by Greg Pizzoli
Last year I was super busy illustrating a book with a pretty quick turnaround. I think I got the offer in September, and the book was due January 1. So after sketches were approved and everything, I had a little less than three months to do the final artwork for a forty page book (plus covers). It was doable, but just. I wasn’t going have time for anything else. No screenprinting. No writing. Nothing.
Except . . . I had this opportunity. There was an offset printing class with an opening at the university where I teach part-time, and my department head offered me a chance to audit the class and make a book. The whole idea of the class is that you spend half a semester designing a single-sheet book to be printed on an offset press. The second half of the semester you make films, mix inks, and (under the guidance of the Master Printer) assist in printing the book.
I love offset printing and I love making books. I had worked on this press before so the learning curve wasn’t too bad. And the opportunity to make something on my own was just too appealing to pass up. So I signed up for the course and got to work on a project that had been brewing in my sketchbooks for a few years. It was pretty weird, and kind of dark, and I felt certain no publisher would ever be interested in it, so I decided to make a zine. Just an exercise in putting text and images together, simply made for the sake of making it.
Several times I almost dropped the class because of my other commitments. I was too busy to make the art for the zine the way I normally would, and I was nervous about it looking terrible when we went to print. My teacher encouraged me to stick with the class, but to simplify the art so I could produce it faster. She reminded me that I was making this just for me, not for anyone else. The idea that I wasn’t making this zine for publication freed me up considerably, and working on it was really refreshing—it was influenced much more by my design and comics interests, and it just felt different than my other work.
I printed the zine and mailed some out to some people I had worked with or hoped to work with someday. Not pitching the idea—but really just saying—“I love making this stuff! Here’s this weird thing I know you’d never publish that I made!”—excited to share it, but no expectations.
You might guess where this is going—within a month of sending it out, I had a two-book deal with Viking Children’s Books—both dream projects for me. I’ve been researching, writing, and drawing, and a greatly expanded version of that little pamphlet-stitch zine will be an actual picture book in stores next winter! It’s totally different than anything else I have done—and that’s exactly what made it so appealing to my new publisher.
So, looking back on that time last year I guess two things are apparent:
1) Sometimes limitations (meaning your time, or maybe the number of colors/words/pages you can use) will force you to be creative in unexpected ways and 2) Doing the work that you feel driven to do (as opposed to guessing what publishers will want) can produce work you might not expect—and even if you think no one could ever publish it—you might be wrong.
Good luck this month!
Greg Pizzoli is an author, illustrator and screen printer from Philadelphia.
His first picture book, The Watermelon Seed, was published by Disney*Hyperion Books in 2013 and Publisher’s Weekly called it “an expert debut” in their starred review. Greg has more books in the works with Disney*Hyperion, Viking, Candlewick, and FSG.
Greg’s work has been featured in Communication Arts, 3×3 Illustration Annuals and he’s won two Portfolio Honor Awards from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
After college, Greg spent two years as a full-time volunteer in AmeriCORPS from 2005-2006. In 2009, he received his MFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he now teaches.
He recently gave up drinking (as much) coffee.
His screenprinted works have been exhibited in the United States, Canada, Spain and The Netherlands. His hand-printed artist books are in various collections throughout the country, including The Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Greg will send a random commenter a pair of hand screenprinted blank cards!
This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:
- You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
- You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
- You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)
Good luck, everyone!