in all blogs
Viewing Blog: John Nez, Most Recent at Top
Results 1 - 25 of 497
Tidbits from the studio of a freelance children's book artist...
Statistics for John Nez
Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 29
I've been too busy drawing to feed the hungry blog. But here is a sneak peek sketch from a new book that showed up last week. This is a book with lots of fun characters. This is nice since it seems lately I've just being doing books about animals.
Lately I have done 2 cat books, 1 gator book, 2 worm books, 2 mice books, 1 pig book and a panda book. But people are endlessly fascinating and I like to draw them.
Once again a mysterious parcel has arrived at my door, and once again I'm grateful for the gesture of Highlights to make note of my artwork. Believe me, this is as close as I'm gonna get to the Oscars - so I may as well put on a party tux and enjoy the moment!
This arrived in the mail from Highlights. I thought it'd be fun to dig out the original pencils and photograph them next to the finished printed art.
I have a scientific system of storing original pencils. When my pile of sketches gets too big, I toss the drawings into a big drawer. It has hundreds of drawings. Then when the drawer gets full, I pack the sketches into a cardboard box and tape it up and put it in the basement. Someday it might be a collector's item.
It's the wild woods for me... my 2 day getaway - a.k.a. vacation. Ferryboats, foghorns, lighthouses, victorian houses, log cabins, lavender fields, sailboats and sunshine. Perfect!
Sea stacks and beach logs, the rain forest sculpted by the wind. One of my favorite spots is camping in the woods. It's not entirely rustic, since Olympic National Park comes with electric outlets and flush toilets. But the old growth trees haven't changed much - and it's magic camping in them.
I think there's a rule that as soon as you decide to go away on a trip, that's when all the ADs decide to call. Uncanny how that works. Next time I'll bring along an iPad to check my mail and see what's up. That way I won't have to worry.
I like how my clothes still smell like woodsmoke. I like remembering the stones and the trees.
I found these old versions of my book 'Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle' - so I thought it'd be fun to show the evolution of a cover.
The first version (top left) is the finish sample I sent in to Timothy Travaglini that sold the book originally out of the slush pile. Next is the finished 2nd dummy version in halftones.
As I recall Timothy wanted a simpler version with more impact... so I did the finish painting which was much simpler. Finally that version was recast by Cecilia Yung and Katrina Dahmkoeler into a brilliantly designed version. I added a few tweaks... adding spot art into the top corners and the final cover was done!
I see that Worm Diaries are sprouting up all through the garden! I finally received the copies to the book 'Teacher's Pet' - a Diary of a Worm book that I ghost illustrated for Tom Bliss.
I love doing landscapes and these books were fun. I got to invent miniature contraptions that figure into the worm's eye view of the world. For picture scrap I took my camera out and snapped photos of plants in my garden... with the camera on the ground looking up through the ferns.
I've done lots of ghost illustration. I did dozens of books with Mercer Mayer for Little Critter. And I did a number of books with Rosemary Wells and her Yoko school characters. I even had Rosemary Wells come to my house for a 2 hour private art lesson in my studio! That was exciting!
All in all it's been an invaluable apprentice experience to learn about book making.
I did this exercise to see how changing the line and style might work on a drawing. The blue toned drawing at the bottom is an older piece. The color version is new. An illustrator has to keep up with the times... yet both styles have their merit, I think.
A little something new. I'll be sending this to a list of selected editors and art directors as a postcard. We'll see what they think.
It's fun to send things around and see what happens. The forms for this illustration were inspired (and based in some instances) on art deco illustration from the 1930's.
Dropping out the line always seems to be popular... probabably because it simplifies things.
It was a lot of fun to create this illustration of a street scene with brownstones. I especially liked it because I once lived in a brownstone in NYC... on West 78th Street. So the ideal source for my illustration research was Google street view.
I do most of my traveling on Google street view since it's so easy and interesting. But it's always fun to go back to places you've lived to see how it looks now. So this is where I started my career as a children's book illustrator.
That's my window circled. I used to love watching people go past on summer mornings, with New York starting a busy new day. If I leaned out the window I could just see the Museum of Natural History down the street... where I spent many, many long happy hours.
The last part of making any book for me is forgetting it. It might sound funny, but it's true and essential. After all the millions of changes and fussing over details there comes a time when you decide it's finished.
Without this distance I find it's hard to get any peace of mind. So it's nice to just set it aside and forget it.
The best thing to do next is start working on the next project - and get on with the endless art-making struggles that it will bring.
I also tried going to the Seattle Art Museum, which was okay but not spectacular. What else might I have done? Skiing? (too expensive), clicking wine glasses (don't drink - no one to click glasses with), photographed tulips? Possibly... but I already have 8,000 tulip photos I've taken.
What do you all do when that final bit of paint has hit the canvas?
My qualifications as a freelance design professional? I matriculated in 'Tail Sciences' with a minor in 'Furr-ology'. This providential career vision has helped me reap many financial rewards and a deeper understanding of the furry world around us. I am adept at rendering tails of every sort... be they mousey, squirrley, doggy, rabbity feline, fowls or fins.
Oh... and I also did my post doctorate work at Charm School. I suspect that's where most of my street smarts came from.
A large package arrived on my doorstep... it would have made a nice doorstop it was so heavy. WHAT might that be? I wondered... I wasn't expecting anything.
Actually I was expecting a pen - but this couldn't be a pen - it weighed 3 pounds!
Opening the box I first discovered another big black box inside. Mysterious I thought. Then I opened that box and there was another black box... a lacquered shining black box with polished chrome hinges. Finally opening the lid of that box I discovered the Confusicous Pen I had ordered! (it only took 2 days to be delivered from Amazon - I thought it'd take 3 weeks).
Lifting the pen, I found the heaviest pen I've ever held. It feels like it's made out of iron. But the reason I bought this pen is for the nib, which has a special flattened end for making wide calligraphic drawings. It was recommended to me by Jackie Urbanovic, an artist friend of mine.
So I loaded it up and tried it out... works great! It does provide amazing line variations and awesome mottled texture when applied on watercolor paper. That's what I was after. I'll be using this in combination with my Pentel brush-pen, which also makes delicious crumbly expressive lines.
Struggling with decisions? I think that's about all I do all day long as an illustrator. Decide, decide, choose and decide. But I've perfected the art - with the help of Photoshop and Indesign. All day long I switch back and forth between Indesign and Photoshop... checking the latest version of a drawing to see how it looks from Photoshop to Indesign.
Somehow the distance of placing the drawing into Indesign helps give me 'new eyes' when I look at the drawing. It also is a huge help to see it next to the text. It really helps to come upon the drawing almost by accident, like 20 minutes later. And often I copy a layer with 'command + J' on an indecisive drawing. That way I can change back to the previous version after a day. Decisions, decisions, decisions. I guess when I don't have to change anything, then I'm done. lol!
I'd guess I've changed at least 150 drawings today.
The Marshmallow Man - a fun new book with lots of design challenges. It's a story about two brothers who go to the state fair and get into a bit of sticky mess.
1) What is the working title of your next book?
I have two new paper books in progress, but today I'm featuring my latest interactive e-book apps that I published recently.
I'm the actor, writer, producer and director. I do the set-design, lighting, costumes, makeup, stunts, choreography and special effects. I'm also the cameraman, technical wizard, animator and I make the coffee.
If I hadn't already made more than 50 printed books I'd never have known how to make these electronic gizmos. They were awfully fun to make since I was completely in charge of everything.
An undersea page with dozens of interactive elements - including a hidden treasure and a whale!
3) What genre does your book fall under?
'Mousey the Explorer' and 'Piggles Goes to School' are interactive ebook apps. They are totally different from a flat ebooks, where the only action is turning the pages and narration. An ebook app is a multi-dimensional structure that relies more on interaction than on a progressive plot dimension.
|A first sketch of the clubhouse page.|
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I think it was Charlie Chaplin who was the source of inspiration for my Mousey character in a roundabout way. It originally started as a mystery story with a very distinguished dour mouse. Anyhow, one thing led to another. I axed the mystery idea... and it turned into an explorer book instead.
Believe me, there is no structured rhyme or reason to creativity. One thing leads to another in an unpredictable way. That's why it's important to just do it and see what happens.
I love books and documentaries about faraway places... probably because in real life I never go anywhere. So maybe that's why it's an exploration book app.
See the YouTube app trailer here.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I acted the parts myself using GarageBand and a USB microphone. It was tons of fun! The trick is to tune the voice from my regular non-descript voice into the high pitched squeaky voice of Mousey. Since I'm a natural born geek it wasn't too hard to figure out a filter that worked fairly well. Might I add that these technical skills enable some sophisticated app concepts. The complexity shouldn't be underestimated. I'm still not sure if the monetization is worth the effort though. I'm also learning Kwik2, which allows creating apps through Photoshop.
I still like paper books the best though. They too have their own magic and they seem to pay a lot more.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Mousey explores his way around the world to visit jungles, oceans, the arctic, outer space and solves lots of interactive puzzles on his way there.
6) Who is publishing your book?
InteractiveTouchBooks.com and Apple. I am my own publisher in that respect.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Three days. The thing about an interactive ebook is that the final writing happens last. This is similar to writing the script for a book trailer on Youtube. The images comes first and the words fit best afterwards.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It's always good not to compare, in my experience.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?Jenny Harris
, Charlie Chaplin and Stuart Little.
|This shows the process of apps from rough sketch to published book online.|
Available from Interactive Touch Books
See the YouTube app trailer here.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
They might like the clubhouse page, where Mousey has to choose his gear for exploring.
Or they might like the jigsaw puzzle page, where Mousey asks the reader to put together jigsaw puzzles.
Or they might like the coloring book page, where Mousey colors in the adventures he's been on.
The Piggles app has lots of fun puzzles too. There's a witch to contend with, a goblin under a bridge, a pirate, a dragon and a UFO filled with fun aliens. Lots of fun.
The Next Big Thing Blog Tour continues next week on March 28th with Susan Miller and Jane Dippold:Susan MillerJane Dippold
Here's a fun site... Coffitivity.com http://coffitivity.com/
It's a simple soundtrack of a coffee shop atmosphere. It's supposed to increase one's creativity. I like it. But we'll see if it lasts. I hope they make it into an app so it doesn't need to be online.
I couldn't live without coffee or without a daily trip to my coffee cafeteria. I'm sure I'm still living a socially deprived life, which is one of the hazards of freelancing in my experience. What do you all do on a daily basis to keep from going off the deep end from the ISOLATION?
The doctors tell us that isolation and sitting are the worst things for one's health. But that about sums up the life of a freelancer doesn't it?
I was intrigued and delighted to discover a local neighborhood 'Little Free Library' had appeared on my street... just steps from my studio! The premise of these little free libraries is that books are free to be borrowed and returned. What a charming idea! There are half a dozen of them around Seattle.
Anyhow I immediately signed off a couple of my own very local books and added them to the 37th Ave. N.E. 'Little Free Library' with great pride. They were both written and illustrated just a half block away... so it's hard to get more local than that! lol!
I have a hard time giving away my books to neighbors for some reason. I find the idea a bit embarrassing... not sure why. But to give away books to the neighborhood is easy and fun.
I was quite pleased with how this new technique came out in print from Ladybug magazine. What I like is how it has both detail and looseness - implied action and precision.
Digital art challenges one with both technical and artistic thinking. I'm finally starting to get the hang of it...
No, that's not the halftime concession stand at the Superbowl... that's the lobby on a quiet morning at ALA-mid-winter.
Now I know why I work at home alone in slippers. I'm glad I steeled myself for rejection ahead of time... it came in handy. It's an uphill battle when you're trying to foist yourself off as a creator of picture books in the middle of the clearance sale at Macys. I did have two or three books on the racks there, if you dug deep enough you might have seen them.
So many books... so many middle-men! I still wonder what all those guys in suits do? We lowly authors just create books from the blank page.
Whew! Too much stuff! I had to get back to my quiet cafe to relax.
Here's a work-in-progress with an apt title that might be 'After ALA'. The dazed attendee staggers away discombobulated from sensory overload. Lol!
It was fun to see all the new styles of artwork that are being selected...
Today's cloudy day is lightened by some 2-color fun. I rarely work in 2 colors - since everything is full color these days. But there is a complicated art to making the most of it I'd imagine. I know some artists like Barbara Cooney (in books like Chanticleer) were just brilliant working in this limited color range.
Mabye I'll get the hang of it...
Rough sketch to finish art... as always there is something lost - something gained. I always look back at the rough and find the thing I miss most about the finish and go back and change it. Just now lookin
The artist is never happy! What a life of self-inflicted misery we artists create. We demand something that can't be achieved... and no one else but us even knows what we're complaining about. C'est la vie.
Favorite new french things:
Book: 'My Father' by Jean Renoir. An amazing book about Renoir, the painter. It's one of those fabulous first hand accounts that really makes you feel like you've lived with the original impressionists. The stories about the peasant life in Montmartre are fabulous. I share Renoir's feelings about things - architecture - women - the simple good things in life. A treasure of a book. Hard to put down.
Movies: The Well Digger's Daughter & Romantics Anonymous - fabulous french movies.
View Next 25 Posts
Sometimes I think all illustration is landscape painting in one form or another. So often an entire story is wrapped up in a particular place. Anyhow, I was pleased with how the painting in this piece turned out.
Blakelock and Ryder were the best painters of moonlight. But I think they both went mad. Eventually Blakelock became so poor he wound up painting portraits of dollar bills in oil paints.
When I was in high school I'd spend hours at the National Gallery in Washington looking at the Ryders and Rembrandts.