KirKus Review for CRAVES

Rolled those pricey dice again and threw myself at the mercy of Kirkus Reviews. For those of you just joining us, they are the industry standard for book reviews, offering fair and (sometimes brutally) honest critiques. Here's what they had to say about CRAVES:   

Readers who have felt that the things they want in life are like a pet—or monster—trailing them will see that concept depicted in this moral tale.
A young boy introduces a creature that looks like a dog saying, “This is my CRAVE.” The boy narrates, showing how all individuals have a CRAVE. CRAVES follow closely behind their humans in each image, looking like pets to all the schoolchildren. The boy explains that sometimes he feeds his CRAVE, but only a little, because after eating, it grows stronger and bigger. The joyful expressions on the well-fed CRAVES are delightful, but also sinister for adults, who should see where this story is going: the more people feed their desires and bad habits, the greater their presence in their lives. Johnston (Lelani and the Plastic Kingdom, 2014, etc.) illuminates this idea by depicting older kids whose CRAVES are no longer pet-sized but as tall as they are. He shows a range of adults: some have small CRAVES; some have bigger ones; some have CRAVES that follow farther behind; and others have CRAVES right on their heels. When a humongous CRAVE appears, the boy explains: “But some people have been feeding their CRAVES too much, for too long…and they are the biggest and strongest of all.” Those powerful CRAVES don’t follow but lead, with their humans lagging behind. The author’s beautiful, detailed black-and-white pictures with the cute, puppylike CRAVES are sure to have plenty of kid appeal, but adults will likely get the most out of this cautionary tale. Older elementary schoolers may be able to use this story in a critical reading discussion, considering what CRAVES really are and whether or not it’s healthy to feed them. The images offer a fairly diverse cast in terms of skin tone and a large assortment of ages and sizes for the humans (as well as their desires). The layered, hand-drawn, and painted illustrations suit the tone of the book perfectly.
This inventive story about the dangers of feeding desires should spark dynamic discussions with youngsters. —KIRKUS REVIEWS

So, yeah! Pretty happy that they understood what I was aiming for with this book, and they seem to think I hit my mark. You know what the industry gurus have to say, now grab a copy and find out for yourself HERE.

Tattoo design...and it became an actual tattoo!

My aunt Amy commissioned a tattoo design last summer. Over the course of a dinner, she described her vision: sun with a face, mandala patterns, not overly complex, and about 2" diameter. I tinkered with it on and off during the summer and fall:

and sent her this design in December: 

She responded with: "Oh Robb!!! This is IT! <3 Yaay!!!" It's pretty awesome when you can take someone's idea and transform it into something they can actually see. She went to the tattoo shop recently and walked out with this:

Pretty cool! She combined some of the facial features of the earlier design with the simplicity of the second. I really like the addition of stippling (a specialty of the tattoo artist); I think it's awesome how our two styles combined so effectively to create this wonderful piece.   


Valentine coloring Page!

Happy February you guys! If you're looking for the perfect semi-NSFW, Adventure Time-inspired Valentine for that special someone, head to the ol' Dropbox and get your color on! File is HERE. Don't have the words to express your true feelings? Say it with Jake the Dog and Finn the Human.



A nice note from Indiana.

I got a nice message the other day via Facebook from someone I met last summer:

Hi there. We met at the Devil’s Lake Arts Festival last summer (2014) and you donated a copy of “The Woodcutter and the Most Beautiful Tree” to the library where I work (Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN). Anyways...I was just going though pictures from last year and came across this one of my kids holding your book after it was processed and put on the library’s shelf. Thought you might like to see it. We enjoy our personal copy of The Woodcutter... quite often. Thanks for making such a beautiful book!
We like books. We LOVE Crocs.

We like books. We LOVE Crocs.

Thanks for the wonderful message, Mandy! 

Merry Christmas coloring pages!!!

This Christmas, I'm thankful for all the blessings of another year gone by. I'm grateful for all the support family, friends, and strangers have shown to this humble artist/author/illustrator.  So, I'd like to offer a small gift to you in this season of giving.

If you're the sort that takes joy, peace, or relaxation from coloring, please feel free to download and print these pages for your chromatic enjoyment. Here's a link to the DROPBOX. I hope you enjoy my first dipping-of-the-toes into the coloring pages sphere. I would absolutely LOVE to see what these look like colored :) Have fun,  and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Snowed-in on a Saturday

This past Saturday, winter re-introduced itself to Michigan. As the snow piled-up outside the windows, I hunkered down over my table and (to the glorious sound of the radio broadcast of MSU's win over OSU) finished this piece, which will be in the May issue of a new children's magazine coming out next year. 





This concept has changed a LOT since I was first asked to contribute to the magazine. My direction boiled down to: Spring, nature. Beyond that, I had a lot of freedom, which is always both exciting and paralyzing. Once I'd settled on what would become the final design (after pages and pages of sketches and tinkerings), it came together pretty quickly. I haven't done too much with forestscapes...I find them a bit intimidating. I'm pleased with this one in terms of detail (never sure how much to include in the forest), and differentiating between fore-, middle-, and background (normally a struggle for me). 

Dear Michigan: Thanks for the walnuts and fungus

ArtPrize 7 starts this week! Here's a look at my finished entry, a diptych titled "Portraits from the Arbor." 

16"x20" Black Walnut ink and mushroom spores on Arches Watercolor Paper

not pictured: totally baller antique frames

Still on the to-do list for AP:

  • Write Artist's Statement
  • Print business cards
  • Hang out at my venue, Palatte Coffee and Art in GR :)

I hope you have a chance to make it to town for this year's event. ArtPrize generally has some really cool and inspiring work on display. And I can tell you that my venue specifically has some really stunning art from some very talented artists.

ArtPrize 7 Work-in-Progress

I've begun work on my entry for this year's ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids (Sept. 23rd - Oct. 11th). I'll be using homemade black walnut ink on Arches 140 lb. hot-press watercolor paper.

Portraits from the Arbor

Portraits from the Arbor

Once all the ink work is finished, it'll be time to head into the forest to collect mushrooms for the spore prints! I'm so excited to be hosted by Palatte Coffee & Art this year. I think it will be the perfect venue for ArtPrize attendees to reflect upon, and connect with, the art on display.  

More info on my ArtPrize 7 entry, Portraits from the Arbor.

Here's some info about my venue, Palatte Coffee & Art

Back to Tecumseh

Had a GREAT time this past weekend in Tecumseh for the annual Community Arts of Tecumseh "Art in the Park." AP is my longest running streak for any art fair (3 ohmygosh), and I got to see lots of familiar faces, both fellow exhibitors and guests. I had copies of Lelani and The Plastic Kingdom to sell and sign, which I didn't have in time for last year's event. It was awesome reconnecting with fans of The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree and introducing them to my newest. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous going into my first art show of the season with a new book...but people seemed to be really receptive to the book and also to it's message. I talked to a handful of teachers, so hopefully I'm able to make it out to some schools next year.

New sign.

New sign.

What a lucky duck! This is a copy of "The Woodcutter" that I had drawn in as past of my artist's demo during Art-A-Licious last year. It was mixed-in with the remainder of my stock and popped-up on Saturday.

What a lucky duck! This is a copy of "The Woodcutter" that I had drawn in as past of my artist's demo during Art-A-Licious last year. It was mixed-in with the remainder of my stock and popped-up on Saturday.

That's one down! Excited for the rest of the summer :) See you at Devil's Lake in a couple weeks.


Commissioned piece (work-in-progress)

This is a piece for David, a friend and fellow children's book author (you can see his excellent book HERE). David also happens to be the principal at Great Lakes Elementary in West Ottawa, the same school where my sister teaches.

David asked me for a piece that depicts the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, and also includes an Ethiopian angel. After a little bit (A LOT) of research into these elements, I settled on this composition: 

I'm trying to integrate my own style into a traditional Coptic Ethiopian style. It's been very interesting learning about the coffee ceremony and Ethiopian iconography. 

Roasting and grinding beans,  pouring the coffee

Roasting and grinding beans,  pouring the coffee

Traditional incense burner with the first little bits of pen work. 

Traditional incense burner with the first little bits of pen work. 

I've started adding watercolor, so pics of the finished piece soon (hoooopefully!).