Monday, May 18, 2015


I'm just popping in to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who bought art from my etsy shop over the past months. I have now officially arranged to have our little outbuilding turned into a new studio space. This was made possible, in no small part, because of all of you.

Over the weekend I began clearing out the space for transformation. I removed all the junk we've been storing in there, pulled down the broken shelving, and swept out at least the first layer of filth. As you can see, I haven't yet had the heart to take down my punching bag.

I'm also getting professional help with this project, which seems like the most luxurious thing in the world.

And so, if all goes according to plan, I should be able to move in by Fall. So, once again, THANK YOU.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Swords and Arrows and Fire

Spring is drifting toward Summer here in Hatkeland, and I've been having some fun adventures.

A couple weeks ago I helped my friends at Mirandum Pictures with a shoot that involved a sword fight. I'm honestly not much of a swordsman, but it was pretty simple stuff. And what's more fun than dressing up an clashing blades in a fancy garden? As a bonus I think we're going to use the picture below as the author photo for Nobody Likes a Goblin.

Another thing that comes with spring is arrows. Back in my SCA days my dad would take my sisters and me out to my grandpa's farm where we'd practice archery using some stacked straw bales as a target. Now I have some straw bales of my own and I'm teaching my girls how to handle a bow. Here's Zita and Angelica:

And here's Julia:

I've also been doing some of my own Arrow-speriments. Including:

Punching Ball Arrow:

and Exploding Arrow:

And finally, this past weekend I was able to fulfill a long-time dream of mine: fire breathing at the top of Buzzard Rock. The Rock is a mountain ridge in the George Washington National Forest that comes to a rocky, blade-like point. I've climbed up there many times, searching for wisdom or just a nice view, but I've always wanted to be up there after the sun set, spitting fire into the twilight. Now, thanks to some very patient friends, I can cross that off my list (photo by Colin Mason):

That said, the hike was rough. Three grown men and not a one of us remembered to bring water. We started late and so had to book through the whole hike to catch the very last gasps of daylight. We hiked down with a single flashlight to save us from being utterly lost in the pitch black woods. At least we didn't run across any bears.

Welcome back Summer. I missed you.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Little Robot and Children's Book Week

It's Children's Book Week, and I am all over the internet!

First off, it's always an exciting day when I receive my first real, physical copy of one of my books and that happened last week when Little Robot arrived in the mail! I was so excited opening the envelope that my hands were shaking. This is the first book I've had produced at this trim size and I've very happy with it. Here are some pictures:

There are more pictures of the book over on the First Second website RIGHT HERE.

And speaking of Little Robot, I made a new Little Robot strip for the Washington Post to celebrate Free Comic Book Day (which was on Saturday). Here's the comic:

(click to embiggerize).

It ran in the Post with a nice little interview in which I talked about the art and influences for the book. You can read all that over by CLICKING HERE.

On Sunday Boing Boing ran a short article I wrote about kids comics. I don't know if I said anything groundbreaking about comics for kids, but I did post a list of comics that I think are great for summer reading. Check out the Boing Boing piece by CLICKING IT UP HERE.

And finally (for now), there is a short piece over at Sharp Read about my next picture book. This book is about a Goblin. You can see some concept art read a little bit about where that book came from HERE. I'm sure I'll be posting more about this one in the coming months.

And there's more to come. I have a couple more book announcements coming up this week as well as a look into my Little Robot sketchbooks. So much is happening! Stay tuned.

And as always, to everyone reading, thanks for following my work.

Monday, March 30, 2015

March of the Wolverines

Last week, for reasons that are a bit of a mystery even to me, I drew a whole series of pictures of the Marvel mutant hero Wolverine dressed in a series of other characters clothes. Wolverine has never been the worst dressed character in comics (there are many contenders for that title), but ol' Logan has never had the best luck with clothes either.

Case in point: when I was a very young Ben Hatke I collected X-Men comics. I recently came across this article on that was a look back on an issue where the X-Men spend most of their time lounging around the pool at Professor Xavier's mansion. I remembered that I OWNED this comic. For most of the issue Wolverine (as drawn by Jim Lee) is sporting very short cutoff jean shorts.

That comic made Very Young Ben Hatke think, briefly, that it would be cool to roll his own jeans shorts way, way up. Very Young Ben Hatke was SO, SO WRONG about this.

And so maybe my reasons for putting Wolverine in a series of wrong costumes aren't all that mysterious after all. Maybe it's just a little payback.

Here's the whole series, beginning with °Weepy Wolvie° in his classic 90's duds:

And the last one, of course:

No hard feelings, bub.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dreams of Spring

I want to extend my thanks to everyone who purchased art from my Etsy shop yesterday. I did not expect to sell so many pieces in so short a time. And what touched me the most was how many of you included such kind notes with your purchases. You have all made my week. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

I had intended to announce the reopening of the shop here on this blog first, but posting on twitter and facebook seems to have done the trick of getting the word out. I will list a few more pieces, but pretty soon I am going to have about as many orders as I can handle.

I want to share with you one of the reasons for the art sale.

As many of you know, the Hatke Clan lives in a rambly old farmhouse, and rambly old farmhouses tend to need a lot of care and work. There is an outbuilding on our property that we call "The Shed" though it's a little bigger than what you'd commonly call a shed (it has its own chimney). The Shed looks like this:

The inside is very unfinished. We use it mostly for storage of outdoor tools and for the deep freezer. My Spring Dream is to turn The Shed into a finished workshop. I want to create not just a drawing studio but a real Maker Space, with good lighting and a workbench and tools for creating three dimensional art. The Shed is a small space, but it has more floorspace than my current upstairs office.

So if you've bought art from me then you've brought me a step closer to making this workspace a reality and I thank you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Children's Choice

Just popping in with a few links that will hopefully be of interest.

First, The Return of Zita the Spacegirl is a finalist in the Children's Choice Book Awards.

Zita is one of of the five finalists for book of the year in the 5th and 6th grade category. Anyone can vote online for these awards, just follow this link and pick the book you like best in the category (it doesn't have to be mine).

Second on my list of things to share is this: at the end of May I will be heading to New York for Book Expo America. I will be doing all sorts of things at BEA but the coolest thing I will be doing is joining an unbelievable group of comics creators for a panel discussion called "Comics are Awesome." That's a very broad title, isn't it? Maybe I will take the role of devil's advocate and insist that comics are not awesome. Not awesome at all.

I'll be sharing the stage with Jeff Smith! And Jenni Holm! And RAINA! Raina is not only one of the very best creators out there, but she's given me granola bars in cities all over the country. I forget to eat at conventions sometimes. I wonder if that will come up at the panel.

Click here for a bit more about the event.

Finally, here is a lovely short piece about reading graphic novels aloud with children (a thing that can be challenging), by a mother who particularly enjoyed reading Zita with her daughter.

And so ...Spring is here! This is what I'm looking forward to:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ida Penthea

Something kind of big has happened since I last blogged. The Hatkes have welcomed a new member into their ranks. My girls have a new sister to fawn over, and to draw into their adventures. She is Ida Penthea, fifthborn of the Hatke Clan.

Here are a few sketches:

(for baby photos try Anna's Instagram)

And here are some other recent odds and ends which have mostly been posted already on Tumblr and Twitter:

Still here? Good. I've been thinking about this year, and about last year. 2014 was a very exciting and very public year for me. I had two books released (Legends of Zita and Julia's House). I went to a lot of festivals and conventions. I got to meet hundreds of people. My French publisher invited me to Angouleme. I managed to turn in a graphic novel (Little Robot). We became the owners of the old farmhouse we'd been renting for 4 years, and we found out that we were expecting a baby...

I knew this year was going to be different. Last year was a year of adventure; this is a year of work. Little Ida was born and I'll be traveling a lot less. Little Robot comes out on September first and until then I plan to have my head down here at home, working on the next graphic novel.

But I'm going to try to post more often around here. There's a whole spate of new projects that are going to be announced during Children's Book Week in May, which is exciting. And I'll post other stuff here in the meantime.

For now, here's Wonder Woman:

Sent from my iPad

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Little Robot for Preorder

Hey friends! Just popping in to say that my next graphic novel, Little Robot is available for preorder on Amazon and at cool independent bookstores like Mysterious Galaxy in California.

Little Robot will be released on September 1st of this year.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The First Step

In my last post I went through the process I use to create an ink-and-watercolor illustration. There is, of course, one very important part of the process that I neglected to mention and it is this:

These are some of my sketchbooks from the last few years. This is the foundation block of both the drawing and the writing that I do. I thought of posting these because my friend Lucy Bellwood posted a similar picture of a stack of sketchbooks saying "Creativity is a habit. Don't you forget it."

She's right. And it's good to see, sometimes, how much work goes on behind the scenes and below the surface.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hermit Mode

(click image for a larger version)

I haven't been getting out a lot lately.

This job, making up stories and recording those stories in words and pictures, it's a funny business. Sometimes I get to travel around and meet lots and lots of people. Other times I am in "Hermit Mode" and I stay at home for days on end, writing and drawing through the day and into the night. I'm in Hermit Mode now.

If you've been following me online, whether through Twitter or Tumbler or this very blog, it will probably come as no surprise to you that I am currently working on a project that involves Goblins. The picture at the top of this post is from this story. The illustration is ink and watercolor -purely traditional media with no digital work. I thought it would be interesting to share the process that I use to reach the finished piece...

I start with the original doodle from the dummy book (I might have something to say about the writing process and the idea of dummy books in a later post). It is the quickest of sketches that shows my first idea of how the text (blurred out here) and illustration might go together:

Now I'm a big proponent of anchoring every story and every picture in something from life. In works of fantasy you will have to create some things from whole cloth, but if you are able to pull at least one or two elements from the world in front of your eyes those elements will act as an anchor. So for this picture I called up my friend Andy and we went out looking for an old cave that I had once spent the night in in college. That cave was going to be my anchor.

To get to the cave we had to take a short hike along the railroad track by the river. But the cave was just as I had remembered it.

Except this time it was guarded by a pair of Ice Sentinels.

(It's hard to tell without something there for scale but these guys were 2, maybe 3 feet high).

And a tiny bat:

But I got the photos I needed and a good Sunday mini-adventure to boot.

So the next piece of the process is taking a look at the various reference photos and playing with layouts. Layouts are about getting the shapes to work together in a pleasing way. It usually takes several tries.

Once I have a layout I'm really happy with I move on to pencils. For this picture I work in a nice dark pencil on a piece of 8.5X11 copy paper. Nothing fancy. Here are my final pencils:

Now it's time to break out the nice paper. Arches 140 pound hot press watercolor paper. I buy it in big sheets and cut it down to manageable sizes. Now I move the pencils over to the light box and trace the final lines onto the watercolor paper with a 4h pencil that makes a very light line:

Once I have the light pencil lines on the watercolor paper I ink over it with a combination of micron pens and a brush with India ink. I forgot to take a picture of this stage.

And then, when the inks are done, I just sort of throw watercolors at it until I think it's "finished." (I could do a whole post about watercolors, but this post is already long, and there are watercolorists out there that put me to shame):

Finally, I look at the finished illustration, try to figure out if I like it or not, and then move on to the next one.

It won't be winter forever.