Outdoor Science Classroom

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.

When I first posted this blog entry, sometime around 2008 (backdating, since the blog started in 2007), I only posted a few samples of the illustrations for each project. It is 2018 now, and I’ll be going back and posting all the illustrations for the first time since publication.

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.

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. This was the last project I had from Instructional Fair/Carson Dellosa, and the art director/sometimes writer was Kate Wheeler, who was always a delight to work for, and she seemed to take a real shine to my son Keenan, who would frequently tag along with me to meetings. Unfortunately, Kate passed away several years later, and I was thinking of her this weekend as Keenan got married.


Anyhow, here’s all the illustrations from this particular workbook. The book is still available on Amazon (link here).

Masson Christmas Card

Charles Masson

These illustrations were for a christmas card for a private law firm in New York. Fun to get a chance to do some caricatures of the Bush gang that I don’t normally get a chance to do (and of Spitzer, who would gain notoriety in another way several years later). I particularly liked the Dick Cheney peeking at xmas presents, and as a sidewalk santa in the background of each.

December Blues

Car Wash News, Log Home Living

There are times in this job of mine, where you are asked to draw some strange things. Some are a little odd, and you aren’t exactly enthused about them, but since this is a business with ups and downs, and it is not always certain when the next phone call will come, you take these projects on, try to put the best face on it, do your best work, then put it in a drawer and hopefully by the next month, you’ve completely forgotten about it.

In some cases it’s just a concept that seems a bit awkward, like the above assignment for Log Home Living. They wanted a ‘game show’ that had something to do with home decor. Not particularly exciting, but I did my best to make it interesting and look good. The spots of the wagon wheel and chair would be sprinkled throughout the article, and a smaller spot with a ‘vanna-like’ character would be also used to spice up the layout.

This project wasn’t all that difficult, and though I wasn’t overly excited about it, it was also something I wasn’t likely to pull out of the sample drawer to show anyone as a good example of my creativity. I was, at best, a little blase about the whole project.

In November, after personal trials and tribulations, and sucker punched by depressing election results . . . I was in the worst possible mood to get approached by a local Car Wash magazine for the embarassing illustration eventually arrived at below. I post it only as a healthy reminder to myself never again to take on a project of this sort.

Basketballs and Elephants

AHMM, Carus Publishing, ChronicleHE, Highlights, WSJ

Had a couple of ‘basketball’ assignments for a couple of different children’s publications in the same month, which I thought an odd coincidence. The one above was for Highlights magazine, and was in the form of a ‘hidden picture’ puzzle (actually this would be the cover to a whole book of ‘hidden picture puzzles’. I’d never done one of these puzzles before, and I felt really awkward about the whole concept. I mean, how much hidden is ‘hidden enough’? I had no idea of what the expectations were and the directions I was given weren’t much help. I did my best to make it look interesting, but I never did feel like I ever ‘got’ this project. It reminded me of one of my first jobs out of college, where I was working as a security guard, and I would be plopped down in a different location every night, alone, given no instructions, and just be expected to know what was going on.

I also got an assignment from the Chronicle of Higher Education in November to do a series of small spots to illustrate an article about the Republican’s educational platforms. These were kind of fun, but I think I still need some work on drawing elephants, I don’t feel like I’ve quite got them figured out just yet.

The ‘other’ basketball illustration that I did in November was for Cricket magazine, and was to accompany a short poem (which would fit in the blank spot in the middle).

Plus, there were my ‘steady gig’ assignments. The ‘health care’ column that I illustrate every monday for the Wall Street Journal. The topics were ‘vitamin E’, ‘osteoperosis medications’, ‘winter flu season’ (which pops up every year), ‘organic vegetables’ and ‘telling the difference between different strengths of pain relievers’.

I also have been doing a monthly ‘puzzle page’ for Oddysey magazine (Cobblestone), and this one had something to do with a puzzle involving chocolate bars.

Also, somewhat regularly, I do a fiction illustration for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. I don’t quite remember the topic on this one. In hindsight, I may have handled the part of the image that is seen through the bottle a little differently, perhaps with a bit of distortion since we are looking through curved glass.

And finally, another small spot for the Journal, having something to do with the results of the latest presidential election, and what impact it may have on stocks.