Sep 14 2012

Literary Lights Video

Published by under appearances,tools & tech,video

This video is edited way down, so a lot of great stuff is on the cutting room floor, but what remains still gives a glimpse of a very fun event.

Pam Munoz Ryan, MT Anderson and Kate DiCamillo all gave wonderful speeches which are barely hinted at, and Annabell’s intro was also particularly good. Oh well. At least you get to see me draw.

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Aug 27 2012

A drawing explained – Harvard Museum of Natural History

Published by under sketchbook

My friend Theo asked me to go out and draw with her sometime and try to teach her how I sketch from life. That seemed like a bit of a tall order, but I was very willing to give it a shot, and I think it actually worked fairly well. I should mention that Theo does have quite a bit of art experience already, so we weren’t starting from scratch.

So anyway, we walked over to Harvard and found a spot to sit and draw. This piece took about 40 minutes, with a few breaks to explain things. Since some of my readers may be interested in this topic, I will attempt to capture some of what I told Theo, and walk through the process of how I choose a composition and do a drawing from life.

First I look around for something interesting to draw. For me, that often means an interesting overlapping or framing of shapes. In this case Theo pointed out a tree she liked, and I found a distance and angle from which that tree (The small one) was framed by two larger trees, with the entrance of the Natural History Museum behind it.

I often start out with a quick “thumbnail” composition, to figure out the framing and the main elements I’m interested in. In this case you can see I’m emphasizing the curve of the small tree, the trunk of the pine on the left, and the large branch of the oak coming in from the right, and you can see how I tried both horizontal and vertical framing.

At this point Theo did a thumbnail which she didn’t like, and I encouraged her to work over it with a different, heavier tool. One way to think of an artwork is as a record of a process, and leaving the mistakes there often makes it much more interesting.

Next I transfer the rough composition to the larger size of the “real” drawing (unless I have skipped the thumbnail step). These are Theo’s photos (thanks Theo!).

Then I start to add some values and details. Because life sketching usually needs to be done quickly (whether because of changing light, need to eat, other time constraints, or just to stay loose), I try to find some quick, scribbly marks that represent the different types of leaves for each tree.

I deliberately experiment a bit here, because sometimes the first/automatic marks I make are something habitual that doesn’t really reflect what I’m seeing. This will be especially true if you are a beginner or haven’t drawn for a while — you might revert to some canonical leaf/tree shape you have in your head, ignoring what’s really there. It still happens to us professionals too.

Here’s a closeup showing the scribbly oak leaves and the much smaller/lighter leaves on the small tree below it. Note that for some of the closer oak leaves, I’m drawing (roughly) their actual shape. Having a few examples lets the viewer extrapolate to figure out what the other leaves on that tree would look like.

Theo was writing down my comments while I talked so she didn’t get another photo until I was pretty well along. I’m trying to work the whole picture plane without obsessing about any small areas of it, keeping the marks loose but based on observation. That’s important! By the way, that’s a Cretacolor Nero (medium) pencil I’m working with, on a Holbein multi-drawing sketchbook.

Here’s the finished drawing at the point where I chose to leave it. I could of course add/refine more details, but this basically captures what I was after, and if I worked it further it might lose some of its freshness.

Hope that was useful. I’m happy to answer questions in the comments.

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Aug 24 2012

Portraits of YA authors reading

Published by under sketchbook

Last week I went to David Levithan’s YA author reading series at the Jefferson Market NYPL*, and quite enjoyed it. There were nine authors reading samples of their newest books, including my friend Tim Decker. I doodled some (probably bad) likenesses of the authors as they read.


Featured: Andrea Cremer, Tim Decker, Lisa Graff and Martin Leicht, Alissa Grosso, Deborah Heligman, Kody Keplinger, Emma McLaughlin, Rebecca Serle and Suzanne Weyn.


(*If you haven’t seen this branch, definitely check it out. It’s in an odd but super-cool building that apparently used to be a courthouse.)

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Aug 14 2012

The Hand-book sketches

Published by under Uncategorized

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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May 03 2012

The Odyssey in Korean

Published by under odyssey

I got an awesome surprise package in the mail yesterday. A box from Candlewick which turned out to contain 4 copies of my first translated edition: The Odyssey in Korean!

I suspect prose authors feel the same excitement when they get a copy of their book with an unfamiliar cover and a foreign title, but then of course the interior is completely impenetrable. With a graphic novel, on the other hand, I get to see my own artwork interspersed with cool Korean pictographic text and — best of all — sound effects. It’s *so* cool to see what they did with the sounds.


Then again, maybe the impenetrable wall of foreign text is cool:

So now the question is, do I have any readers out there who are fluent in Korean? If so, would you like a free copy of The Odyssey (on the condition that you read it and tell me what you think of the translation)?

By the way, the publisher is Prooni Books. For some reason Google Translate doesn’t work on their site.

3 responses so far

May 01 2012

MoCCA Postscript

Published by under appearances,reviews

In my attempt to keep my write-up short and quick yesterday, I forgot to mention the amazing Alec Longstreth. I met this dude when we did a talk at CCS a few years ago, and I have to say that among the many super-nice people in the comics world, this guy might just be the nicest. And I don’t just say that because every time I see him he gives me comics and refuses to take my money (though that is certainly a concrete example).

Alec had a mega-beard last time I saw him, because way back in 2008 he pledged not to shave until his book Basewood was done. Well, it is now done, and he’s clean-shaven once more. Check out the story —  it’s quite good (though I always find the covers confusing, since he has this “Basewood is just a story in my ongoing magazine I call Phase 7” thing going on). But anyway, it’s a very humanistic, meticulously drawn story. With dragons.

Also, check out this cool poster by my friend Casey.

Coloring due today. Back to work!

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Apr 30 2012

MoCCA 2012

Published by under appearances

Had a great time at MoCCA comics festival this past weekend. Tabled with my friend Tim Decker, author/illustrator of excellent historical picture books which are not really for kids.

The Decker/Hinds table (pictured: the two artists, plus Tim's wife Mandy doing the actual work)

I didn’t sell a huge amount of books, but that’s okay, as I feel these shows are more for marketing and networking. Highlights were meeting Tom Gauld, one of my favorite cartoonists, and P. Craig Russell, who was the guest of honor this year, and whose work in many ways parallels (and predates) my own. Also in the “always delightful” category were such folks as Colleen Venable, Mo Willems, Lucy Knisley, and many more. I also saw one of my favorite teachers from Parsons, Warren Linn — he moved on years ago to be full-time at MICA, so it was great to see him again. Actually we were sitting next to a bunch of his current MICA students on one side, and on the other side were a bunch of current Parsons seniors, some of whom I had met before when visiting drawing classes there. So that was good for some nice conversations (most notably with Yasmin Liang), even though it did make me feel old 😉

I also met the lovely folks at Seven Stories Press who are publishing The Graphic Canon, a super-cool and ambitious mega-volume in which excerpts from several of my books appear. It goes on sale in just a few weeks, and can be pre-ordered now.

I didn’t bring home a lot of other books, but some things that especially caught my eye were Spera, Kiki of Montparnasse, and Baby’s in Black. I really look forward to those, just as soon as I finish up the coloring on Romeo & juliet, which is due (gulp) tomorrow!

Boba Fett on the accordion

a fan trying out one of Tim's dad's way-cool cigar box guitars.

(Photos by Alison Morris!)

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Mar 07 2012

Romeo & Juliet coloring work-in-progress

Published by under romeo and juliet,shakespeare

I haven’t been posting much as I have my nose to the grindstone coloring Romeo & Juliet. But for some reason this partially colored page demanded to be scanned and posted.

(Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio on their way to the party at the Capulet mansion, just after the Queen Mab speech.)

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Feb 06 2012


Published by under beowulf

I’d like to tell you a story. It’s about two huge fans of a certain Old English Epic poem you may have heard of. Beowulf.

Back in 1998, after self-publishing my first graphic novel Bearskin, I had decided to adapt Beowulf. It was one of my favorite works of literature, and a great action story which I hoped would resonate with both literature and superhero fans. The original text of Beowulf is in the public domain, but it’s not really readable in Old English (though it’s kind of fun to try), so I started researching different translations to use as the basis for my book (note that this was before Seamus Heaney’s translation came out, and in any case I strongly preferred to use one that was in the public domain). I soon came across a resource that proved absolutely invaluable in this search.

It seems a fellow named Syd Allan loved Beowulf so much that he had put together a website,, comparing every available translation of the poem. You could choose from several key sections of the story, and read them in over 20 different translations, ranging from the 1800s to the 1980s (in subsequent years I think he more than quadrupled the number, adding many new translations as they came out and finding more obscure ones as well). He also summarized the available Beowulf films, comics, and novelizations. Using this site I was able to quickly settle on the Gummere translation for my book, and when I later went back to choose an easier translation for the Candlewick edition, I again found it by way of Syd’s site. I should also mention that when my book came out, Syd happily added info and samples to his page on Beowulf comics, and said nice things about it. Syd and I haven’t really correponded that much, and we’ve only met once (we arranged to have lunch at one point just so we could each put a face to the name behind the emails, and of course geek out a bit about Beowulf) — but it’s always been nice to know that his site was out there, a functional monument to the greatness of this poem and a resource for folks like me.

But apparently there aren’t a huge number of people looking to compare ~100 translations of an ancient viking poem, and Syd eventually got tired of putting energy into the site and let it lapse. However, he kindly made the whole thing available in a zip file via Google docs, here. Also, the Internet Archive, aka Wayback Machine, has it archived here.

So, I post this as a tribute to Syd’s hard work, and as a place where those links can live for my own reference and that of anyone searching for Beowulf translations. Enjoy.

(PS, the title of this post, “Hwaet” is the opening word of Beowulf. In Old English it means “Listen”, so it should more properly be followed by an exclamation point, comma, period, almost anything but a question mark. But since it scans like modern English “what”, I tried to make a little joke there about my reaction to finding that the site had gone down.)

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Jan 05 2012

Last Year’s PA Farm Show

Published by under animals,horses,sketchbook,travel

I recently came across these in a sketchbook and realized I hadn’t posted them. Mind you, there’s a ton of stuff I forget, or don’t have time, to post — but these I had definitely meant to, so here you go.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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