The Purple Cow



Recently I was hired by Benchmark Education to illustrate a short children’s book called The Purple Cow. Not to be confused with the best seller by Seth Godin, this story is an epic saga about a cow that gives grape juice instead of milk.

The client gave me a great deal of editorial freedom so I decided to stretch myself and try something different. I created all the art as vectors in Illustrator (usually I use Photoshop) and tried for a very flat, cut-out look that emphasized shape over line. Also, instead of flat color in some areas I used some scanned textures I had on file. For example, I think the grass is actually a corduroy fabric that I color-shifted to green.

Because of the deadline I sketched the layouts very quickly, which oddly enough gave me wackier and more appealing shapes than I think I would have achieved had I slowed down and overthought it.

Above is a two-page spread, a one page illo, and a spot. The white areas were left blank for text, but I’ve inserted a copyright notice in an effort to protect the images online. Also, for some reason when I saved the art for the web the colors got very washed out (at least on my monitor). In the original files the colors are much richer and easier to read.

Overall I really like this flat vector look. The only problem with vector art is that you spend so much time pushing and pulling vector points that after a while you aren’t really drawing or painting, you’re just shoving things around. So I haven’t decided yet if I’ll be doing a lot more of this or not. It’s fast and effective but I would miss the fluid feel of drawing and painting.


Some freelance projects have tight deadlines. Others move at a slower pace.

Way back in Spring of 2005 I was contacted by a publisher to illustrate a series of children’s books designed to help kids understand various Christian concepts. Since there was no real rush our understanding was that I could set it aside to work on other more urgent projects when necessary. It was nice to have a large project that I could work on at a somewhat relaxed pace, and the client was terrific to work with.

The first book, What Your Nose Shows, was about Creationism (or Intelligent Design, if you will). The author, Ray Comfort, wrote a some rhyming text about the nose and how it’s very existence points to a Creator.

A few months after finishing the first book I was hired to start a second one. Scratch and Sniff was about a cat named Scratch and a dog named Sniff. The lesson had to do with disobedience (sin) and our need for a Savior. We decided it would be fun to make this an actual “scratch and sniff” book, with a different scratchable scent on every page.

Eventually it was decided that since the first book was about the nose, it should also be scratch-and-sniff. So after completing the second book we went back and re-worked the first one to incorporate smells into the story.

Finally, after over a year-and-a-half both books were ready to go to the publisher.

Printing with scratch-and-sniff inks turned out to be a complicated process and resulted in several more delays. Eventually the books were printed overseas and now, nearly three years after the project was begun, the books are finally available for purchase. (Click to buy What Your Nose Shows and Scratch and Sniff).

Here are the covers and a couple of sample pages from each book. They are taken from different parts of each book so the text won’t make sense, but you can get an idea of what the art looks like: