Archive for March, 2011

This week was the release of my new book, HOGG, HOGG, & HOG. Creating those three pigs and working on this book was so much fun. I’m very thankful to my editor David Gale, at Simon and Schuster, for giving me the opportunity to illustrate one of my own manuscripts.

Of course, like every story, there is always a backstory of how it all came to be.  (If you want some giggles on the ‘hows’, just take a look at my ‘Inspirations’ for some of my other books.) As I mentioned in my previous post, these Big City Swine actually started out as ducks. OINK was QUACK. However, while my editor loved the story and loved the art, he asked if I could change the ducks to another animal. (Oh, duck.) Yeah. It happens. But, you know what they say … sometimes, change is good.  The thing was … nothing sounded quite as funny as QUACK, which I felt was essential to the book’s read-aloud humor. I tried ‘humanizing’ a couple of chickens, then cats, dogs, but none really worked as well as those bald duck heads. (I really loved those ducks.) Then my husband said …OINK! Yup. Pigs were definitely it! (And, I do have a history with pigs too.) Here are some of the original duck sketches: (The ducks on the ends, were great inspiration to Duck who appears in HHH.)

While each of the ducks had a specific ‘look,’ the pigs really allowed me to develop more distinct and individual personalities for the three characters. This was especially true of ‘Hog’, who gobbles his way through the book eating one fast food goodie after another, and also wearing it on his chinny-chin-chin.

The ducks’ office digs of grays, blues and bright yellows changed to the pig palette of  purples and browns.  (Mud, maybe?) I thank my art director, Lucy Cummins for suggesting I try a darker palette. I did loads of color sketches with the pigs being pink, but unfortunately, that did not work AT ALL!  What-to-do-what-to-do? … Didn’t know. I did know the pigs were the right substitute for the ducks, but how to get them to work as well visually? I had no clue! Then, my good friend — the fabulously talented and clever, Diane Goode, suggested – why not treat the pigs just as I had been doing with the ducks: Keep them white and define them with a variety of pinks, which was totally the answer. The pigs ‘popped’ on their new palette, in fact, they popped right out of the page. Super advice. A huge thanks to Diane for sharing her insight with a pic book illustration novice.

Interested in a bit more ‘backstory’ on these pigs and the concept? Here’s an interview I did discussing the beginnings of HOGG, HOGG, & HOG.

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Oink. Oink oink.  Oink oink oink. Oink … Oink?

Yes.  That’s right.  You ‘heard’ it here first.  Everyone is talking OINK!

Why? … Uh … well … uh … Why not?  It’s the thing to do? … Isn’t it?

My new book, HOGG HOGG & HOG, celebrates the absurd, the silly, and the absurd silly celebrity of celebrity, and poses that exact particular question to the reader. It’s a modern fable about Right and Wrong.  It’s a smidge of Animal Farm, a tad Theater of the Absurd, and it’s all wrapped around today’s fame-and-fortune-obsessed culture.  If that sounds like it may be “too sophisticated” for a three year old picture book reader … you could be right. (Although to my mind, the concept of right and wrong is never too early to introduce.)  But, agree, HOGG HOGG & HOG cannot be described as your ‘cuddly’ trio.  (Although, ‘Hog’ does have his own individual style and charm: Six and seven year old fans at a recent school visit got the giggles discovering his cookie pocketwatch disappear as the story unfolded.)  But yes, these three big pigs and this story were created to provide opportunity for laughs, winks, but also thoughtful discussion for children in elementary grades and older.  (Maybe some college grad business majors as well.)

This is a story about character … and doing the right thing.

Inspired by my own long affection for the great Frank Capra movies of the 1930’s and 40’s like, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe, You Can’t Take It With You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It’s a Wonderful Life, this is a story where the ‘little guy’ comes out ahead.  And while this doesn’t have the slapstick comedy or wordplay found in many of my other books like BAD BOYS, I have previously ‘visited’ themes of teamwork, fair play, and character in books such as LOUSY ROTTEN STINKIN’ GRAPES, the more sentimental THREE FRENCH HENS, and the parody of fame and fortune in DING DONG DING DONG.

What is different about this book, is that I also had the opportunity to illustrate one of my own manuscripts. (About a dozen years ago, I illustrated my own GOOD AS GOLDIE and GOLDIE IS MAD, but other than ‘channeling’ Zoey’s art in GEEK CHIC and Trudie’s doodled notebook in the LAB COAT GIRL series, the opportunity did not present itself again, until this story.)  I’ve been an artist my whole life, and had a career of almost two decades as a designer and art director before my first book, PIGGIE PIE! was published and I began to concentrate more on writing. I loved that HHH gave me the chance to work again in the mixed media medium that I ‘grew up’ with.  I learned at the ‘knee’ and developed my own style through the influences of the innovative advertising and graphic designers of the mid-twentieth century as I devoured and luxuriated over as many Graphis Annuals I could get my hands on. Starting in high school and through college, I spent many hours in the darkroom posterizing my photo images, peeling Letratone, slicing Pantone color paper and film (as well as the occasional finger), while creating mixed media collage in combination with brush line art. What was most refreshing for me to discover during this project, was how technology (Photoshop) had caught up to my ‘technique’ (totally and thankfully eliminating the possibility of missing digits, splattered sweaters, and very gooey gluey fingers). Carpal tunnel syndrome not withstanding.

In my future posts I’ll be sharing the twists and turns of the many layered (digital) backstory of HOGG HOGG & HOG and sharing some images that didn’t make it to the final page.  For right now, I’ll end with saying that those three big pigs didn’t start off by saying OINK at all. However, they did do a whole lot of QUACKING.



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