King of Putdowns

King of Putdowns

Recent illustration I did for an upcoming issue of Guide Magazine. That boy at the top of the playhouse likes to put his classmates down with snarky remarks and insults. It prompts the girl to pick up a pine cone and toss it at him.

I'm very proud of this illustration. I was given ample time to work on it, allowing me to sketch and re-sketch the concept out, to get the best possible poses and overall composition. I was able to really take my time on the painting, too. It's nice to have a comfortable turnaround time. Many thanks to Brandon Reese. You're awesome, man.


Ramón Makes a Trade

I guess you could say that this is "Messy Week" here on The Ward-O-Matic. Spotlighting vintage children's books that offer a messier aesthetic than what we're used to seeing from that time. Something outside the norm, you could say. Today's book is:

Ramón Makes a Trade 1
Ramón Makes a Trade by Barbara Ritchie, illustrated by Earl Thollander. Published by Parnassus Press. 1959.

Excellent picture book that is told in both English and Spanish. Nice bold ink lines and characters by Earl Thollander, who worked as an artist-reporter for many years. He illustrated many children's books, even writing a few of his own. Earl died in 2001 at the age of 79.

Some links about Earl Thollander:
Earl's biography.
Earl Thollander on Amazon
Earl Thollander Family Archives (with a photo of the artist).

Earl's bio in the book:

Earl Thollander lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children. From his home and studio he can see the Golden Gate. He not only was born there but has lived there most of his life, except for service as a naval officer in the South Pacific during World Ward II. He has traveled in Mexico and Europe as an artist-reporter. Whereever he goes, he paints the people of the country. He has received many awards for his work, and has been exhibited in San Francisco, New York and Japan.

A look inside the book (click on each image to view larger):

Ramón Makes a Trade 2

Ramón Makes a Trade 3

Ramón Makes a Trade 4

Ramón Makes a Trade 5

Ramón Makes a Trade 6

Ramón Makes a Trade 7

Ramón Makes a Trade 8

Ramón Makes a Trade 9


Chichibio and the Crane

Chichibio and the Crane 1
Chichibio and the Crane, by Giovanni Boccacio. Adapted and illustrated by Lele Luzzati. An Astor Book, Ivan Obolensky Inc., NY. 1961.

Wonderful little children's book featuring illustrations by Emanuele (Lele) Luzzati. Here's what it says about the artist on the back French flap of the dust jacket:

Emanuele (Lele) Luzzati, one of the most versatile and active graphic artists of post-war Italy, was born in Genoa in 1921 and graduated from the School of Fine and Applied Arts in Lausanne in 1945. Since then he has worked with an inexhaustable [sic] freshness and fantasy in many fields, including stage and costume designing for all the important Italian lyric and prose theatres – La Scala, the Venice Festival, the Florence Maggio Musicale, the Rome Opera, etc. As a ceramicist he won first prize in 1955 at the International Ceramic Sow in Cannes. As an industrial designer and decorator he won commissions from companies all over the world. He is responsible for some of the décors of the new Italian liner Leonardo Da Vinci. He has recently completed his first animated cartoon. This is his first book for children.

NY animator Michael Sporn has plenty of information about Luzzati on his "Splog". Look through the category of Luzzati & Gianini. Luzzati often teamed up with Giulio Gianini on various animated films and theatrical performances.

What I love about Luzzati's work is that it's very expressionistic - the stocky characters depicted in scribbles and ink blots evoke emotion even through their somewhat limited poses. The emotions come out through the medium and materials used. In some ways Luzzati's work is the antithesis of all the perfectly rendered characters and scenes painted in the Little Golden Books and schoolbook readers (Dick & Jane, for instance) mass produced around the same time. He was the UPA to Dick & Jane's Disney.

Lele Luzzati died just two years ago, in 2007. He was 85.


Lele Luzzati's official site.
Lele Luzzati on YouTube. (I highly recommend checking out his animated films. Wonderful stuff.)
Obituary in The Guardian.

Click on each image to view larger:

Chichibio and the Crane 2

Chichibio and the Crane 3

Chichibio and the Crane 4

Chichibio and the Crane 5
I really dig this spread. Love the use of negative space to depict the table there.

Chichibio and the Crane 6

Chichibio and the Crane 7
Even with his black & white illustrations (the book is half color, half b&w), we can get a sense of color through Luzzati's expressionistic brushwork and lines.

Chichibio and the Crane 8

Chichibio and the Crane 9
And finally, the endpapers. Love the pen and ink characters up against that pattern.


See and Say by Antonio Frasconi

See and Say 1

See and Say by Antonio Frasconi. A Voyager Book. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., NY. 1955.

Fantastic picture book featuring brilliant woodcuts by artist Antonio Frasconi. What's so cool about this book is the fact that it's in four languages, with the word for each object given in English (printed in black), Italian (blue), French (red), and Spanish (green).

In the intro to the book, Frasconi writes:

Since I was brought up in a home where more than one language was spoken, I was given at an early age the knowledge that there is more than one nation and one way of speaking in our world. The idea that there are many nationalities speaking many languages is to me one the most important for a child to understand.

See and Say has grown from this belief and from my experience and personal need in living with and teaching my son Pablo.

There's no one place to learn about Fasconi, but here are a few links to check out about the man:

Antonio Frasconi on Artcyclopedia
Antonio Frasconi at Davidson's Galleries
Google Image Search for Antonio Frasconi

The dude was born in 1919 and is still living at age 90. Awesome. This was his first children's book.

All images © Antonio Frasconi.

See and Say 2

See and Say 3

See and Say 4

See and Say 5

See and Say 6

See and Say 7



Mos Def

mos def

I know it's weird for me to say this, considering that I illustrated an entire book featuring an Olympic celebrity, but caricature is not my forte. It takes me a long time to get to the point where I'm happy with capturing the essence of a particular subject. I'm still not sure about this one, but I went ahead with it because I was digging the direction I was going. Trying something new with the colors in the background as well as the whole framing device. Something different.

This is Mos Def. He's an emcee.


And Counting


Andrea gave this card to me for our anniversary last year. Felt it was appropriate to post it now. It's a great image. Love the characters here. If you notice, the wife's blouse has actual sparkles on it. The same for the centers of the flowers on the husband's apron. Nice touch. When you open the card up, it says: "Everything sure PANNED OUT fine for YOU TWO! Congratulations!" (There's an illustration of two eggs cooking in a pan. har har!)

Here's to 15 - heck, 50 more, Mrs.

Love you.


(magic fifteen on hulaseventy.)


15 Years

Illustration Friday: Dance

Happy Anniversary, Andrea.

It's been a fantastic 15 years together with you. Looking forward to many, many more.