Saturday, May 9, 2020

Cold Spring Days and Picture Book Ways

It is mid-May, and far more blustery and cold than is normal. But then, this year is far from the usual isn’t it?

I have a picture book on my desk right now. It’s the third (and I think final) Julia book. Who makes a trilogy of picture books? When I made the first Julia book I never would have thought I’d find myself writing a third. But I like Julia and and the very odd world she lives in. Here’s a picture of my desk:

Every project is different. I want to stress that. But, I have found that a good working method for picture books, because of their compressed and very confined parameters, is to print all the page spreads (nineteen spreads for two signatures with pasted-down ends) and lay them out on my desk in such a way that I can see the entire book at a glance. I can switch things out, move things around. I can, in the better moments, hold the whole book in my mind in the space of a moment.

Picture books are deceptive. Like a good magic trick you want your book to come off looking effortless and breezy and simple. But at the same time you want to pack as much story as you possibly can into a scant 36 pages. It’s infuriating. And wonderful.

In other news—here is one more illustration of the Fox and the Minstrel:

This one was a commission. I can’t seem to get enough of these two. I think about Renyard so much these days.

Finally, here’s a tiny comic about football. I got a lot of good out of sports (particularly wresting, gymnastics, and pole vaulting) but in those very early days of football I mostly remember not having much of an idea of what was going on.





Monday, April 6, 2020

Wine, Love, and Lyrics in a time of Quarantine.

Good heavens. it has been so long since I last updated this poor blog. The longer I left it, the harder it was to return. And then so much life happened—love and death and art and tragedy that has left me a different person, and anyway is far too much to sum up here even if most of it wasn't too personal.

But I like blogging and I like having a little hub for my work. So even though Instagram has wormed its way into being the main place that I toss my most current art and updates, I'm going to try to give this old space some more attention, from time to time, whether anyone is really reading or not.

And in that spirit, here is a short series of illustrations I did to go along with a special curbside wine sale organized by The Locke Store in Millwood, Virginia. The idea being that the first ten people to order a case of wine would also get a piece of original art. The illustrations quickly developed a little theme (Wine and love and music and separation) and a feeling of a very loose story. I find myself wanting to do more with these two romantic vagabonds. Time will tell. For now, enjoy:

This last picture isn't really of a piece with the series above, but I like it and it was part of the wine sale.

And that's all for today! Stay safe my friends.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Not-So-Great Pumpkin: Broken Bat

Happy Halloween, my friends!

A couple of years ago, I sort of half-participated in Inktober by throwing together a slapdash illustrated story about the Not-So-Great Pumpkin. You can read it here. This year I revisited the NSGP with a short story comprised of 13 ink and watercolor panels. It's not really a proper Inktober project, what with the ink taking a back seat to the watercolors, but it was fun, and I enjoyed visiting my sad little pumpkin friend again.

One of my rules for storytelling is to have a pretty solid idea of the ending before I start. I broke that rule this time, changing the ending two or three times as I went along. This is what it looks like when I tell a story on the fly.

Oh! one more thing: I'll have some project announcements coming up very soon. New books are on the horizon, and I'm anxious to start talking about them. You know, officially.

Okay, that's enough out of me. Enjoy!

Monday, September 18, 2017

OF MIGHTY CABBAGES AND GOBLIN KINGS

Hello friends!

As you may know, my most recent book, Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, was released earlier this month. Once again I'm going on a short journey, crisscrossing North America to meet readers and sign books. This time, at most of the events, I will be "in conversation" with another author/artist. This will almost without a doubt make these evening bookstore events much, much more lively and interesting.

I've made a graphical poster image for the tour (posted below) with most of the pertinent information. Underneath that I will post links to the various venues.

I really would love to meet as many of you as possible. Tossing stories out into the wide world is great, but meeting readers in person is a particular and powerful magic.

And so, without further preamble, I give you:

Green Bean Books

University Bookstore

Once Upon a Time

The King's English

Red Balloon

The Eric Carle Museum

Toronto Public Library

McNally Robinson

Monday, August 7, 2017

More Mermaids and Dragons.

Just popping in with a note to say that I did a SECOND PRINT RUN of both Memory Mermaid and Memory Dragon. They are in my Etsy store right now!

BEN'S FUNNY ETSY SHOPPE

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer of Mermaids Art Sale

Hey friends!

For those of you who have a train to catch, here's a short version of this post: I’m having a summer art sale. There are things up in my Etsy shop. The link is right here:

BEN'S ETSY SHOP

And so we find ourselves in the middle of another Summer. Here’s a long-overdue, kind of rambling post.

As I type this it’s late afternoon and I’m in my Very Secret & Very Quiet Writing Hideaway. There is a Summer Thunderstorm brewing outside. It’s lovely.

Sitting next two me, here in my Very Secret & Very Quiet Writing Hideaway, is my new-used 10 speed bicycle. It has fenders! It has a rack on the back! It was a gift from my friend-and-mechnic, Justin! I'm planning to strap an old milk crate to the rack so that I can cart various sundries back and forth from my VS&VQWH. Here’s my new-used bike:


(thanks Justin!)

And here’s me in my VS&VQWH:

Clever readers will have guessed (correctly) that I put the timer on my iPod and staged a photo to makes me look like a Serious Writer. That’s part of my plan. You see, if everyone thinks I’m a Serious Writer then I will definitely get these projects I’m working on done. That’s how being a Serious Writer works. (I think.)

Anyway, I will have a lot more to say about my VS&VQWH in an upcoming post. There’s some exciting stuff on the horizon. But for now let’s move on to the mermaids. And for that, we’ll have to travel back to May…

In May I was traveling through Macedonia as part of the U.S. Speaker Abroad Program. I was talking about visual storytelling at schools and universities. I was visiting “American Corners” in different towns and being driven hither and yon by the American Embassy. And I was sneaking out at odd hours to explore the old Turkish Market in Skopje. Here are a few pictures from Macedonia:

All the while I was aware that mermaids were cropping up all across the internet as part of a cleverly-titled art challenge called “Mermay” The challenge, simply, is to draw a mermaid each day in May (I think these monthly challenges got their start with Jake Parker’s “Inktober”). I saw the mermaids and I thought “no way am I doing that.”

But then of course I drew a couple mermaids on a tablecloth and I was off to the races.

I wasn’t able to do a full month’s worth of Mers, but I ended up with a good fifteen. Here are a few of my favorites:

I had a blast drawing these, and posting them over on Instagram. It took me some time to figure out what to do with them, but I finally had them printed as a set of Memory Cards, like my Memory Dragon set from a few years ago.

Memory Mermaid is available over on my Etsy Shop as part of my wee Summer Art Sale. There are also a few prints and some original pages from Mighty Jack.

And now the rain has come and a cool breeze is blowing through the VS&VQWH and I have a story to write.

See you soon.

Monday, July 17, 2017

CONTEST WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Hi everybody. Today, as promised, I have the MIGHTY JACK AND THE GOBLIN KING Jolly Raffle Giveaway Contest winners to announce. As always, thanks to random.org for offering “true randomness” in choosing the winners.

And as always, we’ll announce the winners with a weird, hastily-thrown-together comic:

And there we go! Winners! Get in touch with me via my email address on the sidebar and I’ll send those books on their merry way.

And feel free to keep checking back here! I’m planning to give this blog some long overdue attention in the coming weeks.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A BRIEF CONTEST UPDATE.

Hey friends!

Thanks to everyone who entered to win a copy of Mighty Jack and the Goblin King!

My plan is to post the winners on MONDAY (July 17th).

SEE YOU THEN.

-Ben

Friday, July 7, 2017

Jolly Raffle Giveaway Contest: MIGHTY JACK AND THE GOBLIN KING!

Hello friends! You know what we haven’t done in awhile? A Jolly Raffle Giveaway Contest. Remember those? We used to do them all the time!

That was back when I still updated this blog. Those were good times.

Sigh…

Well... okay, look, I may be an inconstant blogger, but I can still bark like a circus ringmaster. And I can sure as hell run a Jolly Raffle Giveaway Contest. Yeah, I can still do that. Ready? LET’S GO!

That’s right! Step on up! I have two, count ‘em, TWO big copies of MIGHTY JACK AND THE GOBLIN KING sitting right here on my desk. This book releases to the public on SEPTEMBER 5th, but one of you (yes you!) lucky readers could bring the tome home early. Don’t be shy! Just take a look-see at these gorgeous books:

That’s right readers! One of these books is a sturdy hardcover and the other is a shiny French-flapped paperback. Both are up for grabs. But that’s not all!

If you (yes you!) are the lucky winner of the hardcover, you will also bring home an original page from the book! Just take a look:

And if you find yourself the winner of the shiny French-flapped paperback you will also find yourself the proud owner of a brand new copy of the Memory Dragon Matching game!

And, as always, entering to win is RIDICULOUSLY EASY! All you need to do is leave a comment in the comments section of this post. It’s so simple! (do remember to leave your name, or some internet handle that I can announce. “Anonymous” entries are ineligible).

As with my previous giveaways, you can increase your chance of winning by spreading the word about this new book. Mentioning MIGHTY JACK AND THE GOBLIN KING on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr, your own blog or other social media gains you TWO EXTRA ENTRIES. Let me know in your comment if, and how, you've spread the word! (Tagging helps too. I am @BenHatke on twitter and @heybenhatke on Instagram.)

THIS CONTEST ENDS ON FRIDAY, JULY 14th. (one week from today).

GOOD LUCK!