Monday, March 9, 2015

Obama's Final Two Years... but how hard can he still hit?

Obama's Final Two Years...  visit
My friend Martin Kozlowski is the editor (and brilliant political cartoon satirist) of INX, the preeminent political cartoon service that provides weekly biting political and social cartoons to magazines and newspapers…  Many years ago I used to be a somewhat regular contributor to INX… but my own illustration career path veered me away from doing political cartoons anymore, but on rare occasion these days I do create a soft political cartoon and send it over to Martin for him to include in that week’s current INX package. 
I had been listening to some political pundits on TV questioning how effective Obama may be in his remaining two years in office… and so an image popped into my mind of President Obama as a somewhat weary, scrawny boxer flexing his muscles, ready to try and fight the good fight for another two years. 
I created this charcoal drawing of the Commander in Chief with a tattoo on his chest and arms saying, "Two More Years" complete with a soaring eagle for added commentary on his decided love for America -in case anyone is still wondering.
Visit to view my illustration art samples. (and click on the NEW STUFF portfolio to see all my new images… which are a stylistic break from the lighter, whimsical illustration images I am more know for with art directors, especially for all the children’s picture books I’ve illustrated over the past dozen years. 
Later this year I will have two more illustrated picture books released: "The Fantastic Ferris Wheel" (written by Betsy Harvey Kraft) published by Macmillan/Christy Ottaviano Books. Also,"Wild Child" written & illustrated by myself, and published by Abrams Books.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"a rocky little Maine island" -illustration by Steven Salerno
Some drawings (illustrations) are the result of planned reference searches, preliminary sketches, color studies, etc… and then executing the final art. And even this elaborate process is certainly never a guarantee of a wonderful result.
And on the flip side are spontaneous drawings created without any of the above mentioned pre-planning or any sketches at all. You just make the image directly, making quick decisions as your pen moves, relying on your own imagination and visual experience (memory) with the particular subject at hand… A “wonderful result” percentage is just as high if not higher using this mode than the tact of preplanning and with the advantage of having preliminary sketches. Go figure!
Posted here is such an example of a spontaneous drawing I created recently as part of an assignment for ZEST Maine magazine. (a quarterly food magazine about the culinary scene in Maine). I was commissioned to create small, bold b&w line caricatures of ten food writers in Maine, and also to create a small color vignette of a “rocky little Maine island” which would be positioned at the beginning of the article to set the visual flavor. Of course, with creating the caricatures of the writers I had to rely on photo reference, make preliminary sketches, etc.. but when it came time to make the stylized, idealized drawing of the rocky little Maine island, I felt comfortable enough (having visited Maine many times) to simply make the drawing from my imagination without any photo reference or sketches…. to just jump in and make the image spontaneously. And as luck (and 50 years experience in making drawings) would have it, it came out quite well and I sent it off to the magazine. (Now, if it had not lived up to my expectations, I would have started again of course!) This illustration of the rocky little Maine island will appear in the spring 2015 issue of ZEST Maine magazine.
Visit to view all my various portfolio sections, as well as my many picture books for kids. In 2015 I will have two new picture books released:  Wild Child, written & illustrated by myself... this is the story of the wildest animal of them all, and is published by Abrams Books. And the other picture book is The Fantastic Ferris Wheel -written by Betsy Harvey Kraft, the true story of American engineer George Ferris and his invention the Ferris Wheel for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and is published by Christy Ottaviano Books (Macmillan).

Thursday, January 15, 2015 latest picture book illustration project, "The Kid"

Back in 2011 I created wonderful illustrations for the non-fiction picture book, Brothers at Bat -written by Audrey Vernick and published in 2012 by Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/ editor: Jennifer Greene). 

It was the true story of twelve New Jersey brothers who formed their own semi-professional baseball team, and ended up making baseball history, and were also honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame. (They were the Acerra boys, playing together as a team back in the 1930's through the 1950's) This picture book was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Picture Book for 2012! (see an earlier post from 2011 about the making of the illustrations for Brothers at Bat)

Well, I have happily teamed up again with author Audrey Vernick and editor Jennifer Greene on another non-fiction, baseball-themed picture book, tentatively titled, The Kid. It is the true story of Edith Houghton, a Philadelphia girl who was a baseball prodigy and began playing professional baseball at age 10 (!) back in 1922 for the Philadelphia Bobbies, an all-female team that played against other female ball clubs, as well as against just as many male teams too. The picture book story centers around the year 1925, when Edith was 13 years old and she was asked to play for an all-female USA team to tour Japan and played against Japan's college-level baseball teams. It is an amazing true story. Brothers at Bat was a home run, and I think The Kid will be too!

Currently, I just completed all the preliminary sketches for The Kid, and am just starting the final art stage process... which will probably keep me busy through May.

Posted here are just a couple detail views taken from my rough preliminary sketches for The Kid.. I will make another more formal and in depth posting about this specific project at a later date...
sketch detail from The Kid -here young Edith is about to embark on her journey to Japan in 1925 to play baseball with the USA team.
sketch detail from The Kid -here Edith is stepping up to bat in her first game in Japan, before thousands of people in the stadium.
sketch detail from The Kid -here Edith and team are all riding in rickshaws in 1925 Yokohama, Japan. 

In 2015 I will have two picture books released: The first is The Fantastic Ferris Wheel -written by Betsy Harvey Kraft, published by Macmillan/Christy Ottaviano Books. It is the true story of George Ferris, inventor of the first Ferris Wheel in 1893 for the Chicago World's Fair. I created very intense, period illustrations that capture the look and feel of the times, as well as the monumental construction of the giant observation wheel. Be on the look out for it in the fall! (see an earlier post about my upcoming picture book, The Fantastic Ferris Wheel)

Also this year, my picture book Wild Child! (written & illustrated by myself) will be released by Abrams Books. It is the fun, hyper-romp about the wildest animal ever to live in the jungle and how all the other animals must figure out a way to tame this terrible wild thing and restore order in their jungle home. I think it will be out in the fall season, too. (see an earlier post about my upcoming picture book, Wild Child!)

Visit to view all my various portfolio sections, as well as my picture books for kids.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Visit to see my latest illustration samples. 

Posted here is a recent illustration I created in my new old style.... of a caddy watching his player set up to hit a golf ball. 

Let me explain! When I first started my illustration career about a million years ago my style was more realistic and darker in mood. In time my style then morphed into a much lighter whimsical style which has been seen in the thousands of illustrations created for nearly five hundred various clients over the years... as well as in many of my 21 picture books for kids. And still do employ that same whimsical style for certain client projects, but in the past year or so I have redeveloped my past style of darker, moodier illustration images... kind of a retro style, which you can see samples of in my NEW STUFF section and DARK VISIONS section on my web site. Take a look.
visit and view the New Stuff and Dark Visions portfolios.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

WILD CHILD (Abrams Books 2015) -my next picture book poses the question: What is the scariest animal in the jungle?

My very first illustrated picture book was published in 2000. And in 2015 my 21st and 22nd illustrated picture books for children will be released... (see list of all my published picture books to date)

In the spring of 2015 The Fantastic Ferris Wheel (published by Christy Ottaviano Books and written by Betsy Harvey Kraft) will be released. It's the true story of George Washington Ferris, the inventor and design engineer of the very first giant observation wheel, dubbed the Ferris Wheel, in 1893 for the Chicago World's Fair. (a post is coming soon showing how I created these realistic period illustrations... a ten month process from start to finish)

And in the fall of 2015 Wild Child (published by Abrams Books and written by me) will be released. (This is my 4th picture book as author/illustrator.)

My new picture book story Wild Child poses the question, what is the scariest animal in the jungle? And it isn't who you would expect! It's not the Lion, or the Gorilla, or the Hippo, or the Crocodile... not even the Snake or the Tiger! In fact, the absolute scariest animal of them all is very small, with soft skin, and just two tiny teeth... but it's the terror of the jungle and has all the other animals on the run! 

Wild Child tells how the jungle animals learn, through trial and error, to tame this terrible tiny creature. Because if they don't, they'll never have a moment of peace and quiet ever again!

This post is just a brief teaser... Soon I'll post again about my upcoming picture book, Wild Child -with additional views of storyboards, sketches, and how I created the jungle animal illustrations using inks, crayons, and gouache, combined with digital composing and additional color.

(above: promo view/ not the book cover) Wild Child is Steven Salerno's 22nd illustrated picture book for kids, his 4th as author & illustrator. It will be released by Abrams Books in fall 2015. Visit
(above: view of character sketches in progress) Wild Child is Steven Salerno's 22nd illustrated picture book for kids, his 4th as author & illustrator. It will be released by Abrams Books in fall 2015. 
(above: view of an illustration in progress) Wild Child is Steven Salerno's 22nd illustrated picture book for kids, his 4th as author & illustrator. It will be released by Abrams Books in fall 2015. 

See my web portfolios for advertising, editorial, packaging, and of course, children's picture book illustrations at

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Who Lives There? -my illustration in today's Sunday New York Times

"Who Lives There?" illustration by Steven Salerno for The New York Times 11/9/14

My illustration in today's Sunday New York Times for an article about potential buyers of an apartment being concerned and curious as to who already lives in the building they are interested in buying into.... and how they might be able to go about finding the answer to their questions. So I created a simple concept of a Sherlock Holmes character peeking in the backside of an apartment building, and used golf yellow and red colors as they represent caution.

See my portfolio of advertising, editorial, packaging, and children's book illustrations at

Saturday, August 16, 2014

BOY ON A RED HORSE... a WORKBOOK promotional ad... sketch to completed illustration

Like most illustrators, I am having to regularly advertise my illustration style samples to art directors, design directors, art buyers and editors in all areas: advertising agencies, magazines, newspapers, publishing, etc... and I do so through a variety of promotional vehicles: portfolios on my illustration web site and blog of course, as well as a number of illustration industry web sites like,,, and others... and social media sites like, facebook, etc...

I also promote my illustration business through email promos via, snail mail postcards, and illustration directory ad books, such as WORKBOOK (which is sent out to about 15,000 art directors annually) This is the directory I have consistently advertised in since about 1992. I am required to create my directory ad pages for WORKBOOK about 6 months ahead of time to meet their production/printing schedule, so I just completed my latest directory ad image for the Spring 2015 WORKBOOK Illustration Directory book, which will be released in March 2015. (a companion WORKBOOK ad book will be released in fall 2015... and I will create that ad page art sometime near the end January 2015).

Sometimes I just use an existing illustration of mine as my WORKBOOK ad page, but most often I create a new illustration image specifically for the directory ad. I was doodling recently, and created an image of a boy on a horse... and liked it as there seemed something a bit mysterious about the two characters, so I decided, if developed further, it might be a good candidate as my next ad page. I thought as an ad for my illustration work, it possibly might catch the attention of some publishing AD's for book cover assignments...

I never really draw horses, but when I do, I enjoy it. And maybe doing so comes a bit easily for me because I know their shape quite well. My grandfather had a little farm, and he always had a handful of horses. He was born in 1907 (I think!) and as a young man had worked in the Adirondack mountains for a paper company, hauling giant cut logs out of the forests with his team of horses. And he also loved entering County Fairs in the Horse Pull contests, wherein weighed slabs of concrete were placed on sleds, then hooked up to teams of horses and the horses pulled the heavy weight to see who could pull it the furthest: 20 feet, 30 feet, 60 feet, etc... My grandfather raised Belgian Draft horses... which are a very big, strong breed....they weigh on average about 2,000 pounds! So they could really pull heavy weights! I remember as a kid helping in the barn and brushing and feeding the horses... and also riding on the slabs of cement on the sled when the horses pulled the sled around the track behind the barn! Anyway, I think those memories of horses helps me to understand how to depict their character and shape on paper.

The next step was to create a more refined sketch, and in the general dimensions of the WORKBOOK directory ad page size, which is 7.25" wide x 9.25" tall. This is the sketch you see below.  
In this sketch I embellished upon the initial doodle -by adding in another tiny horse far in the background, and purposely kept the landscape horizon line very low to emphasize the height of the young boy sitting atop the big horse. This sketch was created with a black ink brush-tip pen, blue marker, and pastel on a scrap of lined paper.

This is the final completed illustration, with the type treatment in place too (for the WORKBOOK ad page). You can see that I essentially kept the same basic composition for the final art image as indicated in the sketch... with only a change in the shaping of the cloud formations, and also decided to eliminate the little horse seen in the background and instead show a sailboat, and turned the rolling hills seen in the sketch into the sea. Whether it had stayed a little horse in the background, or is a small sailboat, it didn't really matter... essentially I just wanted to place something small in the background so as to show contrast in size, thus making the horse seem as big as possible within the composition, and to create a triangle of visual attention with the sailboat, the boy's face, and the horse's head.

To create the final image, I taped my sketch on my light table, placed my heavyweight paper on top of the sketch and in pencil lightly redrew the image of the horse and boy... making on the fly improvement adjustments to the image. Then I used a brush-tip ink pen to draw the final image, using the light penciling underneath as my guide. Then I scanned the ink drawing into Photoshop... and in a multitude of layers began to finalize the completed look of the illustration... The background blue texture you see is a texture I created with color pencils which I also scanned and brought in as another layer. The foreground "ground" texture was another texture I created with pastel on rough paper. The yellow and red colors seen in the horse and boy were done digitally, as were the clouds and sailboat and sea. 

It was a very simple image to create technically, the only really work was drawing the horse in a minimal manner, and allowing the quality of the gestural line be a feature of the overall image, in other words not rendering the horse and the boy characters, but rather drawing them directly. What you do not see posted here, are the handful of attempted final inkings of the horse and boy which were not executed well enough, and ended up in the waste basket. 

Note: The sketch seen at the top was drawn without using any reference at all, because I know a horse's general anatomy well enough to certainly create a rough sketch image from just my imagination, especially a sketch that is virtually in silhouette... However, to create the final illustration I did indeed use a few photos of horse's head and legs for reference.

Visit to see all my portfolios, read my full bio, list of published picture book, client list, etc...