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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 new book arrives in the mail...


Once again a happy book day dawns - a day with a new books in the mail. 


This charming picturebook was the story of 'Stella... Almost', written by Willy Blevins with pictures by me - a tale of a sad little fox who needed some cheering up - all accomplished with grandfather fox's wise counsel.


From the good folks at Red Chair Press. And of course if you scroll back through this blog you can see all the rough sketches from the very beginning - from a year ago. 


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2. Mr. Bear is finally finished...


And it's time for Mr. Bear to finally say 'Bear is finished!'


I like these step by step progressions so if you scroll through the arrows on the images you can see how each image changes.


And of course with photoshop there are many, many changes to be accomplished.


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3. When in doubt, make french toast!


When in doubt, make french toast! 

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4. The latest 'bear update'

And of course everyone is waiting for the latest 'bear update' - well here it is. As you can see if you scroll down through a little, the figure began in a swirl of vague forms driven by the gesture.  But now it's coming right along... taking care not to lose the spontaneity of the rough sketch.

My secret sauce will add some rough splashy color to increase the spontaneity. 

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5. The 'French Toast Brush' - don't leave home without it!


I think I fell for the socks on this one. I had to get out my 'french toast brush' to correctly render the breakfast. It was interesting working from the rough sketch to a rough finish - with lots of fun on the way getting there.


And this child reminded me of my own child way back when... at the start when life was all wonderful.

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6. My basic working method is simple...


Basically my working method is simple - I sketch & draw & draw & sketch until the tabletop is covered with sketches. Then the sketches are scanned into Photoshop... and when the pile of papers on my desk looks like it's becoming a fire hazard I tidy all the sketches into a corner by the cupboard, and keep on drawing. It's actually quite effective. Bridge keeps track of everything else.

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7. Today's chapter of the 'Busy Drawers For Fun Club'


In today's chapter of the 'Busy Drawers For Fun Club' I'm drawing a farm. This is about as close as I'm going to get to illustrating a scene from Charlotte's Web - so I quite enjoyed it. The girl reminded me of Fern. I just wished the script called for Wilbur - since I do love drawing pigs. In fact my nickname as a stout young lad was 'Pig'.

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8. Out of the swirling chaos forms appear...


Out of the swirling chaos forms appear - sifted out from dozens of other choices.  Soon enough the favorite choice gets made - or the current favorite I might say.

Draw, draw away idle dreamer of bears! I think this bear may have stolen my heart away, but I shouldn't tell him that.


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9. Movie of a Drawing...



I made this little movie of a rough drawing I'm working on... just for fun. The rough drawing is always so much fun, because it's all a discovery.  Invention, artistry, problem solving - an excellent diversion when one finds oneself imprisoned in a quiet distant room.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W71_6biMnSY&feature=youtu.be

It's not much of a movie actually, but I was in a hurry and it was fun - my two excuses. Maybe I'll make a better one some time. I think it might require 30 minutes to do an in depth drawing demonstration - so one does what one can.

I don't want to think about the file size of a 30 minute .mov file - or how long it'd take to render!

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10. Instructions on Freelancing...


Life as a freelancer is chaotic and unpredictable. So I decided if I ever gave a SCBWI talk on how to prepare for a career as a children's book illustrator I would advise developing three basic skills.

1) practice your expertise in Photoshop

2) practice your expertise at 'Whack-a-Mole'

3) practice your expertise at playing 'Publisher Poker' - which is the fine art of trying to juggle deadlines and art directors without losing your mind or going broke.

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11. The Starbucks Roastery - where people go to feel famous while sipping a cup of coffee.


For my birthday I treated myself to a trip to the new Starbucks Emporium - where people go to feel famous while sipping a cup of coffee. (at least that's my guess).


Between the 250 decibel ethno-jazz (can't hear yourself think) and the 6 story coffee factory with walkways and ladders it is quite an experience and not a quiet contemplative one at that.

  

It's more like a Starbucks gone Vegas experience. The whole idea is modeled after 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. Funny, but I don't remember the smell of coffee while I was there.


And I wouldn't know the meaning of what 'happy birthday' meant. I always get a pensive sadness that creeps into the occasion - like a frozen chill of defeated expectation.  Sigh... c'est la vie.


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12. Pages from the past...


Opening the pages from my past we find old magazine spreads...


and old book plans and dreams...

and even a self portrait of me at age 8 1/2.  I added the Pierrot costume, which seems just about right for this serious little fellow.

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13. A studio portrait...


It was fun having a bunch of my fictional illustration buddies drop by the studio. So I captured the event on film... lol!

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14. Back in the BC stone age, (before computers)


Back in the BC stone age, (before computers) I used to make my promotion cards with cut & paste. And with press-type. I hated how press-type would start curling up and the letters started to crack and fall apart. And how I'd run out of zeros and use an O instead.

It was really like doing surgery - precision cut & paste with dexterous hand skills required. I remember the gooey glue-brush and rolling up the leftovers into little sticky balls. lol!

And after all that how amazing it seemed to do computer lettering. Freedom from all the limitations of real press-type letters and freedom to do anything. 

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15. Some spiffy new art...


Here's a collection of some spiffy new art I've painted up recently.






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16. Once every blue moon...


Once every blue moon I like to do an 'art piece' like this. I just can't help it - so it's easier to give in than resist. This was inspired by a scene from a BBC - PBS production - it's dark and somber instead of my usual cartoony dish of happy nursery fodder. I guess the fun part of making 'art' is one can just let go and be messy. This was all done with the wacom in photoshop. 

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17. Add a paper bag and you're done...

And then add a paper bag and mix in Shakespeare and a cat and you're done.

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18. The evolution of Shakespeare into a cat


The evolution of Shakespeare into a cat. I'm not sure why this is important, but I felt compelled to finish drawing it out. I think Ben Johnson had a closer relationship with his cat. I read that he had a servant to keep it's bowl stocked with fresh vittles.

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19. Umbrellas and cherry trees in the rain


Teetering umbrellas spring forth.


'Beneath the cherry trees there are no strangers.'
goes an old saying.



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20. Draw!

Draw!

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21. The muffin-man returns


The muffin-man returns - this week it's apple-blueberry-peach. The silicone muffin tin is fab - since it makes turning out the muffins so easy.

It's always nice to take a break from pushing pixels and do something real, like baking.

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22. My very first portfolio


Here is my very first portfolio - the 30 lb 'jumbo boy'.  It was gigantic and filled with astounding work! Art directors loved it. They ate it up like cake.

Each new portfolio I made got smaller and smaller until now they fit on an iPhone. But there's something to be said for the 'Jumbo Boy'. Art directors had to clear their desk just to look at it. 

I think the amazing thing is that I drew those in ink straight onto the newsprint page without any pencil or rough sketch. I loved how the fountain pen ink sank into the newsprint.

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23. Monkeying Around...


I spent days drawing monkeys - with the consequence that when I went out to the market shopping - yes, I looked at people and saw monkeys - especially guys with beards. The inevitable parallels all get immediately drawn. I felt kind of bad about it, coming to that conclusion but don't hold myself to blame personally. Anyhow, nowadays on NOVA on PBS they openly refer to our kind as primates - cuz we are! lol! (insert chimp laugh here - like Cheeta on Tarzan - and why did Tarzan name his monkey Cheeta?)

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24. One of my forgotten books - 'The Easter Surprise'



Here's one of my forgotten books - the Easter Surprise! It was painted in real paints on gessoed paper (for all you hard-line real media folks). And it featured idyllic scenes of baby farm animals frolicking in pastoral locales. I think it does have a nice painterly aspect to it. And now I'm much more forgiving of it's innocence, all these years later.  I think it's sweet... loving kindness.

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25. Deep in the Jungle


I always loved those Tarzan movies with the treehouse, vine-swings and all those elephants. It was the depth of the jungle that I found so enchanting - hidden depths, elevated trees, simplistic (non-existant) plots. It was more of an experience than a story. 

I'm attracted to the same qualities of depth in my paintings on canvas. The deeper and more mysterious the elements, the better. 

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