Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Book of Boy is Here!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
I loved, loved, loved reading and illustrating this book from start to finish - and it comes out today! Get a copy from your independent, local bookstore. Or from Ye Olde Amazon Shoppe.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sunny Boots

A commissioned portrait of a sunny cat named Boots (acrylic and ink on a 6 x 4-inch masonite panel, with hand-painted wood frame).

Monday, April 3, 2017

Serious Boots

A commissioned portrait of a serious cat named Boots (acrylic and ink on a 6 x 4-inch masonite panel, with hand-painted wood frame).

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Puggy Piggy Bank

Last spring, the folks at Parnassus Books of Nashville, Tennessee, asked over 100 writers, illustrators, and celebrities to decorate plain, white, ceramic piggy banks for an auction to help Stephanie Appell, the store’s manager of books for young readers, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

After getting my piggy bank, I experimented with pencil and paint, but my pencil smudged and my paint peeled off.

Then I found that the bank’s surface was very nice for carving, so I scraped away my false starts and began to sand and scratch and ink-in some features.

Before long, the pig had turned into a pug - I think because it reminded me of Toches (a.k.a. Tuckus, Tookus, etc.), a fat and funny, snuffling and snorting little dog that had belonged to my friend Madeleine, who I lost to breast cancer last year.

When I liked the way my piggy puggy bank looked, I burnished him with butcher’s wax (which will protect him from getting grubby, but which also gives him a warmer, Toches-like tone), and I sent him back to Nashville.

He and many of his new friends, both ceramic and Parnassian - and even another pug! - were featured on Nashville’s WSMV-TV News. Take a look!

Here’s a link to the whole auction.

And here’s a link to my guy’s page. Why not bid - and bid! and bid! and bid! - for him, or for one or more of his companions? The auction starts today and ends Friday, September 30, 2016!

I think he likes you.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Did I Find Two “Lost” Sherlock Holmes Poems?

“The Recrudescence of Sherlock Holmes” by a pretentious 17-year-old named Ian Schoenherr

Did I just find two “lost” Sherlock Holmes poems? I don't know. Maybe...

I should say that I’m going through yet another Sherlockian phase right now, so while painting the illustrations for Maile Meloy’s next novel (out this fall!), I listen to audiobooks of the Canon, and in between brush strokes I browse books and blogs about Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Yesterday, I finally looked up one of the earliest - if not the earliest - parodies of the great detective, “My Evening with Sherlock Holmes”, which was published anonymously in The Speaker for November 28, 1891. Its author turned out to be Conan Doyle’s soon-to-be friend, J. M. Barrie, who later created Peter Pan (another early obsession of mine).

Inspired by this - and also by the recent ruckus over “The Book o’ the Brig” - I started poking around for other early, possibly “lost” Sherlock Holmes parodies or pastiches. Soon, I found this poem:

And then I found another:

These two poems appeared in an obscure little book called Volume of Various Verse by Charles Joseph Colton (1868-1916), published in New Orleans by the Press of Searcy & Pfaff in 1899. Evidently, this may not have been their first time in print; as Henry Rightor states in the book’s introduction:
The name of Charles J. Colton, subscribed to verses in various newspapers of this country, notably in the New Orleans Times-Democrat of Mr. Page M. Baker, has, for a number of years, attracted the widest attention and furnished to a great body of readers the most genuine enjoyment. That these verses have struck the popular chord is attested by the extent to which they have been reproduced. Bridget, bringing in the early breakfast, has been equally careful to bring in the morning paper, and, like as not, the first thing turned to was the head of the “All Sorts” column wherein most of the shorter verses have appeared, and where the searcher might be sure to find some whimsical fancy dancing to the lilting measure our poet knows so well.
But I’ll leave it to someone else to track down which particular issues of the New Orleans Times-Democrat (or some other newspaper) may or may not have featured these works.

Google as I might, I haven’t been able to find any mention of Colton’s contributions to the subgenre of Sherlockian-parodies-in-verse. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough or in the right places, so I hope someone will let me know if they’ve seen these before.

Now, here are transcriptions for your convenience:

by Charles Joseph Colton

The famous vidocq, Sherlock Homes, and I, stood at the bar;
I complimented him upon his great success thus far,
Whereat the sleuth assured me, though in accents of some pride,
That ’twas simply observation and deduction, well applied.
“For instance,” he went on, “this crowd coming in the door
Are a lot of gentlemen whom I have never seen before;
Yet I’ll merely note the drinks they take, and to me will stand confessed
Their respective walks and callings.” I watched eagerly the test.

“Beer,” said the first man - whispered Holmes: “An undertaker, sure.”
The second asked for “port” - said S.: “A sailor, simple, pure.”
“Punch,” called the third - said Sherlock: "He a pugilist must be.”
“Gin,” cried the next - and Holmes declared: “A cotton planter he.”
“And he” the sleuth went on, about the last one of the group.
“Must be a daily paper scribe” - the youth had called: “A scoop.”
And when I made the inquiry, to Sherlock’s great delight,
I found that he in every single instance had been right.

by Charles Joseph Colton

An unknown had suicided: to find what he’d been
In life, the noted Sherlock Holmes, of course, had been called in;
The great detective searched the clothes upon the defunct man,
And in a confident tone his conclusions thus began:

“That this man lived in Providence is patent to my eye;
Men keep mementoes of their homes, and here’s a flask of R.I.
And late in Philadelphia he sojourned; that’s a fact
That’s patent; in his pocket is a last year’s almanac.

“Deceased was a book agent; note his canvas shoes;
A hunter, too; his pantaloons of duck doth that disclose;
And fisherman; his underwear of net proves that to me - ”
And all around were thunderstruck at such sagacity.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Follow the Waffles

I drew these tiny, semi-faceless critters on scratchboard, while experimenting for The Twistrose Key.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Why, it’s The Apothecary by Maile Meloy - now published in German by Coppenrath and given the perhaps more intriguing title Elixirium. Viel Spaß beim Lesen! (or something like that)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Blog Frogs, Now in Living Color

Everything old is new again, including these frogs, some of whom have shown up on these pages before. But now they’ve been burnished a bit and tinted green.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tudor Tuxedo and Tabby Cats

Here are my two cats, Buzz (the tuxedo) and Pistachio (the tabby), eschewing their usual nakedness for Tudoresque garb. I painted them this winter.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Twistrose Key’s Winter Jacket

Looking through an old notebook, I see that I made my first sketches for the jacket of Tone Almhjell’s The Twistrose Key on February 4, 2012 - a good 20 months before the novel was published. At first, the jacket was to be winter-themed, with a snowy landscape surrounded by a border printed in blue, silver, and black, and evocative of late 19th Century publishers’ bindings.

Part of what excited me about the blue and silver border was that it harkened back to the packaging of a childhood favorite: Drake’s Yodels, which used to come individually - and magically - wrapped in blue and silver foil. (Years and years ago I dug this wrapper fragment out from under the backseat of my parents’ 1965 Dodge Dart and I’ve saved it as a precious relic ever since.)

Anyway, I started sketching, incorporating as many chilly elements as possible, and playing around with hand-lettered type.

Eventually, I introduced a “key” motif into my sketches - but either I’d misread the manuscript or didn’t yet have an accurate description of the twistrose key itself. According to the text:
It was large, as large as the length of [Lin’s] hand, and blackened, as if someone had tried to burn it. Its head was fashioned as a petal, and the stem was that of a rose, with three tiny, but sharp thorns. Across the petal, there was a name engraved: “Twistrose”.

Next, I placed snowflakes within the (erroneous) bows of the keys - and animals (a fox, a vole, an owl, and a wolf) began to emerge in the four corners.

After filling up many scribbly pages with blue and black ballpoint pen, I did a tighter pencil rendition of the jacket. As you can see, I abandoned the key motif entirely - and went with a lock motif instead (but that didn’t last very long, either).

A variant color version followed - now with display type provided by designer Kristin Smith at Puffin, who spearheaded the project. I think, too, I had more descriptions from the manuscript to guide me by then.

Not long after all this, however, the snow-laden plan melted away to something more silhouetted and starry and less “season specific.”

Later still, the silver foil was replaced with gold, the mountains grew back, “The Wanderer” (the Northern-lights-looking smudge in the sky) went away, and so on. But maybe I can recycle my wintry ideas and pay homage to Yodels on the cover of some future book.

Lost Jackets: The Peculiar

The jacket shown here was, in essence, an “audition” for Stefan Bachmann’s The Peculiar (Greenwillow Books, 2012). The publishers weren’t sure what approach would best suit the debut novel, so they asked a few illustrators to execute a bunch of different ideas.

If I remember rightly, for one of my three sketches I was asked to go in a deliberately Apothecary-like direction, i.e. moody, atmospheric, and featuring a bird (in this case a mechanical brass sparrow, instead of an American Robin) and the London skyline (Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, not the Tower of London and Tower Bridge).

I always liked the result, but it may have been too dark for their purposes, and ultimately they went with something more lighthearted.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Revisiting Illustrations

I used to think that it was a sin to rework an illustration after it had been published. But there’s plenty of historical precedence for post-publication alterations: Howard Pyle, for example, did a lot of picture-tweaking for a variety of reasons (some of which I discussed here and here).

Then again, Pyle - and plenty of other authors, too - sometimes made major revisions to his stories in between serial and book publication - changing plot lines, cutting characters and scenes, etc. - and didn’t, to my knowledge, catch any flak for his actions.

So, I wondered, if a book is out of print with no real chance of being revived, why not revisit its illustrations in hopes of breathing new life into them? I decided to do a little experiment...

The picture shown here started out as my illustration for the now long-gone Jonkonnu by Amy Littlesugar, which deals with an incident in the life of Winslow Homer - and for which I tried to emulate Homer’s style as best I could with limited skills. I didn’t rework the picture with real ink and paint, however: I just digitally altered a low-resolution scan of a proof (hence the not-great quality).

I’m still not brave or foolhardy enough to start messing with my original drawings and paintings, but it could be only a matter of time.

Friday, November 22, 2013


I painted this full-length, yet only six-inch-high portrait of President Kennedy for Jean Karl’s America Alive. (Pardon the coffee stains and general grubbiness.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Lost Jackets: Wonder Light

Sometimes I can’t say goodbye to sketches that get superseded by other ideas. Here’s such an example, made for the jacket of Wonder Light by R. R. Russell. The final, published jacket looks nothing like this early composition, but I'm still fond of it, even though it doesn’t really capture the mood - and mist - of the novel. It looks more like a cover for “Wild West”-themed sheet music or “Leathercraft for Kids” from the 1950s. Maybe one day I can find a more appropriate home for this kind of approach.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Twistrose Key is out today!

The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell - which features a few dozen illustrations by me - is in stores today. Pick up a copy from...

Barnes and Noble

Sunday, August 18, 2013


I did this booklet cover for New York University a while back. It’s, as usual, in ink and acrylic on paper and I was deliberately trying to mimic a pictorial style that I recalled from childhood: maybe the artwork on boxes for German-made tin toys...? Something like that.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Characters from a Lost Novel

I confess: the “lost novel” was never lost at all because it was never there in the first place. This page of character studies was more or less a doodle: just me trying out a combination of ink and acrylic paint on a piece of bristol board with no real plan in mind.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Apprentices Make(s) the Cover

The Apprentices was recently featured on the cover of Ingram Children’s Advance which was sent out to booksellers all over the country. Nice!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fishing Pig (after George Caleb Bingham)

I love pigs and I love George Caleb Bingham, so I combined the two in this painting - which is still in-progress, though I confess I haven't touched it in a while. It's acrylic and ink on Strathmore Aquarius II paper (when it was still good, fine-grained, non-buckling paper - not the rougher, thinner, wrinklier paper it became, alas).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Forefathers For Father's Day

Here are all my photographed forefathers - interesting facial hair, hairdos, and all - ganged up. They are: 

Two of my eight great-great-grandfathers:
Carl Gottlieb SCHÖNHERR
born: 1834 Börtewitz / Kleinpelsen, Sachsen (now Germany)
died: 1909 Carterville, Missouri
occupation: blacksmith; coal trimmer; stoker; saloon keeper  
George LAMB
born: c1838-40 Hunslet or Leeds, Yorkshire, England
died: 1914 Bradford, Manchester, Lancashire, England
occupation: striker, boiler maker, holder up 
My four great-grandfathers:
Carl Heinrich Thomas SCHÖNHERR
born: 1859 Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark (now Germany)
died: 1938 Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
occupation: ships carpenter 
Nikolaus BRAUN
born: 1860 Stefansfeld, Banat, Austria-Hungary (now Serbia)
died: 1941 Tschakowa, Rumania
occupation: farmer 
Peter Rayfield GRAY
born: 1866-68 New York, New York
died: 1940 New York, New York
occupation: prizefighter; butcher; watchman 
born: 1877 Ancoats, Manchester, Lancashire, England
died: 1948 New York, New York
occupation: cork maker; greengrocer; machine driller; milkman; inspector, foreman, and night superintendent at Sheffield Farms
My two grandfathers: 
Johannes Ferdinand SCHÖNHERR
born: 1900 Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
died: 1982 Volusia County, Florida
occupation: oiler; machinist; deck engineer on oil tanker; tool-and-die maker
Raymond Thomas GRAY
born: 1911 Woodside, Queens, New York
died: 1966 New York, New York
occupation: shoe-last maker
My one and only father: 
born: 1935 New York, New York
died: 2010 Easton, Pennsylvania
occupation: illustrator; author; artist

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tips for Aspiring Authors from Maile Meloy

An informative and helpful interview with Maile Meloy about The Apprentices. Skipping to the good part:
The illustrations by Ian Schoenherr are amazing. How did you find him and how did he capture the plot so perfectly? 
When we first began, the wonderful art director Cecilia Yung asked me what kind of illustrations I wanted. Janie tells the story as something that really happened to her when she was 14, so I wanted the illustrations to be realistic, not stylized or cartoon-like. But I also wanted them to be atmospheric and to work with the magical elements of the book. Cecilia suggested Ian Schoenherr. As soon as I saw an illustration he did based on a 19th-century family photograph, in which he made everyone into pigs, I knew he was the one. And he’s done such an amazing job with the books. He’s always very careful about detail and writes to me asking, “Is it this kind of boat? Is it this kind of RAF knife?” In The Apothecary, I had a character with a wooden peg leg, but Ian painted a perfect, historically accurate, articulated artificial leg, with nails holding up the socks, so I went back and changed the book. His leg was better than mine.


The Apprentices, Maile Meloy’s sequel to The Apothecary is now available!

In addition to the full-color jacket, I made about 38 black and white illustrations for the inside - only eight of which were printed in the ARCs, by the way, because I was still working on them through the end of January! So to see them all you’ll have to grab the handsome, hefty hardcover edition from...
Barnes and Noble
And Books of Wonder - the frabjous children’s bookshop in New York City - has stacks and stacks of copies of both The Apprentices and The Apothecary SIGNED by Maile and me. (In fact, those copies were the first I ever laid eyes and hands on this past Friday.)

And Penguin just issued this....
The Apprentices by Maile Meloy was included in the Los Angeles Times Summer Reading preview issue on June 2nd!
Bookpage featured an interview with Maile in their June issue! 
Amazon selected The Apprentices as a June Book of the Month! 
Maile’s two-week national tour for The Apprentices (to take place in early October) will be announced shortly. 
Praise for The Apprentices
“…readers will be glad to reconnect with these well-drawn characters and be grateful that Meloy leaves room for a third installment.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review 
“This sober and well-constructed adventure accurately conveys the geopolitical instability of the era and is leavened with just enough magic, chaste romance and humor to appeal to middle-grade readers through teens.” –Kirkus Reviews

Sunday, April 28, 2013

These Pigs Could Be Yours

It's time once again for the 19th Annual Children's Book Art Silent Auction. It'll be held Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 5.50-7.30pm during BookExpo America at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. Above is this year's contribution: my reworked/revamped family portrait, which I featured here a while back...

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Apothecary is now in paperback

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy - with a whole bunch of my illustrations - is now out in paperback. It’s a pretty thing, I think, and it appeals to my magpie sensibilities.

Eagle-eyed readers (and even skylark-eyed, robin-eyed, and swallow-eyed ones) will notice that I tweaked the original jacket painting. Actually, it was more of a small-scale demolition job wherein I tore down the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge, erected a new stretch of old-fashioned buildings and sprinkled some children on top of them. On second thought: maybe I just turned the bottle a bit so as to get a fresh vista, taking care not to jostle the bird in the process. At any rate, I like this version better.

And it’s nice to share some pictorial real estate with Garth Williams, whose drawing was adapted for that shiny sticker in the corner. Did I mention the book won (well, tied in the middle reader category) The E. B. White Read-Aloud Award from the American Booksellers Association?

So by all means go get a copy at...
Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Today is the 60th anniversary of the untimely death of Margaret Wise Brown. For want something better to do to commemorate this, I’ve taken all the words from GOODNIGHT MOON and rearranged them...

The moon was over
a toy-house there,
and quiet little noises
were everywhere. 
A room full of chairs
and nobody was sitting
and two old bears
and three little kittens
and a lady cow whispering,
Goodnight, goodnight,
on a green telephone.  
Brush the old bears
and comb the young kittens,
and brush and comb
and pair red mittens. 
And there,
in a great balloon,
a little mouse, who,
jumping and jumping,
socks the stars
and clocks the moon. 
A balloon to the moon,
little mouse,
over chairs and room
and red mittens and house. 
A picture of air
and a bowl of light
and a lady cow whispering,

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New, Old Pig on the Block

Going to the ABFFE’s (Mostly) Silent Children’s Art Auction and Reception to Support Free Speech for Young People at BEA tonight? If so, you can bid on - and maybe even bring home with you - this little piggy.

He looks sort of familiar, eh? That’s because I took a color xerox of a painting I did a dozen years ago, mounted it on illustration board, then started to retouch and, I hope, improve on my earlier work. I had based the original on a photograph of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie, but thought the proportions needed adjusting to make him less human and more pig-like. I also fleshed out his surroundings, gave it all a warmer tone, and pretty much repainted the whole thing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bitterblue is here!

Bitterblue is here! Actually, it’s been here since May 1, but I’ve been too busy to herald its arrival. Last fall and winter I made about 16 illustrations for the book - and I’ll show how some of them came about in subsequent posts. Although they have a “woodcut” feel, all of them are ink on scratchboard. Pick up a copy from...