Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NEW BLOG!!!!!!!

So I have finally updated my website and using wordpress I have combined it with a blog.
So if you want to follow my NEW blog you can see it here at  and clicking on the blog button.
You will see lots of new art and a bunch of new stuff, so feel free to peruse. Hope to hear from you there!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

My Panasonic Auto-Stop Electric Pencil Sharpener

Nothing beats a fine point.  This post is a tribute to my fine friend, the Panasonic Auto-Stop Electric Pencil Sharpener.  I've had it since 1987 when I was attending RISD. It has seen me through my entire career.  It has sharpened every pencil (mainly Prismacolor  Turquoise) that I have used on all my student work, 8 picture books, 5 illustrated novels, 45 book jackets, hundreds of drawings for movies and television, theme parks, advertising, video games...
It has lived in my various studios over the last 25 years; Rhode Island, New York City, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hawaii, Philippines and Belgium. It has been a true companion on my journey as an illustrator.
Now the sad news...It no longer gives me the fine point I need to do my work. I could go out and buy another one, but it just doesn't make sense. I cannot in good conscience put this friend out to pasture. So I have decided that I will continue to use it, and finish off the sharpening with a fine grit of sandpaper. The only drawback is that using the sandpaper leaves a smattering of graphite dust all over my desk that I have to sponge off at least once a week. I guess that is a small price to pay to have my friend at my side as I continue to make books.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays

To whomever is reading this...I apologize.  As you can see, I have not posted anything to this blog in an embarrassingly long time.  Excuses? Yes, I have plenty, but I would make a guess and say that you are not entirely interested.
I have just finished a whole bunch of new work, and plan to take a little time to update my website and make some more regular blog posts so you can see what I am working on.  In the meantime here is some of the artwork I have been doing since my last post over one year ago! ...

A cover for David Whitley's Agora Trilogy, "The Canticle of Whispers". 
 A cover for Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles;  The Serpent's Shadow. 

 An interior for a special edition of The Serpent's Shadow. 

An interior painting for a special edition of The Mark of Athena. 

Cover painting for the Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. 

Cover painting for The Legend Thief by E. J. Patten 

 The end pages for a special edition of The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan.  

This is a cover painting I did for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Bulletin.

And here are two spreads from my forthcoming picture book; 
 SUPER HAIR-O and the Barber of Doom  (Disney  Spring 2013)

And here are two spreads from another book I illustrated called  How To Train A Train written by Jason Carter Eaton (Candlewick Press, Fall 2013)

I also had a solo exhibition of my illustrations at the Orlando Museum of art (more to come on that in a future post),  I wrote a novel to be published by Candlewick in 2014,  and I moved to Los Angeles in August of this year.  Whew!  I am now going to go to sleep for a week.  
In future posts I will go into more detail about some of these projects; sketches, stay tuned. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011


I am very excited about the latest illustrated book I did with Katherine and John Paterson. It's not often that you get to illustrate a book for the National Ambassador of Children's Literature. I ended up doing about 60 paintings for this book.
I am happy to say that it has received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. . It goes on sale September 27.

Also, another middle grade novel I have illustrated, The Hunter Chronicles: Return to Exile, will hit stores on September 5. There is a website for the book. If you like Rick Riordan or Eoin Colfer, you will like E.J. Patten. He has written a really fun, scary book about teenage kids who fight incredible inventive monsters with weapons that they make from garbage.

There is also a very nice interview I did over at 7imps which has a ton of never before seen artwork and detailed discussions about my process.

and my daughter Alaya wanted to type something too. Here it is:


Thursday, May 19, 2011

"A SPECIAL SUMMER NIGHT"-Great review in BookPage!

John Rocco takes a child’s-eye view of one special summer night in Blackout. At first glance, this captivating picture book seems to offer a straightforward view of a night when a family is forced to move away from their electronic life to a simpler time, a time when families played board games and enjoyed each other’s company. Taking a closer look at the illustrations does for the reader just what the blackout does for the family in the story, allowing us to slow down and appreciate the moment all the more.

Let’s start with the very first image—even before the title page. Here is the main character, a little girl with a screen flickering behind her. Given her dour expression, it appears that the screen isn’t bringing her much joy. Moving to the first pages of the book, we see a busy street in Brooklyn, beneath the bridge. Careful observers will recognize that same girl again in a brownstone window. In other tiny windows, we spot four of the main characters, busy with their work and too busy for the little girl, who wants to play a board game.

In a beautiful moment, the lights of the city slowly dim, prompting the startled child to summon help with a cry of “MOM!” The family adjourns to the roof for a joyous time with neighbors under the starry night (which looks a lot like the Van Gogh painting of the same name). Then it’s back to the street for free ice cream from the ice cream vendor. As the story unfolds, astute readers will note slight changes in perspective and light that let the reader observe the passage of time, but in a slowed-down world without electricity.

Adults know that a power outage can be a pain in the neck, but to a child, it is just another adventure. In Rocco’s beautifully told story, a blackout brings one family together and allows a child to see her city in a whole new light . . . a flashlight

-Robin Smith

Here is the link

Friday, April 29, 2011


Blackout, my new picture book with Disney•Hyperion is getting some nice attention! Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus as well as being selected for the Indiebound Kids Next List for Summer 2011. I am very thrilled.
I will be signing copies of Blackout at 3pm at Book Expo America, and we also had some nifty posters made. Also, at 10pm Katherine Paterson will be signing galleys of our book, The Flint Heart, so check that out too!

I have a bunch of book signings in N.J. and Brooklyn coming up and you can check out the dates and times in the calendar section of my website.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The latest covers

Here are some jpgs of more final covers for "Return to Exile" and "The Throne of Fire".

Friday, December 17, 2010

New image available on Imagekind

I have just made this image, from Rick Riordan's Bestselling book "The Lost Hero" available for purchase on
Imagekind is a great service that allows you to choose the size, frame and material that it will be printed on. The quality is outstanding.
If you order by December 19th you can still get it in time for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

New Jackets

Here are a couple new jacket paintings. One is the third jacket in a series called the Century Books and should be coming out soon (The purple one). The other is for a book I can't talk about yet. I am still working on this one, but very excited on how it is coming out.
I have been extremely busy lately, getting ready for a couple of art exhibitions, and finishing up a couple of books, as well as working on the cover for the new Kane Chronicles book, by Rick Riordan.
Things should slow down for me around April of next year. Then I think I might work on my next picture book using traditional media (watercolor) and put the computer away for a while.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

John Rocco Art Exhibition- Sparkhouse Studio, Nov 14th

On Sunday November 14th there will be an art exhibition and reception at Sparkhouse Studio in South Orange, NJ from 7-9pm

Limited edition prints from all the Percy Jackson books, as well as The Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus will be available.

Here is all the information from the fine folks at Sparkhouse:
Please join us as we welcome John Rocco to Sparkhouse Studio.

Mr. Rocco is the illustrator of the Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles & The Heroes of Olympus series as well as the illustrator & author of several other books for children. He lives in Brooklyn & his will be the inaugural show at Sparkhouse Studio.

Please note that this is an adult event and wine will be served. There are two child friendly events earlier in the day with Mr. Rocco

You can RSVP to the event here:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dark Horse Gelaskins

Dark Horse comics have recently licensed some of my artwork to go on their new Gelaskins for laptops and phones and ipads and all that other cool technology that you want to protect from drops and spills and four year old children who have a tendency to knock your stuff on the ground. (Yes, I am talking to you, Alaya)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Illustrators Day Festival

Please join me and a whole plethora of illustrators tomorrow from 10:30 till 3pm at the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza for a day of family fun. Illustrators will be doing readings, workshops, book signings, and generally running around looking for coffee and pencils. This is in conjunction with the Drawn in Brooklyn art exhibition at the Library.

Now, with that out of the way, I can apologize for not posting in a while. I have been busy.
Here is what I have been up to:

Working on the illustrations (45 in all!) for a middle grade novel with John and Katherine Paterson called The Flint Heart. It is an amazing story that has children, fairies, talking animals and even a hot water bottle from Germany named Bismark.
Here is one of the paintings....

I also just finished up a new picture book called BLACKOUT which will be out in May of 2011.
Here is a finished illustration for that:

In other news, FU FINDS THE WAY, was selected for the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators. The reception is on Thursday October 21. If you are there, please say hi!
Here is the piece that will be hanging in the show. I chose to frame both the pencil version and a print of the digital painting so that people could see my process.

I have also been working on my house in the country. We have started to paint the outside a nice green color called Autumn Sage. Doesn't it just sound peaceful? I built some benches for my daughters classroom, which was a lot of fun. I will have to get some pictures of those. They were made from an old oak tree that was in my wife's yard when she was a child, and when it fell over her dad had the wood milled and shipped it over from Belgium. So those benches have some history!

-Meet the Illustrator, Central Library Brooklyn Dweck Center, Nov 4th at 10:00 am
-Reading at The Red Hook Public Library in Brooklyn Wednesday November 10 at 10:00 am
-Workshop, The Art of the Bookjacket, Central Library, Brooklyn (Grand Army Plaza) 2:30 PM

-Art Exhibition, SparkHouse Studios, reception Nov 14th 7pm
-Art Exhibition and panel discussion with the Book Maker's Dozen at Powerhouse Arena December 2, 7-9pm

Hope to see you at one of these events.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Lost Hero

There has been a lot of buzz in the news lately about Rick Riordan's newest series, The Heroes of Olympus, and once again, I am thrilled to be a part of it. Here is the cover painting I did for the first book, The Lost Hero.

Friday, June 04, 2010

World's End

Here is the latest jacket art for World's End. It's a wraparound jacket in which the art is even carried onto the inside jacket flaps. World's End is the second book in the DORMIA series by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski.
This was a fun one, and you can see my inspiration from these two paintings by Howard Pyle.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Launch of The Kane Chronicles

Last night I went to a media launch event for Rick Riordan's newest series, The Kane Chronicles. (Jacket art by yours truly). The event was in the large atrium of the Brooklyn Museum and there was quite a turnout. Here are some pictures:

Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President, made Rick an honorary Brooklyn Citizen. (A good part of The Kane Chronicles takes place in Brooklyn, about five blocks from my house!)
The wonderful voice over artists, who read for the audio version of the book were on hand to give everyone a sample of there talents. They were great!
And, as always, Rick got everyone excited about Egyptian mythology...and his new series of course. He mentioned that the Brooklyn Museum has the largest collection of ancient Egyptian spell books in the world. Pretty dangerous!?!?My art director, Joann Hill, and I were both giddy about how well the cover came out. Not so sure what the heck I am doing with my hand...casting a spell perhaps?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April Showers...

I haven't blogged in a while, and that means I am busy. I recently joined fellow illustrators David Gordon and Dave Horowitz at the Bridgewater Young Authors Conference which was a lot of fun. I also spoke at the New Jersey Reading Councils recent conference and signed books with Marc Brown.
In my studio I am busy working on a couple of book jackets. One for the new book in the DORMIA series, and a jacket for Rick Riordan's newest book The Lost Hero, which is the first book in Rick's Percy Jackson spinoff series about demi-gods at camp half-blood.
In other news, Rick Riordan's latest series, The Kane Chronicles, hits bookstores on May 4 with its first book The Red Pyramid. Cool!
I am also spending my time working on THE FLINT HEART, by John and Katherine Patterson. It is a middle grade fantasy novel originally created by Edin Phillpotts in 1910. It was just announced that it will be made into a movie by the team that put together the film Bridge to Terabithia. The book will have about 45 paintings in it, so I think I will be having a busy summer. More to come on that as the summer progresses.

Okay, so when I am not busy on all of that...I am working on my picture book called BLACKOUT. It is an almost wordless book, (it has about 100 words, which is almost wordless for me!) about a family in Brooklyn that comes together through the magic of a blackout. Here are some of the drawings to give you a taste.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The rejected sketches...

I thought it would be fun to post some rejected sketches from a bunch of different book jackets that I've illustrated. These were the ideas that didn't make it...