Ed Koehler / Self-promotion


Wie treu sind deine Blätter!

Even if you don’t speak German you may know the song. Roughly translated, that line is “How faithful are your leaves!” A Tannenbaum is a fir, or evergreen tree. This song was a standard in the predominantly German neighborhood in which I grew up. We learned it in grade school and relearned it in high school German class, along with Stille Nacht.

To Tree, or Not to Tree, That is the Question.

As we near December, certain things can be counted on. News magazines will yet again publish their glossy special editions investigating the “real” Jesus; bumper stickers will remind us of the reason for the season, and a certain religious group will knock on my door offering a free magazine that explains the nefarious origin of the Christmas tree.

Lest this group be singled out, my own religious group has branches that have, in days past, banned Christmas altogether. For most of you this is probably a non-issue. For others you may have found yourself in heated discussion about the pros and cons of lighting up a tree in your living room.

The cons argue that trees were worshipped by pagans, and this holiday in particular goes back to the celebration of Saturnalia, the...

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Ed Koehler / Self-promotion

 I'm in an astronomical mood once again. Some time ago, earlier this year, I drew Astronomy Girl, that big-headed kid gazing up at the stars. That was followed by last month's Corn Moon, the big orange moon waking from a daytime sleep to light up the night. Today it's Galileo.

I'm currently reading Galileo's Daughter, A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel. Ms. Sobel has also written A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos. Galileo's Daughter was nominated for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. As many of you know, I started my professional art career at The McDonnell Planetarium in St. Louis, MO. Astronomy was the class I took to satisfy my college Fine Art curriculum's science requirement. I'm no expert in the field, but it would easily be my favorite science subject.

Most things I create have a nod toward children's books or curriculum. Those have been my bread and butter over the years. I can still recall the images that made an impact on me as a kid, and I hope my work leaves memorable impressions. Some of the things that grabbed my juvenile, and somewhat short, attention was the way shapes interacted in a pi...

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Ed Koehler / Self-promotion

 One of the joys of being a children's book illustrator is the frequency with which I get to create whimsical animals. I'm not a nature artist in the traditional sense, so I don't often paint realistic flora and fauna. My animals lean cute, or as I tell my clients, I'm on a scale of whimsy to whacky. 

Lately I've been drawing a lot of creatures, animal and human, directly on the tablet, with no preliminary sketches. My recent Astronomy Girl, Wait-Up, assorted lightbulb characters, and others have been drawn this way. There's a method to my whimsy. 

For my assignments I certainly produce preliminary roughs for approval from my clients. These impromptu pieces, like this polar guy, are done with no forethought other than a desire to be spontaneous, fun, and direct. I start with a shape, like a nose, a circle, or an organic form, and see where it goes. The method, if any, is to think visually and quickly, so that I'm the one surprised by what happens. The idea is that if I get a kick out of it, so will my audience. 

I will disclose that when I found out my playing around was turning into a polar bear, I did pull out a photo reference just to make sure it looked more like one than not. ...

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Ed Koehler / Self-promotion

 As I continue to play with these simple circles, I'm kind of surprised by what I come up with. All these simply start with a circle. No preliminary sketches, and truth be told, no actual idea.  First I drew two circles. I picked the green and blue from my custom color library (the one I call Urban Garden) and started coloring. I like this sort of Picasso-esque thing with the noses halving the head. If you squint, you'll see that they form a profile within a three quarter view of the head. Mentally erase the shaded part of the circle and you'll see remaining a satisfactory profile in a cartoonish style.  From there it was only a matter of deciding what these two round heads are doing. My first thought was to have them watching a flea circus. Seriously. But fleas are pretty small. How about playing a game? So there it went.  I know the moves in chess, but not the strategy. I thought it best to illustrate something realistic about the game. A quick search came up with The Sicilian Defense.  To me the odd palette with the off-color faces somehow captures a cool level of concentration, even while blue man whistles with confidence as he counters the white pawn opening at E4 wi...

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Ed Koehler / Self-promotion

Of course the big astronomical event happened on August 21, with the solar eclipse. I didn't catch it, but for me, the Harvest Moons, or these earlier Corn Moons, are spectacular sights, and I don't need special glasses to enjoy them. With the moon approaching fullnes in two days, I drew up this image called Moonrise. This man in the moon is waking from his daytime sleep with a stretch and a yawn. Now he's ready for a good night's work, brightening the sky to help farmers harvest late into the night. 

Shine on, shine on harvest (or corn) moon, up in the sky! 

I hope you like my series of big round headed illustrations. Thanks for reading!

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Ed Koehler / Self-promotion

 I think most kids adopt a neighborhood squirrel at some point. We had a regular visitor for a fair part of one childhood summer. Of course I fed him nuts and with each feeding he became more trusting of our relationship. Eventually he confidently climbed onto the decorative metal work of our screen door, gazing into our living room, looking for his supper.

We would chat, the squirrel and I. It seemed one sided, but I appreciated him being a good listener. Children's cartoons are built on talking and singing animals and I think there is something deep within us that would like to communicate with these critters.

With a bit of free time today, I imagined a squirrel settled high in a tree, and spontaneously breaking into song. Squirrels sometimes make that faint chirp sound, but how great would it be if they could belt out a tune? This one has stage presence, with arm extended, bellowing the last line of "My Way". He's a schmaltzy lounge squirrel, but he gets to pick the tune; I just draw him.

Sing your heart out squirrel. Your bag of nuts is in the mail.

Singing Squirrel ©2017 Ed Koehler

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Ed Koehler / Self-promotion

 Marquette Pool, a public facility in our city, was pretty much an everyday destination when I was a kid. It was quite a few miles from my home, but that didn’t stop us from rolling up our trunks in a towel and walking the distance to get some relief from the sweltering St. Louis sun.

Relief came in the way of 45 minute swim shifts. The popularity of this large pool was such that groups had to take turns. The waiters stood in a fenced in, black asphalted holding area while the waders enjoyed their 45 minutes of fun in the sun. Once the whistle blew, the first shift would file out, while the second dove in.

The pool is L shaped. The larger rectangle of water was a reasonable 3 to 6 feet depth, whereas the narrower section that formed the L bottomed out at 10 or 12 feet. This is where the high dive lived.

The diving boards, one near the surface and the other, an apparent several hundred feet above ground, were for those who possessed skills of an extraordinary nature. Those skills belonged to the teenagers.

When you are nine or ten years old, a teenager is an amazing creature in whose presence you bow and scrape. My nine year old self, along with my eight year old sister, who was wear...

Attached images:
Christmas Tree
Koala eating Kale
Rickshaw Reggie Chicago Neighborhoods
Samson and Delilah
Planting Bulbs
Good Friday
Saxophone Man
Burning the Midnight Filament.
Singing Squirrel
Clarinet Girl