7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #660:
Featuring Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey

h1 October 20th, 2019 by jules


I’m happy to host Jarrett Pumphrey and his brother Jerome Pumphrey here at 7-Imp today. Their debut picture book (as both authors and illustrators), The Old Truck, will be on shelves in January (Norton Young Readers), and it’s the story of a truck that lives on a small farm and the girl who grows up with it. The story is a celebration of family, persistence, and female badassery (you will read below that this story was inspired by the strong women in Jarrett’s and Jerome’s family). You will also read on the book’s jacket flap that the two brothers created more than 250 individual stamps to make these illustrations. Fortunately, in their visit today they talk more about that and share some process images. So, let’s get right to it, and I thank them for visiting!

[Edited to add, 4/2/20: Here is my Horn Book review of The Old Truck.]

* * *

Jarrett and Jerome: We used a mix of traditional and digital media to make the art for the book. Yes, that included making stamps.



And more stamps.



And even more stamps. Over 250 by the time we were done.



Our process started with making a pretty polished dummy. We like to work out as many details as we can in the dummy stage so by the time we get to final art, we can just execute. Below are dummy images vs. finals.



“The old truck grew weary and tired.
So the old truck rested …”

(Click each to enlarge)



“The old truck sailed the seas …”
(Click each to enlarge)



“The new farmer worked long.”
(Click each to enlarge)


When it came time for final art, we usually approached it a spread at a time. Here’s how it would work:

First, we’d start with a marker sketch of the spread.


(Click to enlarge)


From the sketch, we’d pull objects from the spread and turn them into individual foam stamps. Sometimes we’d make the whole object in one stamp, like each tree with all those leaves — so many leaves. Other times, we’d split the object up into multiple stamps, like with the truck or the barn.


(Click to enlarge)


Once we had stamps, we’d use them to make prints with black ink on Bristol board. If an object appeared on multiple spreads, we’d use the same stamp but make multiple prints, so each appearance of the object in the book would be unique. That was a rule we gave ourselves. Another rule was to never use the same stamp twice on the same spread. So even though all those trees kind of look the same, each one got its own stamp with its own print.


(Click to enlarge)


Then, we scanned the prints into the computer; reassembled any, if necessary; performed any clean-up needed; and then put everything where it belonged on the spread.


(Click to enlarge)


Finally, we added color and painted in the characters and minor details.


(Click to enlarge)


We both work on the text and the art. We each have our own strengths and preferences, which naturally helps sort out who does what as we work. Jarrett tends to edit. Jerome tends to art direct. But for the most part, we both do a little bit of everything. We both come up with the story. We both write the text — sometimes together in the same room, sometimes apart. The art is always done together. We work out the compositions together. We work out the palette together. We make stamps, make prints, and make the composite spreads together.

We don’t, however, work on the text and the art at the same time. Usually, we write the text before we start drawing anything. Of course, as we write, particularly with how much interplay we want between the text and the art, we’re thinking about and discussing the visual story we want to tell as we write the text.


Pictured left: Jerome; pictured right: Jarrett


We were raised with a strong belief that if you work hard and persist, anything is possible. Our main character was inspired by the women in our family, who exhibited this spirit. Our mom always wanted a big family — but not at the expense of a career. Though it couldn’t have been easy, she raised four boys and ran our dad’s dental practice, helping him build it into one of the largest practices in the country.



Our grandmothers both worked for the U.S. Post Office in the segregated South. In the face of discrimination on two counts — race and gender — they persisted. By the time we came along, they would put up with very little trifling nonsense. If you set out to do something, you did it.

Our great-grandmother worked years picking cotton, saved up the little money she earned, and bought her own farm in Louisiana. She set an example that’s been carried down in our family for generations — work hard, persist, and dreams come true.

The truck in the book was inspired by all the old trucks we saw, growing up in Texas. Many of those trucks had been sitting idle for decades, long forgotten and overgrown. When we were thinking about this story, we wondered what one of those trucks might have seen if it had been on a small farm with a little girl who had big dreams.

This is our author-illustrator debut. We’re currently working on final art for our next book with Norton Young Readers. They’ve been a dream to work with, by the way. Simon Boughton — publisher, editor, art director, everything-er — has just been fantastic. He totally got us and what we were trying to do right from the beginning. With a light but insightful touch, he’s helped us make our first book a beautiful book, and we can’t wait to follow it up with another one.



When we finished the final art for the book, Jarrett wanted to celebrate. So with a bit of life imitating art, he decided to do something he’d always dreamed of doing — restoring a real-life old truck. He found a beautiful 1956 Ford F100 and got to work. He plans to complete a full restoration of the truck before the release of the book in January. (Fingers crossed.) It’s been a lot of hard work so far — definitely easier restoring a truck in illustrations than in real life — but he’s persisting. He spends his days working on the truck and his nights making books with Jerome. He just recently got the truck fully stripped down to the frame, and now he’s started rebuilding it.



It’s been a fun project and one entirely inspired by the book. We hope, in the same way, the book inspires kids to pursue their own dreams, even the ones that are hard to imagine ever coming true.


* * * * * * *

THE OLD TRUCK. Copyright © 2020 by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey. Published by Norton Young Readers, an imprint of W. W. Norton and Company, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Jarrett Pumphrey, Jerome Pumphrey, and the publisher.

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 * * *

1) I love this visit from Jarrett and Jerome, and I love seeing all their stamps.

2) A delicious meal and good conversation with friends this week.

3) Elbow’s new album.

4) A surprise in the mail from a kicker (thanks again, Rachel!) and another thoughtful gift from a friend (thanks, Emmie!). I don’t know what I did to deserve such good friends.

5) This poem by Rae Armantrout.

6) When friends email poetry out of the blue.

7) Our trip to beautiful Asheville last week. Biking. Hiking. A corny ghost tour. Apple-picking. Seeing a dear friend.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

6 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #660:
Featuring Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey”

  1. Thank you, Jarrett and Jerome for a peek into your process and what a fantastic debut book. I am looking forward to it.
    Jules, I’m glad you were able to have time away. And that poem, we needed it this week.
    My kicks:
    1. All day poetry workshop yesterday.
    2. Taken with another poet friend.
    3. Sharing pages at my Tuesday night writing class.
    4. Subbing at my previous school T-F last week.
    5. Hearing from a former student.
    6. Hearing Richard Powers, author of THE OVERSTORY on Wed.
    7. He shared this Thoreau quote: “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” It’s the best.
    Have a great week.

  2. Ooh, I love Powers’s writing, Jone. He also lives in, or is from, East Tennessee. I want to say he lives there now? …. So glad you’re subbing. I bet those students miss you.

  3. Good afternoon, Imps! Hope the weekend is treating you well.

    Hello, Pumphrey family! Thanks for sharing your story, your stamps, and your artistry with us.

    Jules: If only the album were longer, right? I’ll see them in person someday…

    Jone: I knew that kicklist was yours even before I saw the signature because the first two kicks included poetry.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Picked
    2) Positivity
    3) Possibility
    4) Potential
    5) Peaceful
    6) Participating
    7) Powerful

  4. I love seeing this artful collaboration! So many stamps. The detail is amazing, and the excerpts featured have me wanting to see more.

    Jules – hooray for new music, delicious meals and good conversations, and great trips with family. I love surprises in the mail to, so always happy to be able to return the favor, as it were.

    Jone – what a lovely literary week you had!

    Little Willow – love the alliterative kicks, and especially kicks 2,3, 4 and 7.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Getting to see Zadie Smith on her book tour.
    2) Catching up long-distance with a good friend.
    3) Finished The Book of Dust, volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman, and now I so eager the next one.
    4) A Friday afternoon mini work conference that was good, and had a fun reception afterwards.
    5) Getting a good result for a client.
    6) Getting to see Hillary Clinton speak on her book tour last night.
    7) Having a fun night out with friends.
    7.5) Coming home again to sweet Daisy.

    Have a wonderful week imps!

  5. Little Willow: It is, indeed, a short album, but damn if it isn’t perfect. … Happy you had a good week (or should I say it’s positively perfect?).

    Rachel, wow, you got to see two amazing women speak this week. So good to hear you enjoyed Pullman’s book. I’m behind.

    Have a good week, you all.

  6. […] for a peek into the making of The Old Truck, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted the brothers (“who created more than 250 individual stamps to make these illustrations”): here. […]

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