Kids Workbook Project

Instructional Fair


Around the turn of the century (hmm, still sounds strange to say that), I did a number of black and white children’s workbook projects for a local educational book publisher, Instructional Fair. These usually involved a series of 20-30 small spot illustrations, mostly cartoonish in style, on a variety of subjects, depending on the book title. I mostly worked with one editor, and we did a number of books together, but then after a few years, the company underwent some shake-ups and reorganizing, and the projects started drying up. Occasionally one would trickle in, the company now called ‘Carson Dellosa’ and with different editors, and this one that I did in the fall of 2004 was the last one that I worked on. I’m only posting a few of the illustrations here, just to give a feel for what the project entailed. These are not available for reprints, due to the contract I signed, but posted for history’s sake.
These were usually quite fun to do, for the most part. The pay wasn’t all that great, but the sheer volume of illustrations meant a substantial paycheck at the end of the project. They were fairly quick and easy, and gave me a lot of practice in perfecting my ‘cartoon line work’, and most importantly, kept me busy.

This particular batch of illustrations was for a book on ‘outdoor activities for children’. The quantity was somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 illustrations, ranging in size from full page to small spots, and mostly similar to the type of illustrations seen here in this posting (a couple were more involved and difficult, but there were more than enough of the small quick ones to even things out).

There was usually very little in the way of art direction or changes to my sketch ideas, so working with this client was usually pretty painless. Looking back, though, I wish I was a bit more strident in negotiating the contracts, as there were a mountain of illustrations involved.

More illustrations from this book here on another posting. The book is still available on Amazon (link here).

Keeping Busy

CRC, Instructional Fair


October was a very busy month for me. Based in South Haven, caring for my Dad as he went through chemo treatments for Multiple Myeloma, and working on the dining room table. I had three big multi-illustration projects come due right around the same time. Carson Dellosa, who had been giving me work since around ’99 (though under the name of Instructional Fair), and who had gone through some corporate shake-ups in recent years handed me an assignment to illustrate a ‘spanish poster’ which needed around 25 spot illustrations to illustrate different spanish nouns (pictured at left and below). Rather than post all of them, I just chose a couple examples, the rooster, the kite and the leaf. For the same designer during this month, I also had a book cover illustration (pictured above), something geared towards teachers in need of activities to occupy their classrooms.

For the same company, but a different designer/editor, I had a pair of workbooks which needed about 20 or so black and white illustrations each. I’ve chosen a few samples to post here, and the rest are posted in another pair of blog entries this month. These were for a series of ‘Test Preparation’ books that I was working on throughout the year (grades 3 through 8), and the two this month were for grades 4 and 5.

In addition to these projects, and my regular monthly workload, I also was working on an ongoing curriculum project for the Christian Reformed Church. Most of the pieces were large in size 11×17 (and some larger posters), mostly done in a modified semi-realistic cartoon style.

This ‘bible’ project was an ongoing thing (this current project since ’02), meaning that I didn’t do all the work in October, but it was spaced out over a period of 3 months or so, but the finishes just happened to come due in October. There were about 20 or so of these illustrations in each batch, and they were all fairly similar, depicting various bible scenes and/or activities, and I’ve just chosen a few of them to post here by way of example. (more to be found here in another posting)


A Heaping Helping of Spots

Instructional Fair, self portrait


During the month of September, I was living and working in South Haven, caring for my Father as he underwent a series of chemo treatments. Most of the work, aside from the usual workload, during this month was taken up by a series of workbook projects for Carson Dellosa (previously Instructional Fair). I’d been doing work for this client since the late 90s, mostly with the same editor/designer, and these would be the last batches that we would work together on, as the company underwent some restructuring and trimming of staff recently. In this posting are a small sampling from each book. Each book contained somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 spot illustrations, varying in size and shape. Sometimes they were fairly straightforward depictions of objects/topics, and other times I was allowed a little leeway to make them a bit more ‘fun’.

The illustration at the top was to show a ‘queue’ of people (I don’t remember what they were in line for), but I chose this opportunity to include some of my family and a close friend in this particular illustration. My Father is the fellow in the wheelchair (he isn’t looking too good, he was getting quite skinny and frail looking around this time), and I did a self portrait (the guy with the bandanna and goatee), and in front of me is my son Keenan (just starting high school at this time), then my wife, Terri is in front of him, and then, in the bathing suit, is Candy, a good friend of ours.

The illustration to the left was to be a random kid at a desk overhearing conversations and writing in a journal, but I chose to do this as a tribute to Kate, the designer who I had been working with for many years, and who had watched my son grow up as I would drag him into design meetings in the summer since we first started working together. I pictured what I thought she might look like as a young girl. She seemed to get a kick out of it.



These illustrations were invaluable as practice and development of my ‘cartoon style’ which underwent a great deal of refinement during the many projects that this publisher sent my way over the past several years. I also believe it helped me simplify my scratchboard technique, even though I only did a few pieces in that style for this client, as it helped me to see that sometimes ‘less is more’, and to hone in my concept skills in order to fit a lot of information into a tiny space.

One thing I’m not sure about, however, is what the status is regarding reprint rights on these illustrations. I remember bringing up the topic once when we were discussing the contract, but I don’t remember what was decided upon. Most of the illustrations in these books were fairly specialized and probably wouldn’t be of any interest to others as far as reprints go, but there were quite a few, like the some of the pieces that I’ve chosen to post here, that were generic enough, that they might find use elsewhere. I’ll have to do some research into my old files and see if I have anything in writing.

One of the other benefits to working on these projects, was in training myself to work fairly expediently. I’ve always worked kind of fast before (coming from a ‘quick printer’ background in the 80s), but the sheer volume and deadlines on these pieces forced me to kick up the speed a notch. Overall, these projects were quite enjoyable from an experience standpoint, and from a personal standpoint, even though the pay and contracts could have been better. And I sort of miss working in this style. Color is fine and fun, but there’s something to be said for the simplicity of black and white.

So, overall, with 4 books with about 20 illustrations each, I ended up doing about 80 drawings in the month of September, and I have to say, that after doing these for the past 4 or 5 years, that this batch was my personal favorite, despite the situation and circumstances under which I was working. Perhaps it was the work that helped me pull through this period.

Some other notes on the illustrations included here:
(book 1) samples from the first book include the ‘forest scene with the owl’, the ‘cactus and woodpecker’, a picture of Amelia Earhardt and her plane, and the picture of ‘Paul Revere and his midnight ride’
(book 2) samples from the second book include the ‘queue’ at the top, the ‘dog breeds’, and the ‘whales’ illustration
(book 3) samples from the third book include the ‘diary girl’, and the ‘pile of treasure’
(book 4) samples from the fourth book include the ‘elephant’ illustrations, and the ‘teen working at a pizza parlor’ illustrations.

Each of the books in this series were entitled ‘Teamwork Test Prep’ and there were 6 total that I worked on in the second half of the year. More samples from the Grade 8, Grade 7 and the Grade 3 book can be found in other postings this month. (grades 4, 5 & 6 can be found in October and November’s postings) All the books are still available on Amazon, and you can find links to each on the ‘bibliography’ page and on each individual posting.

Tiny Cartoons

Instructional Fair, Oxendine


I got a lot of practice drawing tiny little cartoons in August of ’01. The six illustrations above were for a college lifestyles magazine, and were a regular ‘factoid’ feature that I was contributing to for this magazine for many years.
Also this month I had a huge assignment of tiny black and white spot cartoons for a local children’s publisher. About 170 of these small illustrations would be liberally sprinkled among the text of this ‘writing workshop’ book. The sizes varied, a lot of them were long horizontals, and a few were larger and more intricate. I did so many of these, and so quickly, that I barely even remember drawing many of them, and while I was going through the files, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

These illustrations here are just a sampling of the many illustrations that I did for this project. Unfortunately I don’t remember what kind of contract I signed with these projects, so I doubt if these are available as reprint material, although it wouldn’t be too hard to rework or revise them into something new and different.

I remember these projects as being very time consuming, but they were invaluable practice at refining my cartoon style and in learning to simplify my concepts down to their bare bones.