Mac McCool - Children's Book Illustrations and Graphic Novels

Friday, August 31, 2007

Osamu Tezuka's Comics Grace San Francisco

What a fun trip! I got to hop to San Fran for a day this week to see several museums. The Osamu Tezuka exhibit at the Asian Art Museum provided the "excuse" to do it all! And just seeing Tezuka's originals made the trip worth it! Some casual visitors may not look past the cartoony characters and the cute kid's appeal. However, if it looks so simple, it's all because of the magic of a master! This level of skill in visual storytelling remains rare. Tezuka can present very complex concepts and emotions with elegant and perfectly clear drawings and well-timed sequences. His page layouts seldom miss a chance to enhance the storytelling. The impeccable shot selection, the variety and appeal of his textures, his fine control of value, his huge range of visual special effects, and his beautifully balanced compositions really make him someone worth studying again and again. Yet, beyond it all, his stories and characters project a great love for life and humanity -- a grand message! And if this weren't enough, I loved the galleries of the deYoung museum (including the photos of the sea by Hiroshi Sugimoto) and saw a few powerful paintings and photos at the SFMOMA! Pffff! All in a day's work!!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Globing Made Easy

Did I say Glob? Yes, I did! I meant "blog!" Does that make me a globber?! Oops! Well, yep, I got my consonants mixed up at yesterday's great O.C. Illustrators' get together! That's where my friend (and the artist behind these adorable illustrations), Christina Forshay, told me about Google Reader. That's one dandy bloggin' tool, and big keep-in-touch-time-saver (which I'm sure many of you already knew about!).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bunny Breaking Bread

I recently read a few hundreds of Aesop's Fables. And I thought, "wouldn't it be nice if the turtle and the hare became best friends after that infamous race? Don't they like the same foods, anyway?" This led to a few drawings, like this one.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kudos to Professional Heroes

A few days ago, in the afternoon, the throbbing hum of helicopters alerted me of danger in the nearby hills where I hike. Last time I heard a chopper buzz over the canyons, its pilots were guiding from above an ambulance to a mountain-bike rider who had fallen and broken her collar bone. This time, a column of grey smoke rose from behind the nearest crest. A fire had started. Minutes later, the column spread into a thick wall of smoke and dust. It charged in slow-mo over the hill. Four water-dropping helos kept going right in, dipping as low as they could to release their loads, and making way for the next one. More than 300 firefighters rushed to the scene. I couldn't believe how quickly these professionals controlled the blaze. By the evening, they had contained a fire that could have engulfed tens of area homes and hundreds acres of wilderness. In the end, more than 50 acres burnt, no homes suffered damages, and everyone was safe. So to the many L.A. and Orange County firefighters who took great risks to keep everyone safe: THANK YOU! You're heroes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hattie Big Sky -- WOW!

One of the joys of an SCBWI conference is discovering new and exciting books. A year ago, Flipped, by Wendelin Van Draanen (who is organizing this amazing campaign, by the way!) and her series, Shredderman and Sammy Keyes, were it. Last Winter, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick) and Letters from Rapunzel (Sara Lewis Holmes) highlighted my reading season. Now, I just finished Firegirl (Tony Abbott) and Hattie Big Sky (Kirby Larson), and it’s no wonder they got awards and honors (a Golden Kite Award and a Newbery Book Honor respectively). Kirby Larson's writing is like music, with a graceful melody, a well-paced story tempo, a masterful ensemble of voices and emotional chords. Just terrific! Onto more great books!...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Memory Doodle

Character designer, Stephen Silver, is a great practionner of "memory sketches." Here's a memory sketch of mine (this woman had a great, stern elegance in her profile).

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rediscovering David Wiesner's Flotsam

I'm just getting back to reading some David Wiesner picture books. His storytelling and art are such inspirations! Flotsam is simply amazing. How he sometimes uses the images on the page as either extension of or a mirror of the reader. How he introduces depth past the flatness of the page to telescope back in time, but also in space in deep-focus layouts. And boy, framing techniques in the hands of master – when the images go back to the old days, viewed with the microscope, the round framing suggests closing the circle and repeating the cycle. And need I say impeccable page turns, solid pacing, clear staging and acting, great story, humorful whimsy, and a beautiful theme of connecting beyond space and time?!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Think-Jot-Draw: A Sketchbook for Picture Book Illustrators

My friend and fun illustrator, Leeza Hernandez, just announced her much anticipated creation, the Think.Jot.Draw Sketchbook. It's made out of pages with useful templates and layouts most picture book illustrators use all the time, like quick panels to map out 32-page picture books (and it's only $8.95 -- total bargain!). I'm embarassed to say, but I don't know how many times I drew those silly layouts by hand over and over! Thanks Leeza! I can't wait to receive mine! And there's even a Think.Jot.Draw contest too!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Exposing Your Art!

At the SCBWI conference, quiet illustrator, Jesse Joshua Watson, convinced the crowd in his presentation that to get work, you have to show your work! If you don't champion your art, who will? And my quiet illustrator friend, Jesse, put up a hilarious visual to make his point!... Did I say, Jesse is the quiet, almost shy, type? Well now, that funny visual is now on his Brains on Dislay blog!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Writing Graphic Novels U.: Recommended Reading List

At the "Writing Graphic Novels" SCBWI session, I shared these titles (in no particular order) with the audience as a good set of great graphic novels to enjoy and study if you are diving into this art form. I've added a few comments about some of their literary and artistic strengths. Note: few of these titles suit younger audiences because so little has happened in children's comics in the U.S. in the last 40 years.

Bone by Jeff Smith
-- one of the great all-ages comics of recent years
Maus by Art Spiegelman
-- excellent writing, effective use of visual metaphors, brilliant story structure, intimate format, layouts that support the storytelling
Tintin by Hergé -- impeccably clear drawing style and panel compositions, voices and characters, slaptstick and verbal humor, smooth reading flow, great pacing (the later titles, like Tintin in Tibet, tend to be the best)
Fantastic Four by Jack Kirby
-- classic over-the-top adventures, dynamic drawings and visual effects, interpersonal conflicts
Spiderman by Stan Lee
-- a more "human" superhero, great dynamic visuals, strong pacing and rhythm
Epileptic by David B.
-- strong themes, careful writing, indelible graphic style
Pogo by Walt Kelly
-- voices, accents, and all-ages, or is it?
Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson
-- impeccably precise writing, voices, magic of ellipses, character, clear compositions, visual stylistic range, overall mastery of medium
Any Astroboy by Osamu Tezuka
-- solid stories, attaching character, a classic for Japanese children -- Tezuka also has wonderful more grown-up stories like Buddha
Krazy Kat by George Herriman
-- a humorous Samuel Beckett in comics panels, voice accents, page layouts, takes a little warming up to, but will grow on most!
A Contract with God by Will Eisner
-- solid writing & story structure, characters, mood, intimate form, effective, yet simple layouts -- his Spirit stories have far more obvious experimental layouts
American Born Chinese by Gene Yang
-- multiple voices, simple and effective imagery, serious themes, complex story structure
Flight, (vol. 1-4) edited by Kazu Kibuishi
-- most volumes are a visual feast, with enough variety to suit all tastes, synthesis of Japanese and European influences on U.S. comics, beautiful color, useful to study short-form graphic novels or graphic novellas
Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay
-- not so impressive writing, but everything else is astonishing, from the graphic mastery, to the perfect union of layouts and storytelling, pacing, etc.; and if you want to get the experience of reading it in its original awesome size, get the original size version
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
-- deceptively effective use of simple black and white scheme to match the narrator's deceptively simple view of life, structure, good writing
Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware
-- mapping of time and space, sophisticated and engaging use of typography, page layouts, color, clear visuals, relationship between text and image
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide by Lorenzo Mattotti
-- beautiful "non-typical" style of images, effective adaptation, pacing, mood, colors
Many books from the publisher First Second. They have picked some of the best international comics and translated them into English, and they're also nurturing great home-grown talent.

In the next day or so, I'll gather a list of books that teach about the medium such as the excellent Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Good Night to Wish on a Star!

If you're up late Sunday night, away from city lights and under clear skies, look up at the Perseid Meteor shower show! Prepare your wishes!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

How Many Graphic Novels Have YOU Read in the Last Year?

Do you see that band wagon fixin' to leave the station? It's the Children's Graphic Novel Express! Run aboard! Jump in! Smile to the press for the maiden voyage photo! We're making history!!

But, WAIT! Hold it! Right there!

Your ticket -- do you have your ticket?!

"Ticket?!" you ask.

"Well, yeah! Just how many graphic novels have you read in the last 12 months?"

Blank stares...

"How 'bout thirty?... Twenty?... Ten?!?!... Not EVEN ten!!! Waitaminute! Children's graphic novels are serious business! Do some readin' and then hop right in! It's gonna be a fun ride!!!"

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Still More Children's Book Publishers Are Publishing Graphic Novels

Fresh from the SCBWI Los Angeles conference, new entries to add to my first list of children's graphic novels publishers include Holt, Penguin and Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Big THANK YOU from the "Graphic Novel Guy"

I must have boarded the Calendar Express on July 25 (first day of the San Diego Comic Con) and stepped off yesterday (closing day of the Summer Annual SCBWI conference). What a blast! Where did all the days go?! So many terrific people, memorable moments! Catching up with old friends, making new ones! Receiving that funny nickname, the "Graphic Novel Guy!" To all the incredible organizers, to all of you who attended my presentations, a heart-felt THANK YOU! Stay in touch! Let's spare no effort, let's cut no corner to make tomorrow's graphic novels for children the very best this world has ever seen!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

From One-Illustration per Page to Many Panels per Page

Illustrators wanting to refine their visual storytelling skills and writers curious about graphic novels from the point of view of the visual artist will learn about the techniques to designing clear, fluid, and powerful graphic novel pages in the "Illustrations in Panels: Composing Graphic Novels" workshop. This SCBWI session (Friday Aug. 3 at 11:45am) serves primarily illustrators. However, writers who wish to write manuscripts more suited to this medium will appreciate the insight into the artist's creative constraints and challenges. The "Illustration in Panels" workshop will launch with having you put pen to paper right away (no need to draw like a pro - stick figures will do!). Then we'll explore the concepts and principles of comics page layout (such as guiding the reader's eye, prioritizing your panels, creating rhythm and emotion, etc.). Another hands-on 2-3 minute exercise will follow before the Q&A. This workshop acts as a solid complement to the workshop on "Writing Graphic Novels" (Sunday Aug. 5, 10:45am). See ya there!