Saturday, May 19, 2012

Time Out for Monsters

 This is our new book. It's a delightful romp written by Jean Reidy, and published by Disney's Hyperion Books. Our editor is Rotem Moscovich- it was her idea to do the giant 34" four page dragon foldout! I was absolutely delighted when this manuscript landed on my drawing table. This was me as a kid, always in time out, always drawing. I'll post some of the spreads here as a tease, but you'll have to buy the book to get it all.
Here's from Publisher's Weekly:
     Time Out for Monsters!
Jean Reidy, illus. by Robert Neubecker. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4231-3127-4
Even kids can get the fixer-upper urge—especially when the real estate in question is the time-out corner. “Mom says it’s fine, but I know better. I spend a LOT of time there,” says the refreshingly unapologetic young narrator. So he conjures up a world of excitement that includes a killer view, a fire brigade, a dump truck full of ice cream, and some kingly accoutrements. When Neubecker (What Little Boys Are Made Of) reveals that everything the hero imagines is simultaneously being drawn by him on the walls of the corner, readers won’t have trouble guessing what comes next. Reidy’s (Too Princessy!) descriptive narration (“This corner needs a comfy seat with some pillows... on a throne!”) gets a goose from colorful, comics-style typography. But this is Neubecker’s show, and he’s given plenty of space to let loose. Whether he’s showing a monster and dinosaur–stuffed polka-dotted big wheeler or a landscape filled with cupcakes, spread after spread is a riot of color, goofy fantasy, and well-choreographed freneticism. Ages 3–7.

Here's our cover. Love the royal blue.
Detail from the big 34" Dragon foldout spread.

Inside spread...
Sad but away the punchline...more time out...

The Monster

Unused Cover doodle

Thumbnail for unused pages.

Thumbnail sketch for dragon spread.

Fred got cut from the final writing....

Thumbnail sketch. I love this story.

Finished pencil sketch for editor's approval.

The big Dragon pencil sketch.

He was almost green! (he's blue in the book, you know, real life...)

 That's all folks. Hope that you enjoy reading and sharing this book as much as we enjoyed making it!

Robert Neubecker,        
 from Iron Mountain in Utah, 5/19/12

Friday, February 17, 2012

Little Boys

 What Little Boys are Made of
From Balzer & Bray, Harper Collins, March 2012

   This book went through many drafts. The first version had our boy in bed, unable to sleep, getting out his toys one by one and playing until he made so much noise that Dad would yell "go to sleep" and eventually come in the room and tuck him in with "a kiss, a hug, a snuggle, and love" at the end. Then it was mom... Then, our boy, playing by moonlight, messing the room up gradually until it is totally upside down, then, playing football with the NFL in the Superbowl, he smashes his bed. Mom, turning on the light, surveys the carnage, and they clean everything up together, she cross, he remorseful.
     In the end, taking the drafts to Donna Bray at Harper Collins, she preferred the simpler final version in all it's innocence and joy.

    Here's a starred review from Kirkus:

 “What are little boys made of?” In Neubecker’s hands, the answer is a whole lot of fun!
  From “Moons and stars and rockets to Mars” to “Wings and tails and dragons with scales,” this rhyme’s half-pint hero imagines his way through most boys’ obsessions. Astronaut, sports star, knight, dinosaur-tamer—they’re all there, presented in action-packed, energetic illustrations. Done in pen or pencil, then digitally colored, the artwork has a raw freshness as spontaneous as the lad’s revelry. Neubecker skillfully uses the text and compositions to build upon each other. Each verse begins with the boy and his toys in a plain and simple environment. But in resolving the verse (“That’s what little boys are made of”), gorgeous, visually complex, full spreads are offered, giving readers insight into the boy’s rollicking fantasies. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition—the density of the imagined merriment on one spread after such a sparse one—reinforcing the innocence of the child’s real-life play. The illustrator also pays homage to a certain visual aesthetic for each of the youth’s adventures. As a pirate, readers may recall old naval illustrations; as a dragon-slayer, illuminated manuscripts; and as a jungle explorer, the wild things of Maurice Sendak. To complete the picture, the author also shows the quiet and loving side of boys, as they are also made of “A kiss and a hug, a snuggle and LOVE.”

One romping celebration of boyhood to read again and again. (Picture book. 3-8)

A peek at the spreads:

dedication page

one cover idea... the marketing people generally choose the final cover design.

fairly complete sketch dummy...

my little guy in line...
cover mock-up- I just put in type for look-see. I always defer to the desighner for the final type design...

About midway through the revisions, a nighttime romp...
I wanted the blanket to figure in every picture...

loved this spread...
In the earlier version it was Magic! Adventure! Action!- That's what little boys are made of...

In this draft, our hero couldn't sleep, and progressively destroyed his room. His mom discovers the mess and they clean it up together. Then she hugs him and tucks him in.

In another version, he lived in New York City and dreamed his dreams as he looked out the window, rode the subway, etc.

That's Boys! For a more complete view of the book, see my website!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Making Book

  Dear Readers: This is a piece I did for an Illustrator's website for my fellow illustrators, however, I felt it might offer an interesting window into our world so I'm reposting it here. Please imagine yourself a scribbler in the margins of popular culture and read on.  
                                           Thanks, Robert 

Writing and illustrating books for children was something that I always wanted to get to, but was just too busy with the next assignment. After the first ICON conference, with its strong emphasis on self-generated work, I was inspired to make the time; it opened up a whole new world for me. I also started having babies (by proxy) and was knee deep in bottles, diapers and ideas.

   First, I dusted off a script I’d done at SVA about a little freaked out blue guy who was stuck in an all red painting.  This became "Courage of the Blue Boy". I worked with the manuscript for a couple of years and dozens of drafts. It's rare that I do less than twenty drafts and four or five storyboards for any book...Blue Boy was an immigration story, a diversity story, an introduction to color book…it was complicated and very wordy. Then at the next ICON conference, I ran into Guy Billout (wasn't it great when we all lived in NYC and knew each other?) He asked me what I was working on and I mentioned a kid's book- he said, "What book? How does the story go?" So, there in a crowded hallway with people pushing around and between us, I laid out the essential story in thirty seconds. And that became the book. My editor at Tricycle Press, Summer Dawn Laurie, helped me shape it into the book it became.*
     It wasn't my first book published - it was third. When I'd refined the manuscript yet again, I made a few dummies with hand-stitched bindings. I called my agent at the time, Justin Rucker from Shannon Associates, to show it around. Justin said, "Great! Why don't you write three more books so that I have something else to show if they don't like this one?"
 Okay.... So I wrote Wow! City! and Beasty Bath, both of which got into print and a peek a boo book which, apparently, everybody and his dog had already done. Scholastic bought Beasty Bath, then Hyperion bought Wow! City! I still get complements on the brilliant writing even though it has about forty words and twenty of them are Wow! It is a picture book, after all... It won an ALA notable book award in 2004 and that’s a big deal. My wife and I were talking about buying the woods out back in anticipation of the ocean of royalty checks that were sure to follow. Oh well, not so fast- librarians are one thing; the “Walter the Farting Dog” book buying public is another…. The great thing is that my books have continued to garner excellent reviews, with some raves and quite a few stars thrown in. I am working with Linda Pratt now, of the new Wernick and Pratt Agency (formerly with Sheldon Fogelman) who is a wonderful agent, advisor and confidant. I am also lucky enough to be working with some of the best editors in the business, including Donna Bray (Balzer & Bray, Harper Collins), Andrea Welch (Beach Lane Books, Simon & Shuster) and Rotem Moscovich at Hyperion (Disney).

    Making picture books is a lot like being a painter. A book can be like a show of paintings, an idea illustrated by a cohesive set of images telling a story as a whole. You work diligently and steadily over many years to create a respected body of work and you learn, grow, and refine as you proceed.  Unlike editorial work, at the end of the day, you're not done, it hasn't gone to press, and a project can preoccupy your mind for weeks and months. It takes a bit of mental discipline to detach sometimes...

  At the end of the (last) day, you do have a nice product, a physical book- when I worked at the Times, we used to say "tomorrow it's fish wrap". Most of the thousands of magazine illustrations I've done over the years are gone wherever they go... there is a legacy of history recorded and the lingering thrill of the deadline and a job well done- something we all know, cherish and share- but a book is more permanent, and before long I notice that I've gathered a whole shelf of them. The public seems to hold book making in high regard's funny, you work at Time Magazine, or Slate, or the New York Times for years and think that's pretty cool, but do just one book, and suddenly you're a bit of a rock star. I had a girl point me out this morning as a "Great Artist".  High praise indeed coming from a six year old...

 Thumbnails and storyboards... I'll scan one of these to give you a better idea. My table is a mess...


 Some of the Dummies. I don't always do them, but for one book, "What Little Boys are Made of" I probably did a dozen. Rubber cement, anyone?


These are originals. I've only done two books in watercolor, "Beasty Bath" & "Hattie Hippo" (both Scholastic). These days I generally use brush and ink on Arches rough. For many years I had an assistant on regular payroll who traced all of the final sketches onto watercolor paper where I did the ink drawing. Then she erased the pencil, scanned my ink drawing and cleaned it up. Nowadays, what with the Great Recession and all, I do everything myself. I hit upon the old comics method of using blue lines for the underdrawing. I do a fairly complete pencil drawing on tracing paper, and then scan it in and print it on 140lb Arches rough in blue. Once it's inked and scanned, the blue is easy to select and delete. As far as the assistant goes, this is way more efficient, I suppose, but I miss the company. I get interns from time to time, but I often find myself redoing their work at day's end. 

I use these archival print boxes to keep track of each book

Sketches from "I Got Two Dogs" with John Lithgow

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Air Show! With Treat Williams- Release date 6/15/10

Air Show!
It started with a book party for 'Wow City”. Treat Williams and I live in the same town and our kids go to school together. Treat has been flying airplanes of every description since he was in High School- he flew his first solo flight at seventeen. I'd been drawing airplanes of every description since I was a little kid. I filled many sketchbooks with the exploits of Johnny Johnson, Spitfire ace…
When Treat saw my drawing of “Wow Airplane” The idea for the book was born. It was simple. Treat had an airplane, actually two, and my Dad lived in Oshkosh; Oshkosh Wisconsin hosts the biggest air show in the country every summer, the Experimental Aircraft Association Air Venture. Ten thousand airplanes fly in from all over the world- every kind of airplane: the latest big military and commercial jets, lovingly restored historic planes, experimental and cutting edge aircraft designs, and every imaginable private plane, large and tiny. We figured we'd fly out there, write a book, and stay at my dad's- hotels in Oshkosh are booked years out during the air show.
Treat has a two engine private plane, Navajo 95 Charlie Lima, and we took some friends along, also pilots. There was Carl Penner, who has been a commercial airline pilot with Delta (heavy metal) but is also an accomplished stunt flyer and aircraft mechanic. He has a hanger full of banged up old planes that he is restoring at our little country airfield. Carl restored and owns a Chinese Mig15 from the Korean War. Our other pilot was Harry Bibb, also a commercial pilot with Delta, who once flew elephants in Viet Nam for the Air Force. We took along the pilot's three teenage sons, and then me with a sketchbook and camera.
We had a full plane and a full house, so we rented a ramshackle old farmhouse near the Oshkosh airport from one of my high school friends. I stayed at my dad's with the air conditioning. I still hear about that farmhouse….
The Air show was spectacular. Always is, as you can see by the pictures and the book. The flight there and back was terrific fun, being with all the pilots and hearing their chatter and stories. It's an entire, fascinating world, aviation, with it's own language, history and legends.
When we were home, Treat took me flying in his T-6 Texan, a World War II combat trainer and we did loops, rolls and other aerobatics. You sit on your parachute as a cushion and get the drill on how to pop the canopy and bail out if things go south. Throwing up is considered bad form. We buzzed the Wasatch Mountains so close you felt like you could reach out and touch the peaks.
We worked on the book with Donna Bray as our editor and Anne Diebel as our art director. Namrata Tripathi, Tamson Weston & Joann Hill also contributed to the final editing and design. We were just so stoked from start to finish that everything about doing this book was nothing but pure fun. Once, while I was drawing the Boeing B-17 and jabbering on and on about the design characteristics, may assistant called out “Bob! don't geek out on me!” We hope that you and your children enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making it.
  For lot's more cool airplane pictures, click here!