I’ve become a habitual sketchbook filler-upper. The habit has its roots back in my high school art classes. But it didn’t really blossom until my wife Stephanie and I had children in the 1990’s. Sketchbooks were the only place to keep a consistent art-making practice going in face of the slow-motion upheaval of having babies and toddlers. I was the flexible parent. I’d sneak away to a quiet spot at 5:00 am and draw for an hour, maybe.

My daughters are now in, or almost in, college but I still do this and have filled up many books. Anything can go in the books, no holds barred. I try to surprise myself but I’m not afraid to repeat myself either. Also around this time I also realized that if I wasn’t drawing all the time I wasn’t doing my job: being an artist. So doodling took on a new urgency. It was a way to keep ideas flowing and urgent. Stuff started to happen.


Around 2009, after 10+ years of sketching and a modest career as a free-lance editorial illustrator, my sketchbook work became useful as I tried to make sense of some personal issues. Interesting imagery blossomed that looked like children’s book illustration. I had the beginnings of a children’s book illustration portfolio that was self-evident and full of feeling.


Showing this work around led to a contract with Schwartz & Wade to provide illustrations for Kevin Sheehan’s “The Dandelion’s Tale.” It was the first real picture book for each of us.

In 2012 Ross MacDonald introduced my work to Holly McGhee and Elena Giovinazzo, and they invited me to join Pippin. I’m currently working on my third picture book under the watchful eyes of Zeke Pippin.


I recently completed two titles: “Counting Crows” written by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum) will be on store shelves in March 2015. My second book for Schwartz & Wade “Over in the Wetlands” written by Caroline Starr Rose is being published on Bastille Day, 2015. But these are all other talented peoples’ texts…

I know that out of hundreds of sketchbook pages and doodles there must be a few books of my own lurking. No one else is qualified or cares enough to release them from their resistant matrices into their evergreen unique voices.

Consider: the unlikely friendship of a sprightly tern and an earthy owl


Or Daisy Longlegs, an ambitious “arachno-architect”…


A very tiny dragon…


…and a race of elves called “The Pointy People”.


A fable about The Sandman began with a sketch last December:


There’s much to do but no matter what, I’ll keep finding time to play in my sketchbooks.
Posted by michael at 10:03 AM Link to this post
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