Monday, June 19, 2017

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

Heeey look at this special thing on the blog today! My lovely friend, Mackenzi Lee,* is publishing her second book, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, NEXT TUESDAY and to celebrate, I could think of nothing better than throwin’ that cover up on the chalkboard wall.

Usually I do my drawings in hermit-like solitude, but this time Mackenzi was kind enough to sit on my floor and wait patiently for the three hours it took to draw this.** Luckily, this is a NEW CHALKBOARD WALL! the old one being now stuck behind my husband’s desk, and since I have a small person in my life who also enjoys drawing on the walls, I decided to also paint the section below the chair rail into a mini-chalkboard. This meant Mackenzi could doodle to her heart’s content, and you get two-two-TWO drawings for the price of one!

I really enjoyed this one! I don’t usually do too many faces these days (I think the last ones I did were way back in the first Christmas run. Hello, horrifying Bill Murray), so it was fun to break out my portraiture skills. This fetching fellow on the board is named Monty, and he is a delightful rapscallion who looks like a young Ryan Phillipe. On the chalkboard, he looks a little like Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters 2, on account of Mackenzi accidentally bumping the projector early on in the drawing and stretching out Monty’s face, but hey, what’re you gonna do?

My biggest concern going in was that I didn’t have time to run to the art supply store before drawing, so I was a little worried I wouldn’t have the right colors and/or would run out halfway through, both of which did happen. Those green letters, man. They almost killed me.

When I told Mackenzi I wanted to do her book cover on my wall, I suggested we make a video of the process so that people could watch along. This turned out to be a terrible idea, as it consisted mainly of us making fun of each other, going on very long tangents about Twin Peaks***, and knocking over glasses of water (2. They both landed on the dog.). And yet, Mackenzi bravely edited three hours of nonsense into four and a half minutes of nonsense, which if not any more sensible is at least much shorter. I’ll post the video as soon as it’s online.

Having Mackenzi over also meant that I got to sort of glimpse my process from an outsider. Things I was surprised Mackenzi was impressed over:
-how long it took to set up the projector
-how difficult it was to draw without blocking the light from the projector
-how important it was to color match
-how much effort one of these damn things actually took

I let her draw one part of the picture. Then we both agreed it was terrible and I erased it. I’m a good friend!

Soooo many more pictures after the jump and DON’T FORGET TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE because it is a delightful historical romp and you will love it very, very much.

Dave's first-view reaction: Oh hey, that's so cool! [Me: Don't you think it looks like that Ghostbusters villain?] What? No. ... Okay, yes.

Iris's first-view reaction: WOOOOOWWWW mommy! You drew that? ...For me to color??

*She's going on tour! Go visit her, meet her, wear your best and most moddishly-cloth clothing
**Later when she said she couldn’t believe it took so long, I pointed out that I had told her each mural takes at least 2-3 hours. “Yeah,” she said, “but I thought you were kidding.” She left my house at 1:30 in the morning.
***Mackenzi swore no one gives a shit about what I think about Twin Peaks, but I think she's wrong, so here we go: I am both frustrated and charmed by Dougie, every time someone talks backwards I can only concentrate on how hard that must be to do, every episode has at least one thing that disturbs me so deeply I swear I will never watch this show again, that shadow breaking out of the empty box was the most frightening thing I've ever seen. 9/10 would let David Lynch mess with my psyche again.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Everything, Everything

Today on the wall, the charmingly-written (and gorgeously designed) Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon!

It's possible I'm the last person to read this sweet, sad, coming-of-age romance, given how much I've been hearing about it over the last few months, but as soon as I got my hands on a copy, I fixed that pretty much immediately. I read the whole thing in one night, which considering it's a triumph if I'm awake past 9:30 most days, tells you how damn readable this thing is.

And of course, as soon as I saw the cover I knew it had to go up on the wall. The colors! The typography! The clever, intricate details! Not long after I finished up Gemina, I headed out to Blick to pick out the perfect colors--sky blue, bright pink, some lovely greens, and a nice, dark, thin black.

This one actually went pretty quick, considering all the detail. I first laid down the heaviest, brightest white I could find (still not bright enough, and I think I might do some experimenting with chalk markers for the future). I was really pleased with how nicely the sky blue lettering turned out (picking the right colors is half the battle), and for the bottom lettering, I didn't outline anything at first and just starting laying down the base colors.

It was really cool to see the lettering emerge as I filled in the colors (and again, having the right colors before I started really helped). When I started in on the black I had an instant of oh crap--does this look terrible? But luckily the more I filled in, the happier I was with it.

SO many little details! From the tiny airplane to the adorable headphones to the flapping butterflies, fishes, and birdies. I sort of suspected I'd go crazy halfway through but I actually really enjoyed it. I had to shut off my projector halfway through (it sits on our wood stove, and it was 8 degrees in Cambridge, so the wood stove won), and I did most of the outlining freehand, which is where I discovered that my copy of the book was just slightly different from the copy I had projected. Cover design is funny.

No projector also meant I had to freehand the lettering at the top and bottom, which I am not great on. Also, I learned the perils of mixing toddlers and chalkboards... I finished by layering more white over the bottom letters, and two days and three-ish hours later I was done!

Close-ups of all those crazy details after the jump!

Iris, the two-year-old's first-view reaction: Mommy, you drawing? Mommy. Mommy! I love it, Mommy.

Dave's first-view reaction: Wow! Nice...shading. And layers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Hey wow, look, more murals!

For the last year+, every time I walked into my living room to see that damn Winter cover, every time someone would come over to the house and say “Wait is that the Yahoo CEO?,” every time the seasons would change (winter to spring, spring to summer, summer to fall, fall back to winter), I’d be reminded that I need to switch up the chalkboard. But I was soo busy!*

Finally, last weekend, I made up my mind. I had an hour free before the baby woke up and there was nothing on Netflix, so I broke out the projector and the chalks and picked up one of my recent reads, the sci-fi smash sequel, Gemina!

This is the second book in the series (I did the first book,Illuminae, last year) and oooooohhhhh man I loved it! It sort of reminded me of that Calvin & Hobbes cartoon where Calvin ups the stakes playing with his cars by throwing in AN EARTHQUAKE! A B-52 BOMBER! PILOTED BY DINOSAURS! By which I mean, this book had gangsters and Special Ops and wormholes and brain-eating aliens and great little drawings (by bestselling author Marie Lu!) and MORE. It was so so great and I devoured it in about three days.

Just like with Illuminae, my little chalks do not do this gorgeous cover justice. It’s this beautiful pale blue nebula, surrounded by black, printed on a stunning plastic dust jacket so you can see hints of the cover underneath. It’s fantastic, and you should absolutely pick it up and read it immediately.**

If I had to do this again, I think I would have gone shopping for a wider range of blues, since I (wrongly) assumed I had more than, like, three different shades. I knew there was no way I could replicate the different layers in the nebula, so I decided to create the whole thing in layers and blend it all together. It sort of worked!

So many more details, PLUS A VIDEO, after the jump!

Dave’s first-view reaction: Huh. You did another one? ... You know what would be really nice? If you took a picture of Cambridge, like on the river, and did that on the wall instead.

Monday, December 7, 2015



Cyborgs! Aliens! Mental superpowers! Fairy tales! I am very excited to have finally gotten my little paws on Winter, the conclusion to Marissa Meyer's best-selling Lunar Chronicles.

I'm about halfway through (it is looong) and really enjoying it, but despite knowing it would be my next drawing for about two weeks, I failed to get my butt over to the art store to pick out some specific chalks. I guess I just trusted that I would have what I needed? But I'm a little bummed, because I think I could have found something neon to give it the vibrancy of the original cover.

That was the biggest challenge with this one, balancing all the dark values with the extremely bright apple in the center. I actually colored in the chalkboard even darker where it was supposed to be black (it was easier to tell the difference before I outlined the cover in white), because the gray of the chalkboard was washing out the colors.

But, it came together pretty quickly, especially once I realized I should lay down all the background first, and not worry about layering the white lettering on top of it (which was a good decision, because the lettering looks bomb-awesome).

I still have a lot of this book to get through, so I think I might throw in some past reads before I have to skip town for Christmas. (Christmas! Remember when I drew 25 chalkboard drawings in December?)

Dave's first-view reaction: Mm...very nice.... Good...shading....*

*It was late. Why do we always do these things so late??

Friday, November 20, 2015


OH MAN THIS BOOK. I am a little bit of a mindless space zombie (not the murdering kind) today because I was about halfway through reading it last night and I told myself I would stop as soon as I got to a lull and then it never happened. No lull! I read the whole thing through and then was so amped I almost woke up Dave to talk about it. It's good, man. Believe the hype.

Originally I planned to read it before last weekend, when I was on a panel with Jay and Amie, but something (baby) kept me (baby) from my regular reading schedule (baby baby baby). So instead of me fangirling about Illuminae, we chatted about things like tattoos and Reasons One Should Visit Melbourne, Magical Land of Beaches and Platypuses (platypi?). They were so lovely.

As for the chalkboard drawing--ooof it was a challenge. I hadn't gotten a close look in person before deciding it would be my next drawing,* so I didn't realize that the cover is actually this gorgeous, almost watercolor-like, translucent jacket over a stark white back, so that certain things (the white text, some handwritten notes) pop through. I love it. In person. Not so much in chalk, where it was a pain in the butt to get everything just right.

Since the colors were pretty simple, I wanted them to be perfect, so I headed out to the art store to color-match chalks:

These are the Blick basic pastels, and I'm a little so-so on them. They go on really smooth, almost slightly waxy or oily, so the colors are nice and bright and they still erase well. But man do they crumble. By the time I finished the drawing, there were so many little bits of chalk on the floor, my slippers looked like this:

But still, I was happy with how they all blended together, even if I knew that attempting the gorgeous blooming firecloud on the original cover would be out of my ability. I wasn't sure how it would look all together, but as soon as I started adding in the details, the words, and finally the little stippling over everything, it actually turned into something really nice!

Now I'm going to go collapse on my face forever.

Dave's first-view reaction: Woah! That's so awesome! You're amazing! How did you do that? It looks so good! [I ask him if he likes it better than the last one] What was the last one? [The Western? It was on our wall for a week.] Oh yeah. Yeah, this one is way better. [I tell him this one took an hour. The Western took almost four hours.] Well, I'm not judging it based on time. [I ask him what he likes so much about this one. He thinks.] Colors.

More pictures after the jump!

*I made the rookie mistake of getting an ebook before realizing it's a beautifully illustrated, stunningly designed, typographical dream. After 40 pages of squinting at my Nook, I bought a hard copy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Vengeance Road

Ugh. HOW beautiful is this cover? I think I have been drooling over it ever since it was revealed, and I knew when I started this project that I had to get Erin Bowman's Vengeance Road into the mix.

It is just SO pretty. I'm a sucker for hand-drawn book covers, and everything about this one--from the typography to the layout to the illustration style to the color scheme--is just knock-out gorgeous.* And all that made it suuuuper fun to draw, too!

When I started the drawing, I figured it was so complicated I'd be working at it all night, but this one actually clocked in at a semi-reasonable 3-ish hours.** I had to simplify it a lot, drawing- and color-wise--the background is the chalkboard background, when the book's background is slightly richer brownish-black, and my version is a little more impressionistic than the sharp lines of the original--but it was really fun and beautiful to see the whole thing emerge, layer by layer.

I started with the gray tones, then I did all the white, the orange lettering, the yellow-orange-red of the flowers, and the guns. Last, I used my chalkboard-colored chalk to draw in the lines and finished it off with some yellow highlights on the bones and guns.

I totally love it and am sort of bummed I'll have to wipe it soon. Time to read veeeeeerrryyy sloooooowlyyyy....

Dave's first-view reaction: Wow. That's amazing. I'm so tired. Why am I awake right now? What am I doing? Why am I not in bed?***

*Design and awesomeness by the amazing Teagan White
**Did I watch Dancing With the Stars? Of course I did. Whatta show. Tamar is NUTS but girl's got grit. Also, Alexa was robbed.
***In his defense, he'd had a long night, starting with thinking our car had been stolen and ending with a late-night trip to Cambridge's secret murder trailer (aka the Fresh Pond DMV). 

Sooooooo many more pictures after the jump!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Carry On

One week on, I've stuck to my goal of reading a YA book a week, and this week, it's the part-Harry-Potter-homage, part-Harry-Potter-satire, fan-fic-novel-spin off, Carry On!

I don't know what magic Rainbow Rowell casts to have such great covers. They're like the perfect combination between whimsical and well-designed (oh man I love that the designer heard "YA Fantasy" and decided "mmm yes two hand-drawn silhouettes in primary colors").

If you looked at this cover and your immediate thought was "Wow! That looks like it would be easy to draw in chalk!" you would have had the same thought as I did and also you would be wrong.

Four colors? Huge empty areas? Beautiful, sign me up. Little did I know that I'd be nitpicking my way around all those letters (ugh. letters. so many letters...). This baby took me about two and a half hours, not counting breaks to watch Dancing with the Stars.*

Dave's Sloan's first-view reaction: What's a Rainbow Rowell?**

More pictures, including me and the dog in silhouette form, after the jump!

*The Halloween episode was pretty good! I am still rooting for Bindi, obvs, because I have two eyes and a heart.

**Today we're getting the reaction from my brother instead of Dave because before I finished, Dave left to go pick up my brother from a 14-hour flight from Hong Kong. They got back pretty late because it turned out my brother's suitcase did not make the 14-hour flight from Hong Kong and they had to wait around to talk to the "compensation guy," Neil, who they described as "a portly guy with a heavy accent carrying around a fat stack of cash." Neil gave my brother $70 for his troubles and, when my brother kept asking if they would upgrade him on his flight back, would only say, "Listen. I'll take care of you." So when they finally walked in around midnight, they weren't in the most chalkboard-receptive state. I'm not sure Dave even knows we have a dining room wall.