Monday, December 20, 2010

My Bug-Eyed Cats

I painted this picture (in acrylic and ink on plywood) three years ago, well before I understood that I have the tendency to give my creatures bug-eyes. I really have to stop that. But my cats do look like this, sometimes, especially when they’re trying to hypnotize me. Stare at either one of them and see who blinks first.

Buzz, on the left, in a pink satin dress, is holding a green felt mouse (since destroyed, or sucked into the vacuum), and Pistachio, in a blue jumper, is holding his favorite toy: a sort of feline-sized body-pillow, laced with catnip.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Villier’s Afternoon Tea Wafers

“Villiers’s Afternoon Tea Wafers” - one of the illustrations I made for Brian Jacques’ Castaways of the Flying Dutchman a while back. The tin and the brand are entirely made up. The technique, too, was made up - or, at least, I was making it up as I went along, with pen and ink on scratchboard.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Signing in Clinton, NJ, Friday, November 26!

This Friday, November 26, from 11 to 1 p.m., I’ll be signing books at the Clinton Book Shop in Clinton, New Jersey. The shop moved since my last visit: it’s now at 12 East Main Street.

If you can’t make it, but would like to have some of my books custom inscribed, give them a call or email:

(908) 735-8811

And, of course, while you're out there, have some breakfast, brunch, or lunch nearby at The Fine Diner!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Owl Mood

A recent (and sort of peculiar) portrait of an unusually kindly-looking Athene noctua in ink and acrylic on paper.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Don't Spill the Beans in Asheville!

The Asheville Citizen-Times says:
“Don't Spill the Beans” by Ian Schoenherr describes the series of friends to whom young bear whispers his secret. Bear is not supposed to tell the secret but it fairly bubbles out of him.

With just a few words per page, Schoenherr moves the story along quickly: “Tell Elephant.” “And Toucan, too.” “Talk to Auk and Kangaroo.”

For his illustrations, Schoenherr focuses on the animals. With their bright, eclectic outfits the animals stand out against the solid white background. Bear is sweet and endearing in his red overalls and yellow shirt. Hippo is stylish in his green corduroy overalls and flashy yellow shirt.

Each animal has large, gleaming expressive eyes. Somehow Schoenherr packs excitement, anticipation and secrecy into each sparkling eye.

Despite its surface simplicity, “Don't Spill the Beans” is a textured story full of language gems. The author's use of alliterative sounds and staccato rhymes gives the story a joyful cadence that lends itself to being read aloud: “Break it to Bat.” “Leak it to Beaver, to Lemur, to Cat!”

From the first page, kids will be able to guess what the secret is and will delight in being in on the secret for the entire story....

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Don't Spill the Beans in Sacramento!

Listen to (and obey!) the Sacramento Book Review...
Don’t Spill the Beans is a clever little rhyming book written and illustrated by Ian Schoenherr. It has a secret … it’s actually the cutest birthday card I’ve ever seen. It shows lots of cleverly drawn animals to go with the rhyme. Any young child will enjoy this book, and will be pleasantly surprised at the end of the book to find that it’s not only a present, but a birthday card too. The book is well made, and should last a child a long time and they could treasure it to adulthood, possibly handing it down to their children. When your young child has a birthday coming up, get this little book. Not only will they be pleased, but you will be too....

Reviewed by Dave Broughton

Monday, August 2, 2010

Read It, Don't Eat It! in Korean

My book Read It, Don't Eat It! just came out in Korean by Sigongsa Co. Ltd.... Anyone want to translate it back into English so I can see what it says?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Jolly Flatboatpigs in Port

Here's a painting I did, inspired by the "Jolly Flatboatmen in Port" by the wonderful Missourian artist George Caleb Bingham, who has unwittingly provided me with lots and lots of raw material over the years.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Eulogy for John Schoenherr

(This is what I said during the memorial service at Calvary Episcopal Church in Flemington, NJ, on May 15, 2010)

In the past few weeks, as I've I tried to process my father's death and life and work, I've often felt that I'm only just beginning to understand who he was and that I'm far from being able to talk about him meaningfully. Sometimes, though, when Dad was making a picture, he'd muck around and around until something coherent took shape, so I'll apply his method now.

And, when in doubt, quote Shakespeare:
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet...
Little Johnnie, John, Jack, Jex, Honey, Grandpa. Or, in my and my sister's case, Dada, Dadoo, Uncle Daddy, and, occasionally, Pa, Papa, and Father. Or Dear Old Dad.

Actually, I don't think we ever called him "Dear Old Dad." But he called himself that, and he'd often sign his emails "DOD." He did it jokingly, but he knew we felt that way about him. And we knew how he felt about us, although he tended to express his feelings "not in words but in deeds."

Dad was all about eliminating extraneous details, about cutting to the chase, about distilling and discovering the essence or nature of things: the way things worked and felt and what they meant. He wanted truth - absolute honesty - and he was honest in return. Sometimes brutally honest. But he was never cruel. Cynical, maybe. No: cynical, definitely.

Dad was a true believer in Sturgeon's Law which (officially) states that "Ninety percent of everything is crud." In Dad's mind, though, it was "Ninety-five percent of everything is crap." A subtle, but perhaps a more precise distinction. Dad also savored that bitter old chestnut: "Awards are like hemorrhoids. Every asshole gets one in the end." And he enjoyed quoting H. L. Mencken's remark that "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public." Of course, Dad, too, was unapologetically fond of certain unfortunate things: he liked awful TV sitcoms, warm butter as dip for pretzels, shoes with velcro straps, Steven Seagal movies, instant coffee, and not-safe-for-work photographs of morbidly obese naked people farting in swimming pools.

But Dad's earthy sense of humor and of himself kept him grounded and kept him going. And despite his bouts of cynicism and his strong opinions - about art and politics, especially - he wasn't a proselytizer and was never (well, rarely) condescending. He treated everyone and everything as an equal: cats, dogs, aphids, slime molds, Republicans, Democrats. Even small children. He didn't talk down to them. He was live-and-let-live and instinctively followed the Golden Rule.

Although Dad sometimes grumpily expressed the need to be left alone to do his own thing, by himself, in his untidy nest, among his toys and his tools, perhaps more than anything else he wanted to communicate, to connect: to connect with animals and plants and water and rocks and bones and clouds - and, now and then, with people.

Dad was very matter of fact about life - and about death. And I've only just realized that he approached both without fear.

He was fond of snakes and rock-climbing, caving, kayaking, flying in small airplanes, driving interesting cars, working through the night, and being a freelancer. He broke the sound barrier, once, and he got close (maybe too close, here and there) to wild boars and snapping turtles and moose and bison and tigers. But he wasn't foolhardy about things that were bigger or more dangerous than he was.

He once wrote, "I know that life for a wild animal is demanding, and that very few mistakes are forgiven. When I encounter a wild animal in its world, whether a field mouse or a skunk, an owl or a bear, I am in awe of this marvelous creature that is so alien to me. The more I learn about them, the more I respect them."

I could say the same of that marvelous creature, Dear Old Dad.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

FOX for ABC at BEA in NYC

Anyone attending the Not-a-Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction held during Book Expo America (BEA) this coming Tuesday, May 25th, at The Edison Ballroom in Manhattan?

Every year the Association of Booksellers for Children asks illustrators to donate a piece of artwork for the event. And here is this year's model. It started out as an illustration for Read It, Don't Eat It! - specifically for the admonition "Don't censor, delete, or deface" - but a few weeks in I decided to change the paper I was using, so I abandoned this and its companions. But I had done enough to warrant finishing it, so I fleshed it out somewhat.

Why not bid and bid and bid on it and support a worthy cause?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mouse Ironing

It's my mother's birthday today, so here is something I gave to her a while back (for Christmas, truth be told). It's a mousy take on Edgar Degas' Woman ironing (Blanchisseuse repassant) c.1882-86, now at the Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery in Reading, Pennsylvania. Degas' picture is oil on canvas; mine is acrylic on wood and the mouse is about life-sized. Note her MONOPOLY iron.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Loafing Mouse

My mom, a mouse person, let me steal this picture back so I could un-frame and scan it for show-and-tell. I made it for Christmas a dozen years ago. At that time I'd realized that I couldn't expect to get illustration work featuring anthropomorphized animals if I didn't have any examples in my portfolio, so I began to make studies like this one, which is acrylic on paper, 1.5 x 3.25 inches. Of course, this out-of-proportion and ratty loafer never got me any work, but what he lacks in looks and ambition, I hope he makes up in character.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dad and the MAD Man

I really appreciate all the public and private tributes to my father that have appeared over the last two weeks. They fortify my opinion of him as an artist and as a person, and sometimes they shed light on parts of his life that I knew little about.

Today I got a note from Nick Meglin, editor of MAD magazine for 20 years (and on its staff for decades more) and author of Drawing From Within: Unleashing Your Creative Potential- among many other books and articles. He also went to Stuyvesant High School with my father, but they had fallen out of touch after 1952. In recent years my father had begun to re-forge old friendships, and I feel like it would only have been a matter of time before he found his former classmate. Here is the message Nick sent to his family (reprinted with his permission):

My family...

Joel Haas sent me an obit from the NY Times and I'm feeling very, very bad to learn that this John Schoenherr was someone I knew in Stuyvesant H.S. He was a year ahead of me, a terrific artist. Like me, we were rare talents in a school known for science and math.

We weren’t close friends; he was modest and rather shy. Our only time together was our involvement with the school literary magazine. Despite his fine talent, I had no idea that he was that dedicated to art as a future direction as it was for me. He thought I was better at it than he was, but I truly wasn't, just more driven at that time. I had to validate going to School of Visual Arts rather than a state college where art departments had little to offer a would-be commercial artist. There was no money available that would allow me to attend a university like Syracuse or Pratt with highly regarded commercial art departments.

John and I collaborated on the title page art of the magazine in his senior year and I had to insist that he initial his half of the stylized cartoon illustration we designed together. I believe I have a copy of it somewhere in one of those boxes I still haven’t gotten to since I moved to Durham seven years ago.

Spotting a similar name as his on a magazine illustration some years after our high school days, I tried to learn if this was the same person I knew. But those were the days that if someone lived out of NYC and/or had an unlisted number, it was impossible to communicate with them, so I guess I just forgot about it.
I could have written articles about him and his work as I did other friends for American Artist Magazine when they published just about anything I offered them.

When I read the obituary and some other biographical data about John I learned he was a fine person and indeed that bright fellow I knew back then. I was taken by our similar passions and priorities -- he, too was more dedicated to his family than his own artistic aspirations. The more I read, the more I felt saddened that I had lost a personal, lifelong friend that should have been but never came to be.


Saturday, April 10, 2010


My father, John Schoenherr, died on Thursday night in a Pennsylvania hospital. As was usual in his company, we were telling sad and funny (mostly funny) stories when it happened. He was only 74, but he'd been in poor health for a long time.

Dad was a born artist and - in my prejudiced eyes - a rare genius. He was never bored, never boring, and the most intellectually curious person I've ever known. When something piqued his interest, he quickly morphed from an enthusiast to an authority. He lived for his work, yet our family never wanted for his affection, attention, and love.

Although Dad devoted his recent years to painting wildlife, he'd spent decades making thousands of illustrations, primarily for science fiction magazines and paperbacks and for children's books. He also wrote a few books of his own.

I often think that Dad's science fiction pictures brought out the best in him: they brim with bold and dynamic compositions, technical dexterity and inventiveness, imagination, and humor. His passion for natural history - and for zoology and geology in particular - informed his work in such a way that his alien creatures and landscapes looked real. This quality spurred Frank Herbert to say that Dad was "the only man who has ever visited Dune." Then again, he visited countless other places - and invited countless viewers to come along with him.

Children's books revealed Dad's softer side. But this "softer side" was like a Grizzly's underfur: the warm and fuzzy still had a sturdy, powerful core. His empathy for animals - from lowly mole, to raccoon, to owl, to moose - was always apparent. He was part bear, after all.

It was an education and a gift to see and talk about his paintings as they took form in his studio - and it was never easy to see them crated up and shipped off to their new homes. Even at the end, when Dad's physical limitations had the upper hand, nothing could curb his drive to communicate in words or in pictures. I know he had a lot more to say and I'm grateful for the things he did.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

John Schoenherr (1935-2010)

My father, John Schoenherr, passed away tonight. He was a man of many talents and I can't say what he was best at, but he was, among countless other things, a great artist, a great husband to my mother for almost 50 years, and a great dad to my sister and me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Heart Library Hearted

A really nice post titled Class Visit Favorite just appeared over at the blog Library Hearted:
I must admit my love for Ian Schoenherr. Cat & Mouse was my favorite picture book of 2008 due to the combination of beloved nursery rhymes, the striking layout incorporating the movement of text amidst ample white space, and of course the expressive illustrations (obvious cat owner). Plus he lives just a few subway stops away from my library!

So I was quite excited to read his next book, Read It, Don't Eat It, which has quickly become one of my preferred titles to share during early elementary class visits....
Read more!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Spilling the Beans on Don't Spill the Beans!

Greenwillow Books (publisher of all the titles on the left-hand side of this page) started a fascinating blog not too long ago. It features children's book-related posts written by authors, illustrators, editors, designers, and art directors. They asked me to write about my new book, Don't Spill the Beans! So there you go...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My New Book - Don't Spill the Beans!

Need a special birthday gift?

Don't Spill the Beans!

Need a special birthday gift for a child in your life?  

Don't Spill the Beans!

Need a special birthday gift for a child in your life to bring to yet another children's birthday party?  

Don't Spill the Beans!

That's right. It's no secret. It's...

Don't Spill the Beans!
by Ian Schoenherr
published by Greenwillow Books
ISBN-13: 9780061724572
ISBN: 0061724572


More filling than balloons and streamers!
More nutritious than birthday cake!
Easy-open packaging!
Heart healthy!
No calories!
Full color!
32 pages!
Zero fat!

* starred review * in School Library Journal!
"The ink-and-acrylic illustrations hearken back to the Golden Books of days long gone.... Great for storytimes on secrets or as a special birthday gift." - Kirkus Reviews
"Schoenherr's vintage-styled animal portraits are wholly endearing" - Publishers Weekly

Please support small businesses:
Buy Don't Spill the Beans!
from an independent bookseller!

(Or, yes, there's always Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Borders)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

For I Will Consider My Cat Pistachio

Above is a little portrait on wood I made of my cat Pistachio, the main model for the cat in Cat & Mouse, who also has a cameo in Read It, Don't Eat It! And now, here are some apropos selections from "For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry" from Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart (1722-1771)...

For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.

For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.

For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.

For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.

For fifthly he washes himself.

For sixthly he rolls upon wash.

For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.

For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.

For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.

For tenthly he goes in quest of food.

For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.

For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.

For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.

For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.

For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.

For he is of the tribe of Tiger.

For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.

For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.

For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.

For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.

For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.

For he is tenacious of his point.

For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.

For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.

For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.

For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.

For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.

For he is docile and can learn certain things.

For he can catch the cork and toss it again.

For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.

For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.

For his ears are so acute that they sting again.

For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.

For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.

For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.

For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.

For he can creep.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Howard Pyle Mask

A Howard Pyle Mask © 1998 by Ian Schoenherr

I've always been fascinated by life masks and death masks and I used to dream that I would discover a mask of Howard Pyle. But I never did.

So I made one. I gathered all the Pyle photographs that I knew of and constantly referred to them as I sculpted his face in dull green plastiline. And while I wanted to replicate Pyle's peculiar and elusive features, I also wanted to capture something of his spirit or his personality. It was meditative and yet obsessive work, and at one point it became known simply as The Head. "I'm going upstairs to work on The Head," I'd say. "How's The Head coming along?" people would ask.

Finally, The Head was "finished" - or at least it was time for me to stop tweaking it. Next, I created a latex mold and - crouched in the cellar with a bucket of water, a scoop, and a bag of plaster - I made a series of casts and distributed them to people and institutions that I thought might appreciate having Pyle's face beaming down at them.

Since "finishing" I've found many more photographs of Pyle, but I think my sculpture will do as a three-dimensional likeness - until a real Howard Pyle mask comes to light.

I should add that one of Pyle's New York friends, critic and essayist Laurence Hutton, accumulated an amazing number of masks and wrote a few articles about them for Harper's New Monthly Magazine - later published in book form as Portraits in Plaster (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1894). I'm convinced (but have no proof!) that Pyle saw this collection during one of his visits to the Hutton household - and now you, too, can see it here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sherlock Holmes!

Today is the 156th birthday of Sherlock Holmes, so they say. By "they" I mean crazed, obsessive fanatics who devote much of their lives reading, re-reading, discussing, dissecting, and deconstructing the adventures of The Master. I was one such fanatic in my childhood after age ten, all through my teens years, and a bit into my twenties (when, finally, my Howard Pylomania took over). Many of my sketches and first illustrations were Sherlockian in nature, but somewhere along the line I stopped drawing Sherlock Holmes. I think it was because I had such a vivid idea of how he should look, but I felt unable to capture that idea on paper. I might have to try again, though - especially since some Sherlockian details crept into this picture from Read It, Don't Eat It!