Today we are taking the ‘way back machine’ to the distant past of the year 1991. I was two years into freelancing at this point, I had landed a book illustration project from local publisher Eerdmans. You can read all about it, and see newly uploaded pictures of all the interior illustrations (the originals have long since disappeared) at this blog post.
This would be the last Eerdman’s assignment I would get (and it was a good 3 years since the last contact I had with them). I rather enjoyed doing this spoof of the ‘Tower of Babel’ painting. The original art has been lost to the winds of time, but I managed to get ahold of a copy of the book twenty years later (where this photo comes from).
In April of ’92 I had my third book assignment from Eerdmans Publishing. This was an ‘earth friendly’ kids book from a christian perspective (cherishing and honoring god’s creation etc, as opposed to just keeping the planet clean for its own sake, and for the future of the human race), paperback, with a color cover and back cover illustration and a whole bunch of inside spots, all done in a loose cartoon style (that was still rather primitive looking at this early stage in my career). The color illustration from the back cover is pictured below. (all the original art has been lost, so these have all been taken from a printed copy)
The book was laid out in a faux ‘newspaper style’ with articles and headlines and little factoids sprinkled around. Most of the illustrations inside were black and white line drawings with spot color added. I remember going in to see the designer, and her having a fondness for my ‘rats’ (which I used as a continuing motif throughout the book), and her having little cut out snippets of them sprinkled all over her desk (this was back in the days of ‘paste up’ before computer aided design).
I’m not going to bother sharing all the illustrations, as they were rather repetitive and very crudely drawn, but I’ll share a sampling of them to give you an idea of what the interior was like.
Also this month, I had a couple book cover assignments for Baker Book House. One was a caricature grouping for the cover of a book entitled 6000 Sermon illustrations (still available used on Amazon link here), and another was for the cover of a trade catalog. I found an image of the book cover online (pictured left), and I may or may not still have the original art for the trade catalog cover which I may post at a later date. I also had a pastel cover assignment from David C. Cook Publishing out of Colorado, but my records are spotty on this one, and don’t know the name of the book.
“Pink Lemonade” a book of children’s poems, translated from the Dutch, I illustrated for Eerdman’s Publishing in late ’91. The interior of this book was all black and white line art, mostly in a crosshatch style that I eventually abandoned (and then started using again 25 years later when I started doing work for Penguin and Baker Book House), and the cover was a combination of line art and watercolor. My biggest influence for the cover was the dust jacket for the original “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” hardcover edition (with its mixture of color and black and white imagery, pictured below).
“Pink Lemonade” is out of print but still available used for reasonable rates at Amazon and sometimes you can still find them on eBay (there’s an earlier edition NOT illustrated by me, so be careful – original edition pictured above). For a young illustrator, only two years into his career, it was a big deal at the time, and I even did a book signing at a local book store.
I’ve taken photos of all the illustrations from a copy of the book I have in my library, and this is the first time I’ve shared these in nearly thirty years.
My son was about 2 when this book was completed, so I snuck a few drawings of him into the cover, and into the ‘parade’ illustration on the inside endpapers.
My one regret, is that at the end of the project, the art director asked me if I wanted all the artwork back, and I, in typical short-sighted fashion, shrugged it off with a ‘no’. Fifteen years later, I got a request from a fan in Holland, who wanted to buy original art, and unfortunately, I only had a single piece available that I had hung on to out of sentimental value. I contacted the publisher to see if maybe the art wasn’t still cluttering up some drawer somewhere, but it had long since been tossed. Nothing remains from this project aside from a single original illustration and a demo drawing.
This was my first full length children’s book project. This was a short paperback book of bible stories for Eerdmans Publishing, a local firm (this one, like ‘Pink Lemonade’ in the following year, was an updating of an older book in the Eerdman’s catalog – I’ve posted a picture of the original cover to the left).
The cover had two color illustrations, one for the front, and one for the back, and the inside work was all black and white line work with grey wash. Most of the drawings were pretty forgettable and sometimes very awkward with regards to style and anatomy, but a few of them had a certain charm, my favorites being the squirrel with his wheelbarrow of nuts (the wheelbarrow made up of a matchbox and a couple metal sewing spools), and the bees with their tea party (I always love drawing bugs). I was also rather proud of the cover illustrations, which was one of my earliest attempts at doing full color watercolor illustrations (the back cover especially with the sleeping squirrel atop his mound of nuts).
When I first wrote this blog entry back in 2009, I only shared a few of the interior samples, but I am updating it in 2018, and posting, for the first time since publication nearly 30 years ago, ALL of the illustrations, the good, the bad and the ugly.
I was frankly surprised I was able to get away with naked fairies on page 77. As with most of the work I did for Eerdman’s, I wasn’t especially crazy about the religious themes, and felt the writing was pretty weak, but I was happy to get the work, at a time when my ego surely needed the boost.