What Was the Chicago Fire?


Another in the series of ‘What Was/Who Was/Where Was’ series of young reader books for Penguin, was “What Was the Chicago Fire?” from early 2016. This was the tenth book in this series that I illustrated the interiors for, and, when it was first proposed to me, I was a bit reluctant. Buildings are not my favorite thing to draw, and I had turned down one assignment the previous fall from the same client for that very reason, but at that particular time I was desperate for work, so I gritted my teeth and said “why not?”.
This one ended up being one of the most challenging of the books, for the aforementioned reason, and also the fact that it was filled with numerous crowd scenes, overhead city scenes (both prior to the disaster, during, and the aftermath). However, for the very same reasons, due to its challenge and complicated nature, I believe this book may have been a turning point in regards to my outlook towards these assignments. I learned an awful lot during the course of this project, both in technique and approach, and I’ve started embracing the pen and ink style, and more importantly, embracing the ‘process’, rather than just enduring it. I think this book was one of the best of the series that I’d done so far (and other difficult ones would follow), and I was informed recently that this book has been nominated for a ‘book of the year’ award by a Chicago area educators society (more news on this as I hear more).
I’ve share a few samples from this book in the past, but this is the first time sharing all 80 or so of the illustrations from the book.

Even More Presidents

Dover, Legal Times, Newsday, Penguin, Uncle Goose Toys



Continuing this “President’s Day Tribute” with samples of every time I’ve drawn one of the Presidents in my career. Above we have Eisenhower through Johnson. Again, mostly from the Uncle Goose Presidential Blocks project, the Dover Presidential Caricature Stickers Book, and several illustrations from the Penguin books I’ve been doing recently (there’s also a leftover Theodore Roosevelt that I had skipped before, and an extra William McKinley). More to come.

At this point, we are getting to where the president was actually in office while I was working as an illustrator. I started illustrating full time in 1989, so George Bush Sr. was just getting started in his single term Presidency, and by the time Clinton came into office I had several clients that were regularly asking for illustrations featuring the sitting president. My only surviving George Bush Sr. illustration predates my ‘digital illustration’ days, and was a small spot cartoon featuring George and Barbara Bush for Christianity Today Magazine, from about 1991. When Bill Clinton came into office, I struggled for a long time with his likeness. Most of the ‘smaller samples’ on this page are from early Legal Times or Newday assignments, from back in the mid to late 90s. It was only later on, when I was getting more comfortable with the medium, that the larger samples come from (all done after he had left office). I have many more awkward examples of the early struggling days, but I think I’ll just leave them aside for now.



And, as a bonus, here’s a few more Clinton illustrations I found. A page from the Hillary Clinton Coloring Book from a few years ago featuring Bill and Hillary in an ‘American Gothic’ spoof, and an early one from Legal Times (probably circa 1998 or 99) that also features Ronald Reagan, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and one other unidentifiable character.


More Presidents

Barrons, Dover, Penguin, Uncle Goose Toys



Continuing with my series of posts showing every presidential illustration I’ve done (in honor of President’s Day falling on Monday this past week). Above we have Presidents Taft through Coolidge. Mostly from the Uncle Goose Wooden Blocks set (the woodcut style) and the Presidential Sticker Book for Dover (the caricatures), plus a few misc illustrations from the Penguin book on the Panama Canal, and a Barrons illustration showing Coolidge on a pair of skis (with a future president in the background, to be revisited later).

Below, we have Presidents Hoover through Truman (with a leftover Warren G. Harding hiding down in the corner, and a few future presidents in the margins).


Presidents Continued

Dover, Penguin, Uncle Goose Toys



Continuing with my ‘President’s Day’ tribute, we come to the Reconstruction Presidents, from Andrew Johnson through to Chester Alan Arthur. Mostly taken from the Uncle Goose President Blocks project and the Dover President Caricature Stickers, but with a few additional illustrations from a few Penguin books, a Dover book on ‘Poker Terms’, and one of the earliest illustrations in this collection, a caricature of U.S. Grant eating a pickle from sometime in the early 1990s for Christianity Today. More to come as I compile them.

Below, are the presidents Cleveland through Roosevelt (Cleveland being the only president to serve non-consecutive terms, bookended around Benjamin Harrison). Several illustrations of Teddy Roosevelt are included, mostly from the book on the ‘Panama Canal’ that I did a few years back.


Presidents Continued

Carus Publishing, Dover, Penguin, Uncle Goose Toys

JQAdamstoPolkContinuing with my salute to the Presidents (with President’s Day falling on Monday of this week), I’ve dug up all the presidential illustrations I’ve done in my nearly thirty year career. The more obscure early presidents from John Quincy Adams through James Buchanan are mostly culled from a few projects from about ten years ago, a collection of caricature portraits for a Dover Sticker Book, and a series of woodcut illustrations for a set of Uncle Goose Presidential Blocks (I’ll have to share a photo I have of former President Clinton holding a set of these blocks in a future posting). Once we get to Lincoln, I have several illustrations to dig out of the archives, and scrolling down we also find an extra James Madison and George Washington that I had forgotten about (dating back to around 2002).