023: Becoming Crump
Wherein we dive deep into the topic of Children's Books, serving the greater good, and I tell you about my first real mentor...
It’s week 23 of the Draw of Die Newsletter. I just realized on Sunday this one accidentally only went out to the Drawing Prompt members! So re-sending this one now! Apologies!
As I promised last week, this week I want to take you behind the scenes on a new Children’s Book project I signed on to do for a local visitor’s bureau. I want to document this project in a fun way to show you not only how these offers come to be, but how I organize my workflow to be more efficient with every step, save time, money and an easier collaboration. Not to mention, I’m going to show you how I do this all while holding down a full-time day job that’s pretty demanding.
Let’s pause right here for one moment…. CHILDREN’S BOOKS?! What? What business do I have drawing a Children’s book of any kind!?
It’s actually not my first time. A few years ago I was approached by WNBA All-Star Ivory Latta to make a children’s book based on her story. You see, she’s short! She grew up being told she could never play basketball because of her size. And wow did she prove them wrong! Her story was called “Despite the Height”. (Available on amazon, almost sold out)
In Ivory’s case, she had quite the run-around to get her book done. As I recall, an artist had kind of held her hostage, or just kind of vanished. She was frustrated and put a call out on Facebook looking for artist referrels and someone tagged me. When she saw my art she reached out and asked me if I’d take a stab at it.
At first I was a little reluctant to do it. I had never done it before. I mostly deal in “comic books”. Was I even good enough to do it? (those usual doubts we have as artists)
Two things changed my mind.
#1 I wanted to buy a MacBook Pro for my son who was going off to college, and I couldn’t really afford it at the time. With the extra money here, I could do that.
And the second thing was my old 8th grade art teacher…
If you search for Fred Crump Jr. on google, an old blog post of mine shows up as the first link, with several comments from his old students.
Mr. Crump is my Obi-Wan Kenobi. I can’t explain it better than that. The older and wiser I get, the more I understand that man and his spirit. He passed long ago, but I still feel as though I can speak to him whenever I wish, you know, since he’s on my “invisible council” and all.
Long story short on Mr. Crump, he was an art teacher full-time. His classroom was like walking into a living comic strip. (see my blog post for more details) - But the most magical thing about Mr. Crump was that “on the side” he was writing and drawing classic children’s books and changing the main characters to African American children. This was in the 1980s. And Fred Crump said it was awful that more black children didn’t have toys or books that “looked like them.”
Big publishers turned him down. There’s a tale I recall of one big publisher trying to STOP him for some reason. They claimed the rights to a public domain character. They tried to intimidate him, but he knew the laws. He also thought it had more to do with them wanting to not “tarnish the image” of these beloved white princesses. He did it anyways.
While these books were “published” by a publisher name, it was actually a “vanity publisher”. Meaning, Fred was putting up his own money to put these books out. The publisher even stiffed him and didn’t report the sales correctly back to him. Insane. Yet, he didn’t seem to mind much.
And the funny thing is, it worked. These books by him have a cult following, and are reverred by so many parents who grew up with them. They love Mr. Crump. Many people assume he was black.
He remained a mystery and never made the work about himself. He was void of ego.
He was doing it for the greater good.
Cool. I was still doing it mostly for the money. Not for me though, to be able to afford a MacBook for my kid going off to college. And so I did it. And I dedicated my part of that book to Mr. Crump.
It was in the aftermath of the book being put out that I saw the real reward. That Ivory’s book that existed finally because of my effort, was reaching and inspiring tons of kids. Kids who feel small. And this made them feel like they could do BIG things. WOW.
It’s hard to put into words, but I understood Mr. Crump on a whole new level.
About this new project…
Again, in a very similar way, I got a referral from a friend who said this local visitor’s bureau was looking for “comics or animation” to kind of highlight the history of the county we live in. I took the call, and while they were initially looking for animation, I showed them Despite the Height and they fell in love with the idea.
Isn’t it interesting how one thing leads to another? And I also want to point out to artists that there are opportunities like this all around you.
Every reading this has a historical society, visitors bureau, chamber of commmerce and more organizations right in your backyard. And they access to money, grants, and more to make projects like this.
Want to dive deeper?
A bonus treat for those wanting to dive deeper into my process, I setup a special MIRO board to share with Draw or Die Members only. https://miro.com/app/board/uXjVPccWRzs=/?share_link_id=826441257022
You can scroll around, zoom in and out and see my notes about the process and how I’m putting the whole project together.
Let me know what you think!
This weekly drawing prompt is… FAIRY TALE. Draw your favorite character or scene from any classic fairy tale. Bonus points if you tag #drawordieclub on the social meeds.
Don’t forget we have Daily Drawing Prompts to keep your pencil and mind moving. Try it for free.
OKAY, I have a TON to draw, and I’m on deadline. Back to the drawing board for me. Stay encouraged out there!
👁 Connect with me elsewhere? I’m @djcoffman on Instagram / TikTok / Twitter
☠️ Draw or Die MERCH!
✏️ Custom Digital Brushes & Comic Page Templates
▶️ DRAW or DIE on YOUTUBE (Tutorials & more)
So kewl that you illustrated a children’s book. Never had a teacher like Crump in junior or high school. Wasn’t until college that I had a few that got me thinking out of the box, and experimenting with different mediums, approaches.
I tried my hand with book illustration also, some 15 years ago a former friend of mine some years ago got me in touch with a friend of hers to see about putting a children’s book together. She had poems, or one page short stories and my task was to depict something about each piece. After a few Mai the of back and forth on the sketches and ideas, it became evident that she really didn’t know what she wanted, too cartoony, not enough realism and so on, and in the end I called it quits. I kept the sketches and drawings just in case something comes up and I can use them as a reference or another offer comes up. Never know.