Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Dec 14 2015

My brief obsession with knifemaking

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Here’s something most of you don’t know about me. During high school and college I was quite interested in metalworking, especially as it applies to historical weapons. I read a lot about the subject and found some very nice folks who helped me pursue it, and for a while I had a fairly encyclopedic (entirely theoretical) knowledge of how Japanese swords are made, as well as various types of Damascus pattern forging. At one point a local blacksmith let me make one or two super-crude blades in his forge (one was just a leaf spring ground to an edge, the other looked like a pointy baguette gnawed by a dog). Later I met the amazing Jim Kelso, who I am happy to say is still a close friend. He brought me to a bladesmithing conference, which was an amazing experience that really opened my eyes to the true level of craftsmanship involved.

My sophomore year in college, I did an independent study with Leonard Urso in which I attempted to make two fully-finished knives. I was not very successful, but I recently found these knives in storage and thought I would post some photos for posterity.

The first knife was an experiment in “cable Damascus,” probably the easiest way to produce a pattern-welded blade. I was picturing this as a throwing knife, hence the weight is toward the tip, and it has a full tang which is threaded to attach a pommel (I was planning a ring-shaped pommel). I was pleased with the shape, and the pattern in the steel — but I never finished it, both because I ran out of time and because I was disappointed that the cable didn’t weld solidly all the way through, producing the cracks you see at the tip (and making the knife somewhat useless as a tool or weapon). The steel isn’t stainless, and has rusted a bit in storage.



The second knife came out better, though not nearly as well as I’d hoped. It was supposed to be a sort of East-meets-West knife, a double-edged stainless steel blade essentially European in style but married to a more Japanese style hilt and fittings. The shape got away from me a little in the forging, and I had to keep simplifying the fittings to accommodate the amount of skill and work time I had. Still, it is my first and only complete knife, and it is functional (solidly built and very sharp), and not quite the ugliest knife I’ve ever seen, so I’m a little bit proud of it.


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Nov 09 2015

2015 Picture Book panel at Politics & Prose

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Last night Politics & Prose hosted a great panel about picture books for older readers. It included Jason Chin, Jacqueline Woodson, Christopher Myers, John Parra, and Chris Soentpiet, all fabulous picture book authors and/or illustrators. In the audience were dozens of the local educators and book-industry folks I’ve been getting to know, as well as many I hadn’t yet met. Lots of great questions from moderator Julie Danielson of 7 Impossible Things, and from the audience as well. Good times! They videotaped it, so that should be available to watch sometime soonish. Also Alison tweeted lots of quotes here. Here are the sketches I did during the discussion:



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Oct 13 2014

Blasts from the Past

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This week, amazingly, I sold two paintings I did for Dragon Magazine back in… wait for it… 1992. I can hardly believe it. It just goes to show, you never know when your art is going to make money. It rarely happens when or how you expect, but there you go.

Dragon Cover cropped 1992 Dragon ptg 2

In the process of retrieving those pieces from storage, I found some other pieces from the same era. Here are two that tickled me enough to bring them out and scan them.
First we have a drawing that I was going to color with watercolor or transparent acrylic and submit as a humorous piece for Dragon, but I never finished it. I still like the idea of the “while you wait” armor repair workshop.
Olde Armor Shoppe
Second, a school assignment from one of my favorite teachers, Art Director John White. He invited us to design a tattoo — and he wanted us to try to simulate what it would look like 30 years later,as the ink faded and/or bled. He also said he’d give extra credit if it somehow changed deliberately when it aged. I couldn’t resist that conceptual challenge. My idea was to have a bad-*** fantasy femme who would transform, as the ink lines bled together, into a more demure Victorian lady that an old man wouldn’t be embarrassed to have on his body.
Old tattoo
Of course, that revealed my ignorance of the fact that our personalities don’t really change much as we age, and plenty of tattooed folks are actually still happy with, and look pretty great in, the radical stuff they got inked on them in their youth. Also the linework might be too fine for a tattoo needle. Nevertheless, I felt good about it because I was the only one in the class that actually created this kind of transformation. Nerd power!

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Jul 18 2014

Common Core, Testing, Beck, what the heck?

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I went to a movie yesterday, and there was an advertisement before the trailers for an organization/event launched by Glenn Beck to take down Common Core. It’s called “We Will Not Conform”.

I’m definitely not an expert in Common Core’s principles or implementation, but I know a bit about it through my wife’s work with one of the people who created CC, and I know that those two things — principle and implementation — are not the same.

The Principles of CC are sound in my opinion. They mostly have to do with using texts in a more integrated way than “read and regurgitate,” understanding how knowledge scaffolds and what kids need to know to be college-ready.

Because the “what kids need to know” part of the standards boils down to “quite a bit, actually,” there has been an inordinate amount of focus put on testing whether kids know what they’re supposed to at each stage. which sounds sort of reasonable in a vacuum, but in the real world it often translates into schools making teachers “teach to the test,” which sucks in SO MANY ways.

I believe CC can be implemented in a good way, but I’m sure it’s a bit harder, and requires forward-thinking administrators to make it work. And I’m worried that may be too big an ask from our educational system as a whole. What do you think?

Did I make it sound like Glenn Beck was just against testing? No, not only that, he and his supporters believe CC is a tool of the liberal intelligentsia to indoctrinate everyone’s kids throughout the country with liberal values. Yep. Again, I think the political content can be separated from the basic CC principles, but on the other hand, it seems quite possible that he’s right. Most of the people writing content for CC are probably using the latest consensus ideas about climate change, American history, multicultural literature, tolerance, and so on. If CC makes it harder to shelter your kids from all of THAT, then is that a good thing or a bad thing?

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Apr 11 2014

Cherry Blossoms!

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Cherry Blossoms 2014-01      Cherry Blossoms 2014-02

I spent part of the morning down at the tidal basin painting the cherry blossoms. Not quite as gorgeous as seeing them at dawn yesterday, but this time I brought the right supplies. It was a little crowded, but really not bad.

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Oct 02 2013

Second Star!

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The Horn Book has announced that Romeo & Juliet will get a starred review in their Nov/Dec issue. Which is awesome enough by itself, but I also got a sneak peek at the text of the review, and it is truly magnificent, thanks to the eloquence of Joanna Rudge Long.

Congrats to the other authors receiving starred reviews, especially friend and fellow Candlewick author Matt Phelan for his new book Bluffton!

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Jun 05 2013

Lorenzo Mattotti

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For some comic geeks, this man needs no introduction. For the rest of you, let me introduce you to an artist who, for the last 15 years, I have kind of worshiped for his unique and powerful work. I mean, you know I love painterly, fine-arty comics, right? This guy really sets the standard for painterly fine-arty comics!

– Mattotti’s website

– His blog

– More images on Google, Pinterest

He was in town from Italy for Book Expo last week. He did an event at the Society of Illustrators which I wasn’t able to attend, but he was also doing free sketches at the show, at an Italian publishing booth on Thursday morning, so I eagerly lined up for it. He was drawing mostly angels and an occasional odd creature for people, inside a sort of brochure for Oltremai. I wish I could tell you more specifics about this brochure, but I didn’t actually get one, because when I handed him my copy of Dr. Jeckyll & Mister Hyde (probably my favorite of his books in English), he drew in that instead. So I didn’t get a hangable piece, but I did get a very unique and awesome Mr. Hyde in my book.



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Sep 19 2012

More painting

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In an effort to maintain some of the momentum from the painting workshop, I went out to paint the George Washington Bridge last week. I rather like these. The reason I did two was because the first one seemed a bit too close in value, especially between the sky and the bridge.

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Aug 14 2012

The Hand-book sketches

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It’s been a while since I posted. I delivered Romeo & Juliet back in June, but apparently scanning art and updating the blog is pretty low on my list of priorities when I have my choice of what to work on. Mostly I have been chipping away at some of my original scripts, which I hope will turn into full-on projects one of these days.

But anyway, here I am, and I though I’d scan and share the contents of one of my current sketchbooks. It’s a cool little book with very nice paper and an elastic band to keep it closed. I like to carry it around in the cargo pocket of my convertible pants (does anyone besides me actually convert them from pants to shorts and vice versa?) so I always have it with me. I present the contents (thus far) in full, with a few comments on the drawings. The ones which are in the wrong orientation link to larger, rotated versions.


I usually do a little title page, for fun and in case the first page gets smudged against the cover:

Continue Reading »

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Nov 05 2011

Teen Read Week (better late than never)

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Wow, I’ve been so busy, I think I forget to advertise that I was the featured artist for YALSA’s Teen Read Week materials this year. I did a painting for them which is on the official Teen Read Week poster (pictured), bookmarks, and other swag (available in their store). They also interviewed me here.

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