Category Archive: Books

Critical Mass poster

I’ve been a rider and active participant in the global bike culture phenomenon known as Critical Mass since 1993. September of this year marks the 20th anniversary since this social bike ride began here in San Francisco. In the years that followed, the idea spread to hundreds of cities around the world, and it is now a global movement.

In 2002, I and several other artists created posters to mark the 10th anniversary. This year, we continued the tradition. Here’s my contribution:

CM20 poster

With this type of work, I always try different color combinations. There were two “runners up” color options which I liked a lot, so we decided to run these as handbills alongside the poster.

CM20 handbills

Here’s a shot of the poster as it came off the press today. I’m telling the press operator, “Ease up on the cyan, please!”

press check

Check out the awesome Critical Mass 20th Anniversary posters by my friends Mona Caron and Jim Swanson. I’m so pleased to be part of such a long-lived and inspirational movement!

You can buy my poster as well as the others at this link as well as a copy of the new book, Shift Happens, which includes an essay I contributed about my involvement in Critical Mass over the years.

New Young Adult Book Covers

At home, I have a shelf of books with covers I have designed. It’s been steadily growing over the years!

I got to add to my shelf last week, when I got a couple sweet packages in the mail: two books for which I had done the cover art several months ago. The finished product at last!

Dust City is a book that I can heartily recommend. It’s a wonderful modern fairy tale, about a young wolf with a bad reputation (his dad, it turns out, is the Big Bad Wolf himself). It’s set in a gritty urban environment where all the precious “fairy dust” is controlled by an evil multinational conglomerate, making for some very dark fairy tales indeed.

Here are some of the sketches:

And here’s the final art:

The other book is called Sign of the Beaver. It’s a classic, winner of the Newberry Award in the 1980s, and it’s a lovely story of a young boy fending for himself in the Maine wilderness, with the help of a Native American family who teach him the basics of survival. I loved it, and it was a real privilege to illustrate.

Sketches:

Final:

I don’t always like the books I illustrate. But in this case, both these books are wonderful, and I’m happy to recommend them. Pick them up for any young adults in your life, or get one for yourself if you happen to be a young adult who never grew up!

The packages kept coming this week. I got a couple of bottles of wine with a label I contributed to. This was designed by my friend Alicia Buelow, featuring a figure that I illustrated with Alicia’s art direction. My first wine label! (It’s a small producer, so it might be hard to track down.)

To Kill a Mockingbird

Last year, I got a call from Sterling Press the publishing arm of Barnes & Noble with whom I did a cover for Alice in Wonderland a while back. They wanted to know if I had ever read a book called To Kill a Mockingbird. I had. Would I be interested in doing a cover?

That was an easy question to answer. I have loved this book since I first read it in the 7th or 8th grade. In fact, I believe this was one of the first books that really showed me what a great book can do. Re-reading it a few years ago, I remembered how this book made me feel transported to another time and place, and how it helped me grapple with really difficult questions about morality and injustice. It’s a powerful story, told with such simple, elegant language. I hope it remains on the bookshelves of kids and adults for a long time.

The great thing is that this edition is designed to do just that. It’s a gorgeous (if I do say so myself) leatherbound edition, the kind of thing that is designed to endure a long time, and survive the rough handling of generations of curious youngsters.



I even got to design endpapers for this book! How’s that for class?

As with most book covers, this one took a lot of back and forth between myself and the publisher. We had to get all those little details right, from Scout’s ponytail to the type to the Southern courthouse featured on the back cover. The biggest surprise in this process was the fact that Harper Lee herself was involved! Yes, she is alive, and though she is careful to stay out of the public eye, she collaborated with Barnes & Noble on this edition, to the degree that she looked over my sketches and gave surprisingly detailed notes. As you might suspect, they were sharp and insightful, with suggestions on how to ensure that Scout looked as if she were actually tipping up on her toes to view the gifts hidden in the knot of that old tree.

I’ve done quite a few book covers now, but this cover is by far the one that means the most to me. It sounds a little silly to say it, but it really is quite an honor to have a commission like this one, working on such a great book, with feedback from such a great author, and for a publisher that is willing to put out such a quality product. The best part: this will be a book I can give to my nieces and nephew and other youngsters I know, in the hopes that they will one day find some of the magic that I enjoyed when I first read it.

You can order copies on the Barnes & Noble website, or stop in to your local B&N and buy a copy there.

PS: A number of people, hearing that I had done a new cover for this book, wrote me over the past few months to congratulate me. It seems that this cover, a classic re-issue of an old cover, has been in stores, and I dont’ blame people for thinking this beautiful, eerie silhouette cover art might be mine. Alas, it is not, although this may have been one of the reasons that Barnes & Noble wanted to have me for their version. I hope my version has some of the flair of this classic!

Shakespearean ABC Book for Grown-Ups!

Last year I was busy for several months, working on the artwork for a picture book for Gibbs Smith Publisher. The book is called Y is for Yorick: A Slightly Irreverent Shakespearean ABC Book for Grownups, which is a pretty accurate title. The author is Shakespeare scholar Jennifer Adams, and her text is both funny and informative.

Each letter is matched with a character from one of Shakespeare’s plays, which was both enormous fun and pretty intimidating. (It’s not every day you have to illustrate the work of the greatest author in the English language, right?)

Here are some of the spreads:

You can get a copy on Amazon, or look for it in your local bookstore!