Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Art

Over the years I've done many illustrations about Thanksgiving .  Both historic and traditional holiday concepts have been interesting to work on.  Here are a few of them.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Illustration History Website

I'm proud to be included among the many talented artists who have dedicated their careers to creating pictures that tell stories!  Illustration in America, as a profession, requires the highest technical and creative standards of the art form.  Throughout my career I have placed the bar high for myself and have given clients quality work on every project. Recognition of my contribution and accomplishments is very much appreciated.  The site, www.illustrationhistory.org, is a valuable resource for anyone wanting to learn about the art and craft of illustration.  Thank You to the Norman Rockwell Museum for recognizing the need for this information.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Illustrator Twins

So often, while doing research for a project, I'll come across some great artwork.  Such is the case with Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone.

They were twin sisters who created illustrations for many books including the original 101 Dalmations.  Janet focused on animals and birds while Anne handled people and costumes.  They would constantly take turns working on an illustration until both were satisfied with the finished piece.  You can research them to learn more about their lives and see more of their art.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

And now for something completely different...

While still illustrating many historical, religious and wildlife subjects - I've been commissioned to create the art for a retelling of The Gingerbread Man titled, "The Little Cookie".  The original story has been done so many times that it's difficult to bring anything new to it so hopefully my character and style will make the book interesting.  Here's a peek at my visual thinking process in developing the main character.  Stay tuned for more...

Pencil character concept sketches for
" The Little Cookie" 

Close up of my kneaded eraser used as
a model for Cookie. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Olana Plein Air Event

The Olana Plein Air Paint -Out and Auction is a wonderful event that brings attention to this historic home and the surrounding landscape.  This is my fourth year as a selected participant and I was glad to be out of my studio creating paintings in the beautiful Hudson Valley.
This is the spot and subject I painted on the first day, which was overcast and grey with periods of light rain.  Only once did some blue sky show through so I recorded the color and shadows quickly.

Here's the finished painting,

Day two of painting was sunny and warm so I was able to stand in the field and create this painting of the barn.  The shadows were stark and long, while clouds dotted the sky above.  I loved the color contrast of my sepia underpainting of the clouds  against the blue sky...so I kept it.  It made for a moody work which was purchased by the new president of The Olana Partnership!

The finished painting,

Monday, July 6, 2015

Early Style Influences

My early illustration career was influenced by the golden age artists such as Pyle, Wyeth, Parrish, Leyendecker, etc...  I later became interested in illustration from the 1960's done by artists such as Bernie Fuchs and Al Parker early in their careers and really loved the compositions and stylization.  I also loved the old car ads that made every auto look like you needed to have it!  The best of these ads were created by artists "Fitz &Van".  Much can be learned from looking at their dynamic presentations of the product  and the setting.

click image to go to fitz-art.com

"If Art's car was to be placed on Van's background, he painted in opaque watercolor gouache on one-ply Strathmore art paper. "If I was working on a convertible or a car with a detailed background, I'd often only do the body, cutting along the windowsill with an X-ACTO knife. I'd turn the car over and sandpaper the edges to a knife-point so that they wouldn't show on the background-then I'd rubber-cement both surfaces, and paint the roof or other details right on Van's background."

 - Feature Article from Hemmings Classic Car

     April, 2005 - Mark J McCourt

Friday, June 26, 2015

New Book Release.." God Saves Jerusalem".

I love illustrating historic or nature oriented books especially.  Each project brings an opportunity to research and learn.  For this book I researched ancient Jerusalem via virtual tours and photos and looked at sculptural reliefs for clothing, chariots and the hanging gardens.  You won't see all of my research but it's all needed to get the feeling of time, place and character.

Illustrated by Steven James Petruccio

Author- Larry Burgdorf
Published by Arch Books, Concordia Publishing
(Click image to go to amazon.com for purchase)

Some of the steps for this book...

Relief sculpture reference...

...pencil sketch...


...finished painting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ask Me A Question...

I always welcome questions from students who want to know about what I do as an artist and illustrator.  I received some index cards in the mail with some interesting questions so I'm posting them here for you to see the kinds of things young people want to know.

Q:How did you get into this job?
A: I created a portfolio of my best work and showed it to Art Directors -  people who work at book publishing companies and match an illustrator with a good story - after a few years of trying I finally got to illustrate my first book, " Dr. Hilda Makes House Calls" for Golden Books.

Q:Do you like doing this for a living?
A: No.  I LOVE doing this for a living because I always wanted to be an artist!

Q:Why did you pick illustrating over any other other job?
A: Well, I was good at drawing - not coloring, I practiced a lot to get my colors to look good - and I liked it.  I knew it was a job that other people had and I thought, " If they can do it, so can I." ...and so I did!

Q:Were you a good drawer when you were a kid?
A: I wasn't any better than anyone else when I was very young but by the time I was in Second and Third Grade I was making pictures for my teachers and they would hang them in the classroom and hallways.
Thanks for the great questions Lauren!


Q:Do you like illustrating non-fiction or fiction better?
A: I like illustrating interesting stories. When I read a story and can visualize pictures for it, I'll illustrate it.

Q:How long have you been an illustrator or artist?
A:Illustrators are artists with a special job...to tell stories with pictures.  We use our art skills to make the best pictures we can.  I've been drawing since I was a little boy but art became my job the year before I graduated from college, The School of Visual Arts in NYC, in 1983!

Q: Do you like to use darker or lighter colors?
A:I use whatever colors things really are or whatever color I want something to be.  I like colors that are not too bright but I like to add color to my shaded areas.
Thanks, Kylie.  Great questions!

Q: How many colors or shades of a color do you need for your average book?
A: I have 20 of my favorite colors on my painting palette but I don't always use all of them.  I like to mix my own colors to make them unique and interesting even when using digital media on my computer.  I might use about 10 colors for my average book since the characters and places usually stay the same, their color doesn't change much either.  Plus, keeping the colors the same from page to page makes the pictures look like they all belong together.
Thanks Xavier, very good question!

Ashlee :
Q:Do you do other art besides watercolor and pencil drawings?  And if you do what is it?
A:Yes, I do other paintings with acrylic paints and I used to use oil paints when I was just learning.  My paintings have been in many art exhibits too and sometimes people buy them to hang in their own homes.  I always paint things that I like no matter what it is or if anyone else likes it.  You can visit my website,www.sjpetruccio.com, to see some of my paintings and see the large mural I painted for a local children's hospital.
Thanks for wanting to know about the other things I do with my art Ashlee!

Q:How long does it take you to draw a picture?
A: That depends on how complicated the picture is and how big it is.  Sometimes a picture needs lots of details in it so that takes a long time.  On average it takes me about 4 to 5 days to create one illustration that will appear on two pages in a book, a double page spread, using watercolor paints.  When I paint digitally it takes me a couple of days less.  I always take my time and do my best work even if it takes longer than I'd like.
Thanks for asking that Ashley...always do your best!

This question card had no name on it so if it's yours, here it is...
Q:Do you draw for fun or do you have to draw for books?
A:Drawing pictures for books IS fun for me!  Anytime I get to use my talents and skills, I'm having fun.  Remember, I practiced for many years and learned a lot of things to become a professional artist and illustrator so when I illustrate a book or make a painting that other people like it makes me feel good.

Q:How hard is it to draw a picture matching the words to the stories?
A:Well, this is the hard part because sometimes you can visualize what the characters, places and situations will look like right away after reading the manuscript of the story and at other times you have to sit, think and sketch over and over to get the character to look like what the author describes in only a few words.  Sometimes I have to do some research before I can draw things or use my imagination to picture how I want something to look but I always have to make things look like whatever the words are describing.  I also have to make every picture look interesting so readers don't get bored with the book.
That was an awesome question...whoever you are!

Thank you all so much for you're interesting questions and for wanting to learn what an illustrator's job is like.  I encourage you all to keep reading and keep a journal of your own writing and art even if you don't want it to be your job...it's fun and it's good exercise for your own creativity!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day

I've had the pleasure of creating illustrations for many nature books.  I've painted land, sea and sky and have discovered amazing things along the way!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Busy, busy busy...

Over the past months I've been busier than ever living the life of an illustrator.  That means long hours, little or no sleep and concurrent deadlines.  It's a juggling act but it's also a good test to keep creating the best work I can for each client.  I'm working on three projects using digital media and one using traditional watercolor.  Here are a few examples of what I'm up to.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Research Before Painting

Most people don't realize how much work goes into an illustration even before the first rough sketch is done.  When I get a manuscript I get ideas for the pictures almost immediately but then I realize that there might be certain details I need to reference so that the objects I draw look accurate.  Remember, even a cartoon version of something needs to look like that thing so young readers will recognize it or learn what it looks like.  I'm working on a project that involves a raccoon and native american indians of the North East US so research for reference photos and descriptions were needed for the characteristics of the people, the landscape and environment, the various seasons, clothing of adults and children, native plants, cooking methods, maple syrup making process, utensils, storage pots, cradle boards and dwellings.  When you look at the illustration and it looks like the situation presented is just naturally happening...I've done my job.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year To Create New Art!

So the new year has begun and I'm at work on a couple of book projects.  I'll be posting some new work from these but some older pieces will appear as well from time to time as well.  The main thing is to keep creating new art and reworking some older pieces as new samples using some digital tools. I've recently encountered some bad art being passed off as good illustration because many don't know what makes an illustration versus fine art...there is a difference.  I urge anyone considering self-publishing ventures to proceed with caution...don't "buy" illustrations from the publishing service blindly and know what to accept as finished illustration art.  Ask questions and do the research.
So here are a few new pieces to have a look at!