April 20, 2008
Before I post more sketches of the characters and world I created for Kenny and the Dragon, I thought I would share some of the inspirational art that I looked at while writing the story.
I started with the best known rabbit artist of all time, Beatrix Potter. Her technical skill and eye for detail in her numerous nature studies made her a master of creating anthropomorphic animal characters. The above shows her knack of placing these characters in an inviting environment as well. Look for Beatrix Potter Artist & Illustrator, by Anne Stevenson Hobbs, for more of her wonderful watercolors.
Around the turn-of-the-century, when Beatrix was becoming huge in England and abroad, the American artist Arthur B. Frost was dazzling many with scratchy frenetic pen line. Probably best known for his work on the Uncle Remus books, he also illustrated books for such greats as Lewis Carroll. Though he gained a lot of accolades for his later paintings of hunters and fisherman, I prefer the inky gesture of his book illustration. The above watercolor is from The A.B. Frost Book.
Alongside Frost was an editorial illustrator named Thomas Sullivant whose work is bit harder to find (since he worked primarily for magazines and newspapers), but Jim Vadebonceur has featured Sullivant’s deft line-work in his many issues of the magazine, Images.
Over in New Zealand, Harry Rountree was creating fully animated scenes for children’s books and advertisements with his line and watercolor work. His rendition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, done in 1908, is one of the best. The above is from his version of Uncle Remus.
Moving forward in time, I looked at Garth Williams (as Jim G. mentioned) and Lillian Hoban (I mentioned Emmet Otter back when I was discussing dragon designs). But Wallace Tripp’s work really had a lively quality which reminded me greatly of Garth’s work. The above is from 1976’s Granfa’s Grig Had a Pig.
..so there are some of the main influences in the character designing that went on in Kenny. I hope this was an introduction to some lesser-known illustrators who will delight you as they did me. Track some of their work down, you won’t be dissapointed.
April 18, 2008
We got a lot of great art this week, but what stood out most were these three drawings of my favorite hob by Caleb, Christopher, and David. We thought it would be fun to see them up together, it’s always interesting to see different peoples take on the same character. Thanks to everyone who sent something in- keep on drawing!
And for fun, here is one of the first drawings I did of Hoggy, including his heretofore unknown first name, Horace:
April 14, 2008
I am in the thick of finishing the 30+ illustrations for my upcoming chapter book, Kenny and the Dragon. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it is inspired from Kenneth Grahame’s short story, The Reluctant Dragon, from his book Dream Days.
Originally, my idea was to set this story in the 1950’s -very Americana, very Norman Rockwell. But there were some plot issues that I just could not seem to resolve, so I wandered creatively for a bit. Then my agent, Ellen, proposed a horrible idea over dinner one night while up on the set for Spiderwick:
Tony: “So this story is one of my favorites, and it was written by the guy who wrote The Wind in the Willows.”
Ellen: “Wind in the Willows? Why don’t you make the characters all animals like in that story?”
Tony: “Animals? I don’t know…I don’t make ‘Fuzzy-Bunny’ books”
The term is actually one my editor, Kevin, and I often use. It refers to the idea that there are plenty of insipid, saccharine-y books out there for children, and that all the books we create will have some kernel of truth, of realism, that is planted in their heart.
But then, I DO LOVE Wind in the Willows, Watership Down, Redwall, Beatrix Potter books, heck, even Aesop’s fables. Perhaps (like the dragon design situation I faced early on), it was less about the physical skin the character wore, and more about what was inside.
And, to my knowledge, I haven’t seen a dragon book with talking animals. Perhaps there was something there after all…
April 4, 2008
It’s one thing to draw things we know, and quite another to draw things no one has ever seen before. This is especially true in the world of fantastical art: some artists stick to the standard fare of dragons and willow-limbed elves, and others venture far afield, creating entirely new creatures for unusual worlds.
I’ve always seen myself as having a foot in either camp. I draw on a lot of traditional mythological imagery, but I always look at it with a fresh eye for invention. If I’m not drawing a newly invented creature I try to add something exciting to the design. Sometimes I am inspired by the natural world, and sometimes by pure fancy. This is a skill that has taken me years to begin to understand, yet it is one that I’ve seen in abundance from these two inspiring fans!
Christopher, age 10, has created some wonderful faerie/insect-inspired creatures. I really love his sense of imagination, this is definitely the sort of thing I was drawing when I was his age…except I wasn’t as technically adept with the pencil as he is.
Valkyrie (yes her real name – so cool!), age 11(!), has created another amazing creature, the Thestequitrix, and her drawings are so nicely done! She has a great sense of anatomy and gesture, and she’s even developed a great storyline and world to back up it all up.
These two have really inspired me a lot, and I’m so glad that my work is perhaps helping inspire the next generation of great creators.
April 3, 2008
We just returned home from Florida where I was recuperating from a whirlwind publicity tour in the United Kingdom. Hol and I crammed the week-plus trip with book signings and other Spiderwick media events in England and Ireland.
I have to say, the UK is truly like a second home to me. The food is great, the folks I met were jovial and warm, and of course the literary and artistic heritage is the fiber that I am woven from.
Highlights from the tour included spending an afternoon at antique bookstores and at the Chris Beetles gallery pouring over the original Arthur Rackham, Ernest Shepard, and Sir John Tenniel art.
Speaking of the great Alice illustrator, we taped a show for the BBC called Blue Peter in the London cemetery, and I happened upon the tomb of the family Dalziel. The Dalziel brothers, Edward and George, were famous Victorian engravers who created the woodcuts for Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was really neat to be so close to these people whose work had influenced me so much.
Later on, in the town of Leeds, we did a presentation for a group of kids at the Leeds Art Gallery where they pulled out of storage, JUST FOR US, one of Atkinson Grimshaw’s “Iris” paintings! This famous Victorian fairy painter has always entranced me with his moody lighting and simple composition. To see the original in person was just awesome.
…sorry the picture blows. Between the lacquer on his painting and the layers of glass over it, I just couldn’t get a decent shot. Here’s a detail of the head though:
I had a blast drawing and cracking jokes for the kids, and it seems like the film is being well received as well (it was being released while we were there). I really am looking forward to going back, and bringing Sophia along to learn about the wonder and beauty of my favorite part of the world.
March 6, 2008
Wow! Obviously with the onslaught of Spiderwick-edness that has been barraging everybody over the past month, I have received buckets of fan-mail with all sorts of well-wishes and amazing stories of how my work has affected others. I am so touched – what a validation.
I’ve been so busy cranking out the final edits on my upcoming chapter book, Kenny and the Dragon, that I have been holding onto a few stars in the “Friday Fan Art” category – but this one needed to be shared with you all immediately as the timing is perfect.
I’ve been chatting with Joe for years now, encouraging his imagination and obvious talent…which, honestly, he already has plenty of. I do this, because folks like William Stout, Jim Gurney and Brian Froud encouraged me along my way – and I never forgot how much a simple “follow your dreams” note from someone you look up to really keeps you going.
Along with his neato “Thank You” painting came this REALLY cool book on gadgets.
THANK YOU Joe, for the awesome image! Now finish your dream book, and get a website up, with all the cool art that you’ve been sending me, so everyone else can see it.
PS – Send fan art/money/babysitters/toys/books to:
PO Box #442
Amherst, MA 01004
UPDATE: With a tip-off from his wife, here is Joe’s other work!
February 29, 2008
We got some more excellent Spiderwick an art this week, check it out! Thanks to Annie, Anna, Andrew and Marisa!
February 21, 2008
I see McDonald’s has The Spiderwick Chronicles Happy-Meals now available. If I didn’t think the film, toys, cereal, and video game were surreal enough, this definitely sent me to dreamland.
My parents took us kids to get fast food every once and awhile. I grew up on Burger Chef and their equivalent to a Happy Meal, called the Fun Meal – which I loved. So I know the kid-version of me would so be into getting a “Common Ground Goblin” with my cheeseburger…or feeding Hogsqueal some fries.
February 10, 2008
I see that Ty’s Toy Box now has the Spiderwick Action figures available. Choose from Jared, Hogsqueal, Redcap or Mulgarath. Here’s hoping we get a Mallory, Simon and Thimbletack as well.
I am not sure if these are final toys pictured here or early prototypes. If anyone finds them, please drop a comment as to where so others can hunt them down:)
February 8, 2008
Angela and I just returned from the Los Angeles and New York premieres of The Spiderwick Chronicles movie. We watched the film in both venues (this makes it my 6th time seeing it) and celebrated its completion with Holly and the cast and crew. It was a whirlwind of interviews, photographs and fancy clothes…and in the blink of an eye it was over (that is, until we head out to promote it in the United Kingdom next month).
So, as many have asked, what has this been like? How does it feel to have a film adapted from your books, stories, characters and art? Many words come to mind:
..but I don’t think they quite convey the mixture of emotions that myself, Angela (and Holly) have gone through. So I’ll tell this little tidbit of a tale in hopes that it illustrates how I truly feel about all of this.
Back in the summer of 1982, I made a little book called Gondwanaland. In it, a group of scientists discover an island full of fantasy creatures and record their habits, habitats and images. It was written and illustrated by a 12 year-old incarnation of me, and it came from a naturalist’s perspective. I was greatly inspired from the game Dungeons & Dragons, books like Brian Froud & Alan Lee’s Faeries, and films like Star Wars and The Dark Crystal – all things I’ve rambled on about in this blog before.
I forgot about the book for some time, but returned to it in the 90’s while I was contributing regularly as an artist for D&D and the Planescape role-playing game. I began redoing some of the illustrations and approached TSR about publishing a field guide to faeries, trolls and goblins. They declined, and I moved on to achieving my dream of creating books for children.
I did some picture books, won a couple of awards, and (at last) had the opportunity to create my field guide with the help of my good friend, Holly. On top of the Arthur Spiderwick myth, we told the story of Jared, Simon and Mallory Grace – and how dangerous the real world of faeries can be. We had no idea if children would like it, but we sure enjoyed crafting the tales.
To our delight, the books were well received: teachers, librarians and critics loved them, kids and parents loved them, and Nickelodeon & Paramount Pictures loved them – I figured I was dreaming: I was still 12 years-old, and my mom would wake me up for school any minute.
Mark Waters signed on as a director (fresh off of his hit Mean Girls). John Sayles wrote a draft of the script. Phil Tippett and Industrial Light & Magic came on to create the special effects for the film. Celebrated actors like Nick Nolte, Martin Short, David Strathairn, Mary Louise-Parker, Sarah Bolger and Freddie Highmore signed on to play the roles of characters Hol and I created – and all the while, all I could think was “My mom is going to wake me up any minute now.”
In short, the final film is fantastic. It breathes the same air the books do. It’s dirty, organic, richly visualized, and fast paced. There are no glittery tinkly faeries here, just celluloid spirits re-forged from the old folklore that had inspired me all these years. It’s a thrilling, raucous ride with a little heart and soul, and I feel like…like…a 12 year-old when I watch it.
Maybe I am dreaming – or simply, this is what it feels like when a boyhood dream comes true.
I hope you enjoy the faeries (and the film).
January 24, 2008
My earlier talk of records and album cover artwork has inspired me crack open an old book that I’ve not looked at in some time. Upon opening it, I immediately saw that it was more influential than I realized.
I purchased Roger and Martyn Dean’s Magnetic Storm back in 1984 when I was 15 years old. I was blown away the dynamic, colorful dragons that adorned the book jacket (and the then-popular band, Asia’s album cover).
Now that I look at it, their designs most definitely influenced my creature designs in Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide, especially the colorful patterning.
More importantly though, I remember copying their totally cool hand-drawn-lettering. This element has become an integral part of my book-making philosophy to this day.
In our digital world of “Anything can become a font”, I have relished the fact that most of my books have hand-drawn titling – something I seriously first took notice of while copying images out of my copy of Magnetic Storm. Seriously, why wouldn’t the titling to a piece of art not come from the same mind-space, the same vision, the same hand, as the image it is meant to compliment?
Roger and Martyn have done many tomes on their various contributions to books, albums, conceptual art, and architecture. Give their site a look-see, and by all means check out one of their titles – I guarantee it will inspire you.
January 24, 2008
Some serious Spiderwicky goodness arrived in my mailbox this week. Check out these gems:
These are just AWESOME guys (and gals)! Keep’em comin…
January 17, 2008
This ran in today’s Publisher’s Weekly:
A Tasty Promotion for Spiderwick
By Karen Raugust — Publishers Weekly, 1/17/2008
Simon and Schuster has partnered with General Mills for a 10 million-box, five-brand cereal promotion tied to the Spiderwick Chronicles. Running from January 1 to March 1, the promotion’s timing is tied to the Spiderwick film being released in February. But its focus is entirely on the books. In fact, when the two companies started talking about the partnership, the film was optioned but didn’t have a green light, so it wasn’t a factor in the deal, according to Laura Ferguson, S&S director of premiums, CDP and corporate sales.
Specially marked boxes of Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Reese’s Puffs, Cookie Crisps and Honey Nut Cheerios will include one of three collectible books based on the second title in the Spiderwick series, The Seeing Stone. The three will be evenly distributed among the 10 million boxes, with each store receiving some of each title. The cover is visible through a clear window in each box.
Each book features a third of the original story with a special introduction and conclusion, followed by a brand-new prequel story and illustrations created by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black in conjunction with GM and S&S. The new material, which comprises about 10 to 15 of the 64 pages in each book, is available only through the GM promotion.
This project has taken almost 2 years to complete. But, having VERY fond memories of getting a cool prize in a cereal box as a kid, I do think it was worth it. Holly and I created “Lost Chapters” (with new art) for the Spiderwick universe.
One lost chapter is about Thimbletack becoming a boggart, another is how the troll’s bridge was destroyed, and the last one was how Hogsqueal (or Hoggy, as I call him) was captured by the goblins.
Hopefully, if you are already a fan of the books, you’ll enjoy these little sidetracks. The cool thing is that the boxes have a window showing you what book is inside, so you won’t have to eat your weight in Lucky Charms only to find a duplicate prize…man, I hated when that happened as a kid.
January 13, 2008
Angela came across a writing contest, “The Ultimate Fantasy Fan”, that was being run by Spiderwick studio Paramount Pictures and Harry Potter fan club, Mugglenet. The winner of which will be able to interview folks attending the Los Angeles premiere! A 13-year old gal, Amanda, won and here is her killer essay.
I can’t begin to describe what it feels like to have created a world which has inspired so many young (and old) imaginations. I feel so honored to be part of this fantastic culture; yet, I usually work at home with only my public events (like book-signings) to receive the praise from fans. So seeing others exhibit their creativity, like in this clever essay, truly touches me and, in turn, inspires me to create more.
Rock on Amanda! I’ll be looking for you on the red carpet and in bookstores in the future.
January 8, 2008
Boy, they’ve come a long way since Atari’s Adventure, and Legend of Zelda! Here are some screen-shots of the Spiderwick video game which will have more characters and settings than what is in the movie, check out these Xbox shots:
…and here are some from the Playstation:
(*btw, the platform system links take you to pages with many more shots)
The game designers were up on set when Holly and I were there and we were able to brainstorm a bit and offer some ideas. I know you will be able to play Jared, Simon, Mallory and Thimbletack! SO COOL! Can’t wait to fence as Mal on the Wii!
January 4, 2008
7 year-old Jake is a big Spiderwick fan and sent us this killer drawing of a goblin running through the woods!
What’s awesome in this piece is his sense of background AND perspective. I’ve seen college student work that don’t tackle this sort of thing – only focusing on the character design and missing the environment to house it. So KUDOS to you Jake! Keep on drawin!
January 3, 2008
Found at the local supermarket today:
December 30, 2007
Happy New Years!
I hope everyone has had a great holiday season so far. I just wanted to post a New Year’s message to all of my fans, friends and fam out there who made 2007 such a memorable year for me.
I have so many things to be thankful for: My best friend and wife, Angela, gave us a beautiful little girl in May and our lives have been much more richer (and hectic) forever since. My other child, The Spiderwick books, that I’ve created with Holly have been more successful than I ever could have imagined. The first sequel book, The Nixie’s Song, came out this fall and debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list! Say wha!?
And, of course, I am terribly excited about the upcoming film. This is the stuff of dreams-come-true for me. Whether the movie is received well by critics, or does great opening weekend, I can tell you that I absolutely enjoyed it and that it upheld the spirit of the stories, and the visual world that I created – you can’t ask for much more than that.
2008 should be an exciting year with the film, video game, toys, Happy Meals, etc, releasing in February. There should be lots of Spiderwicky-goodness out there for even the most die-hard fans. And we’ll be releasing the second book in the sequel, A Giant Problem, in September.
Before that, I will be debuting my first solo middle-grade novel, Kenny & The Dragon, in August. The 200-page illustrated book is a retelling of The Reluctant Dragon, and I am so anxious to hear what readers think. I am really happy with how it is shaping up (as of this writing, I am almost done with it.)
There will be book tours, both in the US and UK, and a BIG announcement from yours truly on a new project that is aimed for readers a little older than the Spiderwick crowd. So stay tuned, and THANK YOU for allowing me to do what I do for a living.
All the best to you and your family (especially the troops overseas) from our family,
-Tony, Ang & Sophia
December 24, 2007
I think it would be erroneous to say that only books, and illustrators of books, were the primary influence on my artistic style.
I was in a very music-loving household growing up a child in the 1970’s and 80’s. My parents had quite an LP (Long-Playing record) collection, as did I. Many a night, I would sit with the headphones on listening to my favorite bands and artists while I poured over the lyrics and oft-times surreal album cover artwork. Sometimes, the lyrics came in the form of a booklet – and even that would be illustrated.
Bear in mind that this was in the days before CDs. Record albums were 12″ in diameter and so the packaging was large, thin, sometimes textured with printing effects (like embossing, lamination, etc) and the lyrics books (if they were illustrated) were almost like…a picture book for the listener. Of course, The Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from 1967 exemplifies this type of visual packaging best.
…as does The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesty’s Request.
These spawned a plethora of lushly illustrated albums in the 70’s by such artists as Cat Stevens, Yes, Pink Floyd, and my favorite from that decade: Elton John.
In fact, Elton’s autobiographical 1975 album Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy is still a fixture in my studio today. The pseudo-symbolic-Bosch-like world, depicting the hurdles of the music industry and the price of fame, was magnificently rendered by British illustrator Alan Aldridge. It is no surprise to me that Alan also illustrated many children books of the day, as there is a children’s-book-like quality to his rendering style despite the subject matter.
As we all know, compact discs are now the norm for packaging today’s music (yet I wonder for how much longer). Though the visual real estate has receded from the 12″ album sleeve to the 4+” of a jewel case, there are still some wonderful examples of great packaging. Maroon Five’s debut album, Songs About Jane, comes to mind…
…as does Keane’s Under the Iron Sea, both of which utilize a simpler, more graphic style, which I think suits the package size better.
I can’t think of any of my artist-buddies who haven’t dreamed of rendering an album cover for their favorite band. I even toyed with the idea of contacting Elton John when I heard he was recording a sequel to Captain Fantastic – instead, I held out hope that perhaps he would return to Alan to work his magic, but alas it didn’t happen.
But I did get to design the cover for the band Roi and the Secret People. This actually holds some significance as the lead singer, Mike Roy, has been my friend for many years. He even introduced me to a funny, young gal named Angela way back in 1995…
PS – Okay, so I have never prompted for replies before, but I know I didn’t mention a lot of awesome album covers (80’s bands had some great ones like Journey and Asia). So what is your fav album cover?
December 20, 2007
I have been putting off my commentary on the wonderful, strange feelings that go through my mind on the realization that Spiderwick will be a feature film released across the world in a couple of months. I can tell you that recently I attended a screening for all the folks at Simon & Schuster who work on the books, and they really enjoyed it – which is a good sign to me.
I was thirteen years old In 1982 when I saw Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. That movie blew my imagination wide open and I immediately began drawing the many muppet denizens that I saw on the screen.
It is exciting, and somewhat dreamlike, to be on the other end of the equation. When I recieve drawings of my characters rendered by imaginative young artists, like Anna here, I am truly touched.
I get giddy thinking that my visuals, and the fantastic world Hol and I created, will perhaps inspire and ignite the next generation of imaginologists…what an awesome Christmas present!
December 7, 2007
Today we received a warm and wonderful gift for Sophia from fellow children’s book creator, Timothy Basil Ering It was a warm fleece blanket and winter boots to keep her toasty through the winter. Taped to the side of the box (yes taped) was this awesome drawing of a “Hornly Scratcher”.
Thanks so much Tim! Um…when do we get to read a Field Guide to Eringland?
November 26, 2007
For my rendition of The Reluctant Dragon, I wanted to create a comfy, cozy world reminiscent of Wind in the Willows. My motto for it was “a warm cup of tea”. In other words, I wanted the mood of the book to evoke the comfortable feeling you get when you curl up with a warm cup of tea on a lazy afternoon. Jim Henson’s adaptation of Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band-Christmas is very similar in tone to what I was aiming for, so the dragon needed to feel like he was from that world.
That said, I replaced all of the human characters in the story with animals. Once I started designing the main characters (which I will showcase in a later post), I was able to push the dragon design to where I wanted it.
I referenced cats and goats for the main inspiration and worked from there. I tried various images showing the friendship forged between the hero, a rabbit named Kenny, and the dragon. Some were too epic, like this one:
…and others didn’t feel quite right mood-wise. In fact, this one felt a little Neverending Story-ish to me. So I kept exploring…
This one above, an early color comp for the jacket, was getting closer. You certainly get that they are friends, and the dragon face has a lot of personality. But I wanted a little movement, a little action to create some real interaction between the dragon and the hero. At last I arrived at this:
Its worth noting that the color of the scales, I think, sets it apart from other depictions. The original text mentions the dragon being blue in tone and I really liked that unexpected element a lot (it seems like so many dragons are red, brown or black). Angela had me push it into this greenish-blue to put my own spin on it, and I like the way it feels…plus Saphira (in Eragon) is blue.
So what did i gain from this design journey? I learned that a dragon – like a human – has been rendered countless times for centuries by many talented artists. To find an exciting and unique design, I need to understand the creature and what sort of character it represents. Though I still think these beasties are tough to render, I have even more appreciation to those who offer up something new and exciting to such a classic denizen of fantasy.
November 24, 2007
This is a special edition of “Friday Fan Art”. Its an homage to that raspberry-colored pal-o-mine!
Despite all the love I have for Spiderwick, and its incredible successes, I must confess that my second picture book, Ted, is still a favorite.
Sure, it’s a little long for a picture book (especially nowadays) but I was proud of my boldness at such an early point in my career to make a statement about being a working parent (even though I wasn’t one yet) and holding onto your childhood. Heck, even Mrs. Cheney liked the book. She read it back in 2002 as part of her campaign, “No Such Thing As a Vacation From Reading“, for (you guessed it) summer reading.
A couple of years ago, my brother Adam, blew me away with one of the coolest birthday presents ever. Ted rendered in various animated styles. I simply HAD to share these as I think they are so cool! Enjoy! (Thanks bro!)
November 17, 2007
So, as I mentioned in my last post, I am waist-deep in my new book project Kenny & The Dragon. It is a retelling of the Kenneth Grahame short story, The Reluctant Dragon, which was found in his book Dream Days published back in 1898.
This is one of my favorite dragon stories that I remember as a child. The surprise here is that the dragon is hardly the fierce, fire-breathing variety – he’s more a poet and a pacifist. There is also a slight humor in both the original version and my retelling, so I wanted his design to reflect that, yet still be an interesting and unusual creature.
My first attempt was very closely based on Ernest Shepard’s design in the original version. I quickly abandoned it and moved along feeling there was nothing more I could add…
I came close to this birdlike beaky version (remember those Pern dragons?) which I felt looked intelligent enough to speak, read and write, but wasn’t quite warm enough for the mood of the text that I had written.
This turtle-inspired version was more on the right track…but I still wasn’t quite there yet.
November 17, 2007
Yeah, yeah its Saturday and I am posting the fan art – it has been a hectic couple of weeks here in DiTerlizziland. Speaking of DiTerlizzis, I have received some art from Celia, a distant cousin of mine who also can push a pencil and paint around:
…and here is an oldie-but-goodie from my brother Adam, who just graduated with a degree in animation and teaches up in northern Cali.
…my sister, Jenn, also does art and is quite the make-up artist. For us DiTro-kids, we have our mom to thank for spending all that time painting and drawing when we were little:)