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.

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

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.

Franklin Pierce

Here’s a sketch of Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of these United States.  He is considered by many to be the least effective President.  He also looks very similar to Mitt Romney, but there the similarities end.  Pierce was a Democrat and Romney is of course Republican.  Pierce was rash, and Mitt Romney is the opposite of rash.



Rutherford B. Hayes

This bearded president wanted to guard against the dishonorable drunken behavior on display at other Washington gatherings, so President Hayes and his wife kept an alcohol-free White House.  He spent the money normally used for alcohol on other entertainments for his guests, but this did not prevent his Secretary of State from teasing that at the White House “water flowed like wine.”

Jimmy Carter

I hurt my back saturday and now I’m hobbling around.  I’m about to go to the chiropractor, and it’s raining.  All in all I feel pretty crummy so I decided to post this picture of Jimmy Carter.  He began with an approval rating higher than Obama and he left office with an approval rating somewhere in the low thirties.


Jimmy Carter reminds me of a kid on my street who was always hurting himself.  This kid’s name was also Jimmy.  I remember he bought a bike at a garage sale and we made fun of it.  He assured us that it was a little rusty on the outside, but at its core, it was a fine bike.  To prove his point he set out to pop a wheelie in it.  “Watch this!” he said.  We all looked his way and he jerked back on the handle bars to lift the front tire.  He jerked his handle bars right off the post and crashed spectacularly.  We howled with laughter.  Jimmy hurt himself so frequently and in such dramatic fashions that we all grew to like him.  Sympathy can grow even in the rocky soil of a child’s heart.  Still, we never would have trusted Jimmy to buy us a bike, or run a country for that matter.




Chester Arthur

I know.  I know.  Chester Arthur is a political superstar perhaps the most famous president apart from Lincoln.  But here is a drawing with which to refresh your memory.

He served one term.  He was sworn into office after Garfield was shot by an aspiring office seeker.  Arthur signed the Edmund’s law into effect which outlawed polygamy.  He thought that polygamy was morally detrimental to the family.  I guess that means that he thought the family was possible to define (these were the days before Dreamworks and the Disney Channel clearly taught us that family has no genetic definition, but is rather made up from misfits that one meets on a road trip).  Arthur was also a civil rights advocate, and popularizer of Yellowstone National Park among other things.