Friday, December 14, 2007


I guess it's time to take the autographed picture of Roger Clemens down from my studio wall.

There goes one childhood hero. At least I still have Yaz... I drew this picture of Carl Yastrzemski in 1983, when I was 7. If I remember correctly, I was coloring at my grandparents' coffee table on the day of Yaz's final game at Fenway. I think I copied a photograph from that day's Boston Globe.

(note: I still think Z's should face the other way...)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Robert's Snow- For Cancer's Cure

All the snowflakes for Robert's Snow 2007 are up on their web site! The first round of bidding starts on November 19. My snowflake is in the second group, which starts on November 26.
Here's my snowflake, entitled "Sunset Over Manana":

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I'm really excited for this weekend, because I'm going to be doing a presentation and book signing at Books of Wonder in New York City with one of my favorite illustrators, five-time Caldecott Honor winner, Jerry Pinkney. And as if that's not exciting enough, I'll also be joined by Barbara McClintock, Christopher Myers, and Wendell Minor. Wow!

So if you're in the New York City area, and you love picture books, stop by Books of Wonder on Saturday, October 20, and meet some of your favorite illustrators.

Monday, October 15, 2007


This is a study of rain and clouds I did while I was working on Mudball. The whole story takes place in the pouring rain, so I spent a lot of time looking out the window on rainy days, trying to figure out a good way to draw rain.
rain study, 12.5" x 9", watercolor and pencil, 2003

Friday, October 12, 2007

baseball bookmark

Yesterday, I was asked to make a bookmark for an upcoming school visit, with a little sketch and my signature, so the teachers could pass them out to all the students. I drew this with a black pen, holding a baseball in my left hand while I was drawing. Feel free to print one out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Here's another drawing from an old sketchbook. During a trip to Paris in 1999, I sat in the courtyard outside the Louvre, and drew this picture of a statue of Louis XIV:

Sunday, October 7, 2007

from an old sketchbook

Looking through some old sketchbooks, I found this one I drew while my friends Scott LaPierre and John Pham were playing chess, at my old apartment in Arlington, MA.

Scott Playing Chess, red pencil, 6/28/99

Thursday, September 27, 2007


My daughter started preschool today. Here's a sketch I did when she was 3 months old:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Robert's Snow- final snowflake

Once I got home from Monhegan, I decided to turn the scene into a sunset. Here's how it turned out:

Robert's Snow- snowflake in progress

A few weeks ago, My family spent a few days on Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine. I was late on my deadline for Lady Liberty (which I finally finished yesterday, which is why I'm finally getting around to posting something on my blog), and spent some of the time working. Here's what my makeshift studio looked like:
On the last day, I started working on my snowflake for Robert's Snow. I got up early, and set up my easel here:
It had been sunny all week, but as soon as I set up my easel, it started to pour. I was working in watercolor and gouache. As you might imagine, watercolor doesn't really work in the pouring rain. So I went back inside. After a little while, the rain stopped. I went back out, but decided to stay right on the deck, in case it started raining again.
I chose this view, looking across the water at Manana Island. I thought the branches of the two trees would work well with the shape of the snowflake. First I penciled it in:
This is what it looked like when it started to rain again:
I decided to finish it up at home.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Illustration in Progress- Robert's Snow

This is where I usually work:
But for the next few days I'll be working about a hundred yards from this spot:
I'm heading up to Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine, for a family vacation. There are no paved roads, only a few cars, beautiful views in every direction, hiking trails, and everywhere you go, artists are painting. It's a very inspirational place.

We went to Monhegan for a few days last summer, and just like this summer, I had a book due in August. So I set up a makeshift studio on the deck of the house where we were staying. And while other artists painted seascapes and landscapes and sunsets, I painted an illustration of knights riding into battle, for Iron Hans.

We're staying in the same house this summer, so if the weather's nice, I'll spend some time painting on the deck, working on an illustration for Lady Liberty. I also plan to spend a few hours working on my snowflake for Robert's Snow 2007. If you're not familiar with Robert's Snow, it's a wonderful program set up by author-illustrator Grace Lin, where hundreds of illustrators design their own snowflake ornament, and all the ornaments are auctioned off in December to raise money to help cure cancer. Here's my snowflake from the most recent Robert's Snow.

This year, I'm going to paint my snowflake on Monhegan. Maybe the view from the deck, maybe I'll wander around a bit and find some different view to paint. I like the idea of someone putting this ornament up on their Christmas tree on a cold winter day, knowing that it was painted on a beautiful sunny day on an island in Maine.

Anyway, here goes. This is what the snowflake looks like now. That's a 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper, just to give you a sense of scale:

My first step is to paint it with a couple coats of Gesso. For those of you who don't know what Gesso is, it's basically just cheap white acrylic paint. Here it is after the Gesso:
Now I'll pack it up, and take it to the island. I'll take pictures as I'm working on it, and post it once I'm back from Monhegan. We have no electricity there, so no blogging from the island.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007

Lady Liberty Illustration- Day Two

Here are a few pictures I took while I was working today. First I worked mostly on the foreground details, then started building up some of the clouds of smoke, going over everything with light washes, working from light to dark.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lady Liberty Illustration- Day One

First I traced my sketch onto watercolor paper (Arches 300 pound hot press) using a light box. Then I lightly penciled in the illustration. I do this part with hard graphite, which works well because once I start painting, those first pencil lines are so light that they pretty much disappear. Of course, this part of the process might not make for the most entertaining blog post, since the lines are barely visible. Anyway, here it is. If you look very closely, you can see the pencil lines.

It's all penciled in, then taped with masking tape to a wooden board (so the paper doesn't buckle while I'm working on it). I also tape the edges of the picture, so when I'm done, the picture will have nice clean edges all around. This isn't really necessary, but it's strangely gratifying to rip off that tape at the end of each illustration. Somehow, I don't really feel like it's done until I rip off the tape.
Then I started painting. I'm starting each illustration in this book with a brown underpainting. Then I build on top of that with color. I go from light to dark, working all over the picture. I try not to focus on any one area for too long, especially at this early phase, when I'm trying to build the overall composition. Here's how far I got today:

And here's a shot of my whole drawing table, with paints on the right, my picture in the middle, and a bunch of reference photos scattered around.
Tomorrow I'll keep working on the underpainting, then start building up some color. Again, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them.

Lady Liberty- illustration in progress

Here's a section of my studio wall. The pictures are for a book called Lady Liberty: A Biography, written by Doreen Rappaport, to be published by Candlewick in May, 2008. I always have the whole book up on the wall while I'm working on it. First the wall is covered with sketches, then layouts, and eventually, all the sketches are replaced by final art.

Right now, as you can see, some of the pictures are done, and some aren't. The illustrations are due August 1. Thirteen of the twenty illustrations are completely done, and all but four are at least started. I've been making some good progress lately, so if I keep it up, I might come close to making the deadline.

Today I'm starting a new picture. It's a wide view looking up at the Statue of Liberty during the dedication ceremony on October 28, 1886. It's the moment just after the statue's face was revealed for the first time. The point of view is from one of the many boats in the harbor during the ceremony. Here's my sketch:
So now it's time to get to work. First, I'll trace my sketch onto 300 lb hot press Arches watercolor paper, using a light box. The tracing is usually pretty sloppy, so after that, I'll pencil in most of the details. Then I'll tape each one to a board and start painting.

I'll take pictures along the way, and post something here at the end of each day. If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them. If there's anything you want to know that I'm not mentioning, let me know.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Friday, January 12, 2007

Portrait of my grandfather

This is a sketch I did of my grandfather, Alexander Hickey, in August of 1993, when I was 17. He and my grandmother were visiting my family in Maine, and one morning during breakfast (he was eating bacon and eggs, as he did every single morning), Papa asked me if I could draw him.

So I got a sketchbook and a pencil, and right there at the breakfast table, I sketched my grandfather. I had done plenty of life drawing at that point, but this may have been the first time that I drew a person who was just sitting there looking right at me. I drew quickly, since I wasn't sure how long he wanted to sit there. I think it took about 20-30 minutes. I didn't worry about how it would come out. I didn't even think about it. Looking back at this picture 14 years later, I still really like it.

Now that I'm an illustrator, and I spend hours on every picture- researching, sketching, revising, editing, trying to make deadlines, etc., I like to take a break every now and then and draw someone (usually my wife or daughter). It's always good practice to draw from life, and it reminds me that sometimes it helps to just relax and draw, and not worry about how it's going to come out.

But if I were going to edit this one, I'd zoom out and draw the whole scene, bacon and eggs and all.