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...

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Fantastic Ferris Wheel -my upcoming illustrated picture book

In 2012 the picture book I illustrated, Brothers At Bat (written by Audrey Vernick/ published by Clarion Books an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) was named a Notable Picture Book of the Year by The New York Times Review of Books... which was quite an honor considering only eight books were on the list. The true story about 12 brothers from New Jersey who made American baseball history, essentially takes place from the 1920's through the 1950's, so my accompanying period illustrations were reflective of those dates in time.

Brothers At Bat caught the eye of editor Christy Ottaviano (Christy Ottaviano Books, a division of Macmillan/Henry Holt Publishers) and she contacted me about a picture book project that she felt was a perfect match for me to create the illustrations for, entitled The Fantastic Ferris Wheel.

This is the true story (written by Betsy Harvey Kraft) of American engineer George Washington Ferris who created the first giant "observation wheel" for the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago... which was such an instantaneous hit with the public that it became known simply as The Ferris Wheel. So, in order to create the illustrations for this book, I had to submerge myself in all things 1893...

To put just the research involved for such a project into perspective, the most recent picture book I had illustrated, (BOOM! -released in 2013, and published by Disney's Hyperion Books) which is a story about a boy and his little dog that is afraid of thunder... To create the sketches for that book I only had to research TWO photographs for use as reference: a picture of a firetruck, and another photo of an orangutan.  In comparison, for the Ferris Wheel book, I had to wade through over 3,000 period photos to select the approximately 140 photos that I would use as general reference in creating all the preliminary sketches! 

I began the sketch process in September 2013 and finished in December 2013. I began the final art process on January 1st 2014 and will finish all the final art images near the end of May 2014. Posted here is one of the illustrations I completed for the book. It is a scene where the giant steel wheel is being constructed and people curiously gather to ponder the oddity of its design. Not only did I have to get the actual depiction of the wheel's construction process correct, I also had to observe the proper fashions and architecture of the day correctly as well.

Shown here is the (1) initial rough sketch, the (2) refined final sketch (which is shown to the editor) and also (3) the final completed illustration. I created the final art by making all the various necessary drawings: of the wheel, the scaffolding, the people, the background, etc... as well as painted background textures, then scanned all these elements into Photoshop, where I then compiled everything into my final composition, and added digital color, too.

George's Fantastic Wheel/ initial rough sketch   visit
My initial rough sketch, which also indicates where the text will generally be positioned on the right side page following the curve of the wheel .
George's Fantastic Wheel/ refined final sketch   visit
The refined final sketch, which is shown to the editor. Here the text is accurately
dropped into place too, to make sure I am allotting sufficient space within the art for the text.
In most instances I do my sketches in B&W only, and will work out the color as I execute the final art... however during the sketch stage I do indeed begin to plan how I will approach the color in the final art.

George's Fantastic Wheel/ final illustration   visit
The final completed illustration. But since I will not submit all the final art to the publisher for a couple more months, I still might make slight changes to this illustration.

By far, the illustrations for The Fantastic Ferris Wheel are easily the most intense to create compared to any of the other 20 books I've illustrated to date.This is by virtue of having to get all the period references correct, but mostly due to all the scenes involving physical mechanics, architectural elements... etc. I am only at about the half way mark in completing the final art and I already physically feel like I have illustrated two books already!

The sad part... is knowing that George Ferris died just a couple years after the successful debut of his wildly popular invention, at the young age of 37. But indeed his vision lives on still to this day, as "Ferris Wheels" continue to be a part of our social landscape around the world and inspired the huge observation wheels of today, like the London Eye, and the Singapore Flyer.

Visit to see samples from my many other picture books for kids, as well as my work for advertising, product packaging, etc...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Sleeping With the Dinos" (a NYTimes Travel section illustration assignment)

I've been creating illustrations on a freelance basis for the New York Times since 1980. Wow, time flies! I'm in my fourth decade of providing illustrations for this publication... amazing! Over the years my illustrations have appeared in the paper's various sections: The Op/Ed Page, Letters To The Editor Page, Travel, Business, Real Estate, Living, The Arts, The Book Review, The Sunday Magazine, etc... 

Recently I was called upon (by art director John Cohoe) to create a whimsical illustration for a Travel Section piece on museums around the world that provide many interesting after hour events for patrons to experience (see the 2/16/14 issue of the NYTimes) One such special event described was how the Museum of Natural History in NYC and London's Natural History Museum both offer the experience of actually sleeping over night in the museum, among the fossils, and dinosaur skeletons, and all the others creatures on display. I had my choice of picking any number of other museum experiences mentioned in the article to illustrate, but how could I pass up on the opportunity to create an image of sleeping with the dinosaurs?

Posted here are the steps I went through to make the illustration, though I have very much abbreviated the number of steps... selecting just the main stages. What you do not see are the varied number of very rough sketches I go through before arriving at the one I then show to the art director and editor at the Times for their approval. Nor am I showing the probably ten layers of adjustments I do within Photoshop to finalize the image.

Above ^
This is the initial pencil scribble/doodle I made while reading the manuscript from the writer... just a crude vision of the concept of a person sleeping between two enormous dinosaur skeletons

Above ^
This is the final rough sketch. I created it with black crayon and pencil. Here I have worked out the composition within the exact space given to me by the art director to fit within their layout design. Essentially the visual point was to depict a man in his pajamas calmly reading a book before retiring, dwarfed by the enormous and scary looking dinosaur skeletons... a study in odd juxtaposition. It is as if the man is oblivious to the oddity of the clash in scale and time.

 Above ^
This is the final rough sketch (with added color) which I then showed to the art director. I scanned my sketch into Photoshop and then quickly added in a textured color blue background, and erased out the area of the skeleton bones to reveal white, plus added in a bit of color for the pajamas and lamp light, etc... This is so the art director can see my general intended color scheme for the illustration. In this particular case I showed the color version of the sketch to the art director because it was so simple, but in many other instances I only show a B&W sketch to the art director because normally I resolve the final color choices as I work on the final art and not before.

 Above ^
This is the final crayon and ink drawing of the elements within the illustration: the human character, the skeletons, Big Ben in the background, the bed, lamp, etc.... I then scan it into Photoshop to create the added color and texture layers...

 Above ^
Here I have added in a textured blue background layer (that I painted with gouache), but I then cut out skylight shapes at the top and lightened this area to make the sky appear lighter than the inside of the dark museum. I also added in the yellow stars, moon and lamp light.

 Above ^
Here I have added in white color and light blue shading for the skeleton bones, the color for Big Ben, the man's pajamas, and added in some even darker blue shadowing on the back wall.

Above ^
In this detail of the man, you can see his meek character, and the subtle texture of the background. After completing the illustration and sending it to the art director... my only change I would have made if I had thought of it, would have been to add in a little sign next to the man with his name on it, maybe "Mr. Wallington."  (because the two dinosaurs each have their names on a sign near them.)

Visit to view my illustration portfolio, and to view my many picture books for children. Be sure to see the NEW STUFF portfolio section.