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Sometimes I can’t say goodbye to sketches that get superseded by other ideas.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