Emily, my excellent intern and I have been working on new gifs. We’ll be making more out of old drawings, and new as they come up…
Little Smokey will be released August 6th 2019…
One of my favorite books as a child and a source of inspiration for Smokey was “The Little Engine That Could.” Like the little engine, Smokey isn’t quite ready to play in the majors. When my kids were little, they always wanted to help- whatever the task- painting a room, planting the garden- and they were told that they were too small. “I know I’m small, but I can help!” was the chorus, and that’s Little Smokeys wish too. And little Smokey gets her day…
I’d like to thank Katherine Harrison, my editor at Knopf for all of her insight into shaping this book- also our designer, Sarah Hokanson, who makes the words and pictures sing. Special thanks to Joe Zimmer, Deputy Director Idaho BLM (retired) and to Christine Schuldheisz, Public Affairs Specialist, United States Forest Service, Fire and Aviation Management; for their expertise and fact checking (airplanes can talk, you know.)
And of course to Linda Pratt, my wonderful agent, who believed in Smoky from the start.
I worked in watercolor most of my life- using it in combination with digital painting gives the art texture, luminosity, and depth. I spent a few weeks on vacation in Vermont and just painted trees- here are a few…
The original Bertha was white/chrome, but I mixed up the colors for better establishing character, and a whole lot of these firefighters are red.
That’s all for now. The first review is in from Kirkus;
The little spotter plane that could. Channeling old Disney shorts, Neubecker sets his tale among the aerial firefighters of the National Interagency Fire Center. When it comes to forest fires, the water-scooper and air-tanker planes have clearly defined jobs to do. One little plane, who hasn't even "earned her name" yet, yearns to help her companions, but her every attempt is denied. Then one day, a fire starts that can only be reached by someone small, fast, and brave, and the rest is history. The story of a little vehicle that could has been done before, but this book stands apart. Fully half the emergency planes featured are identified as female (including the biggest tanker and the titular heroine). Meanwhile, watercolor, pencil, and computer illustrations create thick evergreens engulfed in swirls of orange and red flames as white and gray smoke permeates the space that is left. So enthralling are these landscape scenes that they feel positively cinematic. Angled views often present the planes with just one eyeball instead of the two that are clearly present when seen face on, but this inconsistency is only mildly unnerving. Copious backmatter discusses how wildfires start, who fights them, who the crews are, what aerial firefighting is, what readers can do, and where readers can go for more wildfire information. This book may look like a classic, but with forest fires ever more frequent and intense, it's truly timely. (Picture book. 3-6)
After almost 25 years in New York, I escaped to Utah. I have unique neighbors- moose here are like sacred cows in India, everyone reveres them. But they are dangerous when startled or angered, and have been known to kill people and dogs- So we give them a wide berth. These photos are shot mostly from inside our house or on the deck. The woods shots are taken from a safe distance and where one can scurry behind some trees if it comes to that.
Easy- peezy. New capability…
Each week I draw a column for Science Magazine- the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It’s called Working Life, and it’s a series of essays written by a diverse collection of scientists from all over the world, in all stages and walks of life. I’ve done drawings of fleeing war in Syria, sexual harassment, family life, motherhood, the trials and tribulations of post-doc life, immigration, career paths, you name it. My design team is Marcy Atarod & Holly Bishop, with editor Donisha Adams.
This has been a really fun gig for the last few years. The authors are almost always drawn in the illustrations, and so far they really love it. Fan letters from scientists! Here are just a few. These are always done in two formats, square for the print version, and horizontal for the web. It can be tricky… R.
More Library Show! I couldn’t be happier with having my illustration Show in the Children’s Library in this fabulous building in the center of a metro area of two million. The show runs all summer long. Having a show in such an openly public venue, especially a library, is perfect for this work. I focused on the kids books and hung them at 50” centers so the kids could see them easily. Photographing the show was tough- I used my phone, which was not adequate, but through the magic of photoshop I salvaged the exposure somewhat. I had to shoot them at knee level... I'd like to thank Librarian Robyn Green and Assistant Librarian Tressie Rollins for all their help in making this possible, and for hanging all the pictures- no mean feat. It's a real honor to be here. This is the hub of urban life in Salt Lake, the center of the city. And, as we open, the Pride Festival is just outside in Washington Park. Utah. Wow.
One of the most fun parts of my job as an Author/Illustrator is reading to kids in schools and libraries. The Greater Salt Lake Library system sent out a call for artists to hang shows in their many libraries across the Wasatch Front- I sent them a link to my website and here we are- the children's section of the main library in Salt Lake City. It's a remarkable piece of architecture, and a community center for a growing metropolitan area of over two million people. The show will be up all summer, June 4th to mid August. So this is a big thing. I've concentrated on my thirty plus kid's books, but, having been an outspoken editorial illustrator for a lot of years, there's a lot of that too. Robyn Green, the head librarian, said: "Good. It'll make 'em think."
Below are some pictures of the framing process in my studio. My framing is done by Mary Schawb of Avenues Frames- a to the trade framer in our old 19th century neighborhood in Salt Lake. For the show we found some very affordable ready mades from Dick Blick and Mary cut mats- a lot of these are digital and were printed on my Epson 1430 on heavy matt paper.
We framed north of sixty illustrations.
Our Book, Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing is up for the Texas Bluebonnet Award from the Texas Library Association. This is a big deal- Penguin Random House flew us in and we signed hundreds of books for schools and libraries all over Texas, from Houston to North Zulch (yes, real). Much graciousness and southern hospitality in Dallas. The final award winner is chosen by the kids from among a short list of children's lit that they read and review over the coming year. Very honored and excited to be on that list! Much thanks to Jessica Garrison , Rachel Wease & Vanessa Carson from Penquin for all their help.
We gave a talk to two hundred selected Texas librarians and donated a few hundred books to school and public libraries.
Jessica, Penguin, Leo Espinosa and Junot Diaz's Island Born... thousands of bookies were about to flood in.
I"ve been working with Trent on Opera News for a few years now. Most of the projects entail a full page or spread with a spot or three. Some of these articles are pretty intellectual, after all, it's opera. The latest published piece is about the morbid introspection of Contemporary American Opera. In the past, Opera would take on the classic themes of morality, good and evil, love gained and lost, greed and betrayal, redemption. Generally outward looking. Contemporary American Opera is much more morally ambiguous, introspective, blurring the line between good and evil. Here are the sketches and the final layout:
This one is adventures in Trumpland; how small opera companies will be decimated by his regime.
The following are spreads for a piece on The Flying Dutchman:
This image was for a piece on being gay in the theater during the Eisenhower Administration:
And, to finish up, here are a piece on funding Italian Opera companies:
Three cards, two for me, and one for the Global Family Research project. Guess which is which...I had fun with all! Merry Holidays!
I draw for the Your Money column by Ron Lieber in the paper most Saturdays. We've been exploring what the hell happened at Equifax and how to deal with it. The following drawings are from various recent columns addressing the issue. I've included sketches too, as they're often funnier that the ones we ran. Remember, kids, freeze those credit reports.
Space Boy and the Snow Monster is the third in a series of graphic novels for kids written by Dian Curtis Regan. We're published by Boyds Mill Press, Mary Colgan editor & Tim Gillner art director. These were big fun to do- I grew up on comics of every description and was very interested in doing a graphic novel. To get to do three was a real treat. There was an evolution in technique, going from pencils to Wacom tablet, then finally wholly on Cintiq. The second book, Space Boy and the Space Pirates won the Crystal Kite Award 2017 from SCBWI and is a finalist for the 2017 Colorado Book Award. I won that in 2013, Children's Literature, with Jean Reidy for "Time Out for Monsters." This just came out, October 2017...
I had a lot of fun with this one. David is a V.P. for animation production over at Nickelodian, and I got to meet Spongebob. It was one of the highlights of my life, the best day ever. This tome is brought to you by Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, under the guidance of the incomparable team of Andrea Welch & Lauren Rille.
King Louie was a very BIG king in all ways but one: He was five-feet-four-inches short. So Louie and his royal cobbler cooked up the perfect high-heeled solution to help Louie appear taller. But after an embarrassing tumble (on the dance floor, no less!) Louie learned that his subjects were loyal no matter how big—or how shrimpy—their beloved Louie might have been. Readers young and old will relate to this silly and sweet story of King Louie XIV—a man who had it all, but still felt small.
"Neubecker’s cartoon illustrations are bright and full of whimsy. The details of baroque architecture and clothing are depicted in an accessible manner, and the characters are humorous and expressive, especially the baby-faced Louie." - School Library Journal June 1, 2017
"Neubecker... clearly having fun drawing his characters’ Baroque get-ups, portrays the monarch at a humbling height disadvantage compared to the rest of his court, which should win the Sun King instant sympathy with the book’s target audience." - Publishers Weekly May 22, 2017