DOZER'S RUN illustrated by David Opie - GIVEAWAY!

David Opie is a fellow member of the Picture Book Artists Association. Although we’ve been chatting on the members list-serv for years, I finally got the chance to meet him in person at the SCBWI International conference in New York this past winter. Granted, it was in the middle of the highly chaotic public portfolio review, so we didn’t get a lot of time to talk, but I did get to hear about DOZER’S RUN, written by Debbie Levy with Rosana Panza (Sleeping Bear Press).
      What an amazing true story! Dozer, a goldendoodle, ran 8 miles of a half-marathon to raise money for cancer research - only, he wasn’t entered in the race - he took off from his front yard! When news got out about what he’d done, encouraging the other runners along and basically keeping everybody’s spirits up, folks started making donations in his name. Dozer ended up raising more than anybody - $25,000! WOW, what a dog! David is here to tell us more about it…

David: It was really nice to finally meet you at the SCBWI Winter conference! Thanks for asking me to drop by the blog.

Q. You too! David - how did this project come into your life?
The art director found me through a mailer that I sent her. The characters on the mailer were expressive animals. The promo crossed the art director's desk at about the same time that the publisher acquired the "Dozer" manuscript. They checked out my website and saw lots of other illustrations of animals, and I wrote on my bio page that I love dogs. I think that sealed the deal. As soon as I heard that the main character was a dog, I said yes. And, I have to add, Sleeping Bear Press was great to work with. They gave me a lot of freedom to develop the book the way I wanted and they allowed plenty of time for me to create the illustrations.

Q. Have you met Dozer in person?
I didn't meet him until after the book was released. One of the challenges of the project was that Dozer is a goldendoodle, and he has lots of different haircuts, which dramatically change his appearance. For reference, the publisher sent me a bunch of snapshots of Dozer and a videotaped recreation of Dozer's half marathon run (done by ESPN), which were all very helpful. For the actual race day in 2011, the fur on his body was cut short, he had a slightly shaggy face, and a big bushy tail. That's the look I went with. I finally met him at the annual race in Maryland last month. Although he's retired from running races, he was there to help with fund-raising and to launch the book. And Dozer is a great dog! He's very friendly, playful, and social. At the book signing, people constantly came up to him, called his name, hugged him, got their pictures taken with him. My dog would never put up with all that.

Q. I love your style - so tactile with great textures. Can you tell us about it?
Thanks, that's something I've been working on a lot. I worked traditionally for years, but I've always experimented with digital techniques. I thought that I could work faster on the computer and make revisions more easily. I love the control I have when working digitally because it's so easy to make global adjustments. I figured out a digital approach in which all of the marks would be made with some type of scanned traditional texture, so the resulting piece would have the same interesting surface textures and brushstrokes of a hand-made image. That's the technique that I used for the mailer that got me the Dozer job and for Dozer's Run. I love to paint (with real paint), though, and I'll probably go back to working traditionally (with just a few adjustments in Photoshop). In the end, I don't think I saved any time by working digitally, although I am happy with the results.

Q. You have been so helpful sharing great advice and photoshop tips on your blog. Where can people go to learn more about all that?
I taught Photoshop and digital illustration for about 7 years, so many of the posts are from material that I developed for my classes. My blog is at I have a post on there about my Dozer's Run process.

Q. What was your path to publication in the children’s book industry?
Ten years after graduating from RISD, I went to grad school (SVA MFA Illustration As Visual Essay) and focused on narrative work. When I graduated I was able to get an illustration rep with my new portfolio of book work. My rep started getting me educational work right away. We had about 6 good years, but then the recession hit and things changed. I decide to strike out on my own and got the Dozer book pretty soon thereafter.

Q. Have you got something else in the works for us to look forward to?
I wrapped up the Dozer book in January, and I have illustrated two educational readers since then. One I did traditionally (with minor digital tweaking), the other one is mostly digital. I wanted to do the second one traditionally, but the publisher is planning on releasing an electronic version with limited animation. They wanted objects on their own Photoshop layers, so it made sense to do it digitally. I plan on doing some process blog posts after those projects are released.
      I have also been writing a lot more. I joined a critique group of folks who attended the last SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC, and I've been honing my manuscripts. I plan on submitting to agents soon. I would love to write and illustrate my own stories.

Q. Thanks so much for stopping by!!!
Thanks for inviting me!

David has kindly agreed to give away a free, signed and dedicated copy of DOZER'S RUN to one of my lucky participants. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below!


apple blossom said...

sounds like a really cute book thanks for the chance to win it. love to share it with my nieces and nephews and students I teach

Stephen Aitken said...

Thanks for sharing your process Dave and to Elizabeth for the interview. I found it interesting that you went digital with this project for expediency yet found in the end that you probably did not save any time. This has been my experience so I have been reverting as of late to more traditional media and enjoying some extra time away from the computer.

Great work!

Darlene Mergendahl said...

Being a dog lover (and helping out an agency that rescues pit bulls) I love books about pets. I am looking forward to reading this one.It sounds great!

Unknown said...

What a great story! Thanks for the chance to win the book.

Rebekah said...

What a story and I love the artwork. My children would love the story also. They are all runners and dog lovers and what better than a story about running and a dog who helps inspire runner.

Jeri Baird said...

DOZER'S RUN looks amazing! Thanks for the chance to win a copy!