscular than the tired old rosinantes I’m so fond of drawing in other of my books. Police horses, just like policemen, wear a uniform. I had to research Finnegan’s bridle and saddle as well as the pad that goes under it. The pad is blue with the NYPD badge in the corner. Mounted cops use an English style of saddle which is smaller than the American version.

I did some sketches of Fox, the policeman, but the editors and art director weren’t happy with how he looked. He’s too comic, too silly. Fox has to look serious enough to be a cop but also friendly-looking. I had a difficult time getting this character to look just right. The editors weren’t able to tell me exactly how they’d like me to draw him. I hate to not please my clients. Felicia Macheske was my art director for this project. She and I came up with the idea to ask the editors which actor they would choose to play Fox. That was much easier! They said they’d cast Jesse Martin. Designing Fox went much more smoothly once I knew what my clients wanted.

finnegan.left finnegan.right fox.1 fox.2 newfox.body newfox.heads

Blog Hop!

My writer (and artist) pal Beth MacKinney asked me to be part of an exciting project this weekend. Authors with blogs are linking to other author-blogs for a huge, weekend-long Blog-Hop! Beth is linking to my blog and she sent me questions—about whatever my latest writing project is— for the occasion. Here they are.

  • What is the working title of your book?
    Dark Circles.
  • Where did the idea come from for the book?
    I thought it would be funny to spoof the Twilight Saga. Also, there ought to be a school-infested-by-vampires-and-werewolves story for kids too young to read about the exploits of Bella and Edward.
  • What genre does your book fall under?
    Picture Book. Unless you have a category called ‘Doomed Picture Book’.
  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
    Actors who look like K-Stew and R-Patz, but younger and zippier. You know, not half- asleep.
  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
    The first day at a new school is tough, but it’s even more difficult for Ella, who has no idea her new classmates are undead!
  • Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
    I’m definitely going to shop this around to publishers. If my agent (who reps illustrators not authors) likes it, she may help me promote it.
  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
    Still working on it! I can’t figure out how to get the plot to the third act. Either my protagonist realizes all her classmates are vampires and werewolves and needs to deal with that, or else she remains unaware while chaos erupts around her. I haven’t thought of a way to end the chaos, or the story.
  • What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
    Milton’s Paradise Lost—the one with Gustave Dorè’s illustrations. I know, I know, PL is over 10,000 lines long, but you haven’t seen my manuscript. I need to do a lot of cutting.
  • Who or what inspired you to write this book?
    ‘Inspired’ may not be the best word. I’ve been a little tired of wall-to-wall Twilight and my smart-alecky brain naturally turns to spoof. I thought I’d try to turn spoof into a picture book project for my crowd, which are 5 to 8-year-olds.
  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
    It’s narrated in the first person. It’s written in rhyme. Here’s a sample:

The first day at my new school
Was awkward as I feared
The kids who go there—and their dogs—
Are more than slightly weird.

Their skin is pale and pasty
They’re thin and underfed
Their eyes are dark with circles
Like they haven’t been to bed.

They hate to see the sun shine
They like the lighting dim
The window blinds are always down
Which makes it kind of grim.

As you probably noticed, it’s the same structure as The Last Time I Saw Paris— composed by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. If that doesn’t pique a reader’s interest, I don’t know what will!

New book coming out soon!

Finnegan and Fox: The Ten-Foot Cop will be hitting the bookshelves February 1st. I’ll have some work-in-progress posts up soon. In the meantime, here’s a review from Publishers’ Weekly.


Ahoy, ye lubbers!

Blast me for a marlin spike—tomorrow is Talk Like A Pirate Day!
I’ll be yarning away the afternoon watch with the young scholards at Colfax Elementary School.

Never fear, you can talk like a pirate, too. Just click over here for a glossary of pirate words. You’ll also find some coloring sheets and the lyrics to that fine old buccaneer bunny sea shanty, Nibble Yer Greens!

Some excellent reading for the day: Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates, and Pirates Go To School.

Alphabet Trail & Tales

Come join me this Saturday in Frick Park (in Pittsburgh, Pa) at the big blue slide! I’ll be the one in the bunny ears, reading Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies and painting pictures.

PJ Storytime tomorrow

I will be appearing at Franklin Public Library tomorrow at 7:00 pm. I’ll read Let’s Have A Tree Party and paint a picture. See you there!

Jack and the Giant Barbecue color studies

Here are close-up scans of the color studies I created for Jack and the Giant Barbecue. They’re shown here individually, but they were created together on one big piece of watercolor paper as a color script. Each study is roughly 6″ x 4″.

These studies will be framed and for sale at the Giant Barbecue Party tomorrow!



Today’s Barbecue Fun Fact from

When the first Spanish explorers arrived in the new world they found the indigenous people of the Caribbean preserving meats in the sun. This is an age old and almost completely universal method. The chief problem with doing this is that the meats spoil and become infested with bugs. To drive the bugs away the natives built small, smoky fires and placed the meat on racks over the fires. The smoke kept the insects at bay and helped preserve the meat.

Tradition tells us that this is the origin of barbecue, both in process and in name. The natives of the West Indies had a word for this process, “barbacoa”. It is generally believed that this is the origin of our modern word barbecue, though there is some debate on the matter.

Don’t forget to swing by the studio Saturday for the Giant Barbecue Party!

Giant BBQ Party on Saturday!

If you’re anywhere near Oil City, Pennsylvania this Saturday, June 9th we’re throwing a Giant Barbecue party—and you’re invited! It’s from noon to 3:00. Come on up to Studio 27B in the National Transit Building on Seneca Street. We’ll have free Texas barbecue and lemonade, hot tamales and cow tails. I’ll be reading Jack and the Giant Barbecue and painting a picture which we’ll raffle off to a lucky winner.

Speaking of barbecue, did you know the Caddo Indians in Texas were smoking meats over smoldering wood over 10,000 years ago? You can read a dandy history of barbecue over here.

Inside the jukebox

Here is an image I was very excited to draw from Jack and the Giant Barbecue—Jack inside the jukebox, trying to get at his daddy’s recipe book.  In the original manuscript the giant had hidden the recipe book inside a cash register. We ran into trouble when drawing that because a cash register and a jukebox are similar in shape—box-y with a rounded top—so would have been confusing to the reader. We needed to hide the book somewhere else. Eric Kimmel asked me “How do you feel about having Jack lay low in the innards of a jukebox?” Well, as he guessed, I loved it. Here are the sketches, a couple of photos of a jukebox’ innards, and the final painting.