Heritage Studies 4th Grade

Here are some chapter openers I did for a 4th grade History book.

They are oil paintings digitally sweetened.

Heritage Studies 4


Textbook Sketches

I’m working on a 5th grade History book for BJUPRESS.  The designer and I have been going back and forth trying to zero in on the style for the book’s interior illustrations. Thought it might be interesting to give a peek at the thoughts behind the book’s illustrations.

Initially, I wanted to do something stylized.  The argument was that the illustrations would give the readers some space to enter into them and handles for their imaginations to grab hold.  So here are two ideas about what that might look like.  One’s a rough sketch of a soldier at Valley Forge.  The other more finished illustration is of a younger G. Washington during the French and Indian War.


They didn’t feel right.  The Valley Forge guy in particular was a bad fit.  It could work if the account of Valley Forge was heavily narrative or if the age were younger (3rd grade perhaps), but because these were 5th graders and sensitive to being “talked down to,” and because the illustrations have to serve interesting textual callouts, the style needed to feel more precise.  Also, another problem emerged.  Humorous illustrations about abstract things look too similar in style to serious/concrete things.


The more literal style (above on the right) allowed the comic illustrations (below) a separate voice.

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So it’s still rough, but we’re finding the illustration look for the book.

Heritage style samples

The aspiration is for the styles to look related, but more like cousins than brothers.  It’s an exciting project, and I’m enjoying the preliminary discoveries, but I can’t wait to get into the guts of it.  Hope this was interesting.


Kickstarter: The Green Ember

I’ve been working on a project that I’m excited to tell you about:


Written by S.D. Smith, illustrated by me, and published by Story Warren, The Green Ember is an adventure story that involves rabbits with swords. You’ll love it. As the author says in his blog post about the new book, “I made this for you.”

Green EmberCheck out the Kickstarter, reserve your copy, and maybe get some other really cool rewards while you’re at it.


UPDATE: The Green Ember met its Kickstarter goal of $10,000 in just one day! Thanks to all who donated. Go buy a book now during the pre-sale on Kickstarter.


Inkwell: Story Warren’s Family Conference

Exciting news, friends! Registration is now open for Inkwell: Story Warren’s Family Conference.

Inkwell Logo

Inkwell: Story Warren’s Family Conference
An event for children aged 7 to 17 and their parents

Saturday, June 21
Charlotte, NC
8:30am — 4pm 

From the event page:

Story Warren is all about an alliance. We’re on your side. Our heartbeat is serving your family as you foster holy imagination at home and in your church/community…

In This Together: About the Kids, For the Family
We are focusing on the kids for (and with) the families. We aren’t just aiming to serve your kids,  but to serve your family through your kids…

 The Four Rotating Sessions Will Be:

Andrew Peterson — Writing/Storytelling
Zach Franzen — Drawing/Illustration
Rebecca Reynolds — Poetry/Lyrics
Randall Goodgame — Songwriting/Music


It’s going to be great. Seriously. Register now.


Baby Bird

Here is a painting I did for the nursery of my little 8 month old baby bird.


And here’s my baby bird.

UPDATE: Prints of the two bluebird paintings are now available for sale in my Etsy shop.



Did this Cardinal for James Witmer’s story warren post (The Brave Cardinal) a few weeks ago.



Alexander and Bucephalus

I contribute occasionally to a site called Storywarren.  Starting this week, every Friday will feature a story, or poem, or song for kids.  Some will be new, but some will be old.  This Friday’s post is an old story about a young Alexander the Great and his horse Bucephalus.  I did the illustration below in photoshop.

The great thing about photoshop is that you can thumbnail by zooming out.  I roughed-in the necessary elements until I found something sort of satisfactory.

Screen shot 2014-01-06 at 7.22.41 PM

The eye scans the picture better if the composition is flipped.  So I flipped the sketch and roughed in the values.

Screen shot 2014-01-06 at 7.22.53 PM

Next, I tightened the drawing up a bit.  I wanted it to be a little loose but not unreadable.Screen shot 2014-01-06 at 7.23.22 PM

Lastly, I tweaked a few things and added a subtle color gradient for interest.

Screen shot 2014-01-06 at 7.23.33 PM

And there you have it: Alexander and Bucephalus, or as the kids in the neighborhood used to call them, Al and Butch.


Slugs and Bugs

Loved listening to the songs on Randall Goodgame’s Slugs and Bugs album while working on the illustrations.  You can learn more about it here and here.Sing-the-Bible

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Rough Sketch

Here’s a sketch I did for a project a couple months ago.  The sketch was discarded when they changed the parameters of the project, but I like it and may finish it one day.rough sketch