It's all about imagination--and imagination is an integral part of Chris Gall's There's Nothing to Do on Mars, his children's book that came out in February. When Davey and his family decide to make the move from Earth to Mars, Davey mopes around, making the statement that gives the book its title. From there, Davey and his pet robot dog, Polaris, roam the red planet trying to find exciting things to do. The book is full of lush illustrations that Gall created by hand, carving out the illustrations on a clay-coated board and then coloring them. For There's Nothing to Do on Mars, Gall created vast landscapes of precipices and valleys, all colored in the trademark red of Mars. As for the finer details: Gall is grounded in retro. Davey wears his Chuck Taylor high-tops in style and comes home to a spaceship that is reminiscent of a '50s mobile home. You can check out chrisgall.com to see some of his work.

What were you doing artistically before children's books?

I got my bachelor of fine arts at the UA. When I got out of school, I did some freelance work over at the (Tucson) Weekly. I was doing cover art every other week back in '85, which was a blast, but the pay wasn't great. So I went into advertising and later became the art director at Nordensson Lynn here in Tucson for four years. I continued doing freelance commercial work for about 15 years. That market was slow, though, and I didn't want to be a gallery artist. So I decided to try children's picture books.

What was the transition like, going from commercial work to the publishing industry?

It wasn't a night-and-day thing; it was more of a slow transition. But being a distant relative of Katharine Bates (who wrote the words to "America the Beautiful"), I decided to use the words for "America the Beautiful" and do the illustrations for it. I gave it a shot and managed to get involved in a big publishing rig.

Most children's books have a moral or a central theme that kids are supposed to take away after reading. Are there morals that you decided to incorporate into your writing?

In the picture-book world, there is mostly a difference between the artist and the writer. But I had a writing background with creative-writing classes in college and doing stand-up. So with that experience, I decided to write, which is much more satisfying. I decided to write a boys' book. I had gotten so used to seeing fuzzy bunny-type things in the kids' section, and I decided that I'm going to write what I'd want to read at age 6. As for a lesson, I don't think it's my job to create one. Obviously, there is something in this book, with a child trying to find something to do, but it's more about the conclusion and the adventure.

Why did you leave the comedy routine?

I quit, because my wife said, "You have to." (Laughs.) It really wasn't that glamorous. I was constantly on the road as a feature act, doing tours and lots of traveling. It's a ton of work that's not even funny. It's a craft you sit and perfect. It's a tough life.

The book has some really beautiful illustrations that have a cool, wood-grain look to them. How did you develop that style?

Thanks. The first one I did was for a Weekly cover, actually, and everyone liked it so much that it kind of pushed me toward that. For the piece itself, I'll start out with a sketch or a layout, and then I do an engraving on a coated piece of Masonite. That's what makes it look like a carving. I used to do the coloring by hand, too, but that is too time-consuming. With technology, I can scan it and do most of the coloring on my computer.

Are there any more adventures for Davey in the future, or anything else you're working on?

(Laughs.) I guess that depends on how well this one sells. I'm working on something right now called Truckasaurs. It's about ancient trucks that existed in prehistoric times, before they became the helpful trucks we've come to know them as. Think: half-dino and half-truck.

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