7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #445: Featuring Matt Phelan

h1 August 16th, 2015 by jules

Matt: “[This is a] key moment from the book
that didn’t change much from the sketch dummy.”

(Click each image—dummy and final art—to enlarge)


Good morning, all. Matt Phelan is visiting 7-Imp today to share some sketches and art from Michelle Knudsen’s Marilyn’s Monster, which was published by Candlewick in March of this year. It’s the story of a young girl waiting patiently for her monster; some of her classmates have them, you see, but Marilyn knows that your monster is supposed to find you. So she “tried to be the kind of girl no monster could resist.” Things don’t go as Marilyn quite expects them to, but I’ll leave that for you to discover if you read this on your own.

It’s a story with a lot of heart, and as the Publishers Weekly review puts it, “it’s a warm, gently funny reminder to chase down one’s dreams, rather than waiting for them to appear on the doorstep.” I love to see Matt’s sketches and to hear him talk about the progression of the artwork for the book.

And bonus! He’s also giving us a sneak peek today at some sketches from his upcoming graphic novel about Snow White. I thank him for visiting today. Let’s get right to it. …


Matt: “I signed on to illustrate Marilyn’s Monster in 2012 but still had to complete Bluffton, Miss Emily, and Druthers before officially working on the book. The lead time was spent filling this sketch book with random monsters. It served as both a warm-up exercise and casting call for possible monsters to use in the book.”


Matt: “These are all character studies and media tests. I also try to establish the tone for the illustrations in these early tests. When working with another author, establishing the correct tone or ‘key’ for the story is probably the most important early step.”
(Click last image to enlarge)


Matt: “It was somewhere during the sketch dummy phase that it was decided to re-design Marilyn’s Monster. I had been drawing him almost like a younger sibling,
but we decided that Marilyn’s friend should be closer to her age and size.”


Initial thumbnail sketches
(Click to enlarge)


Pages from the sketch dummy
(Click each to enlarge)


Final art: “‘Maybe I’m better off without a monster,’
she told her friend Deborah at school. ‘They seem like a lot of work.’
‘Hmm,’ said Deborah. She didn’t really seem to agree.”

(Click to enlarge)


Matt: “With Marilyn, I discovered that my studio is just long enough to be able to spread out the paintings on the floor for a final check. I did sweep first.”
(Click to enlarge)


Matt: “I’m a huge fan of Michelle’s Library Lion (who isn’t?) and Kevin Hawkes’ perfect drawings for that book. When the text for Marilyn’s Monster mentioned looking behind the stone lions at the library, I couldn’t resist this tip of the hat.”


Matt: “On tour with Michelle Knudsen! Although I’ve illustrated books for many authors, Marilyn’s Monster was the first time that I was actually friends with the author before the book. During the making of it, Michelle and I stuck to the traditional ‘separation of author and illustrator’ rule, for the most part. It did allow me to think of it
as ‘the book’ and not ‘my friend’s book.'”



Matt: “Here are some sketches and the the promo card I made for ALA
for my noir graphic novel version of ‘Snow White,’ set in 1933 Manhattan.
It pubs in Fall 2016, I think.”

(Click each to enlarge)


MARILYN’S MONSTER. Text copyright © 2015 by Michelle Knudsen. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Phelan. Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. All images here reproduced by permission of Matt Phelan.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

Sorry to skip my kicks, dear Imps, but I have an ill parent, so I’ve been at my parents’ home for a couple of days. And right now I just need to catch up on sleep. In sort of a pressing way. It might even be a tiny miracle this post is up, but I’m glad it is — because I like Michelle’s writing in the book and I like seeing Matt’s art.

Please do tell me, though, what YOUR kicks are this week.

11 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #445: Featuring Matt Phelan”

  1. Hi imps! Fly by posting! I will catch up later today!

  2. Hi there, I love the work of Matt Phelan. In fact I won a snowman sketch years ago. Can’t wait to get my hands on these two books.
    Jules, I hope said parent has recovered. It’s hard as they become older sleep is healing. Thank you for getting the post up for us.
    LW, waving to you.
    My kicks:
    1. Meeting w/ our new principal. She’s been a member of our staff in other roles in the past. Think its gonna be a great year.
    2. Finished A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. A must read.
    3. Sitting on the deck and watching sunsets.
    4. The Pitch Wars community: submit a query and first chapter to five mentors for an opportunity to be mentored. Over 1000 submit to100+ mentors. Part its about the process and community.
    5. My new neighborhood library is beautiful.
    6. Buster.
    7 The call for CYBILS judges goes out tomorrow. Please consider applying.
    Have a great week.

  3. Love seeing Matt’s sketches. Thank you for sharing. Snow White looks like it’s going to be beautiful.
    Jules – Sorry to hear about having an ill family member. I’m sending love and prayers.
    Jone – looks like you’ve got a busy week, enjoy

    I’m in a beach parking lot as I write this so you know I’m going to be happy soon.
    No time for full kicks but if you’ve been following my mini morning sketches, stay tuned I’m going to be changing it up soon. Stay tuned.
    I’m off to swim. Have fun Imps.

  4. Ooooh, love the illustrations and seeing the whole progression. Can’t wait to read this one!

    Jules – sending good healing thoughts to you and your family! Hope you get some good sleep.

    Hi LW!

    Jone – haven’t the sunsets been amazing this summer? Hooray for Buster and a beautiful library in the new neighborhood.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Getting to put some credits in my good karma account.
    2) Laying on a blanket on the hood of my car to watch the Perseids with a friend. Very fun late-night adventure.
    3) Reading “The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers,” by Thomas Mullen. Halfway through and I am hooked.
    4) Fresh flowers.
    5) Coffee in the garden with Daisy.
    6) After a busy week, a night in for a change.
    7) It’s been exactly one year since Miss Daisy came to my house, so I consider it our anniversary and her designated birthday. My sweet silly hippo is thriving, which is a good thing. Lucky me to have such a love bug. We’ll be making the adoption official soon.

    Have a great week everyone!

  5. Sorry to hear, Jules. Thinking of you and wishing you sleep. Thanks for posting this—both of these look great. So nice to be able to do a book with a friend, and I love hearing about/getting a peek at the process. Can’t wait to see this interpretation of Snow White, too.

    Yay for sunsets and libraries and opportunities, beaches and morning sketches.

    Some short kicks: chocolate chip pumpkin bread, cooler weather, having kids’ friends over to play, the sight of leaves on the ground, working on something old and something new.

  6. Love Matt Phelan so much. Marilyn’s Monster is in our library bag. I can’t believe we haven’t read it yet. Off to fix that right now!

    Jules- I do hope all is ok and you get all the sleep you need!

    Rachel- Love your happy kicks. Who is Daisy? She sounds lovely!

    Ok.. Kicks.

    1. Gorgeous summer weather.
    2. Corn on the cob.
    3. Peaches.
    4. Reading 11/22/63. It is so… good!
    5. Participating in an August photo a day challenge and loving it!
    6. My girls are getting along really well which feels a bit like a miracle as late into summer vacation as we are. Still two weeks to go till school so fingers crossed I didn’t just jinx us!
    7. We are taking the girls to their first concert this week- Billy Joel! I can’t wait 🙂

    Happy Week fellow kickers!

    Jone- I have heard wonderful things about Constellations. Must get to it soon.

    Moira- The beach is the best!

  7. I do have Snow White on order and this presentation of Matt’s art is a reminder to me to write a post about Marilyn’s Monster. Thank you for sharing!

    I have been where you are twice Jules. I am sending prayers to you and your ill parent.

    I am a huge fan of sunrises and sunsets Jone. To see them from your deck must be glorious.

    I hope you enjoyed your day at the beach Moira.

    The Perseids are a natural wonder Rachel. So glad you got to see them with a friend.

    I love to make chocolate chip pumpkin bread Jessica. It’s great with whipped cream on top.

    Peach cobbler sounds real good about now Stacey.

    My kicks:
    1. Enjoying flowers the deer have decided not to eat.
    2. Good news coming on the 15th of September
    3. New books in the mail
    4. Air conditioning on hot days
    5. Crickets singing outside as I type this
    6 and 7 Grateful for every day I am with Xena. She loves being outside so outside we are. WiFi is super.

  8. Moira – I somehow missed your kick this morning – hooray for the beach and swimming!

    Jessica – chocolate chip pumpkin bread sounds delicious. I will definitely be making a note to make some of that this fall.

    Stacey – I love your summery kicks! Especially the last two – hope you all have fun at the concert! And Miss Daisy is my now 9 year old foster pup – a bluenose pit bull rescue brought to Oregon from L.A. – who after a year with me as my foster has convinced me she’s now family.

    Margie – the Perseids were so pretty, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and it was so nice when everyone at the state park where we watched would gasp in unison when a large one would flash through the sky, sharing in the magic of it. (Daisy slept through it in the backseat though, it was past her bedtime.) So glad you get to be outside with Xena enjoying each others company.

  9. Jules: Sending lots of love to you and yours. Hoping for the best.

    Hello again, imps! Hello, monsters!

    Matt Phelan: Thanks for sharing your awesome artwork – I especially dig that giant cat-cactui-stegosaurus and the bird-esque avocado-colored creature. I cannot WAIT for the noir Snow White. BRING IT ON.

    Jone: Hi! Returning the wave. Hope the new principal fits the school well. Good luck with the Pitch Wars.

    Moira: Enjoy the beach!

    Rachel: Happy Daisy-versary and birthday! Hip hip(po) hooray!

    Stacey: May the photos capture happiness and fond memories. Enjoy the concert!

    Margie: Hello to the crickets and the deer and Xena, always.

    My kicks for the best week:
    1) Final
    2) List
    3) Asked
    4) Nope
    5) Cool
    6) Settled
    7) Okay

  10. Jone: Congrats on a good, new principal — and thanks for the book recommendation.

    Moira: Jump a wave for me, and ooh! ooh! Exciting about your sketches. A mystery.

    Rachel: Yay, Daisy! Thanks to you, too, for the book rec, and I wish I’d seen the Perseids.

    Jess: Here’s to inspiring work — and (slightly) cooler weather!

    Stacey: And another book rec! You all are good for my adult novel-reading. … Enjoy the final days of summer. We are into the second week of school already. If I’d had kicks, I would have said I’m grateful for the middle schooler’s GREAT new school. Maybe that can be one of next week’s kicks.

    Margie! Ooh, you have a mystery for us too! Please do report back on 9/15! Hello to Xena.

    Little Willow: “Asked.” I love it. “Nope” too.

    Thanks for the well-wishes, all. I don’t need as much sleep as my mother at this point, but I do what I can to help out.

  11. […] 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #445: Featuring Matt Phelan by Julie Danielson from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast […]

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