Thursday, November 12, 2015

TBT: Late Night NYC night club scene (circa 1997)

"Late Night NYC" illustration by Steven Salerno ©1997
Here's an ink & pastel illustration I created 18 years ago depicting a lively NYC nightclub scene... I can't remember who the client was, or even if it was an advertising or editorial assignment, but it's one of my favorites. I have it framed and on display in my studio. 

It was made simply by drawing the line art of the characters with an ink nib pen, then rubbing pastel colors into the paper with my fingers. If I were to create this same type illustration today I would still draw the characters with and ink pen on paper, but instead of rubbing the pastel into the ink drawing, I would rub the pastel onto a separate piece of paper, then scan the ink drawing and the pastel piece into Photoshop in separate layers. This would give me more flexibility in merging the ink line drawing with the pastel color background in terms of additionally manipulating the colors digitally as well as jockeying the positions of both elements. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

drawing portrait of activist Frederick Douglass

Earlier today I created a portrait drawing of Abraham Lincoln… then this afternoon I decided it needed a companion piece, so I also created this portrait drawing of Frederick Douglass (1817 - 1895), the man who was enslaved, escaped, and became an antislavery activist before and during the American Civil War -and was invited to participate in discussions with President Lincoln on the problems of slavery in the country. 

 Like the "Abe" portrait the Frederick Douglass drawing was creating with crayon, ink, gouache, then scanned into Photoshop where I painted in digital color. 

Visit to view all my various illustration portfolios, and my many picture books for kids.

Abe -my drawing portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

Posted here is my simple, no frills drawing of President Abraham Lincoln… Honest Abe -with his humble birth-place log cabin home seen in the background. 
I always have a ton of material, books, etc… all making a mess of my drawing table, such that I have to always push stuff out of the way to make space on the surface to actually make my art. This morning I just happened to have an old 1958 encyclopedia with all the important information on things starting with the letter “L” -so I flipped it open and was thumbing through and came to a striking photograph of President Abraham Lincoln.
I picked up a piece of paper, and with an orange crayon roughed in the sketch of Abe using the photo as my reference… and obviously I exaggerated Abe’s leanness. This took about ten minutes. Then I used a brown ink “pen-brush” to further delineate his face, followed by darkening some lines and areas with a black pen-brush, this process taking about another ½ hour. I scanned the drawing into Photoshop where in stacked layers I painted the color digitally. (the lettering of “Abe” was also done digitally) Maybe another half hour in all. Done. 
Normally I do not work that quickly unless I am just sketching of doodling… but in this case case I simply wanted to breeze through doing this portrait in a short period of time and move on with my day… I came out nicely.
Visit to view all my various illustration portfolios, and my many picture books for kids.

Friday, October 23, 2015

current picture book project: Goldenlocks and the Three Pirates

It seems I alway have one foot in the current year (2015), and the other foot in some other era depending on whatever picture book I am working on! 

For example in 2012 - 2013 I was working on the intense illustrations for the picture book, The Fantastic Ferris Wheel (written by Betsy Harvey Kraft -release date October 2015 by Christy Ottaviano Books) -the true life story about American engineer George Ferris, creator of the first giant observation wheel built for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and nicknamed, of course, the Ferris Wheel! I was immersed in the iron and steel, steam powered world of 1890's America... the fashions, architecture, and design of everyday objects like telephones, automobiles, phonographs, horse-drawn wagons, steam trains, etc...  See my earlier post on the making of the illustrations for The Fantastic Ferris Wheel

Then in 2014 and straddling into 2015, I was working on the illustrations for the upcoming picture book, The Kid from Diamond Street (written by Audrey Vernick -release date spring 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) which is the true life story about a girl from Philadelphia name Edith Houghton who at age ten (in 1922) became a professional baseball player! -and at age 13 (in 1925) played for an all-female American baseball team that toured Japan competing against their male teams. Later in her adult life Edith Houghton became the first female scout for Major League Baseball! So while working on the illustrations for that book my mind is filled with the fashions and automobiles of the roaring '20's decade. See my earlier post sneak peek at the cover of The Kid From Diamond Street

Now, suddenly, I am working on my next picture book project, Goldenlocks and the Three Pirates (written by April Jones Prince -release date 2017 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux) the whimsical retelling of the classic story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears... but this time with a fun pirate spin. So of course all during the preliminary sketch stage process my mind is filled with period sailing ships, cannons, swords, treasure chests, skull & crossbones, peg legs, and all the pirate era accessories... in an effort to bring my illustrative flavor to this tale. 

Posted here are a handful of the preliminary sketches and character studies. I just this week sent off all the final sketches to the editor on this book at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Margaret Ferguson. So once the back and forth fine tuning of the sketches is concluded, hopefully in the beginning of November I'll be commencing with the final illustrations. Once the entire illustration process is fully concluded, and submitted a more detailed posting on the sketches and final art images.

preliminary sketch: introducing the three menacing pirates

preliminary sketch: Goldenlocks is lured to the pirate's sloop

preliminary sketch: the three pirates searching ship for the intruder

character study: developing Papa and Baby pirate

character study: developing Mama pirate

character study: developing Goldenlocks

And in-between all the above picture book projects, I also illustrated my very own story WILD CHILD ...which was released by Abrams Books for Young Readers in August of 2015.

It's the fun romp about the scariest animal of them all in the jungle -and how all the other animals do their best to try and tame it, otherwise there will never be any peace and quiet in the jungle ever again. To date I have illustrated 24 picture books, and Wild Child is the fourth book as both the author & illustrator. Here's the cover!

WILD CHILD -written & illustrated by Steven Salerno

Visit my web site to view samples of my illustration work for advertising and editorial, as well as my many picture books for kids.

Friday, August 14, 2015

-latest illustration for The New York Times.... "City Sounds"

Posted here is a detail from my recent illustration for the The New York Times (art director: Carol Dietz) which will appear on the cover of the Real Estate section this Sunday, August 16th, 2015.

(see link to NY Times on-line to view full illustration)

The article is from the point of view of apartment living in the city, and all the sounds in the air, from the lovely to the annoying -depending on the listener. My illustration depicts an apartment building with different sounds emanating from each of the windows.... the detail view shown here is of a rocker playing his guitar. (It was created with charcoal pencil, gouache, and digital color.)
detail of illustration by Steven Salerno for the New York Times 8/16/15
I've been creating illustrations for the NY Times since 1980, just out of design school! As usual, it's always a bit of pressure to meet their tight just have to jump into it, fly by the seat of your pants and make all the visual decisions quickly, and hope for the best.

Visit to view all my various illustration portfolio sections and picture books for kids.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Project: goat cheese packaging label/ "billy"

Throughout my illustration career I have created many food and beverage illustrations and graphics for clients…. such as Williams SonomaMcDonaldsEl Paso Chili CompanyCarrabas Italian Grill, etc… plus for many food related magazine articles and cookbooks as well. (visit and click on the ‘just food’ portfolio)
Recently I was asked to create some preliminary drawings of a goat character for a goat cheese label project. Unfortunately I ended up not getting the assignment from the agency (you know how that goes, you win some you lose some) but posted here is a prototype label graphic, incorporating one of my simple goat drawings. The simple drawing was created digitally: white line on a black textured background.
label illustration by Steven Salerno  visit
Visit to view my various illustration portfolios, for advertising, editorial, food, picture books, etc…

Friday, July 10, 2015

ARRRRRGGHHHH! Pirate themed picture book is next...

I am beginning preliminary sketch work for a new picture book project for publisher Farrar Straus & Giroux. It's written by April Jones Prince, and is a fun pirate-themed twist to a classic children's story... I am not going to mention the book's title quite yet, as it's not slated for publication until 2017.... best to keep it under wraps at the moment.
Like Father, Like Son... Pirate Style. Character sketches for next picture book project.

My normal process in creating the illustrations for a story, of course after already having read the manuscript a million times and after making visual shorthand notations on ideas for scenes... is to then create preliminary sketch studies of the characters within the story. Once all these studies are completed I then create a rough storyboard of the entire book, working out the scenes, compositions, balance and flow of the spread scenes, full page scenes, and vignetted images, plus the relationship of the text and image placement, etc... 

Once the storyboard is completed (which by the way is not shown to anyone) I then proceed to making all the full-sized final sketches based on the storyboard, making adjustments and improvements along the way. It is these final sketches which are then formally presented to the editor, art director, and design director at the publishing house.
She wields a better sword than ladle... Character sketch for next picture book project.

All the sketches were created with crayon, gouache, and with added digital color. 

Anyway... I am at the very start of the whole process, and what you see posted here are early sketch studies. So, the characters I have created thus far could certainly change and evolve further during the storyboard and sketch stages.....

A fair lass... Character sketch for next picture book project.
In 2015, I have two new picture books being released:  

WILD CHILD (written & illustrated by Steven Salerno -August 2015, Abrams Books for Young Readers) It’s a story about a new kind of wild creature that dominates the jungle, and how all the other animals try and tame it to restore peace and quiet. But nothing they try works. The wild creature just getswilder… until the clever Gorilla finally figures out a way.

The Fantastic Ferris Wheel (written by Betsy Harvey Kraft, illustrated bySteven Salerno -October 2015, Christy Ottaviano Books) It’s the true life account of American engineer George Washington Ferris, inventor of the giant observation wheel built for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and dubbed the “Ferris Wheel”. Visit my illustration web site to see the many picture books I have illustrated, as well as to view my portfolios for advertising and editorial projects…