Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Apothecary on The Martha Stewart Show

The Apothecary was just featured on The Martha Stewart Show!

The Tennessean’s Celebrity Column tells all about it:
Nashville local and New York Times best-selling author Ann Patchett dropped by The Martha Stewart Show to promote her new local bookstore, Parnassus Books, and share her top 5 picks for books this holiday season.

“The best thing about owning a bookstore is recommending books,” Patchett told Stewart in the episode, which airs at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. today and again at noon Monday on the Hallmark Channel. “I’ve been forcing books on people my whole life, and now I can do it professionally.”

As for the books she thinks people should read this time of year, Patchett suggests The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman, The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, One Writer’s Garden by Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown, and The Apothecary by Maile Meloy.

Audience members walked away with all five books, as well as Patchett’s latest book, State of Wonder.

Parnassus Books is at 3900 Hillsboro Pike in Nashville.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Signing on Friday, November 25th

I’ll be signing copies of Maile Meloy’s The Apothecary - and my other children’s books, too - this Friday, November 25th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Clinton Book Shop. They’re located at 12 East Main Street in Clinton, New Jersey.

And, as usual, while you're in Clinton, get some breakfast, brunch, or lunch nearby at The Fine Diner - owned and operated by my beloved sister and brother-in-law.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

An Illustration from The Apothecary

This is one of my favorite illustrations from The Apothecary and one of the ideas that came to mind when I first read the manuscript.

But sometimes the most simple ideas are the most difficult to execute. I couldn’t get the sky or the waves “right” and kept painting over and over again, getting nothing but more unhappy.

When I was in almost tearful despair, my cat Buzz jumped on my scanner and sent it clattering to the floor, and so I decided to see if it still worked by scanning my frustrating picture. And then I started tinkering with the image in Photoshop and within a few minutes I finally got the “feeling” I’d been after since that first read. My Photoshop skills are pretty rough, though, so I spent the next few days copying in ink and paint what I’d done on the computer.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Apothecary on PW’s Best Books 2011 list

Hey! Publishers Weekly put The Apothecary on its list of Best Books 2011: Children’s Books...
Meloy’s first book for young readers is a wonderfully imagined alternate history, set as cold war tensions between the U.S. and Russia are reaching critical mass, and a secretive group of apothecaries conspires to protect the planet from all-out destruction. With magic, history, adventure, romance, and smart writing, it’s truly a story with something for everyone.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wired Wild About The Apothecary

More about The Apothecary at Wired - including this nice comment...
Oh, and one more thing: the cover and interior art, by Ian Schoenherr, is gorgeous and pitch-perfect. There’s one image at the beginning of each chapter (and just a few scattered illustrations elsewhere); each one hints at something that will come later in the chapter, but without being too explicit. It’s a delicate balance, drawing the reader forward without giving away too much, and Schoenherr does a superb job. One look and you’ll see why Meloy said one of the most rewarding things about writing a kids’ book was getting to have illustrations in it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Blue Horse Auction is Underway!


If you’d like to take this blue horse back to your stable, now’s your chance:

He’s up for auction and can be found on The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse Charity Auction website and on Ebay.

The auction ends Wednesday, October 26, 2011, at 9:01 p.m. (Pacific Daylight Time) - which is just after midnight October 27th on the East Coast.

Bid early. Bid often. Support a worthy cause. Help a horse out.

Friday, October 14, 2011

NYTBR Likes The Apothecary, Too

The New York Times Book Review devotes a whole page to The Apothecary in the issue of Sunday, October 16, 2011...
Meloy weaves fantasy into a fine work of historical fiction, bringing to life the cold-war era when everyday life was permeated by fear of nuclear disaster and Russian spies lurking everywhere. More important, though, she brings to her first book for young readers the same emotional resonance that has won acclaim for her adult fiction, grounding her story in the intricacies of family love, friendship and loyalty, blended here with the complicated fluctuations of adolescence.
The review even reprints one of my interior illustrations. The cropping - or, rather, the lack of cropping - leaves something to be desired (all of my deliberately unfinished stuff around the edges is revealed), but I’ll take it.

Wordstock Interview: Maile Meloy

A great behind-the-scenes discussion of The Apothecary from the Wordstock Festival via GeekDad via Wired.com.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Maile Meloy on Writing & The Apothecary (& Me!)


Early sketch for The Apothecary jacket, September 2010

From another interview with Maile Meloy, this time all the way from Australia:
Ian Schoenherr did the beautiful illustrations, and he’s incredibly talented. He really captured the texture and the fantastical element of the book, and because he has a wonderful realistic, technical drawing ability, the magical aspects feel real. He was the perfect illustrator for it.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Maile Meloy Interviewed About The Apothecary

A terrific little interview with Maile Meloy (that mentions me!):
Q: The Apothecary features some great illustrations by Ian Schoenherr; what do you think is the best way for a writer to collaborate with an illustrator?
A: I think it should be just that: a collaboration. I had put clip art at the beginning of each chapter, with a picture of something that would appear in that chapter. Ian used a few of those objects, and continued the idea that the opening image should build suspense about the chapter, but he went way beyond my little boxed images. I was limited by what I could find in photographs. He chose perfect moments and scenes from the book to illustrate, and his paintings wrap around the text, across the top or bottom of the page. They’re so beautiful, and Ryan the designer and Cecilia the art director showed me the sketches as they came in, so we could have a dialogue about it. There’s a character in the book with a wooden leg, and in the manuscript it was just a peg, but Ian drew an articulated leg with buckled straps, a boot, and visible nails to hold the sock up. I started to say, ‘Oh, that’s not the right kind of…’ and then I shut up and went back and changed the text. His leg was better.

A Blue Horse?

For better or horse worse, I’m becoming a specialist in painting forlorn animals in old clothes - as seen here, here, here, and here - and now here:


“Blue Horse in Black and White” by Ian Schoenherr (2011)

I painted this sad creature for a good cause, though:
The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse Charity Auction is a silent auction to benefit the NEA Foundation’s commitment to help improve arts education in schools across the nation. The initiative was inspired by Eric Carle’s picture book The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, which celebrates imagination and artistic freedom.



The directive was to create “a piece of original artwork featuring [my] interpretation of a horse in any color, size, shape or medium of [my] choosing, inspired from [my] reading of The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse” on an 8 x 8" canvas (on which the legend seen in the picture was printed, by the way; my lettering isn’t that good).

I guess I interpreted this directive broadly.

Anyway, this could be yours, once the online auction begins on or around October 17, 2011. The site www.BlueHorseAuction.com will be up and running once all the entries are received and photographed. I’ll post a reminder and more details as they come.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fondness for The Apothecary

Some nice comments about The Apothecary from...

The Picky Girl: “this is an absolutely beautiful book”

Beth Kephart: “a book that (if the preview pages on Amazon are accurate) features some very beautiful illustrations by Ian Schoenherr.”

Forever Young Adult: “We already know that you can make something cool by putting a bird on it, but this cover is so much more than a hipster cliche. I love the old school style, which beautifully captures important elements of the book. This cover is the reason why book frames should be invented, because it needs to be on my wall STAT.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Publishers Weekly Gives The Apothecary a Star

Publishers Weekly just gave The Apothecary a starred review. And they even liked the pictures!
With evocative, confident prose and equally atmospheric spot art from Schoenherr, adult author Meloy’s first book for young readers is an auspicious one.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dreamy About The Apothecary

Nice comments about The Apothecary at There’s A Book:
Book Dreaming is just that. It’s a feature I’m going to use to highlight those books that make you dreamy or possibly just end up making you dream about them. It could be anything from newly released books to ones that are already out that I can’t get out of my head to those I can’t seem to get my hands on soon enough!

Today’s Book Dreaming pick is The Apothecary by Maile Meloy and Illustrated by Ian Schoenherr...

Trailer for The Apothecary

I just got an advance copy of The Apothecary - and it looks great. And now there’s a way-cool trailer for the book, which uses a few of my (MANY!) illustrations.

Not since the oak-tag flip-book I made of a motorcyclist jumping over garbage cans in the 6th grade has any of my work been semi-animated.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Kiwi Reviews The Apothecary

A great review of Maile Meloy’s The Apothecary - all the way from New Zealand:
This is a stunning new book about magic aimed at Intermediate junior secondary students with reading ages 12-15 years.

Set in the era of the early Cold War in the year 1952 when McCarthyism was starting to take root in America and nuclear testing was starting with first the Americans then the Soviets and later the British. Spying was rife.

Into the story comes an American girl Janie whose parents are script writers for a new British series on Robin Hood. She goes to a private English school and comes in contact with Ben, the son of an apothecary or pharmacist in modern lingo. The father has a powerful book called the Pharmacopoeia which contains magic potions that can transform humans into birds, make people tell the truth and even vanish.

Soviet spies want the Pharmacopoeia and Janie and Ben are caught in a spy action story that ends up at the Soviet testing site of Nova Zemblya. To tell you any more would ruin it, but just imagine if it was possible to negate the effects of radiation with a potion made from plants.

I loved this novel as it was so original. I would describe it as an historical Science fiction adventure fantasy. Is that possible? Read it and find out.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Apothecary Discussion Guide

This bit of ephemera featuring my jacket painting for The Apothecary recently found its way to me. Its a “Discussion Guide” for the book which includes some details about the book and 19 “Discussion and Comprehension Questions” as well as list of “Extensive Activities” and tips on “How to Start Your Own Book Club”. Now, if I could just figure out how to get more of these flyers...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Growth Chart from Brooklyn Public Library

Do you live in Brooklyn? Do you have a child in your life who is somewhere between 12 inches and four feet tall? Then participate in Summer Reading 2011 at your favorite Brooklyn Public Library branch and get a “Growth Chart” featuring my illustrations for Read It, Don’t Eat It!

It’s full-color, 6.25 inches square, and unfolds to a length of 37.5 inches. You can chart your child’s height, but also the breadth of their reading.

And it comes in Spanish, too!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Irritable Fox and Annoyed Pig

An experiment for the sake of experimenting - in this case in ink and watercolor. (I wanted to see what could be done using a limited palette - specifically one recommended by Beatrix Potter - but I’ve since mislaid the list of colors.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Study for The Apothecary

This is an experimental study I made last summer when I was trying to get a feel for the illustrations for The Apothecary.

It’s in ink and acrylic on watercolor paper and is much more “thinly” painted than the final art: try as I might, my light touch always gives way to impasto and opacity. Last night I got see see a roomful of illustrations at the ABC Children's Group at ABA Silent Auction to benefit the ABFFE Fund for Free Speech in Children’s Books - and I really marveled at the ease and confidence shown in so much of the work. How do they do it? One of these days, I’ll apply a flat tone of color and let it be - and not muck around in it.

(This piece was in the show, too - and the winning bid was $500!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Inadvertent Photo-Essay: Woodside Trolley Barns


A little while ago, I posted a photo of a door from the old Woodside Trolley Barns, also known as the depot of the New York and Queens County Railway Company, or the New York and Queens County Railroad Company, or the N.Y. & Queens Co. Ry. Co., or the NY & Q. Co. Ry. Co., et cetera.

And here are some more photos, taken in, I think, the spring of 1986. My goal, then, was to make “artsy” pictures, heavy on textures and shapes - not to document the place, before it - most of it - was pulled down.

It’s called “Tower Square” now, home of a delightful parking lot which services a Pizza Hut, Michael’s, Subway, Boston Market, Starbucks, GameStop, HSBC, and a 99 cents store (or maybe it's a $4.99 store). Former residents include Walgreens, OfficeMax, an underrated Indian restaurant, and an eatery I began to call “Hairy Burritos” after two unfortunate incidents.

The place was the topic of the very first Forgotten New York page in 1998.

Doors and windows along Northern Boulevard (base of the east tower at right)

Base of the east tower on Northern Boulevard

“Waiting Room” entrance, corner of Northern Boulevard and Woodside Avenue

The Woodside Avenue side, at the corner of Northern Boulevard

The west tower on Woodside Avenue

Looking southeast down Woodside Avenue from the base of the west tower

Doorway detail on Woodside Avenue

Chimney on Woodside Avenue

Boarded-up door on Woodside Avenue

Closeup of door on Woodside Avenue

Turret and skylight on Woodside Avenue

Downspout in circular window on Woodside Avenue

Emerging pipes on Woodside Avenue

Bricked-up windows and power lines on Woodside Avenue

Decayed tire (?) in circular window

Flashing-covered windows on Woodside Avenue

Friday, May 20, 2011

Physician, Take a Hike

Kind of creepy, eh? This showed up in The New York Times Book Review for May 12, 2002, and illustrated Natalie Angier’s review of Michael Gearin-Tosh’s memoir, Living Proof: A Medical Mutiny.

As Angier said, Gearin-Tosh, who had been diagnosed with incurable bone marrow cancer, took “his body, his health, his life into his own cautious, obstinate hands. Gearin-Tosh refused the chemotherapy - hence the subtitle of ‘Living Proof’: ‘A Medical Mutiny’ - and chose instead to put together a semipersonalized program of Chinese breathing exercises, acupuncture, coffee and castor oil enemas, megadoses of vitamins and a diet rich in raw vegetables and fresh juices and stripped of salt, sugar and cooked fat.”

So, in lieu of any better ideas, I drew a kind of “universe” of Gearin-Tosh’s alternative medical regimen: the human head functioning as a kind of a sun, with acupuncture needle-rays, orbited by vitamin-stars, garlic- and turnip-asteroids, apple- and orange-planets, carrot- and onion-comets, banana- and pea pod-moons, and ...an enema-bag space-station? Sounds like the worst bowl of Lucky Charms ever.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Turtle on the Fence Post

A cropped version of this illustration appeared in The New York Times Book Review for March 24, 2002. I made it for William Kennedy’s review of Joe Klein’s book, The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton.

The Book Review gave out a particular photo of Bill Clinton to a number of artists, including Barry Blitt, Henrik Drescher, Peter Blegvad, Philip Burke, Robert Grossman, Thomas Fuchs - maybe others - and me. Each of us was supposed to re-imagine the picture and then our results would be ganged-up on the cover and, it was hoped, evoke what Kennedy described as “the duality, triality, quadrality of Bill Clinton's nature and outlook.”

But I (and maybe some of the others) misunderstood the directive. I think I should have shown Clinton’s whole head and shoulders instead of just a fragment of him. So I wound up making the above piece, but while it missed getting on the cover, it was used inside with the review itself.

My mixed-up medium was colored ink on scratchboard, glued to a scrap of Color-Aid paper.

See my other take on Bill Clinton, here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

They Really Are A Scream

Sometimes a better idea comes after I’ve turned in the final art. Other times the best idea arrives in the nick of time.

Take the Adams family. (No, not them.) My assignment for the New York Times Book Review (given on a Friday afternoon, I think, and due before noon Monday) was to illustrate Jeff Shesol's review of America's First Dynasty: The Adamses, 1735-1918 by Richard Brookhiser, in which “his subject is not one life but four - the favorite sons of successive generations of the Adams family” - i.e. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Charles Francis Adams and Henry Adams.

For better or worse, I’m drawn to American historical subjects: I love to research them, but often I get too caught up in all the details which, in turn, can get in the way of making an interesting picture. Editorial work, though, is (to me) less about making a well-researched or historically accurate depiction of a particular time, place, or person, and more about making something that catches the essence of the piece it illustrates - or, at least, catches the eye.

Despite my immediate attraction to the subject, I didn’t know how to handle it pictorially. One page of notes shows that I considered parodying (or parroting) The Flying Wallendas and The Brady Bunch...


“Clever” - but not very interesting. Nor was the “family gallery” approach I tried, or my half-baked variant of Norman Rockwell’s The Gossips...


Finally, while vainly attempting to capture the features of Charles Francis Adams, it dawned on me that most people probably wouldn’t pick be able to pick Charles Francis Adams (or even Henry Adams) out of a line up, so why bother with straightforward portraits? Why not focus on things they had in common besides their surname: their eyes, their ears, their bald heads? And why not take a more abstract, or less literal approach, which might be more effective in the end?


Maybe I pushed the similarities more than what was “true,” but I felt like I was on to something. And maybe I was paying unconscious homage to one early-to-mid-1960s album cover or another - was it Meet the Beatles!? I don’t know.


And since David McCullough’s John Adams came out not long before this review appeared, I figured the Times-reading masses would probably recognize the Adams on the jacket:



So I replaced John Adams’ understated hairstyle with the bushier variety. But that obscured the face of his son, John Quincy Adams, so I switched the order, tracing and cutting and pasting (with real-live scissors and tape)...


And then I made the final art in ink on scratchboard:


My chief reservation about this is that my pen and “scratching” work should have been less delicate: it gets fuzzy when reduced, or printed on newsprint. Even so, I still like this Adams Family. Neat, sweet, petite.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Borrow, Don’t Steal, Or, Better Yet, Bid

This was my first try at a picture titled “Borrow, don’t steal” for my book, Read It, Don’t Eat It!

But I wasn’t getting along with the paper I was using, so I started it and all the others over and left behind a stack of half-finished illustrations. Last year, though, I revamped my painting of a fox severely “editing” a book for the American Booksellers for Children’s Not-a-Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction held during Book Expo America (BEA).

This year, I did the same kind of makeover with this raccoon, who will be auctioned (silently) to benefit the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) Fund for Free Speech in Children's Books on Wednesday, May 25, at the Javits Convention Center in New York City from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.

You can read more about the event (and see another offering by me) in my previous post.

Trompe L’Oeil Gevalt

WANTED! Another fake jacket from the olden days, this time for the very real Howard Zinn classic, A People's History of the United States.
The type treatment is Charles Nix’s, the vague attempt at trompe l’oeil painting is mine. Later I salvaged the piece by adding a mouse clinging to the lower edge of the poster, but I can’t find the critter now.

“...all the way home to BEA”

Give this little pig a good home, please. He’ll be waiting for you later this month at BookExpo America (a.k.a. BEA):
BEA Art Auction to Benefit Free Speech for Kids

Attendees at BookExpo America will have an opportunity to support the free speech rights of young readers when the children's art auction and reception that formerly benefited the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC) is relaunched as a fundraiser for the new American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) Fund for Free Speech in Children's Books. The event will be held on Wednesday, May 25, in the Javits Convention Center from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.

The ABC Auction has long been one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the social calendar of the children's book industry, attracting booksellers, authors, publishers, illustrators, and others. This year's auction is chaired by author Laurie Halse Anderson, whose novel Speak has been challenged in schools by people who object to its exploration of sexual assault. More than 100 artists have donated work to the auction. A preview is available online.

Tickets for the auction and reception, which are $69 for bookseller members of the ABC Children's Group and $89 for all others, can be purchased here. If the tickets are not sold out in advance, they may also be purchased during a preview of auction artwork in the Javits Center's Crystal Pavilion on Tuesday, May 24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets purchased onsite will be $79 for ABC members and $99 for non-members.
You might recognize this pig. For the auction, I took a color xerox of my painting, mounted it on illustration board, then did a fair amount of repainting - beyond just turning the oval into a rectangle. He comes framed, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May It Please the Court: The First Amendment

A jacket for May It Please the Court: The First Amendment: Live Recordings and Transcripts of the Oral Arguments Made Before the Supreme Court in Sixteen Key First Amendment Cases.

This box set was published by The New Press in 1997. As I recall, Charles Nix, who had designed the first volume - May It Please the Court: The Most Significant Oral Arguments Made Before the Supreme Court Since 1955- used the only known photo of the court in session, so we had to come up with an apt image ourselves. My resultant painting of the scales of justice, below, was not a particularly novel idea. It came at a time when I was tentatively trying to emulate the wonderful still-lifes of Walter Murch, but I could have/should have been more painterly about it.