Color for Jack and the Giant Barbecue

Jack and the Giant Barbecue is Eric Kimmel’s retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, set in west Texas. I wanted my images to tell the reader where he is, so the costumes and settings were carefully researched.

Color is a powerful tool for telling a story. To make every page look like the American West, I turned to 2 classic painters for guidance: Charles Russell and Frederic Remington. I made small color studies of their paintings before I began developing a palette for Jack and the Giant Barbecue. Notice how both artists accentuate the heat of a prairie scene with warm colors—yellows & oranges—and make the shadows more vivid with cool colors—blues & purples.

The color script came next. You can see Russell’s and Remington’s influence in the color, particularly in the outdoor scenes. I carried blues and purples inside the Giant’s barbecue shack to make it dark and unsettling.

Design for Jack

Jack and the Giant Barbecue is officially in bookstores today! I had a great time designing these characters. Here’s how Jack came to be.

The first drawing I do of a character is always too rough. I draw it just to get that drawing out of the way. Neither of the figures in the first sketch is very interesting. That hat, though, with the stitching around the brim is the one I wore when I was 4 or 5.

The second sketch is more finished, but this character doesn’t inspire much interest, either. Also, he looks too much like every other kid I ever draw.

I thought I might try making Jack a little squirt, to contrast even more with the Giant. The third sketch shows a more compact Jack. I think he’s starting to develop a personality!

The next sketch shows the smaller Jack doing different things and showing some expressions. This is the character who would have enough gumption to climb Mount Pecos and take on the recipe-stealing Giant.

Here’s a sketch of Jack deciding to go after the Giant. Art Director Anahid Hamparian thought the picture told the exact same story the words do, so she nixed it. She was right. Often, getting rid of a picture makes the story move more efficiently.


Some time ago, I got a fabulous manuscript to work on: Stinker and the Onion Princess.  Set in Texas, is was a retelling of the Grimm tale King Thrushbeard, but this time the proud and beautiful princess was replaced with a proud and handsome heir to an oil fortune.  The hapless king-suitor became a hapless daughter of an onion magnate.

This was to be the third in a trilogy of Texas stories by Kitty Griffin and Kathy Combs.  Alas, after the sketches were done the publisher deemed the project unmarketable and called a halt to production.

Here is my character design for Stinker.

This project was a blast to design.  Since every character is a Texan, they all wear cowboy boots, no matter what.  We decided to make the book really wide, and I filled the image areas with Western vistas and Spanish-Moroccan architecture.  I will try to scan some of the sketches for future posts.  I only have an 8.5 x 11″ Playskool scanner, so I’ll need to figure out how to piece them together.