Harts Pass No. 251

Between finishing my next recent book and coaching at the State Track meet, I'm a little late in posting this week's comic. Lucky for me, it's guest cartoonist week here at Harts Pass :) After a recent Methow Arts residency at the local elementary school, I've put a few kids on the payroll for both this week and next. Kinda like Family Circus... except these kids are the real deal! Much thanks to Isaac Carlsen for this week's excellent unicorn strip.


Harts Pass No. 250

Personally, I can never quite remember what snake it is that "looks" like a rattler. Bullsnake it is... but no matter what such thoughtful consideration of this particular situation isn't really necessary :)


Sketches: A radiant Pig!

Nearing the end of a new illustration project for Sasquatch Books (more on that when its done!) but after days/months of intense focus on one main thing, its always nice to be playing around on the side. I've been having some fun with a style much looser than the current book and I'll post a few each week just to keep you looking :) Enjoy!


Cover Story: Creating new DOG DIARIES cover art!

I just recently finished some new cover art for a paperback edition of Dog Diaries (Henry Holt, 2007). It doesn't officially published until April 2016... but it's a popular choice with school visits and I'm very excited to have a paperback version in the mix.

Why a new cover? Well, as much as the good folks at Holt (and hopefully the authors!) liked the first cover, they actually liked the cover of Cat Diaries (see below) just a little bit better. Since there will be a simultaneous paperback release of both books, the art department wanted to create a "companion" cover of sorts that was a little more focused on a single dog.

Just like the original, the new cover was painted with watercolor, ink, and colored pencil. Scroll below for a glimpse of the process -- from early sketches and options to final art -- and I'll remind you again when the books are available next spring :)

LOTS of sketches... some pencil and some digital.

And then revisions to the consensus pick of the Macmillam Art Department and on to final sketches...
...and then the final art :) A little mock-up here on my part, but it should be pretty close in the final version.


Harts Pass No. 249

My daughter asks a LOT of questions. Sometimes so many that I am certainly not this nice about answering them all... Anyway, maybe she gets gets inspired when she feels like she has our full attention. So it goes :)


Little Star Montessori School -- A "Peace Table" for Auction!

For those that might be curious, here's a quick photo of what we'll call the "Peace Table" for Little Star Montessori School's upcoming Puttin' on the Ritz auction. 

10 years ago, my wife Sarah and daughter Keeley painted this little IKEA table -- at just about the time that Keeley was starting Little Star. While still retaining the original artsy base-coat of yellow and blue, plus a few character-lending pencil smudges from Keeley's own art projects, the table top has been freshly updated with a couple of friendly wolverines and a snappy splash of red. 

So, slide those "GRRR!"chairs right on up to the "Peace Table" and work it out. Friends for life! For your reading pleasure, the table will come with a complimentary copy of Welcome to Harts Pass - a comic collection featuring even MORE wolverines and tons of local insight to boot. Both the book and the table are signed by the artist!

PS I always thought it was really cool that Little Star actually HAS/HAD a Peace Table of its very own. If you've got kids, surely you need one of these at home.

PPS And it would work perfectly well for adults too. After all, who can stay mad/grumpy/hold a grudge or whatever when you're sitting in a kid-sized chair with bright primary colors and two clearly happy wolverines smiling right back at 'ya. GRRR!


Harts Pass No. 248

What? NO WAY! Oh... And so it goes! Despite their purported demise, books are still a great window into an entire world of experiences that most of us will never have. Bring 'em on!


Harts Pass No. 247 -- Great Moments in the History or GRRRit!

The first in an occasional series about GRRRity moments and characters in history. For lack of a better word, we'll call it GRRRitory! Alternative suggestions welcome :)


School Visits Galore: Trondheim, Norway & Ellensburg, WA!

April is a busy month for author visits, but things were a little more exciting than usual this year with a long-awaited excursion to the Fagerhaug International School (FINT) in Stjørdal, Norway -- followed VERY closely by an excellent 3-day trip to nearby Ellensburg, WA. 

My 11.92 year-old daughter came along to Norway (via Iceland as you will see!), and the entire experience was second-to-none. A little tiring... because of the nine-hour time change and man those Kristoffersen's can stay up late :) but we were so pleased to be guests, teachers, and students for the week that a little sleepiness hardly seemed to matter. I love what I do in my work as a writer/illustrator (sometimes teacher) and experiences with people both near and far make me love it even more. Best wishes to all and please enjoy the following snapshots of our trip. Its not TOTALLY comprehensive, but it'll do!

6:45am in Reykjavik International Airport. Very slick -- and about 20 degree with blowing snow on April 1.

After an excellent 2-hour walking tour, we did some touring on our own including the climb up Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral for this most excellent 360 degree view of the city. 

April 2nd. We have arrived. Two thumbs up!

A few important names in the following shots. 1.) The Kristoffersen house. Our home base in Stjørdal and some most excellent hosts!

2.) The Stjørdal train station. Site of two departures into Trondheim -- the first on a VERY quiet Good Friday afternoon, and the second on a much more bustling Saturday at the end of our school visit week. Two thumbs up, again!!

3.) The Fagerhaug School. Our true destination and reason for the visit. Most of my time was spend with the upper and lower elementary school students at FINT, but the greater Fagerhaug Christian school houses many additional students k-10.

And finally, 4.) Litjfunnsjøvollen -- the original destination for our Easter weekend ski with the Kristoffersen family. As you will see below, even on April 4 the skiing was still excellent. Although reflected here at all, there were MANY people out n' about. Blankets spread on the snow. Little fire pits for warmth. Young. Old. Fast. Slow. All sort of folks. Really great!

About 3k up the trail at Litjfunnsjøvollen was a little warming hut/cabin with pancakes (svella?) and hotdogs for treats.

On Easter Sunday, we expanded out ski horizons just a bit more and spent half of the day on nordic skis and the other half on the downhill slope at Fagerlia. Much thanks to Maria for being our excellent guide and for all of the time she shared with Keeley on the entire trip. Tussen Takk!

Pretty typical of most breakfasts and lunches -- at least in our experience. Lots of open-faced breads with meats and cheeses plus a vegetable or two to snack on...

...and then there was the pretty obvious fascination with all things Salty Licorice. Hard candies, gummy candies, and as seen above, even a Salt Lakris sauce for ice cream. Pretty good actually!

Now for a little work :) Before leaving Winthrop, I had a few of our local elementary classes prepare "postcards from the Methow" so that we could bring along a little glimpse of our life at home to the kids at FINT. Everything from the wildlife that you see in these two examples, to a few recent experiences like last summer's wildfires and favorite seasonal activities (skiing, swimming etc.)

It was fun to share a few thoughts of home in this way...

...to assist in creating a set of Norwegian postcards to bring back home to Winthrop.

...and then to realize in our walking, and talking, and visiting, that certain things are similar and certain things are certainly different :)
On the workshop front, one of my favorite projects was the "alligator emotions" book that we constructed on the final day with the lower PYP (primary years program). After spending several other hours on drawing expressions and writing about a feeling, this final project combined things together AND drops a serious hint about my newest work in progress. Stay tuned for future posts about LATOR GATOR (Sterling Books, 2016)! Below: 1-3rd graders (and teachers) creating their very own "instant books" and alligator emotions.

For an earlier drawing workshop, we practiced some line variety and dressed up some pretty excellent owls!

Very near the school, a church in Skatval. And while we did have a few partly sunny afternoons, this about sums it up for most of our springtime weather near Trondheim. A little grey. Quite damp. Not BRRR! cold, but chilly enough if you didn't dress for it. 

In another "lay of the land" image here -- also just outside of Skatval. A still-frozen lake, a farm house, and the rolling hills and winding roads...

...quite near, in fact, the Kristofferson farm where I was testing out this small tractor in the sheep barn at about 11:45pm. Again, excellent hosts, and not to worry, I didn't have a key.

April 12: A few final shots from our Saturday return to Trondheim. LOVE the color on these old warehouse buildings on the Nidelva riverfront. 

One fine and awesome traveler posing near the Nidarosdomem Cathedral.

And the same said traveler playing detective in a local bookstore. You can't be a children's book author in a foreign country and not visit some local bookstores :)

And last, but not least, our final goodbyes to Niclas, Sarah, and Cherise (taking the photo) at the airport. 



And now MANY fewer images from an terrific three days in ELLENSBURG, WA! With many thanks to Lincoln, Mt. Stuart, and Valley View Elementary schools for being so well-prepared for my visits and for perhaps tolerating a slightly baggy eye or two due to the change in time zones :)

Lunch with the super hero contest winners at Lincoln - photo courtesy of the Daily Record.

Positively PERFECT pajama designs from Mt. Stuart elementary!

And this is great! Also at Mt. Stuart. Each year they select several pieces of student artwork, frame them, and hang them in the halls. Its awesome! A lasting and colorful record of student creativity and art/design across many spectrums and over many years. Seriously, every school should have such a gallery!

The library aide at Valley View made these excellent Practically Pefect Pajamas inspired sugar cookies too. A first in 15 years of publication :)

And finally, the sunset as I hit the road to return to Winthrop. The schools in Ellensburg really rocked, and I enjoyed meeting everyone who came with a books to sign and questions to ask at Jerrol's Bookstore on the final night as well. Thanks again to all and I look forward to coming back!