Friday, December 10, 2010

Less IS in fact MORE. A Portfolio makeover.

Three weeks ago I was lucky enough to find myself at the CTN Expo taking in the forum discussions, catching up with friends, and toting my wares around to the studios. I was not able to show the recent film work because the movies have not yet been made or released but I had enough new stuff that it was time to freshen up my book. Thus began the task of designing a new portfolio. There are plenty of places on the web with great advice about putting together your book, most notably Escape from Illustration Island, and most are well worth the time it takes to read them even for someone that has been showing work for more than twenty years. Much of the advice is standard so I will not go into the details but will share a few observations that I had in this most recent go-round.
First off it was far more difficult than I remembered so your first stop should be to check your calendar. The day that you read about a conference like CTN or Siggraph that you may want to attend, you need to build time into your production schedule. Treat it like a job because your next one may depend upon it. Build in time for going through your images, designing the thing, editing, feedback, more editing, and finally printing and shipping. I used Blurb and was very happy once again with the results though I would recommend spending the extra money for the paper upgrade.
OK, so you have picked some recent images of work that you like. These are pieces that you enjoyed making and show the type work that you would like to get more of. I put together a contact sheet like this:
The portfolio that preceded this version, and there have been many, looked wonderful but as a friend of mine pointed out it was a bit of an embarrassment of riches. It was well received but clocked in at a hefty 34 pages. Even people that loved my work were stuffed by page 20.

I was a prime candidate for a radical intervention on Portfolios Biggest Losers. If you have a copy, I am sure that it looks very nice on your coffee table but my goal this time around was to make something a bit more user friendly. How? Simple. Edit until it hurts. I am good at critiquing, in fact I used to get paid to crit and edit while teaching at RISD but when it comes to your own book, we all need a fresh eye. So I sent it off to my friend Buck Lewis. I received something like this back.
Ouch! Thought this guy was my friend?-well he is. Buck was able to cut through the redundancy and the fluff and get me to show a range of work that highlighted my strengths in character design and visual development. Trust the process and make the cuts. You want to treat your art director, recruiter, or production designer to a nice cappuccino and fresh croissant not the open buffet at the Radisson. Don't get stuck in the trap of thinking that "if they only saw this piece then they would realize I am perfect for their project". You want to show them potential not every single decent piece that you have created in the past year. Give them a taste, let your work shine, save some trees, and get a gig. Trust me-it works. I am lean after shedding over 20 pages of portfolio fat and my friends, family and most importantly, my clients are amazed!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another glimpse behind the scenes...

It is always a huge compliment when people take the time out of their busy schedules to attend a book event with the kids in tow. Many thanks to all that have come out in the cold and told us how much they enjoy our new book, Bella and Stella Come Home! Thanks to the efforts of my wife, Anika (author of Bella and Pigs Love Potatoes) we have been able to share some of the behind the scenes material that usually never seen. We have printed out a few of the character sheets (seen on this blog) and have begun to display some of the book map and sketch material.

So stop in our next signing, get your book personalized with a drawing of Stella, have your photo taken with "big Stella", and take a quick look behind the scenes! We always try to make the time to answer questions about our books and process. So if your are in New England, come and see us this Saturday at Where the Sidewalk Ends in Chatham Mass.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Many thanks to Barrington Books for hosting the launch party for Bella & Stella Come Home!

Thanks to everyone at Barrington Books for a great day! If you missed us, we will be signing at Books of Wonder in NYC this Sunday, December 5th.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another review for Bella & Stella Come Home!

This just in from Publishers Weekly!
10/25/2010 Children's
Bella and Stella Come Home
Anika Denise, illus. by Christopher Denise, Philomel, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-399-24243-4

In this clever and reassuring offering from the husband-and-wife creators of Pigs Love Potatoes, Bella finds solace in her stuffed elephant, Stella--and in her expansive imagination--on moving day. "Stella says she will miss our house. I hug her and say, ‘It will be okay,' " says Bella. Vibrant digital and pencil art soon reveals a transformation as Stella springs to life as an enormous yellow elephant. Faces share skepticism and apprehension as Bella transfers her emotions to Stella. The new kitchen is yellow ("Stella thinks kitchens should be blue. I do too"), and the two continue to concur that old beats new: the garden should have an oak tree, and their bedroom should have polka-dot curtains and stars on the ceiling. The arrival of Bella's possessions helps ease the transition, as does meeting a neighbor who also has an oversize animal companion. The fact that Bella comes to terms with the move on her own (her parents are always offstage) adds to the appeal of this story, whose subtle narrative is neatly balanced by larger-than-life graphics. Ages 3–8. (Nov.)

Review time can leave you a bit nervous....

The early reviews for Bella & Stella Come Home are starting to some out. So far, its all good!

Here's what critics at Kirkus Reviews have to say about our new book:

ISBN:978-0399242434(Philomel) November 24, 2010
When Bella moves to a new home, she finds it greatly comforting to have her best friend Stella always at her side. Everything is so different. There are ten steps to the front door instead of three, the kitchen is yellow instead of blue and the bathtub has feet. Bella and Stella take turns encouraging and reassuring each other as they explore their new home. Even when her room is set up with her familiar things, it takes all the lights on, a new morning and a new neighbor with his own best friend to make her feel as if she’s home. Anika Denise conveys tender understanding as Bella speaks directly to the reader, expressing her apprehension and confusion in appropriately childlike terms. Christopher Denise’s glowing, softly colored pencil-and-digital illustrations add further dimension as readers see that Stella is Bella’s beloved yellow stuffed elephant, who morphs into an imaginary life-sized companion and supporter. Text and illustrations are interdependent and seamless, a splendid marriage of words and pictures. Cozy and comfortable. (Picture book. 3-8)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bella and Stella Come Home, more character development.

and a detail from the interior of the book...

Anika Denise, the author of Bella & Stella Come Home, and my wife, has also posted a more detailed account of Bella's early stages on her blog,,
Check it out!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Think ideas are all original? Think again!Its all in the air ....

This is not one of those posts that accuse the big evil corporate entity of ripping off the little guy. This is a post about amazing coincidences where inspired artists working independently are pulling ideas from the ether.
I had the great pleasure of finally seeing Toy Story 3 last night. I think we were the last to catch it, but if we were not, you really need to see this film. You will not be disappointed!
Last summer I was working around the clock creating the final images for my next book, Bella & Stella Come Home, by Anika Denise.

Publication was delayed for marketing reasons until this November. All of the final artwork was completed and sent to the publisher in September and October 0f 2009.If you like my work, don't forget, you can always pre-order the book at your favorite independent bookstore or Amazon.
Large pre-orders send a really strong positive message to my publisher!

I will preface the following with a few facts;

1. I have never been to Pixar....yet
2. No full time employee of Pixar has ever been to my studio.
3. I have not worked with or for Pixar.....yet.
4. I have exchanged emails and pleasantries with a few of the amazing artists that have worked on the Pixar films that I ad
mire, including Toy Story 3. No images were ever shared. Pixar runs a tight ship and at the cost of not showing my most recent work, I try to keep unpublished art under wraps.
5. Full disclaimer: I do have the good fortune to
count Carter Goodrich and Buck Lewis amongst my friends. Both are amazing artists who have contributed to Pixar films in the past.
6. I am a fan of Pixar films. The work that has come from that amazing group of artists, writers and filmmakers has been the driving inspiration for me to begin to venture out of the dusty but pleasant cocoon of books and into the world of animation.
As I watched the film last night, I was swept along with the mastery of story telling and film making. I was in that wonderful place of being completely in the film...until the last scene.
The last scene was not a disappointment in anyway shape or form! It was perfect but it was also strangely familiar. I was in awe. What I was watching was a more masterful rendition of a scene that I had created in my book just twelve months ago!
Remember: This is not one of those posts that accuse the big evil corporate entity of ripping off the little guy.
I have a healthy respect for copyright law so I will not post any pirated images from the final sequence of the film. However, the last scene is viewable at the sites where you would expect to find these things. I can post a few of my images from Bella & Stella Come Home and I would welcome any commentary from readers of this blog.
Please bear two things in mind:
1. I do not feel that I have been ripped off in any way shape or form.
2. Any similarity is purely coincidence. I could not have seen anything from the film nor could anyone making the film (which was already in the final stages of production) have seen my work.
I see that whole thing as an amazing coincidence and perhaps a message that my head is in the right place and my inspirational receiver is tuned into a very good station.
As I said.....I have not worked with or for Pixar..........yet.

This is our Bella..and Stella

Here she is meeting the neighbor.
I tried for the hand on the hip but it changed the body language expression of the mom too much.

There are other areas of similarity that just come with
the subject matter (tutus and stuff). But there was just something about seeing that kid in that environment that blew me away. See the film and look at the book and see what you think. No imitation on either end-it would have been impossible. I think the ideas are just out there floating around and sometimes we grab the same ones!
(detail from a larger scene)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Where have you been????

......working on the new studio!! But today I am painting away on the next book.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Blog you should follow! This post "Dreaming of Bologna" borrowed from Anika Denise.

Read more and follow this blog!
I'll admit, I'm wishing I was there and not here, in chilly drizzly Rhode Island. (Though come to think of it, I believe it's chilly and drizzly there too, but hey, it's Italy, so who cares?) My husband and I have always wanted to attend, but in these past few years when our daughters were still so little, we couldn't quite swing it. Now, with our youngest heading to first grade in the fall—we find ourselves dreaming of Bologna. Billed as "the most important international event dedicated to the children’s publishing industry," it's a venue where international authors, illustrators, literary agents, TV & Film producers, licensors and licensees, packagers, distributors, printers, booksellers, librarians and journalists meet to network and see what's new and exciting in the world of children's publishing and media. A visit to the website (particularly the one in Italian) conjures up all sorts of exotic images for me. The "Agenti letterari" sound like something out of a Stephanie Meyer novel, don't they? I picture a group of serious but stunningly beautiful book agents, in robes and bright red scarves, gliding across the exhibition floor towards a feast of new talent and gorgeously designed books. Sigh. Ok, so perhaps I'm over-romanticizing it just a touch, but to have all that creative energy in one city, for one fabulous fair is surely exhilarating. When I'm in need of a little inspiration, I often go the the places where talent converges—be it a museum or gallery, coffee house or conference—being around creative, productive people who share a passion is good for the work, and good for the soul. So, next year, when Bologna comes around... Andiamó! I'll be ready.

Friday, March 19, 2010

From the archives....

I always had fun with these smaller projects. The only text read "Rabbit stopped for a snack"
The bear definitely deserves his own story!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another happy step closer to the new studio!

(detail from If I Could, now enjoying a place on someone's wall)

I have been asked recently why I am selling original art from my books? Simple answer. I am trying to put together a studio closer to home so my kids can see more of what I do. They visit the studio often and art time is a regular part of our week, but I am looking to close the gap between "work life" and "home life". My family is one of my greatest sources of inspiration so the move seems logical. I had the opportunity to work from a small space a stones throw from the back door last summer and loved it!
So if you ever wanted some original art from one of my books check my store for regular updates and become a follower of the blog or join the fan page to receive announcements of new postings.
Many thanks from myself and the family to all that have appreciated my work enough to purchase a piece and get us one step closer!



Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Original Redwall Art now at Etsy!

Visit my original art gallery at Etsy to see if your favorite pieces are available!
All works are one of a kind originals.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Original Art for sale!

I have a new gadget on my sidebar that will take you directly to my Etsy shop. I will be opening the flat files and posting new items over the course of the next few weeks!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010