Lincoln Peirce is a cartoonist/writer and the creator of the comic strip Big Nate. It appears in more than two hundred U.S. newspapers and online daily at comics.com.

Lincoln Peirce lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Maine.

Sign up for the Big Nate newsletter!

Spot the Difference

I wish I could draw faster.  I’ve always drawn very slowly, which is part of the reason it takes so long for me to complete all the finished artwork for a book like Big Nate Strikes Again.  But there’s ANOTHER piece to the explanation:  I draw each piece of finished art TWICE.  Here’s why.

Take a look at the drawing of Nate on the left above.  I drew it with my favorite kind of drawing pen (which, for you pen fans, is called a Staedtler pigment liner).  Is the drawing finished?  No, because the lines are too thin and, in parts, a little wobbly.  Nate doesn’t look substantial or solid enough.  To me, a drawing for a Big Nate book isn’t finished until the lines are bold and clean.  So, to get the drawing to look the way I want it to, what do I do?  I draw over each and every line a second time, so that the end result looks more like the drawing on the right.

I know what some of you are thinking.  You want to know why I don’t just draw with a thicker pen, so that I do each drawing only once instead of twice.  Well, the answer is that I’ve never found a thick pen that I like well enough.  Thick pens are harder to control.  The edges of the lines often look fuzzy instead of crisp.  And some of you might ask:  then why don’t you make the drawings smaller, so that the lines are proportionately thicker?  I’ve tried that, but I’ve found that if I make the drawings any smaller than I already do, it’s too difficult to achieve the kind of detail I want.  And some of you might say:  those drawings look pretty much the same, so why go to so much trouble?  The simplest way for me to answer is that the drawings don’t look the same to me.  I like the second one much more.  So until I can find a better solution, I’m stuck with my “double drawing” routine.  It’s sort of a pain, but the results are worth it.  

And speaking of drawings, the finish line for Big Nate Strikes Again is in sight.  I’ve got about 60 pages to go, with about 18 days until my deadline.  Wish me luck! 

Tue, 07/06/2010

A Sporty Clue to Big Nate 2!

Guess what you’re looking at. 

Clearly, it’s a picture of Nate and Gina. But there’s more to it than that.  It’s also a small hint of what’s to come on October 19th, when Big Nate Strikes Again goes on sale.  You know how the back cover of a book often provides clues about the story you’re about to read?  Well, this drawing is going to be right at the top of of the back cover.  So what does that tell us?

It tells us that Gina must have a major role to play in the book.  Otherwise, she wouldn’t be on the back cover.

It shows the two of them glaring at each other, which tells us they probably have some sort of conflict in the book.  (Not exactly a surprise!)

And it depicts Nate leaning on something.  It could be a baseball bat, but it looks a little too skinny for that.  There’s tape on the handle, though, so it must be SOME kind of bat.  Could one of the storylines in BNSA involve sports of some kind?  You’ll find out on October 19th!

Speaking of sports, the question of the day comes from Tyler who sent me this email:  What sports does Big Nate play besides soccer?

Thanks for the question, Tyler.  Over the years in the Big Nate comic strip, Nate has played baseball (he plays right field) and basketball (he plays point guard) along with soccer (he plays goalkeeper).  He also has played recreational sports like frisbee golf.  And he often gets dragged out to the local golf course to caddy for his father.

Personally, my favorite sport to play is hockey, but Nate hasn’t played much hockey in the strip.  I’ve shown him playing pond hockey (and trying to keep his sister Ellen and her figure skating friends off the ice), but I’ve avoided writing stories in which Nate plays in an organized hockey league because of all the equipment.  Burying characters behind helmets, face masks, shoulder pads, etc. might make it tough to tell them apart.  For the same reason, I’ve never had Nate play organized football — too much gear.  But maybe one of these days, I’ll let Nate try a real contact sport.

All for now, see you next time! 

Thu, 07/01/2010

My Best Fortunes

If you’ve read Big Nate: In A Class By Himself, you already know that Nate gets a fortune that tells him “Today you will surpass all others.”  From that point on, Nate’s day takes a series of twists and turns as he tries mightily to make the fortune come true.  I don’t take fortune cookies (or horoscopes or bubble gum wrappers) as seriously as Nate does...but I do enjoy them.  When I get a good one, I save it and tack it to my bulletin board.  I’ve added pictures of a few of the best ones.

But if a fortune ISN’T good, or isn’t really a fortune (like “an unlit candle frightens no monkeys!”), I just throw it away.  This weekend I was in Washington, DC to attend the American Library Association’s annual conference, and I went out for Chinese food with my friend and editor, Phoebe (who is an EXPERT on Chinese food!)  I got a fortune cookie that told me “idleness is a fool’s paradise.”  Definitely not worth a spot on my bulletin board.

There’s something else that’s tacked to my board.  It’s certainly not a fortune.  About 9 or 10 years ago I made myself a cup of tea.  Attached to the teabag was a little slip of paper that was very mysterious.  Scroll down to see it...

Huh???  I still have no idea what it means.  I kept it because it’s so strange, and because it mentions hockey, my favorite sport.  But that doesn’t mean I understand it.

I had a great time in Washington at the ALA conference, and met a whole slew of librarians from all over the country — some school librarians, some public librarians.  And many of them were kind enough to let me know that a lot of young readers are visiting their libraries and asking for Big Nate.  Earlier today I had the chance to sign some copies of Book 1 (and a few Book 2 samplers) at the ALA exhibition hall.  I was happy to see that there were plenty of kids attending.  I signed books for Finley, Misha, Emily, and many others.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello! 

Mon, 06/28/2010

A Mysterious Fortune...

See my above blog for the explanation!

Sun, 06/27/2010

Big Nate's Small Closet

When was YOUR last day of school?   In Maine, where I live, kids usually get out of school around the third week of June.  But that can change depending on the number of snow days there were during the winter.  A wild winter with lots of snow days means — unfortunately! -- that kids must stay in school later into June.  My nephew Derek and my niece Avery, who live in Rhode Island, didn’t reach the end of their school year until Wednesday.  Of course, depending on where you live, you may have started your vacation weeks and weeks ago.  I hope you’re all having a great summer!

But summer vacation isn’t what I want to write about.  I want to write about shirts.  Yes, shirts.

Big Nate always wears the same shirt.  It’s yellow on the bottom, blue along the shoulders, with a yellow collar.  You may be wondering:  what’s up with that?  Doesn’t Nate ever change his clothes?  Well, if you’ve read any of my earlier blogs, you know how much I enjoyed reading Peanuts as a kid.  One thing I always noticed was Charlie Brown’s “zig-zag” shirt.  And then I started noticing what the other characters were wearing.  Linus wore a striped t-shirt, Lucy wore a dress with puffy shoulders, and so on.  Although I didn’t really realize it at the time, that helped me — a very young reader — recognize and become familiar with the characters.  Later on, when I decided I wanted to be a cartoonist myself, I resolved that whatever characters I created would have their own special shirts.

So that’s why Nate always wears that sporty yellow-and-blue number (which is based on an actual shirt I wore as a boy), Francis wears a shirt with an “F” on the front (I was inspired by the Chipmunks:  Alvin, Theodore, and Simon), and Teddy wears a shirt with a big black dot on the chest.  Of course, sometimes Nate HAS to change clothes — when he wears a baseball uniform or a soccer jersey, for instance.  And we all remember what happened in Big Nate: In A Class By Himself when Nate changed into his gym clothes!  But 99% of the time, he maintains his trademark look.  If he wore something different every day, he just wouldn’t be Big Nate!

Tomorrow I go to Washington, DC, where I’m going to meet dozens and dozens of librarians.  I’ll tell you all about it next time! 

Fri, 06/25/2010

Nate & Jenny Sitting in a Tree

Why is Nate so crazy about Jenny?  That’s the question of the day from Chloe, who just graduated from fifth grade.  (Congratulations, Chloe!) 

I think the best answer is that Nate is crazy about the IDEA of Jenny.  If you gave Nate a dose of truth serum, he’d have to admit that he really doesn’t even know Jenny very well, despite the fact that they’ve been classmates since first grade.  He probably can’t tell you what Jenny’s favorite song is, or what her middle name is...he might not even know the color of her eyes!  But when you have a crush on someone, it’s often because your imagination has convinced you that another person is a perfect match for you, even if they’re not.  That’s the kind of crush Nate has on Jenny.  The idea that he and Jenny might one day be a couple is a powerful one, and it causes Nate to overlook some of the roadblocks to romance.  Like the fact that Jenny finds him annoying, for example.  Or the fact that she already has a boyfriend, Artur.  But because Nate is not exactly lacking in self-confidence, it’s easy for him to ignore these facts.  He knows he’s awesome, and so he figures it’s only a matter of time until Jenny figures that out for herself.

Mentioning Jenny’s middle name, which I did a few moments ago, just reminded me of something.  Do you know Nate’s middle name?  If you do, you’re the ONLY person who does, because he doesn’t have one.  His name is about as simple as a name can get:  Nate Wright.  “Nate” is not short for Nathan or Nathaniel, either.  A few years ago, I wrote a little story in the comic strip in which Nate was annoyed by the fact that he has no middle name.  Then he found out that Francis’s middle name is “Butthurst,” and Nate decided that not having a middle name wasn’t so bad after all.

Book 2 update: In school, has your teacher ever given you a deadline?  A deadline is a due date.  If your teacher tells you that you must write a book report by Friday, that means Friday is your deadline.  Well, I have a deadline for Book 2, Big Nate Strikes Again.  I must complete all the finished artwork by July 23rd.  (Right now I’m in the middle of Chapter 7.  I just finished a drawing of Nate playing The Scribble Game.)  I’m pretty sure I’ll make my deadline, but there won’t be much room to spare.  Stay tuned!

Mon, 06/21/2010

My Favorite Comics!

Hi everyone,

If you’ve read Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself, you know that it’s sort of a combo meal:  it’s a regular chapter book, and it’s also a comic book.  Well, since last time I wrote about some of the great books I loved as a kid, I thought today I’d blog a little bit about some of my favorite comics — both comic books and comic strips.

PEANUTS – It’s one of the greatest comic strips of all time, and it’s also the one most responsible for my becoming a cartoonist.  As a third grader, I discovered Peanuts reprint books, and I immediately started copying the drawings of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.  (I found out very quickly that Charlie Brown’s head is NOT a perfect circle!)

ARCHIE – What Archie sees in that snooty Veronica, I’ll never know.  Betty is clearly the girl for him.  Actually, my favorite character in the Archie comic books has always been Jughead.  I admire his single-minded devotion to eating hamburgers.  (TRIVIA QUESTION:  There is another character in comics history who is obsessed with hamburgers.  Can you name him?)

TINTIN – The first time I read a Tintin book, I was in heaven.  I loved how long and involved the Tintin stories were, and I was fascinated by how neat and clean the artwork was.  

UNCLE SCROOGE – Every summer when I was a boy, my family drove to Cayuga Lake in upstate New York, where my mom grew up.  It was about an 8-hour drive, and I needed plenty of comic books to keep myself occupied during the trip.  I would buy as many Uncle Scrooge comic books as I could and save them for the car ride.  (Those trips were also among the only times our parents let us chew gum.  I learned how to blow a bubble in the back seat of our Oldsmobile.)

CLASSIC COMIC STRIPS OF THE PAST – When I was about twelve, I discovered a Smithsonian collection of comic strips, and that was when I first learned about some of the great strips from the “Golden Age” of comics:  Polly And Her Pals, Krazy Kat, Li’l Abner, Terry And The Pirates, Pogo, etc.

POPEYE – Popeye is probably my favorite comics character of all time.  He first appeared in a comic strip called “Thimble Theatre,” and he quickly took over the strip.  In the 1930’s, dozens and dozens of black-and-white Popeye cartoons were produced, and they were still being shown on television when I was growing up.  (TRIVIA ANSWER:  There is a character in Popeye comics and cartoons named Wimpy.  He is even more obsessed with hamburgers than Jughead!  But Wimpy never has the money to buy hamburgers.  His classic line is, “I will glady pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”)

That’s all for this time.  I’ll write more next week! 

Thu, 06/17/2010

A Secret Code and My Favorite Books

Today I’m giving you a special sneak peak at Book 2, Big Nate Strikes Again.  But you’ll need a little help from Big Nate and his secret code!

Go to page 18 of Book 1, Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself for the key to the code above.  Then you’ll be able to figure out the name spelled out above — a famous historical figure who plays a big part in Book 2!

Today’s question of the day comes from Lexi, who wants to know:  What were your favorite books when you were my age?  (By the way, I’m 9!)

Great question, Lexi!  There are too many to list them all, but I’ll pick out a few that were right at the top.

James And The Giant Peach  I remember feeling so happy for James when he escaped from his horrible aunts, and I loved the songs and the illustrations that were such an important part of the story.

The Great Brain (and sequels)  I read the Great Brain books many, many times.  I think maybe I identified with the narrator, John, because like me he was a little brother.  And I was fascinated by some of the details about growing up in Utah at the very end of the nineteenth century.

The Phantom Tollbooth  Until I read it, I didn’t know books like this existed.

A Wrinkle In Time  When I read this book as a kid, I remember thinking that I might be a little too young for it, because it’s the first book that every freaked me out a little bit.  I thought it was scary, but very exciting.  Thank goodness there was a happy ending.

Charlotte’s Web  I’d be surprised if this book isn’t on almost EVERYONE’s list of favorites. It’s one of the best books ever written.

Banner In The Sky  I was a little older when I read this the first time — probably 10 or 11.  But the story of Rudi Matt, a kitchen boy who wants to climb a deadly mountain called the Citadel, really grabbed me.

Of course, there have been countless great books written in the years since I was Lexi’s age.  Some of the ones I particularly enjoyed reading with/to my own children are:  Holes, When I Crossed No-Bob, Boston Jane, the Harry Potter books, The Bridge To Terebithia, and many, many more.

That’s all for this time!  Keep reading!

Mon, 06/14/2010

A Little Bit of Everything

Hi, everyone!  Today’s blog entry has a little bit of everything.  Let’s start out with the question of the day, which comes from Max.  He asked me in an email:  ARE YOUR NOTEBOOKS FILLED WITH DOODLES AND DRAWINGS, JUST LIKE NATE’S?

Well, Max, back when I was your age, the answer was definitely YES.  As soon as I bought a new notebook, I’d start drawing on the the covers — front and back.  My class notes were always packed with doodles.  But I quickly learned not to draw on homework assignments or tests.  The teachers usually lowered your grade for doing that.

Now my notebook days are behind me, but I still have sketchbooks.  They’re small — only about three inches by five inches.  I use them for brainstorming Big Nate story ideas, or just to pass the time.  The above picture is a page from about 9 or 10 months ago.

And speaking of drawing, here’s an update on book 2 in the series, BIG NATE STRIKES AGAIN.  I’m hard at work on the drawings, and I’m almost done with Chapter 5.  In two or three days, I should be exactly halfway done with the finished artwork.

POP QUIZ:  There is only one character in BIG NATE:  IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF who has never appeared in the Big Nate comic strip.  Do you know who that character is?  The answer is Randy Betancourt.  I invented him specifically for the first book...but as it turns out, Randy will be around for the rest of the books, too.  And he’ll soon appear in the comic strip as well!  Keep an eye out for him by clicking the “comic strip” button on the homepage.

And finally...one of the things I’ve learned about writing a book series is that you always have to be thinking ahead to the next book.  Even before I’d finished writing the first book, I had to create a title and a cover design for the second book.  And now, even though I’m not done with book 2, I’m working on the cover design for book 3!  I’ll have to check and see when it’s okay to tell you the book 3 title.  Stay tuned!

Thu, 06/10/2010

How I Draw Big Nate

I'd like to thank Cheryl and the rest of the staff at Nonesuch Books in South Portland, Maine, for inviting me to visit on Saturday morning.  There was quite a turnout -- we sold every Big Nate book they had in the store! -- and I had a great time talking to kids like Oriana, Matthew, Max, Jack, Joe, and Zoe about Big Nate.  Since the comic strip appears in the local newspaper, The Portland Press Herald, a lot of the kids and their parents have been reading about Nate's adventures for a long time.

One young man wanted to know how I draw Big Nate -- whether I sketch everything first, how big the drawings are, etc. -- and I thought to myself:

that would be fun to blog about!  So here's how I do a finished drawing for a Big Nate book.

First, I do a rough sketch to figure out where on the page the artwork should be.  A drawing might be on the right side, the left side, or it might even take up the entire page.  To make a rough sketch, I use a fine point pen and don't include very much detail.  But I can picture in my mind the kinds of details I'll eventually include in the finished drawing.

When the time comes to make the finished artwork, I use nice, smooth drawing paper called bristol board.  I sketch the entire drawing using something called a non-photo blue pencil.  (It's called non-photo blue because the light blue color doesn't show up when the drawing is scanned or

photocopied.)  I make the drawings exactly twice the size they will be on the pages of the book, so there's a lot of measuring involved.  I use pens called pigment liners, and after I've inked everything once, I go over the lines again with a thinner pen to help smooth everything out.  If I make a mistake, I'll cover it up with white-out or with a small piece of paper with double-stick tape on the back.  But sometimes I mess up a drawing so badly I can't correct my mistake, and then there's nothing to do but start all over.

T
hat happened to me earlier today.  I was doing a drawing of Nate's sister Ellen for chapter 5 of BIG NATE STRIKES AGAIN, and I made her nose too big. (Nate would probably say I drew it exactly the right size.)

And by the way...if you haven't already, try to help Nate and Teddy build a cheese doodle tower!  It's the newest game on the website and it's my favorite so far!  That's all until my next entry!

Mon, 06/07/2010