Monday, October 26th, 2015
The Making of
HOT ROD HAMSTER'S
Spooky Halloween Cover!
There's a little bit of magic in painting. When you put colors and shapes together and add light, shadow and the boldness of a personality, characters spring to life on the page. Because Halloween is fast approaching and we have a new Hot Rod Hamster Halloween adventure out in the world, I wanted to give a peek behind the scenes and a little glimpse into the making of a book cover.
The cover is almost always the last thing we create for a book. It begins with multiple rough sketches. I try to choose an image that will both represent the story and grab the reader's attention. Once we settle on a direction, I create a tight sketch...
Because this book is part of a series, we needed the artwork to work with the title layouts we'd already established for previous books. So our art director, Marijka, sent me a template with the titles in place.
Notice the cobwebs on the car. I added them to push the spooky Halloween effect. After discussing it with my editor, Emily, and Marijka, we decided that detail suggested the car had been sitting still for some time. Anybody who has ever read a Hot Rod Hamster book knows Hot Rod Hamster does not sit still. He's one speedy little Hamster who loves to go fast, so we got rid of the cobwebs.
I create artwork in many different ways, but the Hot Rod Hamster covers are all done in acrylic paint on Arches hot press watercolor paper that's cut to size.
The paper is mounted on a board with watercolor tape and once it's dry, I transfer the sketch.
The pencil lines won't show up in the finished painting. They're covered with a layer of gesso (a gritty, white primer that gives the paint something to stick to).
I always begin painting darks first. I quickly lay in a few outlines and rough in the shadows. These outlines will end up getting covered in layers of paint.
As I lay in the colors, I pay very close attention to the light. Since that full moon behind Hot Rod Hamster is the light source, the shadows will be cast into the foreground and the highlights will come in from behind Hot Rod Hamster. Since Hot Rod Hamster is the center of attention and the star of the book, I don't want him to be too dark so I'll keep him light and bright enough to stand out.
When creating pictures, I tend to work very quickly. But painting with wet media takes patience. Whether you're painting in oil or acrylic paints, you have to do an underpainting- meaning an underlying color structure that you can then build the paint up over. It's through layers of paint that you get those rich, vibrant colors with depth and brushstrokes.
Once the underpainting is finished, I can go back in and start building up the paint and color.
Through those refined brushstrokes and layers of paint, Hot Rod Hamster springs to life. Here, I'm adding final touches including his whiskers and highlights. The leaves on the ground were the last thing I detailed. I wanted to be sure I had all the other colors, shadows and details just right.
When the painting is finished I spray it with varnish and mount it on foam core to protect it from all the bumps and jostling it will encounter on the trip to my publisher in New York. I've had packages that were damaged on their trip east so I'm extra careful. These days I package my paintings like they're going to the moon.
Hot Rod Hamster has been such a fun series to create with Cynthia Lord and our amazing team at Scholastic. Cynthia Lord has written one rip-roaring tale after another for our furry Hamster hero. I hope you enjoy Hot Rod Hamster and the Haunted Halloween Party! It's SPOOOOOOKY and fun!
Friday, October 16th, 2015
There's a FUN NEW Piggy Book
Coming in Spring 2016!
And Other News...
Sound the trumpets and the... tubas. There's a NEW book coming in 2016! Ten Hungry Pigs will be published by Orchard Books/Scholastic in April 2016. I would love to tell you more about this book, but I can't. At least not yet. The only thing I can say is- sometimes a pig wants a peanut butter and jelly snack all to himself. I'll tell you a bit more about Ten Hungry Pigs very soon!
I have exciting news for our Spanish speaking friends in the world. Scholastic en español will be publishing Diez Cerdos (that's Ten Pigs in English) in Spring 2016. Now you can splash around and count these crazy pigs in Spanish!
All the twists, turns and bath-hogging pigs are exactly the same as the English version. It's just as much piggy fun in Spanish!
And speaking of Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure, we received a terrific review from Pamela Thompson, a Texas based book blogger. In her review, she begins...
"Just DELIGHTFUL! Ten Pigs An Epic Bath Adventure is everything
a children's book should be. It's entertaining, fun, charming,
colorful, silly and bursting with heart!"
She goes on to describe the plot of the story and says some other really nice things about the pigs. Many thanks to Ms. Thompson for her kind words. You can read her full review by clicking HERE.
Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure is available in bookstores and online. Click HERE to order a copy.
Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
The Impact of One Teacher
on a Life
Last spring I was asked by Scholastic Reading Club to create an illustration of my favorite teacher for a project they were planning. I've been very fortunate in my life to have had many amazing teachers all the way through school. But there was one individual that made a huge impression on my life very early on. His name was Tom Berhow.
When I was in kindergarten at Roosevelt Elementary School in Ames, Iowa, I did a crayon drawing of the Easter Bunny. I often show it in schools when I speak because it's the first drawing I ever did where the picture ended up looking like what I set out to draw. This is what I looked like when I was in kindergarten...
And this is the drawing I did of the Easter Bunny...
When I finished the drawing I had to give it to the most important person I could think of. So I took it to the school office and presented it to Mr. Berhow, the principal of my school. Mr. Berhow hung the drawing on his office wall for the rest of the school year. That was when I knew I would be an artist.
It's tricky to portray an individual for an assignment like 'My Favorite Teacher.' I wasn't interested in creating a traditional portrait. A realistic rendering of Mr. Berhow isn't going to communicate anything about the generous, encouraging man that he was. I wanted to get creative with the assignment. I wanted to show the act that changed my life.
What I chose to depict in the illustration was the moment I saw the picture displayed on his office wall. That was the moment I could feel my feet lift off the ground. I've often said that what Mr. Berhow really did through that one simple act was removed gravity from my life. That was when I knew anything was possible. This was the first rough sketch I created.
I have many memories of Roosevelt Elementary School in Ames. But getting the physical details perfect in an illustration is never as important as capturing a moment. It doesn't matter whether the door or paint colors are exactly right. I'm only interested in getting the essence right. I remember exactly where that picture was hanging and what I felt when I saw it.
After completing the illustration in May, I sent it off to Scholastic in New York. It's included in a calendar they produced for the 2015-2016 school year that's being distributed to more than 250,000 teachers across the United States.
What Tom Berhow did that day probably wasn't a big deal to him. It was a small act of kindness in the busy life of an elementary school principal. But it meant everything to me.
Tom Berhow passed away a few short years before I was published. But the impact he made on my life lives on. Thank you, Mr. Berhow. I will never forget you.
Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
There's a NEW
Hot Rod Hamster Book Out Today!
And Other News...
Our fast, furry Hamster hero is back in another new adventure! Hot Rod Hamster and the Haunted Halloween Party! written by the incomparable Cynthia Lord is in bookstores today! I painted the cover and, as with the other Hot Rod Hamster early readers, we brought in Greg Paprocki to create the interior artwork. This early reader has all your favorite Hot Rod Hamster characters returning with loads of spooky fun! Hot Rod Hamster and the Haunted Halloween Party! is the sixth book in Hot Rod Hamster's speedy series.
In other news, Publishers Weekly ran our pictures last week from the Ten Pigs reading at the St. Paul Saints game along with a terrific article about the Saints and their support of literacy. Many thanks to Claire Kirch for the great article! You can see the pictures and read the article HERE.
Monday, July 20th, 2015
Pigs, Books & Baseball
It doesn't get any better...
A few times each summer, the Saint Paul Saints invite an author/illustrator to come and speak to young baseball fans about the importance of reading and read a special book to them. I was asked to be a guest of the Saints this summer and did a reading before Sunday's game.
It couldn't have been a more perfect day for a baseball game and a book! They invited the kids to come down on the field and then brough the lovely Pigasso by to say hello. Since my book is about PIGS and the Saint Paul Saints' mascot is a pig, it was a perfect fit.
I began by speaking to the kids about the importance of reading. You can see the cover of Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure on the scoreboard in the background.
Those are some seriously larger-than-life piggies!
While I was doing a drawing demonstration, a gust of wind blew up and knocked down the easel and drawing pad...
Luckily, outfielder Mitch Elliott was on hand to speak to the kids about reading as well. He stepped up and held the easel so I could finish the drawing.
Special thanks to Amy Baum at Mackin Educational Resources for arranging this reading. Thanks to Annie Huidekoper of the Saints for her endless hospitality and enthusiasm for books and reading. And thanks to my buddy Roger Bothwell for snapping pictures of the event.
Tuesday, July 14th, 2015
Two More Summer PIGGY Events...
Party with TEN PIGS on the Minneapolis Trolley
plus TEN PIGS at the St. Paul Saints game!
Summer is in full swing! There are two more fun piggy events this week. I'll be reading on the Historic Minneapolis Trolley (near Lake Harriet) this Thursday, July 16th. There are two shows- 6pm and 7pm. These events are always fun- they serve milk and cookies on the platform and then we climb aboard for a short ride on the tracks and then park for storytime and a little drawing. This is a ticketed event and both shows are sold out. We'll post pictures after the event.
PLUS- I'll be reading Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure this Sunday, July 19th at the St. Paul Saints game. The Saints are great supporters of reading and literacy. And they're great supporters of pigs (their mascot is a pig afterall). Before their home games, they invite young readers and their families onto the field to hear a story and speak with both the author and a baseball player. Come down onto the field before the game and hear a reading of Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure! Though I won't be throwing, catching or hitting the ball, I'll be sure to register my official stats after the game.
In case you can't make it to either event, here's a fun Piggy activity you can share with your kids. Click on the picture below for a downloadable Ten Pigs Activity Sheet and have a little Piggy fun at home after reading the book!
Monday, May 11th, 2015
Two EPIC PIGGY Events in Ames, Iowa
this Saturday, May 16th
10:30am at ISU Bookstore (in the Memorial Union)
2:00pm at Ames Public Library
There are two more opportunities to get a signed copy of Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure coming up in Ames, Iowa! This Saturday, May 16th, I'll be presenting my new book Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure at two different events. I will be speaking all about my new PIGGY friends and how I created them, there will be a drawing demonstration and I'll be reading this crazy new book.
Both events are free and open to the public. Come join the EPIC piggy fun this Saturday...
Saturday, May 16th
Iowa State University Book Store
(in the Memorial Union)
Ames Public Library
515 Douglas Avenue
See you in Ames for some serious PIGGY fun!
Monday, May 4th, 2015
It's PIGGY Time!
Launch Party Pics from
Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure
at Red Balloon Bookshop...
We had an amazing time at Red Balloon Bookshop on Saturday. They know how to throw one FUN piggy party! Many thanks to all those who came to celebrate. We saw a few old friends and made a whole lot of new ones. I did a short presentation showing the very first drawing I ever made...
A piggy party is never complete until there's a drawing demonstration!
Reading TEN PIGS. Who surfs in a bathtub? Seriously! One of the PIGS does.
Getting ready to sign...
Signing books for Delaney and her little brother, Porter.
If you're going to a piggy party you have to enjoy a little piggy cake... Yummers!
My buddies, Ryan McDowell and Aaron Kornegay, with their copies of Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure.
Huge thanks to Holly Weinkauf, Amy Oelkers and all my friends at Red Balloon for throwing such a great piggy party and launching Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure in style!
Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure
is published today!
Happy publication day! Get your mask and snorkel, your rubber ducky, your boats and shampoo- Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure comes out today!
School Library Journal says, "...Pithy and brisk, this book is a solid choice for children learning to count and young readers looking for a good laugh."
Kirkus Reviews says "...Anderson's joyous, porcine counting rhyme is bathtime (and storytime) fun. His bright-eyed, cartoon porkers, rendered in "ink, Photoshop and soap suds," are expressive, goofy and engaging."
I think that sums everything up nicely. You can pick up a copy at your local bookstore or online. If you'd like to read the full reviews or find an independent bookstore near you, click HERE.