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1. Baby News!

Hello,

I'm so excited to share the arrival of my baby girl, Valentina Sabrina, on March 23, 2016 at 3:42 pm. We feel so blessed to welcome such a precious little angel into our family. It's been a little over a week now and we just can't get enough of her.

To celebrate her arrival, I created a new self portrait that embraces my new journey as a mommy artist. YAY! I can't tell you how excited I am to see how she's going to influence my work, being that I'm a children's illustrator. As you can see, it's already begun. :)


Valentina's arrival on March 23rd with daddy, titi Sandra, and titi Oday.


Valentina at one week with mommy!




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2. Believe in Your Dreams Gift Book



Hello! FINALY! I get to share the Believe in Your Dreams gift book that I worked on last year, published by RSVP. I worked on all of the hand lettering and art & design for the entire book. It was one of those dream clients that give you 100% creative freedom to just do your thing. So FUN! Thank you Mary Beth, Mary, and Robin for your support. The book is filled with encouraging and inspiring messages to believe in your dreams until they are realized. This delightful book is the perfect gift for friends, a new graduate, a mother, sister, daughter, etc. I think every woman should have a copy in hands reach as a reminder to NEVER give up on your dreams!



The book will be available at boutique retailers on March 15th. Please find the links below.

RSVP
Barnes & Noble

J

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3. NY 2016 SCBWI Winter Conference

Hello! It's taken me a few days to recuperate after my weekend at the SCBWI Winter Conference. I signed up knowing I'd be 8 months pregnant at the time of the conference. However, unfortunately I was surprised with an additional challenge, a cold that came on the Thursday before the conference. Despite, the many trips to the bathroom, getting up to stretch my legs, hydrating, eating, etc., it was still well worth it! I walked away feeling inspired to get back to my desk and apply all of the knowledge I gained. Thank you SCBWI for hosting such an amazing event. Oh, and by the way, the morning bagels were EXTREMELY appreciated by this pregnant mama! ;)

First and foremost, the highlight of my weekend was finally getting to meet and spend time with the lovely, Shirley Ng-Benitez, from my illustration group WLTI. We started this group back in 2010, so it was such a treat to meet her after so many years of posting and emailing back and forth.

Another high point of the weekend was getting to spend time with my college roomie, Michelle Hazelwood-Hyde, who I love to pieces. It's been about 3 years or so since we last hung out, but we're always able to pick right back up where we left off. I also enjoyed seeing the talented Katie Kath, whom I originally met at the Highlights Foundation Workshop, as well as many other local illustrators. And, finally meeting Sarah Baker, Director of Illustration and Artist Programs at SCBWI, whom I've corresponded with many times was a treat - She's even cooler in person!

Me and the Girls


DAY 1: Friday Illustrators' Intensive was my favorite day by far. Getting to hear from the keynote speakers about their journey was extremely inspiring. Here's a list of the speakers with some selected notes that I felt were key points.

William Joyce 
• Share with people what inspires you and what leads you to projects
• It's the story behind the story that people want to hear
• Study other artists' work - color, line, composition, how the work leads people's eye, the mood you want to get across.

Sophia Blackall
• Keep things interesting - collect what you like
• Etsy is a great place to share work and get discovered by publishers
• Take risks, leaps, find community
• Give it all NOW, don't keep to yourself what you've learned
• Read more books to improve writing & simplifying

Recommended Blogs:
The Niblings
A Fuse #8 Production
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
100 Scope Notes
All The Wonders
Nerdy Book Club
Design of The Picture Book

The last two speakers, James Ransome & Mike Curato were so inspiring that my attention was mostly focussed on them rather then taking notes. :)

Mike Curto's talk

There was also a panel discussion towards the end of the day with agents, editors and art directors discussing ways to shape and manage an illustrator's career. Here a few notes from them.

• Being comfortable with your art is a key quality to break into the industry
• It's not about them, it's not about you, it's about the art
• Leave some things blank so readers can add their own thing to it
• Don't take shortcuts
• Build relationships
• Always care and love your work. Do your best!
• Get out of your comfort zone. Try new color palettes, etc.

DAY 2: My two breakout sessions on Saturday were also very informative and full of great advice. The first one that I went to was called ALL ABOUT PICTURE BOOK ART with Patrick Collins, Creative Director at Henry Holt Books for Readers. He spoke about the important aspects of successful picture book illustrations. He broke it up into these categories: Character, Setting, Action, Color, Simplicity, Humor and Variety. Some of the books that he highlighted to illustrate well use of these categories are Bunny Dreams, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, and Wild Feelings, Maggie and Micheal Get Dressed

The second breakout session was with Elizabeth Bicknell, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher at Candlewick Press about WRITING PICTURE BOOK TEXT.  She spoke about what kind of books Candlewick specialized in and shared the books that she's been in involved in. She shared lots of great tips, too many to list, but here are two that stock out to me: 1. The importance of the first line - it should teach the reader everything about the book. 2. Don't make the story about too many things. Choose one topic and keep it a linear story.

DAY 3: The Awards Presentation: They presented the Tomie dePaola Award, Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant, Portfolio Showcase Awards, and Student Illustrator and Writer Scholarship. Congrats to all of the winners! I was exhausted by day 3, so regretfully I had to leave early. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. I walked away feeling motivated and inspired.

Promo postcard


Selected pages from my portfolio





 Sincerely, J

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4. Tres Leche Cake

Hello there! I just made this Tres Leche Cake for my bear this week and a friend asked for the recipe, so I thought why not post it on here as well and share it with everyone. This is one of my favorite desserts and trust me when I tell you, this recipe rocks! Enjoy! :)



Tres Leches Cake

Ingredients

For cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
5 whole eggs
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk

For glaze:
1 can evaporate milk
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1 cup whole milk

For icing:
1 ½ cups of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Maraschino cherries to decorate

Directions

For cake:
1. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Lightly butter 9x9 metal pan.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt into mixing bowl
3. Separate 5 eggs. Beat egg yolks with ¾ cup of sugar on high speed until yolk is pale yellow.
4. Stir in 1/3 milk and vanilla extract. Pour egg yolk mixture over flower mixture and stir gently with spatula.
5. Quick beat egg whites in separate bowl until soft peaks form. With mixer on pour in remaining ¼ sugar and beat until stiff, not dry.
6. Fold egg whites mixture into batter very gently until combined. Pour into pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes.

For glaze:
Whisk together evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and milk.
Once combined, pour most of the glaze over the cake leaving about a 1 cup to use later when serving each slice.

Topping:
Place the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into a bowl. Beat together on low until stiff peaks are formed.  Then, change to medium speed and beat until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and decorate with maraschino cherries.

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5. Printsource Show NYC 2016

Here's one of my designs for the Printsource Show in NYC next week. Looking forward to walking the show.


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6. Festive Holiday Doormats!

I'm a little behind with this post due to all of the holiday traveling, shopping, etc., but how awesome are these holiday festive Mohawk doormats from the Pink Light Team. I hope they added much cheer to many homes. My design is the one the left, 2nd from the top that says "have a HOLLY JOLLY Christmas".


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7. Free Christmas Gift Tags

Hello,

Happy December 1st! Wow it's been such a longggg time since I've blogged, but it's actually for a very good reason. I've been busy with work and planning for a SUPER EXCITING life changing event... I'm preggo and will be a mommy soon!!! :D My little bunny will be arriving into the world on March 18th. We feel so blessed and cannot wait! I created this announcement for friends and family.


To keep with the tradition, I've creating some holiday gift tags that seem to be a hit each year. It's a nice way to make your gift-wrapping that much more special. Enjoy! Download them here!


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8. High Five Cover Art

Hey there! I know it's been a while since I've posted, I've just been busy, busy with projects and person stuff. Autumn is right around the corner (just a few days away)! Yes! It's my most favorite season of the year. To add to the fun, I'm extremely thrilled to share the October issue of High Five Magazine with my Illustration on the cover... What an honor. Thank you Kelley and everyone over at Highlights. You guys are one of my most favorite companies to work for.

Happy soon-to-be Fall y'all!


Here's the sketch before taking it to color and below is the color art.





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9. Little Princess Custom Prints

I'm so happy to share that my Little Princess Custom Prints are now available at Simply To Impress.


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10. Sketch

Hello and Happy Hump Day!

This is a sketch that got rejected a while back and I've been wanting to finish it. I spent yesterday and this morning working on it. As you can see, I finished up the kitchen and I added some friends peering in through the window enjoying Emma's performance. What do you think? I just might take this one to color.

original

finished sketch

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11. The Lopez Family

A quick illustration in honor of supporting my fellow Latino families that live in the US.


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12. Eleven Madison Park

Hello and Happy July 1st! Oh my gosh, the weather so far in NY has been delish! Let's hope it stays like this throughout July and August.

This month over at WLTI, we decided to create some fun recipes for the TDAC website. I chose one that my hubby introduced to me that is from the Eleven Madison Park restaurant in the city, the Eleven Madison Park Pistachio, Coconut & Cherry Granola. Doesn't the name alone sound amazing!? Anyway, I like granola, but this recipe takes it to a whole new level -- we can't seem to get enough of it lately. Enjoy!

Please click on the illustrated recipe to enlarge


Here's picture of the most recent batch that we made. The recipe it says to bake it for 30 - 40 minutes, we like it pretty toasty so we usually leave it in for the full 40.

xo,
J

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13. Happy SUMMER!

Hello and Happy, happy SUMMER!

Lots to talk about here... First, I wanted to announce that me and the girls over at We Love To Illustrate Studio are back on track with a full list of FUN activities planned for the summer. We've kicked things off with a "Welcome Summer" theme. Stop by to check out some "hot" art and don't forget to visit us at the beginning of each month to see what we've been up to.


Also, last month was my 3rd year attending SURTEX, and I have to admit that it gets better by the year. I had such a blast working the booth with the amazing Pink Light Team. These gals are the sweetest bunch, but don't let them fool you -- they mean business! Walking the show was another awesome experience. I got to catch-up with friends that I see there each year, as well as meeting some longtime friendships that I've created through the iternets ;) Nina, my WLTI buddy, being one of them plus many more. All and all, it was an inspiring show filled with mucho talented artists and just a good time catching up with my fellow artists buds.


Happy June! Wishing you a creative week/ month!
xo


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14. Goldilocks and The Three Bears: The Smelly Version

I am beyond thrilled to share this his AMAZING project that I worked on with Melcher Media, part of the Sensory Stories exhibition at the Museum of Moving Images. Not only did I get to illustrate such a nostalgic fairytale, 'Goldilocks and The Three Bears', but it's also aromatic, hence the unique version that engages your sense of smell. And, to top that off, it's also animated!!! The book has selected scents placed throughout the story, so for example, when Goldie first smells the porridge coming from the cabin in the woods, the scent that you smell is apricot. The scent comes from a machine that is called oPhone, you can learn more about it over at oNotes.com. The exhibition is currently at the Museum of Moving Images in Astoria, NY running through July 26th. The exhibition features the future of story telling with ground breaking new technologies incorporating full body immersion and interaction that includes touch, sight and smell. My illustrations are part of the exhibit for the world premiere of an aromatics story presented by oBooks. I am very proud and pleased to be involved in this amazing new innovative story book experience!

I thought it would be fun to share some of the sketches/ process with you rather then the final, which can be seen on my website. There are a few scenes that show Goldie repeated in order for the animation to work. These are not on my website, so I'll also share them with you here.

Part of my morning routine is to list 5 things that I'm grateful in my journal, but today I'll share with you on here: 1. I'm grateful for Megan, the editor that found my work on-line and hired me for this project. 2. I'm grateful for my agency, Shannon Associates. 3. I'm grateful for my partner, who encourages me to break out of my comfort zone each and every day. 4. I'm grateful for my health and for my daily runs in Prospect Park that both provide me with some nature (very much needed when living in NY) and keeping me mentally balanced. And, lastly #5 I'm grateful for all of the lovely connections that I encounter each day with the people in my life both online and in person.


Happy May Ya'll! :)









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15. Look and Look Again for Highlights High Five Bilingue

Happy April! I'm so excited to share this FUN puzzle project that I worked for Highlights High Five Bilingue. It's for the April/May issue. Can you spot the 20 differences? Click on the image to view larger.


And here's the sketch before going to color.


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16. New Work for Capstone Publishing

I'm so excited to share this tween book series that I just completed for Capstone Publishings called "Questions and Answers". The books provide answers for a ton of questions about everything from best-friend squabbles and cell phone privileges to getting braces and surviving a bad grade. I really enjoyed working on it. Thank you, Juliette, for the amazing collaboration and for allowing me to contribute my hand lettering to the project. 

 Here are the beautifully printed books. YAY!


And, here are a selection of some of the interior illustrations.









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17. Happy 2015!

Hello and Happy New Year! I took a much needed two-week vacation at the beginning of the month. Yay! I went horseback riding, diving, and even did some cave exploration. It was an inspiring trip, just what I needed to get my creative juices flowing for the New Year. I'm happy to be back in Brooklyn though. I'm gearing up for an AMAZING year full exciting creative projects, which may require me to step outside of my comfort zone.... kinda scary and awesome at the same time!

Here's a little gift for you... My illustration group, We Love To Illustrate Studio, is starting the year with some FREE Greeting Card Downloads in honor of Valentine's Day. Here's my design. Enjoy!


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18. FREE Holiday Crafty Download

As a continuation of our tradition over at We Love To Illustrate Studio, we are creating holiday downloads for all of our followers. I created these Christmas designs for you to use as you wish, just print, cut, and either use them as gift labels or for your holiday scrapbook... or for whatever other crafty idea you can come up with. Enjoy! Wishing you a Happy Holiday Season!

xo,
Julissa

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19. We Love To Illustrate STUDIO!

Hello friends! I am extremely excited to announce that my illustration group blog has changed it's name to We Love To Illustrate STUDIO! With this new name, comes a new direction. We will now be posting on a weekly, rather than monthly basis, on our blog and on our NEW Facebook page.To read more about it, please visit our blog. 




Here are some encouraging words that captures my feeling about this new direction with my group. I hope it encourages you too. Wishing you a happy and optimistic month!

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20. FREE Back to School Printable

Hello there! Oh goodness it's been such a while since I've posted. I have been extremely busy with multiple projects - thank goodness hehe :) Hopefully this freebie will make up for it!


As you know my Illustration group is now considered a Studio. We've starting our first FREE download series, Back To School. Here's my set. 

These encouraging sayings are inspired by my fiancé. Occasionally he'll hide sweet little notes around my workspace. I love finding them! They always brighten up my day. Have fun slipping them into your kid's lunch bag, placing them on your co-worker's desk, or hiding them somewhere for your sweetheart to find. You can download them here!




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21. Sept Oct Issue of SCBWI Bulletin

It's such an honor to be in one of the spreads of SCBWI Bulletin this month!


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22. Scholastic Project -What Should You Do?

I get to work on a sweet little section for Scholastic each month called "What Should You Do?", and I finally got my hands on a sample to share. I also ran into to a slew of FREE teaching printables while browsing their site, a great resource for all of you parents out there. Enjoy!



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23. Happy October!

Hello and happy October! Lots of fun news to catch you up on and goodies to share just in time for Halloween. First off, Bee started our WLTI Free Halloween download kickoff with her adorable kitty boxes. Here's mine, a kind of silly haunted house. Enjoy! You can download it HERE


And now for the news, I was lucky enough to have been invited to the Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, PA, to attend an Illustrator's workshop for the weekend. About 25 illustrators were invited to learn more about Hidden Pictures, the history of the company and meet the wonderful staff. What an informative yet exhilarating weekend. Now, two weeks later, it feels like a long lost dream that I did not to wake up from. I love what I do, but there's nothing easy about being a freelance illustrator, and it's clients like these that make it all worth it. Thank you, thank you, thank you Highlights for the best weekend ever!

The Highlights Septemberists :)

my dreamy cabin nestled in the woods

And more news, I'm so happy to see my work is in this months issue of Highlights.


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24. The Elves and the Shoemaker for Educational Insights

Hello! I'm so excited to get to share this lovely little Interactive Fairy Tale book that I did for Educational Insights. It's part of the popular Hot Dots series and it's available on their site here! Below are some sample spreads from my book as well as some of the other books in the set. 







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25. Licensing samples! YAY!!!

I just got these FUN samples in the mail from my rep, Mary Beth Freet. And OH MY GOSH, I am in love with the baby boxes! The cards are licensed to RSVP Greeting cards. Those came out really nice too... I like textured paper that they printed them on.




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