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Never Abandon Imagination

Welcome to the fantastical world of the award-winning, bestselling author and illustrator, Tony DiTerlizzi.
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STAR WARS

Tony retells George Lucas' classic film trilogy with artwork by Academy award-winning artist, Ralph McQuarrie.
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The Battle for WondLa

Eva Nine's finale in the WondLa trilogy is now available in bookstores!
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REALMS

This long-awaited collection of Tony's roleplaying game art will be in bookstores next June.
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The Spiderwick Chronicles

Celebrate a decade of Spiderwick stories. Available in paperback for the first time!
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The Spider & The Fly

The Caldecott-winning picture book celebrates an anniversary with a new jacket and poster.
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Kenny & the dragon

Tony's award-winning chapter book is now available in paperback.
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Search for WondLa

Part fairy tale, part sci-fi, this lavishly illustrated bestseller is now available in paperback.
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Spiderwick Special Edition

The feature film based on the book series is now available in a Special Edition Blu-ray.
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Tony’s BlogLatest Posts

16

A Daily Jaunt Through the Planes (Githyanki)

Fiend Folio, 1981

Ah, the nefarious, notorious githyanki. For us older gamers, we first saw these Astral killers on the cover to 1981’s Fiend Folio – and fell in love with their rich backstory and bizarre appearance. They always reminded me of some alien race on Star Trek, like the klingons.

Anyways, I got the opportunity to render them, and their githzerai cousins, quite a few times for Planescape starting with the first Monstrous Compendium. In fact, I still remember one game reviewer saying that my Planescape art reminded him a bit of Dr. Seuss (*see my postscript). I wonder if he was looking at my Grinch-like githyanki design?

Githyanki, 1996

Actually one of the key Planescape game designers, Zeb Cook, showed me some books he had recently purchased from Japan on an artist named Yoshitaka Amano. Of course, the artwork totally blew me away. Back in ’94, I don’t think many knew of his work here in the states, but now his work (rightfully) is much more known thanks to the availability of his lavishly illustrated books. His costume design and patterning were certainly an influence on my githyanki images.

Githyanki head sketches

This morning, I played around with the original Fiend Folio cover pose while incorporating bits of the original and my Planescape design. In my attempt of maturing as an illustrator, I veered away from the “look I am evil. See my evil face?”, and created a more alien, otherwordly look. Besides, the actions of these villainous rogues certainly define their alignment.

Githyanki, 2008

PS – Speaking of nonsense children’s book authors, did you know that the githyanki’s main weapon, their vorpal sword, was originally created by none other than Lewis Carroll for his poem “Jabberwocky” in Through the Looking Glass? That’s so cool…

29

A Daily Jaunt Through the Planes (of my past)

Old Sketch, New Tiefling

No, my dear old gaming fans, your eyes do not deceive you. This is a tiefling which was sketched yesterday and inked today.

I am not working for TSR/WotC/Hasbro, in fact; I am drawing and inking away on the upcoming Spiderwick book, A Giant Problem. Part of my routine, when I am on such an intense deadline (and this is one), is “warming up” with some sketching to get my brain-eye-hand-coordination up to speed before I begin the final illustrations.

Planescape Campaign Setting

And I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of my farewell to the Planescape role-playing-game (my last book was the third Monstrous Compendium in 1998). As I have said before, I really enjoyed working on that game – despite the insane deadlines. Children’s stories were always my big career goal, but my involvement with Planescape helped me understand how to visualize and build a fantastic world for characters to dwell.

So, over the next week or so, as the urge hits me, I’ll revisit some of the old people and monsters that I drew all those years ago…and I hope you’ll enjoy them.

This gal was actually transfered from the original 1996 sketch. I made some obvious changes as I inked her with a Hunt 102 nib and FW ink – the same medium that I used back then.

Old Sketch

First off, I actually have her doing something. In the original she was just posing, as I likely copied the pose from a fashion catalog – which I used often in those days. Here, she is holding out her necklace and casting some no-good-spell. Also, I hinted at the shadiness of the area she is hanging out in by scribbling in some “Wanted” posters. Her look and attire, as it was then, was inspired by Pris, Daryl Hannah’s character in the 1982 film Blade Runner.

PS–Let’s see if anyone can remember what book this gal is from…I’ll send a set of my d20 character sheets to whomever posts it first:)

4

Friday Fan Art!

Neil sent us this illuminated letter some time ago. What I like here is that if he is not satisfied with the sketch he redraws it. What a novel idea – he should be teaching in art school.

Neil’s letter

His letter is great. This is how my story manuscripts look before my editor gets a hold of them.

Thimbletack and Hoggy by Neil

He also did a couple of drawings of yours truly. One with I-just-woke-up flattened hair:

“Tony D take 1″ drawn by Neil

and another, more accurate, stressed out version. See how I am looking at my drawing table? What you can’t see is the calendar taped down to it with the deadline fast approaching.

“Tony D take 2″ drawn by Neil

Right around the time Neil’s letter arrived, Maxwell also sent in a portrait of me. Clearly this was rendered after I have finished a project deadline. You can tell because the hair is good, there’s no beard, no red eyes, and I am smiling.

Tony D drawn by Maxwell

Have a great weekend!

4

Life inspires Art inspires Life

A couple of years ago, I was down in South Florida showing Holly Black some of the natural areas that I knew very well as a kid growing up. I took her to the rocky shore of Blowing Rocks Preserve and the scrubby palmetto woods of Jonathon Dickinson State Park. Our purpose was to find inspirational locales for the Spiderwick sequel, Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles (BtSC).

Mangrove Hollow

BtSC takes place in fictitious Mangrove Hollow, one of the numerous housing developments that have blanketed the coast of Florida (as I am sure has happened in many places nationwide). There is a proximity to a preserved natural wetland, but also there are man-made (or “man-enhanced”) natural features like the excavated pond that Taloa the nixie lives in.

Angela and I showed Holly a housing development in my old hometown of Jupiter that was exactly how I envisioned Mangrove Hollow. We walked around the development, schemed and plotted a bit, and took photos for visual reference. Ang’s mom was a realtor for the development and, before we knew it, we found ourselves inside one of the models.

Wetland preserve in Mangrove Hollow

Ang and I both loved it.

So here I am again, a couple of years later, back in Florida – we purchased a little winter home right here in Mangrove Hollow. I walk Sophia by Taloa’s pond every day, but we still have yet to see her…or any giants (thank goodness!)

Taloa’s pond reference

11

We Don't Make Fuzzy-Bunny Books (the end)

With the final art and text in production for Kenny and the Dragon, I focused on helping the marketing team at Simon and Schuster come up with some nice visuals to help create awareness for the new title.

Simon & Schuster Summer ‘08 Catalog

Though it is extra work on my end, I like having unique images to sell a book without reusing the cover art. I’ve done this for most all of the Spiderwick books, and it really helps get folks excited when they see a specially designed poster and/or original designed cardboard floor display which we so often see scattered about our favorite bookstore. Here is a comp for the display top for Kenny, which you may see in a store near you this August.

Display riser for KENNY & THE DRAGON

I had hardly a minute to myself after all of this was done before I jumped onto the next Spiderwick book, A Giant Problem. Since most of the characters have already been created, I have found myself back in the world of sketching scenes of curious kids, rampaging giants and troublesome fairies…

…and for my older fans who have been following these posts, here is a AD&D character sheet for a mouse thief whom I’ve named “Sam Wisewhiskers”. Enjoy!

Sam Wisewhiskers - professional thief and foodie

8

Friday Fan Art!

I was delighted to receive 10-year old Nathan’s drawings this week from Arthur’s Field Guide. These sketches were especially neat, because they weren’t the usual characters from the series.

“Knocker” by Nathan

“Stray Sod” by Nathan

“Piskie” by Nathan

…and also (as Nathan pointed out), they were not traced.

Nice work Nathan! Keep at it, and here is my Pixie sketch for the Field Guide. Have a good weekend!

“Pixie” sketch by Tony

7

We Don't Make Fuzzy-Bunny Books (part 5)

TO INK OR NOT TO INK?

Because Kenny and the Dragon is aimed for the same age reader as Spiderwick, I wanted to make a conscious effort to give it its own identity. To that end, my editor suggested illustrating the book in halftone pencil drawings versus the ink drawings that I’ve done for the Spiderwick books.

Since I am captivated by the work of sketchy-type artists (like Peter DeSeve and Heinrich Kley), and curious about that initial doodle that comes straight from the mind, I was excited about this approach. So, for the initial book layout, I did quite visualized and detailed sketches – more so than the loose gestural stuff that I do for a Spiderwick book.

Initial sketch of Kenny

Then, after we (“we” being myself, the editor, and art director) agreed on the sketch (and its success when dropped in with its adjoining text), I’d go back into it and tighten it up here-and-there until it was completed.

Detailing done to initial Kenny sketch

I liked the softness of the sketch. I felt it perfectly suited the tone of the story and, with the text, would make great page-spreads. But when I got the initial layouts for the book, many of the images seemed grey and ghostlike – and not integrating at all with the wonderful black type. Uh-oh.

Sure, I could bump up the contrast, but doing so would burn out some of the halftone that I was working hard to maintain. I assumed the only way the art would have equal presence was to ink it. So, despite my instinct, I went ahead and inked up a piece.

Pen & ink sample done of Kenny

That didn’t work for me either. One of my mantras is always “to push the boundries” both story-wise and artistically – I feel it is the only way I’ll grow expressively. Inking my next non-Spiderwick chapter book seemed like a sideways move artistically more than a forward step. So I was creatively stuck. Then I thought of John Tenniel.

Sir John Tenniel, as some may know, was an illustrator for Punch magazine as well as many books including the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In fact, his images for that book have become literary icons.

printed image of the Mad Hatter

But, the finished illustrations we know and love are the product of finely detailed wood block engravings, which were how illustrations were reproduced back in the 1800s. They may look like Sir John rendered them in pen and ink, but in actuality he rendered them in pencil on a block of wood, which the engravers (in this case the Dalziel Bros. – remember my mention of them a few posts back?) would prepare for printing.

Tenniel’s final pencil drawing

Studying a few Tenniel reproductions set me on the right path: Draw the Kenny illustrations in pencil, but render them as if you were inking it. The strokes became concise and clean, I was able to then push the contrast up on them a touch, and (most importantly) I was artistically satisfied. Whew!

Final illustration of Kenny

PS – For more on Sir John’s work, check out Tenniel’s Alice published by Harvard University Press.

7

Friday Fan Art!

Whoa! Ashley has taken Friday Fan Art to a new level:

Ashley’s right hip

Both mermaids, taken from Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide, took over 10 hours to complete. As I told this tattooed trooper, that’s more than this artist could handle – even if it was my art!

Ashley’s left hip

I am truly blown away by this Ashley, thanks for sending these pics along…and sitting in a parlor for 10 hours. Actually the work is rendered quite well, considering these 2 images were the toughest in all of the Field Guide.