Oh Juana, Juana, Juana…what could one say about Juana?
Is she talented? Check.
Is she enterprising? Check.
Is she supportive, caring, and giving? Check, check, check.
Juana’s work is a visual reflection of her personality and heart – enthusiastic, bright, cheery and colorful. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Juana Martinez-Neal, a great illustrator and friend.
Juana Martinez-Neal is a Peruvian born children’s illustrator living in sunny Arizona. You can follow her tweets @juanamartinez, updates via facebook or see works in progress on instagram. Visit her website at http://juanamartinezneal.com
1. Once you decided illustration was the career for you, what were the first steps you took to achieving your goal?
The very first thing I did was googling “children’s illustration”. SCBWI was at the top. As anal as I am, I went through every link in the first 8 pages of the search but went back to SCBWI.org. They looked reputable! So I looked at the site and at the chapter’s page. They had a chapter here in AZ and the were having the Annual Conference in only 2 weeks! 2 weeks!! I stopped hyper-ventilating and yelling at the husband from my little spare bedroom-office about the Conference that was going to happen here, and dug in my purse for my wallet. I joined SCBWI and immediately printed and mailed my registration for the Local Conference. I went to the Conference although I had the most inexplicable stomachache that morning. I listened to every presenter and break-out session I could. Took notes and at the end asked Laura Jacobsen if she had time to talk. She presented that year. She answered to my extremely infuriating newbie questions and I went home SO very happy. I got back to Children’s Illustration. All that was left had to be to work like crazy.
2. Put your pride aside for a moment and share some of your first mistakes starting out…
Oh, boy! First biggest mistake. I didn’t know where to start getting work so I looked at craigslist. Yes, I did! Shame on me! I found a post looking for a children’s book illustrator posted by someone here in Phoenix. I emailed her, she immediately replied and could probably read my desperation on my email. She asked for sketches for the main character. I did 3 versions and email them to her within a day. Yes, I did! Without asking for a contract and without getting a penny. And I never heard back. I emailed her several times and she never replied. All I can say is: Don’t Do That! Craigslist is not the place to look for work and NEVER do any work without a contract.
3. How do you maintain a daily routine of writing/illustrating when it is so completely different from a day to day job?
Well, this is my job and I’ve always been freelancing in some way so I’m kind of used to working at my own pace. I do need a quiet studio to work, though. I can have my music playing, that’s ok. But screaming (regardless if it’s happy or furious screaming) or a TV on will ruin my working mojo. Sooo…. I work when my boys are at school or sleeping. I do have to say that working has got a lot easier now that the boys are older. They now understand if there’s a deadline and they actually help me by trying to get along – key word here is “trying”.
For the daily routine: I drop the boys to school and I’m back by 8am. I immediately take care of emails, Facebook, twitter, and anything that requires a computer. Most of the time I’m done by 9.30am. At that time, I move to my painting table and sketch or paint until 2pm when it’s time to pick up the boys. I can squeeze an hour or two more of work here and there when the boys are home but that’s about it. Some days I sketch in bed at night for an hour or two with the DVR playing so I get to spend some time with the hubs. Now, if a deadline is approaching, all the aforementioned schedule is thrown out the window and it’s just a dance between my painting table and my computer desk.
4. What is one thing that has helped you to get noticed in this sea of illustrators?
Consistency, I guess. I keep at it relentlessly. Twitter and Facebook have helped me getting my work noticed, too. Maybe some people are an overnight success but that’s just not me. It has taken me time. Years. But I don’t mind, really. As I said, I just keep at it. R-e-l-e-n-t-l-e-s-s-l-y. And if you don’t believe me, ask my husband.
5. What one piece of advice would you give to a young illustrator?
Learn about the industry. You will save yourself lots of time by learning from other people that have made it already. How do you do that? Go to conferences, presentations, workshops or anywhere where there’s a remote chance to see and listen to children’s authors and illustrators.
Make sure to leave a comment below for your chance to win an original illustration painted by the lady in question!
The winner will be randomly chosen from all entries, and announced on Monday November 28, 2011.
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