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Viewing Blog: John Nez, Most Recent at Top
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Tidbits from the studio of a freelance children's book artist...
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1. A Magic Show on paper & screen


This was fun to see the comparison between the computer screen outcome and the printed page outcome. It really is like magic that the two technologies are almost identical - even allowing for the different lighting conditions.

Lucky for me it's the innate charm of the concept and design along with the talent of drawing that makes the difference in any image... so that a robot can't do it.

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2. Freezer delivery from Burkina-Faso!


Yesterday we had a new freezer delivered (old one died). It was bought online and the delivery notification was via a computer robot voice.  The robot even gave a 30 minute warning.  So sure as shooting, there the truck was, just like the robot said.

The truck parked in the alley.  It turned out that the two freezer delivery men were from Africa - or more precisely from Burkina-Faso!  

One tall laid back cool guy in sunglasses (Djbril) and another guy who sounded like he'd might have a college degree with excellent english (Mathieu).  So they unloaded the freezer and began to carry it through my backyard, with a shoulder strap harness. At this point I remembered we were supposed to ask them for I.D. to prove that they really were the people who were supposed to be carrying a freezer through my backyard instead of some dangerous impostor freezer-carriers hellbent on getting that freezer down an impossible stairway and back door. But I went on trust.

Of course the first problem was the freezer wouldn't actually fit through the back door - even though I had taken the back door off. They don't make those slim freezers anymore. They're all gigantic now. And this was the smallest freezer I could find anywhere online.  Oh no! Mathieu suggested we remove the extra freezer panel that stuck out at the bottom.  So I got down on the ground sideways to try to see where the screws were.  Excellent idea. We tried to get that off.

It looked like they were about to give up and pack it back up! Oh no! Then it occurred to me we should try the basement window.  And lo and behold - it measured out with 3 inches to spare! So Djbril and Mathieu carried the freezer around to the side window. And in it went. I got to chat a bit with Djbril, telling him that my dad had spent 6 years in Ghana, which is the nation just south of his.  He said he'd never been there, but they had lots of tasty food in Burkina-Faso.  Lots of french is spoken in Burkina-Faso.

I tried to not feel too guilty about my fat comfortable life as I imagined what kind of life a refugee from Africa must have had to wind up delivering freezers to cold, wet Seattle half a world away.  I'm glad we managed to get the freezer in through the window so at least that little adventure ended happily ever after.


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3. Corn is hard to paint!


Today's blog theme is farms and work. I tried to recapture the feeling of a kitchen I once had.  It was decorated with the most amazing 1940's wallpaper done in a vintage farm design.  And it had all the original counters, cupboards and stove. 

I discovered that corn is difficult to paint!  Too many parts... that's the problem.  Bicycles are difficult also.


And this photo is for all those poor folks who have had to shovel way too much snow this year!  Here in the pacific northwest we too have to shovel moss.  Hard work!

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4. My mind - My mind in Photoshop



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5. Once again it's time for Bunny & Fox!


One more day of pushing the pencil and dropping in color.  Bunnies, Foxes and a picnic.


The fox sketch from the bottom was redone, to add more clothes.  And then swatches of foxy patterns were added. Onward and upward with the Arts! 

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6. My Hollywood Photo Shoot


The Movie Poster
And then there's my Hollywood movie poster photo - of course.   I first must explain I've never set foot in Hollywood.  But maybe because of that I always think that adding 'Hollywood' to anything is bound to add panache... as in:  

Hollywood hills 
Hollywood sunset 
Hollywood ending 
Hollywood limo 
Hollywood mansion... you get the idea. 

The original photo
People no doubt thought I was bluffing when I said I'd been on a 'Hollywood photo shoot' one rainy night last December.  But I really was - in the dark - on my bicycle - with my camera and tripod.  

The documentary film project required a dark, gothic, edgy image. So I was out to make just such an image with my trusty Lumix.

The contact sheet
In the falling dark the rain had just stopped.  It was time for my Hollywood moment.  Fate had compelled me... my date with Hollywood.

It all happened when the stars aligned and by a happy twist of fate I was contacted by the art director in L.A., the amazing Dagmar Wilde, who has created dozens of award winning Hollywood movie posters.  (I know it doesn't sound like I fit into this world, does it?  Believe me, I don't.  So I was just as astonished. But it was so much fun).

Dagmar has designed movie posters for DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Robert Altman, Mad Men, Gossip Girl along with a stunning collection of independent film projects.  And she's also a playwright and writer - all leading to the 'amazing' moniker. And for full disclosure, I am honored to say that she's a friend of mine from online and life.

The film is 'The Hunting Ground' directed by Oscar nominated Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering.  They've done films like The Invisible War, Outrage, This Film Is Not Yet Rated and Twist of Fate. This film is a documentary on the topic of college rape.  Not a topic I knew anything about... but I guess that's the whole point of the film - to shed some light on this overlooked issue.  

Since it was temporarily not raining, I shot a sequence of images, trying with intuition to make something compelling. Of course a tripod and correct exposure are requirements for night photography.  It's way trickier than daylight shooting... factors like noise and blur and losing details all figure in.  It can be difficult.  I used a timed shutter release rather than manual, so as not to blur the image.  And the mighty Lumix fz200 did it's job.

I finished snapping and biked home in the dark.  Was that really all there is to a Hollywood photo shoot?  I suppose so.  And in short order Dagmar did the rest with her design magic, turning my photo into a real Hollywood poster. Figures were added, figures erased, branches removed, banners hung... all kinds of changes. Employing her design wizardry, Dag transformed the original to something quite different. 

The final poster artfully captures a sense of edgy, dark, spooky gothic college setting, exactly filling the parameters of the poster project.  So now this film is on it's way to festivals and venues everywhere... how exciting!  

The Sundance photo
I was clicking around on the Sundance site and was delighted to see another photo of mine.... rubbing shoulders with the Stars!  Such a thrill!  Well that was my Hollywood moment!  Sigh... 

I wonder if I will ever really make it to Hollywood?  Of course there was no cast party except in my imagination. Oh well, illustrators never get parties either.

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7. Bunnies are my stock in trade.


Ever since I first drew this rabbit, years ago, I've been smitten.  Now I get to turn it into a fun bunny project... so it was worth the wait. 

Yeah... bunnies are my stock in trade.  

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8. Spring Springs Forth...


How delightful that Spring just explodes everywhere at once. 

 

 So hang in there you snowbound New Englanders.  Believe me, you'll be wearing shorts and barbecues long before we will here in Seattle.


Chances are it'll still be chilly and cold in June, most likely.

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9. A little sun-break...





A little sun-break allowed the trusty Lumix a chance to capture a few photos. Mt. Rainier was in a cooperative mood - the skies were dramatic.  There have even been reports of otters nearby -  which is very rare.

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10. Dressing the Line - step by step

And finally it's time for our happy little line to get dressed. What? Dressing the line? How can that be - is it undressed?  Heavens!

Yes, the raw line right out of the scanner is woefully under-dressed. It's just a plain Jane... it needs that little extra bit of pizzaz.  So once again, it's Mr. Potatoshop to the rescue.

With a few artful clicks of the keyboard the line is enhanced first of all with brightness - contrast. There, it's looking a better already. Next we do a little quick touchup on the actual lines themselves - with a matching textured photoshop black pencil. Finally, our line is ready to go out and meet it's book page!

But first, let's add a touch of color - a little blush! And then, naturally once it's all dressed up we add the color and texture and all the other nice things to make it a real finished line, and proudly part of the artful page.

If you scroll through the images you can see all these steps in like magic.





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11. Is there a relationship between Art and Pastry?


The question that great minds are contemplating today is a simple question: Is there a relationship between Art and Pastry?  I lean towards the affirmative - Yes, a clear cut relation of crumbly line quality to crumbly baked goods such as strudel or coffee cake is undeniable.

I KNOW there's a relationship between reading and eating. Witness my rapt fascination with whatever text is on the back of my Cheerios box in the morning. It's different from ordinary reading... more nourishing to the soul somehow.

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12. Goats baking muffins ...


Goats baking muffins are just right for a children's book. I'm having fun going for a simple vintage sort of look - or at least trying for that effect. I too am a muffin baker. Oh yes, I bake up a weekly batch to take on my bike rides. I'm getting pretty good at it by now.

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13. Happy Birthday Mozart!


I'm one of those people, like Einstein or Maurice Sendak who think of Mozart as being close to a deity.  It's because Mozart creates worlds undreamt of in this mortal's philosophy and his message of genius seems to be love and forgiveness.

So Happy Birthday Mozart!

One shudders to think what classical music would be if it was all Pachelbel or Boccherini!

I like doing up digital photoshop collages - some day I might get around to painting them on canvas when I have a spare month of leisure.  This one was especially fun.


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14. Day 4 of the great window project


Day 4 of the great window project is well along. By now I'm getting used to loud crashing noises, pounding, pounding, pounding and playing musical chairs with things like food, coffee and furniture. Even the cat is kind of getting used the upheaval - only level 3 skittishness at this point. Shelter cats are tough.


But it is nice to finally see some spiffy new windows going up where there just used to be plain sheet glass. They don't work on Fridays... so it'll just be Monday and Tuesday and then it's over! (except they have to bring back the wrong windows they put in to swap out correct windows).

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15. My Time Machine


I've been re-reading 'The Time Machine' and today feels very much like I've taken a trip back in time.  

Today I scanned the negatives of the photos I took of my NYC apartment at 161 W. 78th Street back when I went to Parsons in the last century.  It was so cool to recognize and revisit everything in that room.  It was just like being a time traveler - I wondered at the objects I'd forgotten and remembered.


Some of the circled treasures are:  my radio and toaster (that I'd hauled from Utah to Seattle and now to NYC).  My cup hanging from a wire (to keep the roaches off), the mini-stove (sitting on top of the mini fridge), my tea kettle and my illustration in progress. 

Everything but the bed was scrounged off the streets. You'd never guess how attached one can become to an old second hand toaster and radio.


But it was when I looked at the window at the view that I signed the lease without a doubt.  The Museum of Natural History is just down the block.  It was such an adventure to just look out the window in the mornings watching people going to work.


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16. The Time Machine...


I've been re-reading 'The Time Machine' and today feels very much like I've taken a trip back in time.  

Today I scanned the negatives of the photos I took of my NYC apartment at 161 W. 78th Street back when I went to Parsons in the last century.  It was so cool to recognize and revisit everything in that room.  It was just like being a time traveler - I wondered at the objects I'd forgotten and remembered.

Some of the circled treasures are:  my radio and toaster (that I'd hauled from Utah to Seattle and now to NYC).  My cup hanging from a wire (to keep the roaches off), the mini-stove (sitting on top of the mini fridge), my tea kettle and my illustration in progress. 

Everything but the bed was scrounged off the streets. You'd never guess how attached one can become to an old second hand toaster and radio.

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17. New windows and a passing panic...


I think I'm having panic attacks at the thought of having new windows put in the house next week. I'm going to have to move my studio downstairs and then back upstairs.  It'll be duck and cover all week... with umpteen projects on the burner and deadlines ticking away... HELP!  But it's just a passing panic.


One thing I'll miss about the old windows is the hand-made glass that bends the light. Back in 1929 I guess they still had glass like that. What I won't miss is the layers of old paint, the freezing cold, the stuck jambs painted shut, the bugs all summer and the noise.



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18. Imagination can bring great joy


Imagination can bring great joy. It's such a delight to pull joy out of thin air with nothing but imagining to guide the way.  Imagination and a wacom and an eraser that is.

Of course fears are also imagination at work and not at all delightful - so one struggles to work against those.

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19. Seattle's Black Dog Forge



It was the holiday sale at Seattle's Black Dog Forge (where my sister-in-law Mary is a blacksmith).


Mossy-babies in abundance - require misting.


Tatts, piercings and gnarly beards & styling everywhere.


One of the smithys at work.


The beret was a must.


Busy with holiday shoppers!

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20. Happy Holidays!


Happy Holidays!

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21. The black & white photo challenge...


Friend & fellow illustrator, Patrick Girouard challenged me to post five black and white photos in five days.  So here are some snaps from my Lumix.



I think photography is fun - you just have to know what to what might be interesting and where to frame the subject into the box.  


And it seems to me that often it's just a fluke of chance that makes an interesting photo.  


I like photography because it gets me out of the studio and into the real world, where wonders await.




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22. My step by step of making a holiday card...

Here's a step by step of how I did my Dickens inspired holiday card.  I think it took about 5 hours or so... and was loads of fun.


I did the first drawing #1 about 6 months ago... and left it in my sketchbook.  But I chose to work it up more for the card. Steps 1, 2 and 3 are the drawing evolution.


The line is pencil on WC paper... the color and shadow is all photoshop.


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23. No more monkeys jumping on the bed!


No more monkeys jumping on the bed!

But what if it's lots of fun?

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24. A sad day for cartoonists...


A sad day for cartoonists... 

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25. The drawing tools I use...


Here are some of the drawing tools I use for my various art styles.  As a child I always wanted to be Mr. Ed. I think it was that studio that Mr. Ed's architect owner lived in that appealed to me. I guess I came pretty close only I don't have a talking horse.  The fact that my shelter cat won't spend any time in my studio doesn't help.

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