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Viewing Blog: Nathan Clement - Picture Book Maker, Most Recent at Top
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...about my experiences writing and illustrating children's books • comments on other children's literature blogs • industry observations - http://www.nathanclement.net/
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1. Kathy Temean's Writing and Illustrating Illustrator Sat. Blog

I was pleased to make Kathy Temean's blog a few weeks ago.

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2. Job Site - Publisher's Weekly - Feb. 2011 STARRED Review

Clement's sophomore picture book should delight truck lovers every bit as much as its predecessor, Drive (2008). Over the course of a day on the job, a burly construction foreman, referred to only as "Boss," makes good on his name and bosses around a bulldozer, excavator, dump truck, and other vehicles. "Boss says, ‘Scoop that rock,' " and a loader moves in, "slides its bucket and takes a big scoop." Featuring the same brand of bold digital artwork seen in Drive, this book also makes excellent use of perspective to play up the machines' immensity and power; when Boss commands a crane to "Lift that stone!" readers get a worm's-eye view of the action from behind his boot, his shadow in the dirt showing him with his arms raised like a minor god. While no children appear until the end (when it's revealed that all this hard work has gone into making a community park), it's in no way a problem: Boss is the ultimate reader surrogate, wielding unquestioned power over the mightiest of machines. What more could a kid want? Ages 2–6. (Mar.) Source.

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3. Job Site - Kirkus Reviews - Feb. 2011

In his debut, Drive (2008), Clement profiled a single 18-wheeler and its driver; here he explores the ever-popular realm of construction trucks. Unlike many similarly themed books, which focus on humans, this one details the part each truck plays in a single job, with the final spread showing a completed park. Throughout, the pointed finger and other hand signs of the African-American “Boss” direct the trucks to their respective duties. “Boss says, ‘Pour a slab.’ / And the mixer swings its trough and pours cement.” About half the time children are given the opportunity to guess which truck will be needed for the job before a page turn reveals the answer. The highlighted trucks include a bulldozer, excavator, loader, dump truck, compactor, mixer and crane. While the text does not rhyme, it has a welcome simplicity that suits younger readers just as well, even as it uses real vocabulary for the trucks and their parts. The computer-rendered illustrations, while sometimes seeming flat in perspective, nonetheless have crisp, clean lines with bold, rich colors and textures appropriate to earth, gravel and cement. The large format of the book itself, as well as alternating views of long shots and close-ups of trucks makes this a good choice for group sharing. Pair this with Sally Sutton’s Roadwork (2008) for a similar treatment of a different job site. (Picture book. 2-6)

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4. Looong time No Speak

It's been something like 9 months since my last post! For all two of you out there watching and reading: sorry! But, I was creating a book as fast as my mousing finger could click and trying to get it done before the birth of our second son in April. Basically, it got done with a cover still due after Emory's arrival in our lives. It was all approved about a month ago and I've begun concepts on a next title.

But, I've also been working on a website design that brings back Stickman Studio on the web (has been defunct for awhile) and displays a combined portfolio of my book illustrations as well as my commercial work. The plan is to have this blog, the site, Twitter, YouTube and a Facebook page all working together.

Please view the teaser for Job Site on YouTube. It's due out in Spring of '11, and watch for an updated look and a more photo blog style at this site in the very near future.

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5. Dubois Area Reading Council

Thanks to the teachers in the Dubois Area Reading Council for inviting me to their fall meeting. After a tasty dinner in the Huntingburg Elementary Library and short business meeting, we talked about how to both write and create artwork for a picture book. I spoke about my personal history leading up to getting published and some philosophy behind my book(s):

• Why are my words so spare?
• Is this work "realism?"
• Why the focus on man and machine?

I think everyone had a good time and gained some insight. Melanie commented that she used Drive in her Title 1 class to teach predictability. Once she presents a spread and the kids talk about what's going on, she then asks, "what do you think is going to happen next?"


1 Comments on Dubois Area Reading Council, last added: 10/31/2009
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6. You Need a Website. Yes, You, Author!

You're an author. You need a website. You know you do. Your publisher expects you to have one. They're not helping though. What are your options? Hire a web developer? Yes, you could. I don't begrudge anyone his due, especially if he has an education and experience in a field and knows programming languages. Add visual design to the mix, and that person is worth his weight in gold. The web is a complex field and it's hard to figure out sometimes.
But, if you are in my shoes, where books are probably an avocation, which you continue to work at to turn them into a vocation, and you make only a buck or two per copy, you can easily outspend income.
I'm offering design for a basic web site. I've made my living for 20 years in one form of design or graphic arts or another. I've had experience designing for the web, but do not have all the development (coding/programming) skills. So, I do the visual set up, focussing on who you are, how you want to represent yourself on the web—kind of like a book cover for YOU! Then, I work with a developer who is prepared to do the basic coding for a basic site, to get it up and live.
It worked for Joyce Moyer Hostetter, it worked for me; it can work for you.

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7. Picked Up Drive at the Library

Every little thing helps. I got a mention on the blog All Children's Books.

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8. namelos. The opening move in a new age of publishing

A Publishers Weekly story this week http://tinyurl.com/ocydmf caught my attention when I noticed my former publisher's name, Stephen Roxburgh, founder of Front Street and former publisher at Boyds Mills Press.

namelos editions http://www.namelos.com, the next phase of his namelos publishing effort, announces it's moves to publish electronic and POD books. The article reads in part "namelos will handle financial arrangements with agents and publishers on a project-by-project basis, with the splits depending on its level of involvement. (Industrywide, agents typically get 15 percent of everything.) Namelos will be equal profit-sharing partners with its authors and will not pay advances. “If it’s $4, the author gets $2,” Roxburgh said. “If I sell an electronic edition for $6, the author gets $3."
Some retracting remarks are made by longtime literary agent and industry observer Richard Curtis, and publisher of E-Reads.com. However, knowing Stephen, he hasn't embarked on anything he hasn't weighed carefully and is poised for great success. He's working with some big names: Carolyn Coman (Newbery Award winner), Donna Diamond (illustrator for Bridge to Terabithia).
namelos (which means "nameless" from a medieval German epic poem and is intentionally lowercased) will read any manuscript for $200 and give a five-page evaluation to prepare would-be authors for submission. There is also pricing for a greater commitment to develop projects and match authors with agents and editors at publishing houses.

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9. Joyce Moyer Hostetter's Brand Sparkling New Website

I met Joyce at a Highlights Founders' Workshop in March of this year. As soon as I returned, I read her book Blue and thoroughly enjoyed it (see post). Be sure to read it's Sequel Comfort. I plan too :-)

Through online conversations, I knew she was thinking about updating her website and offered to help. I don't code (develop), but I can offer design. We wanted to make it seem like her—choosing symbolic imagery from her work, capitalizing on things in her life that are important, and giving her readers a rich, visual impression. (Visit Joyce's Website)
Take a look and also visit her very active blog, Reading, 'Riting, & Research. You can also sign up for her e-newsletter, Talking Story which she shares with Carol Baldwin, another author buddy.
Also, she's giving away free books, so you better log in!

6 Comments on Joyce Moyer Hostetter's Brand Sparkling New Website, last added: 9/14/2009
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10. Helllp! Perspective!

I'm working now on the next book under contract with Boyds Mills Press, Job Site. Hopefully, it can be released for their Fall 2010 catalog, but there are no promises on a schedule until they have it in hand (May 1, 2010 is my deadline).

Because this is a detailed story about a construction site with a lot of machinery, and beca
use I am all about odd angles and perspectives, I have to get the
perspective right. I was struggling with this particular frame. Where does the horizon go? Do both the crane and tower have the same vanishing points?
Enter, the blogosphere. I actually found a great soul who blogs about art, art lessons and even perspective: Julie Duell. I asked for help. She was more than happy, and posted th
ese thoughts for me. Very helpful. I will maintain a permanent link for Julie on the right.
Log in
for online lessons.

3 Comments on Helllp! Perspective!, last added: 9/10/2009
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11. A New Picture Book Contract Awarded

New Picture Book for Author/Illustrator Nathan Clement
For the few of you who are reading, I'm remiss in announcing that July 20, my editor from Boyds Mills Press emailed me to say they want to publish another book idea I proposed:

"We'd love to publish Job Site, and propose that we do it under the terms of

the previous contract. I'll give you a call either later today or tomorrow.

I'm very excited about this. I think it will be a strong follow-up to Drive.

This is an idea that he himself suggested: "why not a book about a bulldozer." I took it and made it a book about construction equipment on a job site. Hence my title will be Job Site. This week, my main tech editor was at our house: my brother-in-law, Bob, who is a heavy equipment operator. Really, he's a crane operator. Since I don't seem to write about topics I actually know about, a tech editor is important. He had me reorder my storyboard to make a little more sense of what happens when on a job site.

My deadline is set for May 2010. I can only hope it will be in the Fall Catalog, but they don't commit to those things until they have project in hand.

This will follow the art medium (digital) and style of Drive.

1 Comments on A New Picture Book Contract Awarded, last added: 8/21/2009
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12. Alone in the Topiary Garden Begins to Take Shape (pun intended)

I've finished the drawing for this illustration. I've tried to solve as many problems as possible at this stage rather than leaving it for the painting stage: light, perspective, objects in the background.

If this were going to become real published artwork, I see it as a full-page opposite a page of text. Probably not a cover, since I didn't leave any room for a title.
On to painting now. I'm going to try to project it onto my painting surface. We'll see....
Everything behind the girl (I'm calling her Cecelia) is actually a topiary form including the hedge wall with a scroll top and urn. Everything, except the Sinister Gardener (no offense JMH, the eternal mulcher), that is. I think I also want to add a real bird poking out of that pointy bush.

Before leaving this, I'll give you one of my problem-solving techniques: we are viewing this scene from below, which means a very low horizon line—like at Cecelia's waist. This makes us see the underneath side of the elements that are taller than she is and creates a sense of largeness and even foreboding. Also, the horizon is tipped, which seems to befuddle me while I'm drawing. So, I produced this guide which I taped behind my drawing to remind myself where the vanishing point for all these lines should be headed.

3 Comments on Alone in the Topiary Garden Begins to Take Shape (pun intended), last added: 7/4/2009
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13. Old King Cole Was a Merry Old Toad—I mean Soul

I finished this illustration, slated for my portfolio, yesterday. I had to wait for areas in the fiddles and crickets/grasshopper to dry some in order to add some detail.

So, to remind you of what's going on here, I tried to interpret this with animals, and for some reason, a toad came to mind. Also, when doing some research into the history of the nursery rhyme (at Wikipedia, nothing too in-depth), they suggested that in the era that this may have been written, pipe could have meant a recorder or flute as much as a smoking pipe. And, since he had called for his fiddlers three, it could have very well meant that OKC was making music too.
And, if I've chosen a toad for the main character, then what other creatures would fit? His servants, the fiddlers naturally seemed fitting as crickets and grasshoppers. Those insects make music in the real world, don't they? And, is this a friendly arrangement, or are they pressed into service....?
See the frog-inn-waiting in the background? He's providing a selection of pipes here. And the bowl is brought in to the king, balanced on a snail's shell. This is a fairy tale world, mind you.
I'm going to send this out to some children's magazines.
As far as technique, this is a charcoal drawing (see the below post), with oil tinting over the top. Not sure if I'll continue in this vein. I returned to it after several years, but had the same trouble now as I did then: keeping things from looking muddy. I'll probably just go to straight oils. See the upcoming illustration: Alone in the Topiary Garden—under drawing coming in the next day or so.

1 Comments on Old King Cole Was a Merry Old Toad—I mean Soul, last added: 7/2/2009
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14. Oak Park Library Picks Drive Picture Book

My wife was speaking to long-time friend, Deneen in Berwin, IL (just outside of Chicago), who reports that Drive was picked for the Oak Park (also just outside Chi.) public library's kindergarten reading list.

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15. Alone in the Topiary Garden:

New #illustration. Peek at each stage in the process. Here you see #thumbnails of the #illustration idea.

I always say that no one can understand my thumbnails but me. That's OK because they're intended to help me work out my picture design and placement of elements. If an art director wants to see thumbnails, then I'll do cleaner, crisper thumbnails for him/her.
Next stage will be the under drawing. This will be an oil painting, so the drawing will be done to size (5.5"X8.5"such as a book cover), then enlarged 200% in order to make painting it easier.
The narrative behind this is a girl briskly making her way out of a topiary garden full of odd characters and apparently also full of activity. I have some notes on my sketch in the upper right. While sketching, I had to decide what to include. What makes a good topiary? Flamingo, ostrich, urn, dolphin, dinosaur. I settled on the flamingo, ostrich, urn and way in the background, up high, will be an Egyptian, walking just like Egyptians always do.
Here's a help: the girl is in the lower right corner hustling out of the picture to the right. We, the viewers, are kind of low, looking up at her—that gives us a good underneath view of the topiaries. The ostrich (neck and head only) comes in from the left and is trying to nab her by the skirt.
That's all for now. Update on Old King Cole. I thought he'd be done and posted by tomorrow, but some of the small foreground detail is still wet, and it needs to dry so that I can finalize highlights and sharpen some edges.
Sorry for my cryptic opening and the pound signs (#). My blog is fed into my Twitter, and I want it to stay within 140 characters and contain good search term potential. The #s are supposed to help with that.

2 Comments on Alone in the Topiary Garden:, last added: 6/25/2009
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16. Rikki Panel 1 Finished

While developing my portfolio for children's illustration, I have drawn Rikki Tikki Tavi.

This is the first of three panels I plan to do. I haven't drawn in charcoal for many years and decided to get back into it to create a noir atmosphere and because it's so quick to get coverage in large areas, and easy to build up dark darks.
I haven't just drawn a full picture in a long time. I normally draw enough for a template for my digital work. As I drew, I relearned a lot of things. Trying to cast highlights back into shadow areas, which means to leave areas light or white. Going back and erasing out to get those highlights, or drawing back in with white pencil is just not as clean. Also, I had to get used to using one of those paper smudging stumps again in order to blend small detail areas. I think I was in junior high last time I fiddled with one of those.
One thing I'd like to overcome is the amount of sparkly white texture you can see throughout the dark areas. This was done on cold press 300 illustration board, medium texture, and I wonder if I went with the lighter texture, if it would still grab the charcoal as well.
The next pieces in this series will be Rikki first encountering the cobra Nag, in the garden under the tailor-bird's nest, and the deadly fight scene in the bathroom. We'll see.
The next posting should be the color piece I'm nearly done with for Old King Cole.

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17. Blog Hints

In order for blog readers to more successfully find me, I've sign up for Blog Directory

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18. Editor's Call

Boyds Mills Editor Larry Rosler calls to check on story book process.

Whilst working on final details for panel 1 of my illustration for Rikki Tikki Tavi (see posts below), the phone rang. My new editor was ringing me up to see about progress on my next story idea. I gave him a synopsis and he continues to like my idea.
   Now, I'm not going to spill the beans on this until it's really under contract. At that time, I'll share some of the drawing stages and art, if the publisher permits.
   But, I have to say, that's it's great having an editor call me up to check on me. Most of us wait a lot of years to have that happen, and I certainly don't take it lightly, and told him so!
   Story board due in two weeks!

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19. I'm Blue. Are You?

Recommended Reading in Indiana!

I just finished the last few pages of Blue by Joyce Moyer Hostetter.
   Now, I'm not going to pretend to be a book reviewer. Even though I majored in writing along with art, I've never been very good at picking out 
the literary stuff. I just know what I like, and I loved Blue.
   If I had never heard Joyce read aloud from her book at our Highlights Foundation workshop, I would have still found the narrator's voice in my head drift into that easy North Carolinian accent crafted by Joyce's own southern perspectives.
  Bravo: writing an entirely character-driven story. This is truly a gift. There's no hint of  a struggle to stay in the "showing" mode and avoid the "telling" mode in this book.
   I was swept into the story by Ann Fay's honesty with herself, and challenge to be the "man of the house" while her father was away to war and polio overtook her town of Hickory, NC.
   To me, the book was about growing up, and having to grow up way too fast; learning that adults don't always get it right, and that even your mom and dad aren't always as strong as you may need them to be.
 Comfort, the sequel to Blue, is now out. Live more through the life of Ann Fay.

1 Comments on I'm Blue. Are You?, last added: 4/11/2009
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20. Illustrating Old King Cole

Old King Cole was not only a merry old soul, but he was also a toad…

   …in my world, at least. 
   His fiddlers? crickets and a grasshopper. A snail balances his bowl and a frog-in-waiting has brought a selection of his pipes--oh, and these aren't specifically p.c., non-smoking pipes. I found on Wikipedia, an interpretation that since OCK was so merry, that it stood to reason that "pipe" could have meant a recorder or flute, which he played along with his fiddlers three.
   These are the initial thumbnails.

3 Comments on Illustrating Old King Cole, last added: 4/12/2009
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21. Step 2 in OKC Illustration

Old King Cole is lined-out and ready for charcoal fill to develop the shadows and highlights. Then, I plan on a method I haven't used in about 6 years and hope I can pull it off: oil tints. First, the charcoal drawing will be sealed and then thin tints of oil paint will be applied; I'll lift out the areas of light with a kneaded eraser, building up, up, up. Hopefully, OKC will emerge very dimensional from a deep, warm, dark backdrop.

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22. Rikki Line Art

Here's a peek at the line art for the illustration Rikki Tikki Tavi. I left the original art at Kinko's—of all things. I have to use their large format scanner to bring it down in size for these postings. I think the father's arm looks too wooden. But, that whole area will be almost totally in shadow—will try to fix, though. The final will be in charcoal.

2 Comments on Rikki Line Art, last added: 4/17/2009
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23. Southern Kentucky (SOKY) Book Fest

I haven't said anything about it on my blog, but since I spent the weekend in Bowling Green at this nice book fest, I'll say something now. 9—4 on Sat. Sat between two very nice gentlemen: Marvin Jarboe, illustrator of several books including My Sailor Dad; and, another gentleman whose name's escaping me now. He was a sub-in so he's not in the program. But, he introduced me to everyone he knew.

   I was also on an illustrator's panel with Indianapolis illustrator Adam Seif (no link yet), Susan Eaddy, clay illustrator (who sold out), and Dennis Calero, X Men comic book artist (follows me on twitter). That was fun. Answered a few questions. Short.
   Chuck Barris was there. Yes, the gong show host. I met Gaby Triana (bestselling YA author) who follows my twitter, chatted with Marlis Day of Indianapolis (twitter), Dana Canedy, A Journal for Jordan was there. She was on Oprah a few weeks ago. Can't forget Janice Ian, Society's Child and singer songwriter of that 60s Seventeen song.
   Glad I went. Forgot my camera.

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24. Java Programming and Duke

What does an illustrator know about Java Programming? Only that "Duke" this teardrop shaped dude is their mascot. And, I've done 5—I think—illustrations for Java book covers. Here are 5 sketches I did for this cover and the final. Here's the book cover. The art right now is from a previous title.

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25. Illustration Underdrawing of Old King Cole at Final Charcoal Stage

When last we left OKC, he was just line work. I think after today, I'll say the black and white work is done.

   Next, I'll apply oil tints. The grasshopper and 2 crickets are not very visible at this point, but I'll bring them back out in opaque color. The background colonnade will drop way back after it gets it oil washes.
   Now, for some candlelight.

4 Comments on Illustration Underdrawing of Old King Cole at Final Charcoal Stage, last added: 4/29/2009
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