Dragon Abbey

Year of the Dragon Abbey

I wanted to do a little sketch for the Year of the Dragon, but I think I've just been watching too much Downton Abbey. It's odd the way things come on my radar, and then I see them everywhere. About two weeks ago my mom told me to check out Downton Abbey, and now I see everyone talking about it. But, that's because it's awesome and everything looks like a moving Sargent painting.

Also this dragon may or may not just be a creature version of our goblin-cat, Loki.

I hope all are well.

ALA Midwinter Dallas Guide

ALA Midwinter

The American Library Association's Midwinter Conference is being held in Dallas this year, and I am very excited. The children's book world rarely ventures into my backyard, and though I'm not attending, I wanted to lend a local perspective to all our literary minded visitors.

To preface- Dallas gets a bad rap. We're not quite as cool as Austin, but I have grown to appreciate Dallas as a city with lots to do, full of kind, intelligent people. The main downside is that you'll need a car to get around most places. Some areas are more pedestrian friendly than others, but I've yet to do much without a car in this city. So provided you've rented a car for the conference and have some extra time, I hope these spots help you enjoy the city during your visit.

ALA is being held downtown, which isn't known for having the most character. It's an area more geared towards businesses and can be a bit spartan, but here are a few places close to the convention center to have on your radar:
  • The Iron Cactus- Close by, pretty good Mexican food (not my favorite in the city by far, but you probably don't want to drive all the way up to Chuy's)
  • Dallas Farmer's Market- A set of permanent buildings, open all week, year round. Building 2 has a number of permanent vendors set up selling lunch fare. A favorite of mine.
  • City Tavern- After being on your feet for 8 hours carrying around tons of ARCs, you will have earned a post conference beer. Plus they're open late.
  • (A handful of others, gleaned from friends- Roma Express- Quick, pretty good Italian food. Sol Irlandes- more Mexican! The Bistro at the Adolphus- a hotel restaurant, but reportedly a good one)
Stuff to do downtown-
If ALA is anything like conferences I've been to, I'm going to guess that you have very little free time, and even less free energy. So if you have time for ONE fun activity downtown, might I suggest visiting the Dallas Museum of Art? The current exhibit there is Jean Paul Gaultier's body of couture fashion designs, it's really phenomenal (I've been twice already!). The DMA is a good size museum, in that you can see a lot and not feel exhausted in the end. This Friday is Late Night at the DMA, so it's open 'til midnight. The DMA's restaurants are surprisingly good as well.

Venturing slightly away from Downtown, to my stomping grounds, Deep Ellum-
I have worked in Deep Ellum for about three years, and am grateful to have a treasure trove of good restaurants at my disposal. It's a very easy 5 minute drive out of downtown, there's no getting on highways. So, if you want a good place to eat and aren't pressed for time by the convention, I recommend giving it a visit, if for no reason other than our 50-foot robot statues!
  • Twisted Root- Famous for burgers. Closest to downtown, it's right on Commerce Street. They make everything from scratch, down to the ketchup and mustard. Try the root beer, they make that too. Lines are a little crazy if you arrive at 12 on the dot, but they have it down to a system, so it's not that bad.
  • Cane Rosso- If the line at Twisted Root IS too long (or you don't want a burger), Il Cane Rosso across the street is a fast and delicious wood-fired pizza place.
  • Uncle Uber's Sammich Shop- Down the street from both of those, Uncle Uber's opened within the past few months, and has become a favorite at our studio. Veggie Banh mi, heck yes. Also, a perfect to-go spot if you just want to drive into Deep Ellum, get your food, and get back to the convention.
  • BuzzBrews- Across from Uncle Uber's, BuzzBrews is a great lunch spot. Good coffee, good if you could eat breakfast all day like I could. This place is just cozy.
  • Angry Dog, St. Pete's Dancing Marlin, and Baker's Ribs are also on Commerce, and are also all good options.
  • Also in the Deep Ellum area and worth a mention- Pepe's and Mito's for very tasty Mexican food, Serious Pizza for fast to-go slices, All Good and Cafe Brazil for more brunchy fare and good coffee.
And, if you rented a car and can't stand the radio station, our NPR station is 90.1 (I know you well, librarian brethren ;) ).

I hope everyone coming to Dallas has a splendid time, and that some of these suggestions prove useful. Best of luck and have a great conference!

The Book Thief

The Book Thief
(First, I should note that this was an illustration I did for pleasure, not a professional job. Thanks!)

Last year we started a book club with some women from my work. Last week marked one year that we've kept it all going, despite our busy schedules and changing lives. We haven't picked The Book Thief (yet?!) but we've often brought it up as a possible book choice. This got me thinking about the first time I read it a few years ago, and in turn, the cover.

The American cover for The Book Thief has never really sat well with me. If you're unfamiliar with the book, it's a Holocaust story, narrated by Death, about a young girl named Liesel growing up in Nazi Germany, who steals books. From graves, from book burnings, from houses. It's one of my favorite books in recent memory.

I understand the marketing challenge of a book like The Book Thief.
For starters, you have:
Female main character.
Young main character.
Heavy material.
Is it for kids or adults?
Did I mention it's narrated by Death?

And though it is a Holocaust story, it is far more than that. It's a coming of age story, a slice of humanity in the face of adversity, and far less depressing than it sounds. But still, how do you sell a book like that? In this, the American cover succeeds. It's enigmatic and gritty, and sidesteps the heavy stuff in favor of just "mysterious" and "dark." But it still got me a little restless.

Above you can see my stab at it all, albeit an obvious and imperfect solution. One that probably wouldn't fly with publishers for the reasons I mentioned earlier. But I wanted to give a nod to a good book the way I did back when I did my book covers while I was in school. In this, I'm not trying to sell the book, I'm just trying it on for size, and paying homage to a story I love.

Thanks for taking a look. And take care.

Hero Academy & Numberlys

So, it seems my previous blog post was premature, since I ended up also getting sick, and being out of commission most of this week. But, in taking a break from art for a moment, I want to draw your attention to two iPhone apps out this week, from talented friends of mine.

First, my new obsession, Hero Academy from Robot Entertainment

My better half Drew Olson did the art and characters, so I am probably biased, but it's tons of fun. Hero Academy is a turn based strategy game, and for someone who knows nothing about strategy games, I'm still finding it a really fun and exciting experience. (Plus it's free in the App Store!)

And second, Numberlys a beautiful new app from my friends at Moonbot Studios

Numberlys seems to be an alphabet/story/game/short film/whatelse?! app done in the style of old timey movies like Metropolis. A beautiful follow up to their Morris Lessmore app, I'm glad so much good art and creativity is coming out of the south these days.

Hope everyone enjoys both of these, and I hope to be back in gear soon to show some new work. Thanks!


Happy New Year everyone! Hope no one else is sick now, since everyone else around me is. I got away with only a case o' the sniffles, but I've been making soup and tea all week for Drew who is battling an all-out plague. Being sick is no fun except for the fact that cats get 2x cuddlier. I swear they can tell when you're sick.

We're already a week into the new year, so I'll save you my pontificating and reflecting. I just know 2011 was a really great year for me, and I am hoping to keep the ball rolling for 2012. We ended the year with a trip to San Francisco to visit art school buddies Matt, Megan, and Mclean, to go hiking and such.

Everything in California looks like this and nothing in Texas does.

And let's round out this post with some sketchbook stuff:

Keeping a mini-watercolor palette around while I watch movies

Gossipy girls

Drew told me to draw a mage and I clearly know nothing about fantasy archetypes. But here's a kid with her daemon probably.

Thanks as always for reading.