Merry Christmas

The First Noel
The First Noel illustrated by Alice & Martin Provensen. 1959. This is my staple Christmas post - I absolutely love the illustrations in this book and will share this with you, my readers annually because they are so worth sharing. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, people.

With much love, peace & happiness,
Ward Jenkins aka Ward-O-Matic.

The First Noel: title page

The First Noel: 1-2

The First Noel: pp. 5-6

The First Noel: pp. 7-8

The First Noel: pp. 11-12

The First Noel: pp. 13-14

The First Noel: pp. 17-18

The First Noel: pp. 21-22

And finally, the back cover:

The First Noel: back cover


Merry Christmas Eve

The Condenser 1957

A wonderful gift from a good friend of mine, Brad Ross-McCloud aka The King of Jingaling. Thanks, Brad! You know me so well.

A great illustration by "Faulkner," from 1957.


Phoenix Illustrations

I've always wanted to do editorial illustrations for magazines and newspapers and I've done some here and there, but never of any celebrities or important people in the news. Until recently. The Phoenix in Boston asked me to do a few illustrations of people to accompany interviews, and boy, was I thrilled.

The first was of documentary filmmaker and author Errol Morris, who was interviewed for the November 9th, 2012 issue. Here's the rough sketch first:

Errol Morris - rough
I drew this with my Cintiq in Photoshop - I have a pencil brush I use for the black lines, and a chalk brush for the brushy, pastel-y effect for the grays. I decided to abandon the ribbon encircling Errol with all the interviewers and cameramen because I thought it seemed cliché.

As I was working on the various different shades of gray on his face, I liked the effect that gave me, so I decided to take it further in the color stage:

Errol Morris
My concept with the multi-hued color treatment here was that I liked the idea of how Errol approaches his subjects - viewing them through a multi-faceted lens, so to speak. Trying to look at any and all aspects of a particular event that might've affected a subject, like the Jeffery MacDonald case from 1972 - of which he's written a book about the case and why he was being interviewed by the Phoenix in the first place.

The next illustration I did was of political statistician Nate Silver for the November 5th, 2012 issue. (I actually drew the Errol Morris one first, but the interview was held until after this one was published.) Below is the rough sketch, again drawn in Photoshop on my Cintiq:

Nate Silver - rough
For both illustrations, I had already drawn several pencil sketches in my sketchbook leading up to the digital sketching, as a way of trying to get the subject right. For Nate, I felt that I got his appearance right away. Errol was a bit more difficult to capture. (I'm not a caricaturist by heart - but I do my best.)

Nate Silver final
I really had fun drawing this one of Nate. I went with the obvious red/blue for the two opposing political parties - splitting Nate right down the middle, so as not to give any preference for him (since he's just stating facts & figures on his blog and not offering any opinions). Notice that his left is blue, his right is red. AND, notice that in the background, the left side is blue, the right is red. Worked out perfectly, I think! Nate's blog on the NYTimes site is called FiveThirtyEight Blog, hence the number "538" in the illustration.

Been really enjoying working on these illustrations, even with a quick turnaround. I'm happy to say that I'm currently working on a third piece for the Phoenix - of an actress/musician who's in one of my favorite current TV shows. Very much looking forward to working on that one!


SCBWI Bulletin Cover

Bulletin in person

You probably have heard me talk about SCBWI here from time to time. It's the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and they are dedicated in helping people who are writers and illustrators to better hone their craft with the hope of getting published. I've attended several of the conferences they've put out, including one national and several local chapters. This past May I was honored to be a part of the faculty for our local chapter's annual gathering, SCBWI-Oregon's Spring Conference. One of the highlights during the 2-day event was sitting next to Lin Oliver during the faculty panel. I mean, really? C'mon, the Lin Oliver? Executive Director of SCBWI? Sitting next to me? It was a bizarre moment.

At one point, Lin leaned over to me and said how much she loved my work. She'd been looking at my postcards and portfolio and liked what she saw. She then asked if I'd be willing to illustrate a future Bulletin cover. After picking up my jaw from my lap, I said "uh, HECK YEAH!" No, actually I think I was a bit more subtle, but I was definitely floored and flabbergasted that she'd consider me as a future cover artist for them. I told her yes, it would be quite an honor.

So, fast-forward several months and I'm doing sketches for the cover. I had an idea that stemmed from talking with Andrea about what to illustrate. See, each issue has a kite for its theme - the SCBWI logo features a kite, therefore every issue has had a kite featured either prominently or not so prominent on the cover. I wanted to do something vastly different, and not go any typical route, like flying kites up on a hill or something. After brainstorming with me for several minutes, Andrea at one point said, "Well, what about doing a mural?" That's it. Something clicked in my head and I started sketching right away. Out of that session, I ended up with two main roughs that I sent to SCBWI for approval:


So, the idea would be that the mural would serve as a beacon of warmth and light in the midst of a blustery, wintery, snowy day, right in the throes of winter. Much like graffiti does in the middle of blighted areas: pops of color blooming like poppy blossoms in a stark, vast field. I was excited about this idea and was extra excited to work out a little visual play with the boy spray painting the kite's string, making it look like he was actually pulling the kite.

The version that was chosen was the top one - the lower point of view made it easier to see the large mural, as the other version felt less intimate. I thought that the impact of this colorful mural was getting lost. My SCBWI contact felt so, too.

So, here's the final for you to check out, in all its brilliantly loud glory:
SCBWI Bulletin Nov/Dec 2012

(By the way, please be sure to give credit if you decide to share with your peoples - many thanks!)

The Christmas season is upon us and I'm slowly but surely getting into the spirit of things here. Hope this gives you a little jolt of happiness, just in time for the weekend. Enjoy!


When M. Sasek meets NBA

NRDC NBA Adds Up PSA - Ward Jenkins/Paul Golden from FFAKE Animation on Vimeo.

It's been a while since I'd directed anything lately, so it was a welcome pleasure for Paul Golden of Ffake to contact me about co-directing this fun public service announcement for the NBA and NRDC. That's National Basketball Association (of course) and the National Resources Defense Council - they're all about going green and recycling, etc. The PSA was a simple walk through of all the ways that the NBA has been working with the NRDC to make sure the league is going green - mostly through the basketball arenas and facilities.

Paul wanted to emulate the look and feel of M. Sasek and his "This Is..." children's book series, and I - of course, couldn't say no to that. It was quite a fun adventure working on this spot. Below are some of the first sketches I did of the NBA player and the NRDC scientist guy: Sketches 1 Sketches 2 Sketches 3

After some more sketches, finally got it down to a decent look for the scientist - more of a goofy guy who's a little behind the times with his basketball outfit: characters 3 NBA/NRDC characters in color

Of course, we ended up having to change the gender of the scientist, which is perfectly fine with me. Just meant there was more work to do, while the deadline never changed.

Here are some of the rough, penciled layouts:
rough layout sc02a rough layout sc02b rough layout sc03a & b rough layout sc05 rough layout sc06

And now, here are the final backgrounds with final color treatments for the characters (they were all eventually reworked and animated in Flash).

Scene 01:

Scene 02: This scene required the most work. I referred to a lot of Sasek's books that had lots of downtown buildings to get the look right. Here's the regular version of the arena scene:
sc02 main
And here's the same shot, but with a cutaway of the arena:
sc02 open

Scene 03:

Scene 04 with the characters:

And here's Scene 04 background only:
NBA/NRDC sc04 background

Scene 05 with characters:

And here's Scene 05 background only:
NBA/NRDC sc05 background

Scene 06:

Scene 08, wherein we have to put all the appropriate logos at the end tag:

I know that I've shared a lot of images here, but you can see all these as well as a few more in this Flickr set: NBA/NRDC PSA.



Book Idea

Been working on a picture book idea for a while now, and so I thought I'd share with you some of the character designs and a spread from the book. It's mostly in rough form - a book dummy, actually - with a few color treatments. Here are the main characters: Daddy Book 1
A Dad and his disapproving twins.
Daddy Book 2 At one point, the kids have to get Daddy up since he doesn't want to. Both have to put their backs into it!

Of course, I'm in the midst of changing a big portion of the story around. As typical in creating stories, what sounded perfect one minute might sound completely ridiculous the next. Or, it's just not working. That happens in making books. The hard part is to be open and honest with yourself. And not get too married to certain aspects of the story. Because more often than not, you'll find yourself exorcising those parts in order to make the best possible story for your readers. It's been a learning experience for me, which is always a good thing. Below are some rough sketches of the characters: daddy sketches 1

daddy sketches 2

So, it'll be interesting to see where this takes me. I'm excited about the possibility of reworking the story and seeing how all the pieces will fit. I love the process. It's not an easy thing, writing a children's book - that's for sure. Don't let anyone tell you that it's a cinch. It's not. Just ask any successful children's book writer out there - they'll be the first to let you know that it's a very difficult thing to master. So, yeah - it's going to be difficult, but I know it'll be fun going through the process.


That Michael Phelps Book I Illustrated

How To Train With a T. Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals
The 2012 London Olympics are in full swish and so I thought I'd showcase the first picture book I illustrated for Simon & Schuster, How To Train With a T. Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals, which came out in 2009 - a year after Michael Phelps made Olympic history by winning 8 gold medals during one Olympics. Quite an incredible feat, and one that might not be ever duplicated. The book was a challenge for me - not as challenging as what Mr. Phelps had to endure of course, but it definitely required endurance and stamina on my part - pulling all-nighters and working on re-dos and do-overs. And honestly, I enjoyed working on it. Being my first book, I wanted to prove to both myself and my publishers that I could do it. All the hard work was worth it.
How To Train With a T. Rex: pages 4-5
How To Train With a T. Rex: pages 6-7
How To Train With a T. Rex: pages 28-29
I know that Michael is not doing as well in London as he did in Beijing, but that's okay. The book puts into perspective the crazy amount of training Michael went through for the six years leading up to the 2008 Olympics - maybe after achieving such a tremendous goal, his training wasn't as strong for the four years leading up to the current Olympics. Who knows? I wish him well. I've never met the guy (it's not typical for artists to actually meet the author/co-author of the picture books that they're working on), but I will definitely be rooting for the guy when he swims tonight. He may reach another record: winning the most medals ever for an Olympic athlete.
Look! The book! Here's a page on my site about the book:
How To Train With a T.Rex And Win 8 Gold Medals

And here's some more photos of the book in my Flickr set:
How To Train With a T.Rex And Win 8 Gold Medals Flickr set

Look! Michael went on Conan (back when he was still on NBC) to promote the book:
Hey Look!


Vinyl Kid ends TODAY

Heads up - today is the last day that my t-shirt design Vinyl Kid will be available to order. After that, it's gone! Hurry! Hurry! (No pressure, but HURRY.) For show & tell, here's the rough sketch of Vinyl Kid:    Vinyl Kid pencil

After that, I did final pencil lines using regular graphite pencil and a Prismacolor black pencil, which has a thicker, blacker line:

Vinyl Kid line

And here's the final with color added:


End of day today! Go and get it!