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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. My little 15 minutes of fame...

For years I used to look at that great blog for children's books - Kathy Temean's 'Writing and Illustrating' and hope someday to be featured on it. So I guess it was my lucky day - because I finally made it

This is probably as close as I'll ever get to having a retrospective of my diminutive career.


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2. How do you make your illustrations?

Often I am asked: 'How do you make your illustrations?' 

Naturally people want to study a step by step method - to figure out how artwork is created.

Well I use photoshop and a wacom and pens and brushes. But very often I don't even know myself.  I know, that sounds mysterious... but it's true.

One very odd thing about working in a complicated digital method is that it becomes unthinkingly second nature.  Sometimes I can work the most complicated procedures with little conscious effort. I remember one project that required multiple groups of linked layers in folders all set to unusual masking characteristics - and I did it all more with intuition than with planning. I'm sure I could never explain how to anyone... including myself. It is mysterious.

I just push the keys without looking mostly - and when someone needs tech help I have to go back and look at the keys to remember which ones I used.

So it's largely intuitive... which I like.  And usually in Photoshop there are 3 different ways to achieve the same result, so really the medium is quite organic.

It's a little like how when Mozart was asked where the music came from, he would say he didn't know - it just appeared out of thin air. But I think it requires one to imbue the language of keyboarding into your thinking... learning everything about layers, masks, linking and artistry before that's possible. I know many people hate photoshop, which is understandable I guess. But this is the computer age and I find it a helpful skill to acquire.

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3. Nature just keeps going...

On this afternoon's walk in the rain I saw my first crocus. Isn't it fitting how Nature just keeps going - despite all the misgivings of we striving people lost in the all the awful news of the moment. It's nice to just be painting, painting, painting - without scarcely thinking about it.

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4. And after Winter, Spring springs forth...

And after Winter, Spring springs forth... 

It was fun to find a way to paint the backgrounds simply and mixing abstraction and detail.

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5. A brush in hand is worth two pens in the bush...

Or so they say. But where does the brush-pen fit into this equation? 

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6. A winter day in the life...

The Olympics with a fresh dusting of powdered sugar.

The ducks waiting for the 'duck feeder' to arrive.

A trip to Hogwarts...

I always wanted to be a mouse who lived in the library here, assuming it was a mouse that could read.

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7. If you want to make an artist happy...

If you want to make an artist happy, just ask them to paint flowers. It works for me.

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8. Artist paints Christmas ship with plywood...

Artist paints Christmas ship with plywood - that's just what I did. After trying umpteen different methods of painting the water and none were working. This is from my book 'The 12 Days of Christmas in Washington' - I finally tried plywood. And viola! It was just right. I figure this is as a meaningful connection of nature and art. And the pages were the editor's favorite.

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9. In the season of nights & lights...

This was fun to paint...

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10. On Fluffy, on Snuggles, on Meowser, on Pixin....

On Fluffy, on Snuggles, on Meowser, on Pixin.... on Purrey, on Pawser, on Scratchy on Licksin ... Glad Tidings & Happy Holidays to All!

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11. Line - Color - Action!

 Line - Color - Action! 

Photoshop enriches the color choice for an artist - but sometimes it seems there are too many choices.

But it's all good.

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12. Frosty in color

First comes the brush pen line - and suddenly Frosty is ready for his screen closeup!

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13. Let ye olde Holiday cheer ring forth!

Frosty's all dressed up for the occasion. Let ye olde Holiday cheer ring forth!

I woke up in the dark, thunder and rain this morning to warn the homeless person sleeping in their car on our street to move to a different location to avoid a ticket. 

There were dramatic lightning bolts that rent the dark and rain to add to the effect.  But when I got there the car was gone. I started out in Seattle living in my car so I have huge sympathy in this season of sheltering the lost and disadvantaged.  

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14. Of course Mother Nature wins

It was intoxicating painting a book about Fall at the same time Fall was going on in Seattle. I'd walk down the street an feel hopelessly inadequate compared to the handiwork of Mother Nature.  Of course Mother Nature wins

Pumpkins are a natural to draw and paint. 

It was fun challenge figuring out how to paint all those leaves.

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15. That's the way the cookie crumbles

Well it's a day late and a dollar short - but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

But not to worry - there's lots more seasons coming up after this one.  I myself have just about reached my limit on pumpkin and pecan pies - lol!

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16. Just sketching away...

Just sketching away on the next cover design... this one with a snowy wintertime setting.

I was spinning down the hill on my bike when it occurred to me that I should change a color from green to lilac. But the funny thing is when I got back home and tried it, it was exactly what it needed. I like when that happens.

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17. A Good Night's Sleep

One reason I liked this story so much was probably because I wished I could hibernate.

Counting sheep doesn't always work.

Tea with a friend is helpful.

But counting bears is a novel approach.  Anytime I have an illustration with bears, sheep and a tea party I'm happy to not be hibernating.

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18. Some things I saw in Denver...

Snow and lots of sunshine...

The view of the Rockies is always good...

A little history - one of the oldest houses in Denver. Molly Brown stayed there once.

Flying over the Tetons is always amazing.

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19. Autumnal Step by Step

Hooray for Fall!

My idiot's guide to making trees... I was riding my bike when an idea for painting leaves struck me - since what I had been doing wasn't working. So when I got home I tried it out and it worked.  That's why I find digital art to be so intriguing - science and art are combined.

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20. Autumn Colors...

Only God can make a tree... but photoshop works for fools like me.  I'm glad I didn't have to paint every leaf.

I like how the detail works even with closeups.

Sketching away... if at first you don't succeed - sketch, sketch, sketch again.

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21. I ink, therefore I am.

I ink, therefore I am.  

Inking is sort of like skiing - fun and a little dangerous with a sense of movement... or something like that. Descartes never did any skiing.

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22. Wow... a real bookstore!

Maybe you've listened to me complain how my neighborhood hasn't had a single bookstore in 5 years - even though it's named 'University Village'. Well things are changing... and today there's a new bookstore at last. I can scarcely wait to go in and look around. I even have a children's book that I did with Two Lions - so I wonder if it'll be on the shelves? Wow... having books on shelves... there's a novel concept!


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23. One Halloween's Night...

With a creak the barn doors open wide.
Scarecrow held up his lantern and cried

"This is our night of Jokes and Jitters!
Tonight’s the night to pretend ourselves silly...
Pigs can be pirates and hogs can be frilly"

The washboard started thumping loud.
The owls were hooting and cats meowed.
Bessie the cow got dressed in a gown
with fancy buttons up and down.

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24. Halloween is reinventing yourself...

It's almost Halloween... as seen in this old art file. Halloween is possibly every person's favorite holiday, because we get to reinvent ourselves for a day. I've been reinventing my Mac Pro so now, like Halloween, my computer gets to be something new. 

Having installed a new SSD boot drive, a 2 TB HDD and 12 G of memory it feels like something else entirely. I've been re-learning the basics of adding new disks and linking and disk managing.  Not too hard to do.

So happily Photoshop & the Creative Suite now have a whole new lease on life.  No more waiting 2 minutes for that Indesign file to finally open.  Now it's more like 8 seconds to start the program and open the file. That's more like it.

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25. It must be Fall!

It must be Fall! It's fun to be doing a book in tandem with the actual seasons - but then it's also fun thinking ahead to next Spring. I guess with children's publishing the seasons are often tied into the subject matter.  

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