Monday, August 27, 2007

nature boy

ACHTUNG: if'n bugs make you squeamish, you better sit this one out.

every morning during the summer, part of the morning ritual is going outside to water the plants.

i stepped out the back door, blinking in the sun, pulled the hose from its box and turned on the water.

first the lantana. it has really started to flourish now that the heat is here. since the rains have stopped it has grown like mad.

the next planter over is the butterfly weed. the butterfly weed is the only surviving member from last year's patio plants. it was cold, a lot, and so i moved them into the garage... without any sort of light. the buttercup hung in there until the last freeze and i lost it. the butterfly weed looked pretty bad, but over the summer had shot up new growth and filled its stalks with leaves crowned with little bursts of flowers at the top. i was proud of the butterfly wee...

"what in the blazes?!"

98% of the leaves were gone from the plant.

"i watered you," i said, "i don't..."

leaning in this fellow said.

why, hello there.

ladies and gentlemen, i introduce to you the monarch butterfly caterpillar.

not only is the plant popular with the adult butterflies, adolescent butterflies think it's super cool too!

nom. nom. nom.

these fellars, half a dozen monarch and then again that many of these huge fuzzy dudes, had reduced a thriving, foliage covered plant to mere stalks in a matter of hours. (it was a full plant the morning before.) when i arrived home that evening, the plant was COMPLETELY bare. no flowers. no leaves. no nothing. caterpillars were nowhere to be seen.

thanks yo! --note the monarch caterpillar is upside down.

(i shared this tale with my mother. savvy all things botany, she said the plant would be fine. she's right. it's come roaring back.)

when i go out, i turn on my porch light. i find this greatly simplifies the reentering of my property upon arrival home. most of the time there's a rat tag assortment of small moths, whispy-winged gnatty things, and geckos to eat them.

THIS night, however, would be different. THIS night, the hugest, coolest, moth i've ever seen awaited me.

hello, ladies.

his wings were as wide as a ship's sails! when he breathed, great plumes of smoke belched forth from his belly...

with his wings closed, he was 3 and half inches across easy. massive. gorgeous. his design is really stark and graphic.

watering the plants--and watering plants does seem to give me an excuse otherwise lost to venture about my yard--in the front yard on saturday, i leaned over the hose box (yes, i have hose boxes in the front and back of my house) and nearly stuck my head into

hello my deary. come for dinner? --see her huge.

her web.

"WHOA!" i said.

this, ladies and germs, is a golden orb spider. she's about five inches, from tip to tip. this little lady is not concerned about much. she's tippy-top of the food chain. she's so big, you can see her from the street in front of my house.

we had one of these stake out our back porch when i was a sophomore in high school. she built a web that spanned an entire half of our porch. we would bring her things to eat--well, stun and drain of their life-giving juices--all summer. she was cool.

this golden orb had a bunch of tiny spiders running around her web. i don't know if they are males--guy spiders are teensy, and generally a snack--or if they are her offspring.

yes. i will let her live in my front bed as long as she wants. it'd be criminal to kill her.

aaaah, SNAP!

one of the readers of the blog pointed out the fact that in the illo of the hand holding the trumpet down there, i've left out the palm of the hand. should be some blue there.

the hand and trumpet are from the first time i "nailed" the look of that character. therefore, i've had at least a couple of years to notice i'd missed his hand. i saw it once i pulled the hand out for the "finito" illo. it was too late, though. the disk had been sent to the publisher. i know there's some illustration types who drop by here, so you probably noticed it too.

this illustration is on the cover of the book. fortunately he's on a yellow background, so it will look like part of the trumpet. i've discovered--since sending out the disks--a couple of other snafus, on the cover and case themselves. i was assured, by some other artist friends of mine, no one else would ever see them... certainly not a four year old.

it'll be a game when the book comes out: "Christopher S. Jennings* is a bonehead."

*it will be published under "Christopher S. Jennings." I'm still going to work under C.S. Jennings and i will sign stuff that way.

Friday, August 17, 2007

mr. bluebird's on my shoulder.

stick a fork in me baby birds,* 'cause if you didn't know, the book is finished.

after four months of no friends no fun no movies no nothing, the hi-rez files have been put on disk and are in the (not so) trusted hands of UPS on their way to NYC.

how do i feel? let me sleep this weekend and i'll tell you...

i feel awesome! she's done. she's out of here! now i move on to other stuff and try not to think about it. ...spring 08 will be here soon enough. (but not soon enough.)

there's a giant list of stuff to do. a show (or two) in september. two shows in october. websites to update ( is getting a complete facelift). has to be created from the ground up. the list goes on and on.

after kicking it with m@ for a while tonight, and listening to his wisdom, though, i am going to take it easy. breath a little. go to bed early. bask in this moment. it's not everyday your dreams come true. in times like these you need to stop and just sit in it a while. kick up my feet and go, "yeah. this will work." (i know, i know. YOU told me to take stock of the moment too. so i'll take it.)

viva la animal band!

*i don't know what that means either.

Friday, August 10, 2007


walking up the stairs to kyoto's thursday night sushi happy hour**, i was answering some questions about my book.

in our company that night was a gal who repairs instruments, which, i think, is fascinating. she doesn't repair stringed instruments, so her current beau, a ukelele player, is out of luck if one of his axes--or, in this case you would say, hatchet--goes down.

"instruments are HARD to draw. the hardest instrument to draw," i said, "was the trumpet, tubes running every which way. my favorite instruments to draw were the violin and the bass violin. i love the pegs and shape of the heads."

the hardest THING to draw, i said, were the strings on the stringed instruments.

"why don't you use a ruler?" said the ukelele player.

...yeah. that is a great idea.

the ukelele player

his other videos are awesome too.

*Blinding Flash of the Obvious
**FOUR people ate all they could eat and drink for $60 dollars, ya'll, and it was GREAT. if you're going, don't go on First Thursday. the line starts at the door at 5:30 and they let you in at 6:00. "last call" is 6:45.

Friday, August 3, 2007

AB Update

poor, poor drawblog. so neglected because i can't really talk about what i'm doing. soon, my friend, soon you will be filled with exciting new drawings and stuff. for now, however, here is a little something (i can post) about the book.

until today there have been two distinct mile markers in the creation and execution of the children's book. though there have been amazing things along the way, there have only been a few that really brought home what was happening.

the first was the email in which the publisher asked me if the book was still available and told me they wanted to make an offer. this is the moment where a dream i've had for a long time began to sputter into reality. it made the mind whirl, "really?"

the second followed a chain of other things which should have driven it home, but ended up being steps along the way. the signing of the contract--after some back and forth with the publisher. receiving the completed contract, which made the deal solid, made it in actuality real. talking with my editor--most of our correspondence has been by email, though the art director and i talk almost weekly now. news of how the book was being received at the publisher. who was excited about it. who was behind it. a couple of other things i can't tell you here and now, but are really, really, good. all of these things, you would think, would make this more real, and they did, but driving it home the moment of "holy cow. this IS going down," that only came again when...

...the second time, to get back on track here, was when i was sent the copy for the inside of the book jacket. the synopsis of the story on the front flap and the author's bio/description on the back. when it came in the email, it was a "whoa!" moment.

the interior, i believe, is just this side of approval. a last minute change in the game plan moved the last spread in the book to the case--the physical outside of the book, that the jacket wraps around--which meant a WHOLE NEW spread had to be designed and then illustrated, which added a week. everything should be thumb's up now. i'm sure there's something happening internally at the publisher, an overall approval process, but i don't know anything about it. as far as i know, we're pretty much locked. (though i am assuming nothing.)

we've been focusing on the cover and the jacket for a couple of weeks now. i finished the case illustration and we are working on the jacket to get the elements where they need to be with the die-cut. (the jacket will be cut around shapes so you see the case. should be mondo cool.) i send things to the art director and he works out the technical and positioning of the elements so i can move to final art.

he sent me a file where he'd worked on putting things together and that's when i passed my third mile marker.

in the font we're using in the book. there on the spine. nine letters.


i'd forgotten they put the author's name on the spine of the book. we'd been fussing with the name on the front of the cover for weeks, it'd been a given since i put together the first dummy--now a almost a year and a half ago--but the author's name on the spine....

and there it was.

if i'd only illustrated the book, my name wouldn't be there. having written and illustrated, however, there she be. big as day (or as big as 18 point type anyway).

what do you know, kids, we're publishing us a children's book.