What does an author do when he wants his book to summon up the spirit of days past? He commissions custom illustration to grace his pages, of course!
When local Baltimore author John Thomas Everett approached me last year to create a series of illustrations for his new book of historical fiction, Plug Ugly Ball: A Mobtown Tale of Bullies and Baseball he had a clear vision of what he wanted. The story spans several decades of the late 1800s in the city of Baltimore, and he wanted to capture some of the flavor of that time by including illustrations that replicate the woodcut newspaper-illustration style of the period. The book is organized into several large sections that covered different time periods in the life of the main characters, so each chapter needed a different image for its title page.
The prologue and epilogue shared this image of Baltimore’s old Union Park ballpark, one of the key locations in the book. I worked from period photographs to reproduce the long-gone structure in pen-and-ink.
I can finally show you some work from a client project I’m particularly excited about! “Plug Ugly Ball: A Mobtown Tale of Bullies and Baseball” is a story of historical fiction by Maryland author John Everett. It covers the lives of a family over the latter half of the 19th century in the mean streets of Baltimore, sprawling across real historical events.
John wanted interior artwork for each of the main sections of the book that captured the feeling and style of the time, reminiscent of the woodcut newspaper illustrations of the period but depicting a specific scene from his story. And he also wanted a cover that would stand out on the bookshelves. In the end we decided for a more graphic approach in keeping with the posters and painted advertising signs of the period. Here’s the end result:
Illustration and Design by Stephanie Smith. Client: author John Everett
I’ll be posting another blog entry about some of the work that went into this cover, as well as that interior art, but for now I’ll just leave you with this:
Unlike most of my illustration work, this was created entirely digitally, although it started with pencil sketches and uses some scanned textures.
The fonts used in the cover design are from the Hand Shop family by Fontscafe — an awesome source for retro hand-drawn fonts!
The etching across the top depicts the Mt Vernon neighborhood where much of the story takes place. It’s from an 1862 etching published by E. Sachse & Co and can be seen uncropped and in vivid detail at the Library of Congress website (another awesome resource for history buffs!)
Look what has just arrived: new giclee prints from my Aesop’s Fables series!
These new prints are smaller than the originals, but will also be produced in a limited edition. They were created for this week’s Gallery of Hope fundraiser for the Maryland Melanoma Center. Anything that doesn’t sell by next week will be for sale online… stay tuned!
This November I’m participating in the second annual Gallery for Hope event. Celebrate the Arts is a networking event for charity that includes an art sale and raffle. All donations and a portion of the proceeds from sales will benefit the Maryland Melanoma Center. This year’s event is the evening of Friday, November 15th, at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore.
I’ll be selling some of my large giclee prints as well as some of my smaller pieces, I’m donating a print to the raffle, and I’ll be there to say hi. If you’re interested in attending or just donating, visit their EventBrite page for tickets.
Thank you to everyone who followed along this month on my Monster Alphabet project: a new illustration based on a movie monster for every letter of the alphabet. I hope you had as much fun with it as I did!
A few of you have been asking, will you be selling prints/posters?
The answer is: I plan to! I need to make a few changes to some of the letters first. I’ll keep you posted, I hope to have it sorted out in time for the holidays. Keep in mind, I was pretty much producing all of the art as I went along, and a few things have piled up on my to-do list in the meantime.
In the meantime, I have made a set of desktop wallpaper featuring the entire Monster Alphabet, available here in a plethora of sizes. This wallpaper is free for personal use, but please do not include it in any collections or download sites; if you want to share it, link to it here!
Download the Monster Alphabet wallpaper in your preferred size:
Starting on Friday, we’re trying something a little different….
Updating EVERY DAY until Halloween, I’m celebrating the spooktacular season with brand new, hand-drawn letter of the alphabet featuring some of the all-time classic monsters from the silver screen.
Every day, until we get from A all the way to Z, just in time for tricks-or-treats.
The scariest part for me? All of these illustrations will be made during the month of October, and only a few are finished already. I don’t even know what to draw for some of the letters yet! We’ll be finding out together.
Earlier this spring, I participated in the Doodle Swap Project again. As usual, it was great fun: a quick, sketchy project and on one of my favorite themes: Fairy Tales. The challenge was to keep the concept simple enough to fit on the tiny sketchcards, since the original art could only be 2.5 x 3.5 inches! Once again I broke out my Copic markers; one of these days I’ll have to use them for something larger than this, they’re lots of fun.
I also received some wonderful artwork in exchange, big thank you to all the artists in Doodle Swap who participated! Take a look at all the great work from this and other swaps.
Spring has sprung and the flowers are in bloom… in fact, they’re blooming all over the place! At Irvine Nature Center not only are their woodland trails and habitats sprouting, my Flower Alphabet has taken root in in their gallery. With a different flower for each letter of the alphabet, the prints will be on display April 30 – June 9, and prints and notecards will be for sale in their gift shop. If you’re near the Owings Mills area, stop on by to visit their lovely grounds and learn more about nature and ecology!
I tried to capture their respective personalities, but in reality my cats are rather ambivalent to Halloween… of course, in reality I would never try to dress them in costumes. Well, “never” may be a strong word…
The truth is, that while my tuxedo cat Simon may very well frolic in a costume, he’s equally likely to become inexplicably terrified of it. The end result is more-or-less the same: running around the house like a maniac, except in the latter case he will end up under the bed, with his impressively bushy tail even more bristled out than usual.
And my little tabby Tinkerbell? She wouldn’t even be in the picture, because the instant I attempted something like this there would be just a puff of smoke as she vanished, never to be seen again (until dinnertime).
I suspect that I may have to come up with a project that forces me to draw Simon over and over again until I get over my hang-ups about drawing black fur… I’ve used him and my previous black-and-white cat as body doubles in past projects, but usually chickened out and made a light-furred cat rather than dealing with their actual coat color.
This was a quick ink drawing on 9×12 inch smooth bristol paper with my micron pens. I was going to practice my brush pen with this one (it’s usually great for fur) but was already dealing with having no power or heat due to Hurricane Sandy and had to make do in the room with the most daylight instead of the one with my drawing table in it. Oh well!
PS: Be safe this Halloween! And please keep your cats indoors tonight, so they can be safe too.
Just in time for the season, another client piece! I wonder how many more-modern Halloween parties in the Northeast US this year will be disrupted by the storm currently bearing down on us…
This might be the last picture from the series I’ve made for Cactus to promote scratch-off tickets for the Colorado Lottery, although they were a joy to work for and to draw so I can only hope there will be more. I posted one of my sketches from this piece on my Critterwings Facebook page, and plan to do that more often so you might want to mosey on over that way…
All the pieces in this series were created for an e-mail campaign about traditional holiday celebrations (with scratch tickets) and the coloring is deliberately subdued. Original drawing 12×14 inches, ink on smooth bristol paper, colored digitally.