Monday, December 15, 2014

Dummy Book: Version 2

At this point in the book's production, I think I've nailed down the order that the poems will go in, so I've printed a new dummy copy with double-sided pages to get a better sense of the flow and size. I also have tentative mock-ups done for the front and back cover, and another round of revisions done to the text. All of this is subject to change, of course, but it's all part of the process.

There are still two long-form poems (entitled The Boy Who Looked Up and The Great Epic Journey of Professor Stitch-Wicket) which still have yet to be illustrated. As I am currently on holidays until 2015, my goal is to finish these drawings and ring in the new year by saying all the drawings are complete.

Here is a quick 6-second sneak peek, in the form of a Vine, of a few pages in the book as it currently stands. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Book of Secrets...

Sprinkled throughout the book are a few inside jokes and references to other past creative projects from different chapters of my life...student films, unfinished projects, things I wrote when I was kid... and also of various things that will only make sense to close friends of mine who I went to high school or college with. One of these friends e-mailed me out of the blue this week, so I sent him a sneak preview of this particular page, and thought I would post it here too.

Although they are not necessarily linked to the specific words in the poem itself, each video cover in this drawing has a story behind it. These stories will only make sense to a chosen few who were "there." For the rest of you, a magician never reveals his secrets. Unless you ask nicely.

Monday, December 1, 2014

From Pencil to Ink

As I draw pictures for the book, sometimes I take pictures of them with my iPhone so I can have a document of them as pencil sketches and in various stages of completion. Here are a few random snapshots of illustrations from over the past few months. (Click images to make 'em bigger) 

Monday, November 10, 2014


Revealing another sample page from the book...a two-page spread called 'Demons'
(Click to make it bigger)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Inspiration Monday: Quote by Aaron Becker

A fantastic quote was posted this weekend by Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator of the great books Journey and Quest, Aaron Becker. I loved what he said so much I simply wanted to share it here as well. The philosophy behind it gives me a great feeling of inspiration for why I'm compelled to get this project finished and share it with the wider world.

From the following link:

Why Picture Books Are Important by Aaron Becker
The picture book physically connects a child to their world through story. It provides an elemental platform in which storytelling can find its way into the newest members of our planet and provide a moral compass, or at the very least a subtle whisper: “You are not alone. You matter.” When we share a book with a child, an exchange is taking place: a passing-down of wisdom, adventure, joy, and even love. The pictures take on a special significance here. They become the vehicle of communication – the path upon which a young child can walk on, or better yet, to meander through, as they discover which way they want to go. As the world changes, we must ask ourselves what we’re losing in this transition from books to glowing entertainment devices. The fear here, I think, is that without the quieter paths of a shared book, we might all end up lazily building houses made of straw, or worse yet, turn into the big bad wolf himself, searching for the next best thing to eat up.
The picture book is a physical object that demands our engagement and attention. It does this without beeps or whistles or touch screens or promises of something faster, better, and more efficient. It tells us we can take our time. The pictures, within their bound pages, allow children to formulate their own stories; to find their own way. But the picture book also suggests something greater – that the world is a place we might have an actual connection to. In the arms of a parent, a child hears and touches and feels that connection through the simple gift of story. All they have to do – all WE have to do – is slow down and listen. I’ve yet to find an “app” that does this very well.
Gnomes of the Cheese Forest and Other Poems is a different sort of "picture book" in the sense that it's a collection of drawings and words instead of one continuous, wordless story. All the same, it is my hope that the various stories, reflections and drawings within give readers the same sense of connection, wonder and slowing down in this world that feels way too fast and less tactile. I may likely make an e-book version available for practical reasons, but I'm much more excited about it becoming a physical collection of book-shaped molecules to curl up with on a cozy chair.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Kyth-Dryl

In the spirit of the Halloween season, here is another sample page from the book which showcases one of its darker moments.

(This particular creature originally comes from a longer story which I wrote as a draft for a fantasy novel back in 1999...a story which may resurrect itself fully from the back burner one of these days...)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Drawing in Time Lapse

Here's a little sneak behind the scenes of the book being illustrated!

(If only I could really draw this fast...I might have 10 books released by now!)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Reasons to Ban This Book!

It's Banned Books Week, and the Internet has a good number of lists outlining the reasons why so many classic books have been banned over the ages.

A few noted examples here:
12 Crazy Reasons Why Books Have Been Banned

15 Classic Children's Books That Have Been Banned in America

In order to protect the fragile minds of your children, here are several reasons why you should encourage your schools and libraries to ban my book...before it's even published!

- Encourages belief in gnomes and is insulting to real-life manufacturers of dairy products. 

- Encourages sympathy for cranky monkeys and fear of cats. 

- Trees don't really talk. 

- Kids will have nightmares about people and creatures with frightening faces, dark knights, trolls, towel monsters, witches in their attics, and a little man with red teeth. 

- May inspire a sense of wonder and more time outdoors, exposing yourself to harmful UV rays from the sun and loss of revenue to those who build electronic devices. 

- Poetry is not practical. 

Write to someone and stop me before it's too late!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Feature on Story Warren

I was very honored to recently have my illustrated poem Success featured on a favorite website of mine: Story Warren, which celebrates and encourages holy imagination in children's literature. It's a fantastic hub for poetry, short stories and resources for keeping the flame of inspiration going. Many thanks to S.D. Smith for the kind invitation to participate in this inspiring community!

Visit and follow Story Warren here!  Your life will be all the richer for it.

I am now balancing my time working on the book with a freelance animation gig this Fall, plus my usual adventures in teaching, family, dragon-slaying and my secret identity. But never fear, I shall continue to post updates as they happen.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Dummy Book: Version 1

Over the Labour Day Weekend I hit a pretty exciting milestone in the book's journey. I printed out all the pages I had already laid out in the computer, and started the process of figuring out which order they should go in. I also did this so I can see ahead of time what it will potentially look like as a physical book, with actual pages side by side. I could experiment with putting certain pages next to each other and see which illustrations (or pages with only text) look best alongside each other. It's a much different aesthetic than just looking at separate pages in Photoshop.

This first run at a physical "dummy book" is about twice as thick as it will be in final form, since none of the sheets are double-sided yet. It's also a bit larger, being printed on regular 8.5 x 11 paper (the actual book is intended to be 8x10) But overall I think I've come up with a good idea for the order and flow of the poems so far. The cover is still a rough mock-up and could go through some design changes.

But until then, here's a sneak peek at a few pages of the dummy book, which I'm very excited about.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Inspiration Monday: Rooftops in Paris & London

The blog has been on hiatus from updates for a few weeks, as I was sent on a business trip to Paris and London. This was my first time ever in Europe, and it was an incredible experience.

I took many things away from the trip, including a grand sense of scale (seeing how big the Eiffel Tower and some paintings in the Louvre really are), visiting the graves of Jim Morrison and George Melies, and even taking an opportunity to do Monty Python's silly walk barefoot across Abbey Road. (I have photos to prove it)

But in terms of useful material for the book, I took note and captured some images of various rooftops that grabbed my attention. One of the illustrations that has yet to be created is for my long-form poem The Great Epic Journey of Professor Stitch-Wicket, which is planned to be a two-page spread of the professor sailing over a vast cityscape in a hot-air balloon. I've been researching Victorian rooftop images online so far to get ideas, but actually seeing real ones in Europe has given me a more personal sense of inspiration for this yet-to-be-completed drawing.

Here are some of the more interesting ones I discovered. It's highly possible some of these facades could find themselves rendered in ink sometime this Fall...

Feature in Light Magazine

Recently I was invited to have a phone conversation with Craig Ketchum of the local artist collective WeMakeStuff to talk about the book. Some of my ramblings about working on this project have been featured in this spotlight feature for The Light Magazine.

Click the image to enlarge for reading, or click here for the direct link.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Gnomes Emerge....

Here is living proof there actually is a poem in the book about gnomes in a cheese forest....

Monday, June 16, 2014

Clarence the Cowardly Vampire

Just another sample mock-up page from the upcoming book.  Lots more brewing where this one came from.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Inspiration Monday: Mercer Mayer

When it comes to books that have been a wonderful source of inspiration, not only for my own book-in-progress but for my life in general, a big part of that comes from the amazing Mercer particular, a series of books he did back in the '70s which I grew up with and re-discovered over time.

One of the first books I remember my mom reading to me over and over and over and over again was Little Monster's Bedtime Book, a collection of rhymes about creatures such as The Stamp-Collecting Trollusk, the Kerploppus, the wild-n'-windy Typhoonigator and many others. This book was treasured to the point where the final page's benediction of "Good night, sleep tight, don't let the Zipperump-a-zoos bite" became a familiar saying in our house even when the book wasn't being read.


For a long time Little Monster's Bedtime Book and other ones such as Little Monster At School were the only ones I had vague memories of from childhood, and eventually they would go slipping from my everyday consciousness...until one day at University of Michigan, one of my friends living in the dorms had a copy in her room of a book called One Monster After Another. Upon cracking it open, I was faced with an incredible memory pang of a long-forgotten shadow from my youth: the Trollusk, the Grithix and the Grumley, the Yalapappus...many of the same creatures were there, staring back at me, but in more detail and fuller realization than those depicted in the Bedtime Book. In particular, the haunting image of the Wild n' Windy Typhoonigator, there in the sky, sucking up the Blue Ocean of Bubbly Goo, seared itself into my brain. By that time I had forgotten the actual title of the Bedtime Book I had grown up with, and in those days when the Internet was a "new thing" I had very little way to track down the origins of these mysterious memories.  

Thus began a search for the original book that had these wonderful creatures and contained that final line of "Don't let the Zipperump-a-Zoos bite" of which the exact title escaped me. A query through a used-book dealer in Ann Arbor led me to discover not the Bedtime Book, but another distant memory found in Professor Wormbog and the Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo, which they found for me. Though not the exact cigar I was looking for, it was close enough to become another piece of the puzzle, and another fantastic book for my collection. Like the Professor himself, I was still on a search of my own..

Years later after moving to Vancouver, I was walking down Granville Street on my way somewhere, when something (perhaps an angel of some kind) literally stopped me in my tracks and craned my neck to the left, and I found I was standing in front of a used book store I didn't even know was there. I walked inside and discovered, to my delight, a copy of One Monster After Another, in beautiful condition. I'm not making this up. It really happened that way. 

Eventually as the Internets matured and a lovely friend named eBay came along, I did eventually track down a copy of my coveted Little Monster's Bedtime Book (with a different cover design than the copy I had as a kid), and my own search for the book with the good-night blessing was complete.  

Then, topping it off several years later was the day our Auntie Marg cleaned out some books from her house to give our kids, and along with them was Professor Wormbog's Gloomy Kerploppus, which I didn't even know existed! You can imagine the major SQUEE-fest I had upon finding this out. 

All things considered, when I look at these treasured books of mine and read them to my own kids, I marvel at the imagination, the whimsy, and the rich, wonderful details in the illustrations. I pore over them and wish I could draw with the same level of skill, but they give me the spark I need to try my best. Their influence can surely be found in rhymes I have written for my own book, such as Wixel-Flint the Cricket Watcher and other tales of weird & wacky creatures. So it is to Mr. Mayer himself that I raise my glass and thank him so much for lighting my path, with a few Zipperump-a-Zoos hiding along the way. 

Book illustrations © Mercer Mayer/Golden Books

Monday, June 2, 2014

The DJ

Right beside the highway in a desert far away,
Where snakes and lizards slither and coyotes howl and bay,
A tiny building sits there, with no windows, just one door,
Inside there's cracked paint on the walls and carpet on the floor.
The air is thick and stuffy, you could cut it with a knife,
And in the fog a DJ plays the soundtrack to your life...

These are the first few lines of a poem that will be in my book called The DJ.  The inspiration comes from several sources. My dad was a DJ when he went to college, and when I was young he would play me old recordings of his shows. When it came my turn, my first stop upon arriving at University of Michigan was to their WCBN campus radio station, where I had my own free-form show for several years. 

Also one of my favorite poems of all time is Ballad of the Sandman by Mike Agranoff, introduced to me by an old high school buddy of mine. It tells of the history and commercialization of late night radio from its golden age to what it became in the early's a gripping, haunting tale and made all the better in Agranoff's own spoken word recording of it

There is also some inspiration gleaned from Wolfman Jack playing himself in George Lucas' American Graffiti....I love the concept behind this mysterious phantom DJ in a tiny building who is metaphorically playing the soundtrack to the characters' lives as the film plays out. 

My illustration for the poem here is based on the exact layout of the WCBN radio station, where I would sit in the dark hours late night and early morning, spinning records and making magic. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Drawing Details and a Sample Page

This post is long overdue, because our computer was down for awhile, but now it's working again. So here are some sneak-peek details of a few select drawings from the book-in-progress, and a few of its colorful characters (who are in black & white):

This is Old Man Brownie (a little guy who is up to no good)...

...King Monster (who has certain limitations to his effective leadership)...

...The First Griffin (who is very sad and lonely)...

...and a sample page! (Click image to enlarge) Enjoy....lots more to come.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Musical Wheel of Character Designs

At times, the creative process is like a game of musical chairs, eliminating and stripping things away through a rotating wheel of first thoughts, second thoughts, decisions and stumbles. There is also a truth inherent in listening to the work itself, for it knows more than you do. Such was this week as I labored through a full circle of character designs and the frustrating art of drawing trees.

One of the poems in my book is about a strange creature who sits in a tree looking down on the world and grinning.

After the initial idea, I decided the character needed a name, so as my 7-year-old daughter Ariel was in the room drawing with me, I asked her, "What's a good funny name for a character?"

Without missing a beat she replied, "Ka-Biggely Fickle."

Brilliant! Done.

Shortly after some writing and a few revisions later, the poem emerged:

Ka-Biggely Fickle sits up in the trees,
And looks down in wonder at all that she sees.
She takes it all in, 
And then with a grin, 
She closes her eyes just to catch a few Zs.

The first initial sketch of Ka-Biggely Fickle (above) was very much like Alice's Cheshire Cat, and eventually I thought, too much like it. So she evolved through a few more versions to be sitting up on her hind legs and finally arrived to this...

But alas, upon drawing Ka-Biggely Fickle in her resting state and getting Ariel's seal of approval, I butchered the tree she was sitting in, as trees are very difficult to draw. (One of the continuous struggles of this book in general is that many of the poems are either about trees or water, both things I suck at drawing well.)

So, I started the drawing over again, but this time I drew the tree better and butchered Ka-Biggely Fickle. (I shall not post this version of her here, lest you begin to have nightmares. Trust me, it's not good.)

At this point, frustrated beyond all hope, I pulled out a totally different random character from my sketchbook which was not really for any poem or story in particular. I wasn't sure who the character was...nothing more than a doodle really, but I thought, maybe this character is Ka-Biggely Fickle instead. So I re-drew again, using this new character. And for awhile, being quite pleased with how this one looked and felt, I started to believe this was the better way to go.

Until I showed it to Ariel.

She was not convinced. She knew Ka-Biggely Fickle better than I did.

And so, after some deliberation before bathtime, I decided to leave her beloved Ka-Biggely Fickle as she was, and would simply re-draw the tree to place her into it later with a bit of Photoshop layering.

But this other character I had also grown rather attached to, and as "luck" would have it, I had just recently axed one of my other poems for the book, making room for another one to take its place.

And that, my friends, is how Wixel-Flint the Cricket Watcher was born.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sneak Peek at Finished Drawings

It's been a busy week at the drawing board, so I thought I'd share the finished versions of the same drawing details from the previous post. These are merely small snippets from some huge drawings which spread over 6 full pages of the book, along with their accompanying text.

...and here are the first few lines from the poem that goes with them:

If you're looking for fun on your birthday, 
A music-and-laughter-filled mirthday,
There is no place from London to Dallas
Like the ol' Rock and Roll Pizza Palace...
© Ken Priebe 2014 

And here's one more for good measure, since there is a hippo and a monkey in it.