Thursday, December 13

Happy Holidays!


Happy Holidays! Here's wishing all 4 of my blog readers a very happy holiday season. May you catch some elusive butterfly dreams and have a topping new year. Isn't it amazing how we all continue on through the years?

I'm sure the reason that Robinson Crusoe kept up his journal is that he had the complete isolation of working at home and being able to focus his thoughts without distraction... even though he might have been desperate for a little distraction to entertain him. Sometimes we just have to do everything ourselves.

Friday, December 7

The simplicity of e-book app making...


I finally got an iPad... a mini. It's fabulous. I was thrilled to finally see my apps on a screen larger than my iPod.

I am drawn to the simplicity of the process of creating ebook apps. This photo captures that simplicity... from the first idea to the sketches to the finished art and the audio. All in one quick creation... (about 4 weeks actually).

Finally, like magic, the 'Publish' button makes it all real.

Or are these pesky little gizmos really real I wonder?
Time will tell...

Sunday, December 2

Mermaid of Mystery...

Here's a fun new style that I'm working up... sort of a digital folk art with lots of rich color and texture. This will be in the PBAA flip-book app that is in production.



Friday, November 30

Christmastime is coming...


It will be fun to see if I can find any of my Washington christmas books this year. Who knows, maybe there will be a few around.

Last year's book signing at Costco was fun. But this year... hmmm... haven't had any inquiries from interested bookstores. I need a doppleganger ( a paranormal double of a living person) to do the book publicity... because as it is I simply don't have the time for it.

And I'm not the least bit ready for my own little Christmas, though I notice other people seem to be getting ready for it. The truth is I only like Christmas once it's over. So... Christmas is like a runaway freight train bearing down on us with a relentless deadline.

Ho, ho, ho... the tree is my favorite part.

Saturday, November 17

Piggles favorite movie...



About this book:
On his first day of school Piggles worries about everything. But Piggles learns to think for himself as he outsmarts dinosaurs, a witch, a goblin, a UFO, a dragon and a pirate. Filled with puzzles and interactive fun, Piggles loves school once gets there.

'Piggles Goes to School' challenges children to think for themselves and overcome problems as they travel with Piggles on his way to school. Touching objects initiates sounds, actions, animations. Help Piggles solve a variety of puzzles to make his way safely to school.

As an illustrator and writer of more than 50 children's books I had a great time creating this app. You can download this app in the InteractiveTouchBooks.com bookstore, which is an iTunes store

Friday, November 16

'Piggles Goes to School'


When a book-maker gets a book in a box on the porch it's always a thrill to open it up and see it 'for real'... finally. This same rule applies to e-book apps... only more so.

I had the long awaited opportunity to download my 1st copy of 'Piggles Goes to School' onto my iPod touch.

To savor the experience I quietly stole away to my favorite cafe to plug in my headphones and push the 'Read to Me' button on my iPod. On the scale of the quiet joys of book-making this first reading rates up near the top. It's the first time ever that you get to be 'the reader'. I was not disappointed - in fact I liked it a lot.

This new book is an actual book, whereas Mousey the Explorer was sort of an improvised idea on a theme. 'Piggles Goes to School' has an actual storyline, plot, resolution and all that.

On his first day of school Piggles worries about everything. But Piggles learns to think for himself as he outsmarts dinosaurs, a witch, a goblin, a UFO, a dragon and a pirate. Filled with puzzles and interactive fun, Piggles loves school once gets there.



Wednesday, November 7

A very good day...


Well Piggles is pleased... he seems to have misplaced the 'W' - but he does not miss it much.

:0)

Wednesday, October 31

It's that time again...


It's that time again... Halloween! It's just such a rich topic to create images for. Something about barns and haylofts and hoe-downs. I saw that amazing PBS program 'The Hayloft Gang' and it reminded me of this old illustration I made years ago.

I'd never seen 'The Hayloft Gang' before, but it's got everything that's good about America in it. That's what I think.

p.s. Now I'm adding in the voices to my new app. It's interesting how it calls for a whole new set of skills. Theatrical and voice articulation. Too bad my voice sounds like a paper bag full of sawdust with a head cold. Oh well... Garageband helps.

Monday, October 29

A work in progress...


One reason I like digital coloring so much is that it's unpredictable... therefore more interesting. I think it's a fun game of cat and mouse to take a chance on a new brush or try a new technique. There's always the undo button.

So on any given day, the digital artist is free to try whatever they like. Today I've been choosing those natural media brushes that start around 750 pixels in size. It's always interesting to see what they might do!

Thursday, October 25

The Pirate's Life for Me


Needless to say, being a Pirate was always my favorite Halloween costume. No contest.

Lucky me, I get to relive the glory of my favorite costume in my new ebook app. But in this version the characters all get to talk and bop around the screen and they have to find out clues to change the pirate. lol!

I still sting with indignation from the day my 2nd grade teacher took me aside and told me I couldn't wear a ribbon on my pirate costume! GRRRRRR!

Funny how those little things never go away.

Sunday, October 21

You've got to enjoy the process



It all boils down to that maxim about publishing which is - 'You've got to enjoy the process'. I have to say I don't much enjoy the process much of regular paper book publishing anymore. I don't have decades left to wait another year for one more rejection that 'we just did a book like this'. I've lost my appetite for that sort of thing.

But I very much DO enjoy the process of making ebook apps. It has revived my spirit and joy in making books for children. It's lots of fun and it's like instant gratification compared to the old wait, wait, wait for years, reject, revise and resubmit process.

Yesterday I illustrated a page with a UFO that carries my PB character away to Mars... before that I drew pages with a witch, a page with a troll under a bridge and a page with dinosaurs. All of them doing things, making challenging puzzles and generally having fun.

What's not to like?

Tuesday, October 16

A new page fresh off the wacom


Here's a new page fresh off the wacom. I knew this scene was going to be fun. I can't wait to add all the dinosaur growls and sound effects. Grrrrrrr!

But of course Piggy is not about to be outdone by a few oversized reptiles. I used to imagine just such scenes when I was a wee tot.

Sunday, October 14

Happily pigging away...

Happily pigging away on my new interactive e-book app. Coming soon to iPads everywhere... and possibly to one near you.

I can't wait to start doing the 'piggy' voice with GarageBand. My nickname as a earnest young lad was 'pig'... even though I was never the least bit fat.

What nicknames did any of you wind up with? (that can be disclosed for a G-rated audience)

Tuesday, October 9

Making interactive ebook apps is fun...


This is just so much fun!

I made up this physics experiment in Kwik2. It's really not that hard at all... once you figure out the basics. Kwik2 is an extension of Photoshop 5.5. It doesn't require any coding or programing... just drag and drop and click.

Now to add the words and the story plot line.

My conclusion? Making interactive ebook apps is fun. Sometimes it's almost too exciting...

Thursday, October 4

Save Big-Bird! Vote!


Goodbye Big-Bird? Tell me it ain't so!

It took some digging, but I found an old copy of my Sesame Street cover. I think it still looks okay.

I'm guessing there's not much that's 'honorable' on the other channels. PBS is the one channel that makes me feel good about life.

And I vote in every election and I just sent in a check for $250 to PBS. But not a penny to any politicians.

Tuesday, October 2

Fun is Necessary


I think that fun is essential to productivity and happiness in work.  But I often wonder why even a 'fun' job might seem like drudgery at times?

I wonder if there's some kind of boredom quotient that artists get used to that sets our boredom levels? I actually feel hugely guilty to think I might complain about a job being boring when I consider the awful jobs many people have to endure.

I suppose it's the child within that demands fun... while the tired grownup on the outside gets philosophical and wags a finger of rebuke.

Tuesday, September 25

Nice to see Mousey is getting around...


Nice to see Mousey is getting around.  I discovered this website in India with a nice Mousey picture on the front page... right next to Bruce.

I'd say Mousey is nearly famous. It's an especially long way to go for a very short mouse to travel. And it's not true that elephants are afraid of mice... that's just a myth.

Saturday, September 22

A little physics


Physics is the name given in game programing to the ability of graphic objects to react to gravity and other forces on a tablet screen.   I think it's key to making apps in the future... and today I just downloaded two great programs to add physics and animation to an e-book app.


The two great programs are TexturePacker and PhysicsEditor.  They allow an artist to create their own physics and animation to add to their books. They're from Code'n'Web.  So that sounds like my wintertime hobby to figure out how they work.  I think it should make for some awesome potential.
I made up this little test film in Corona where I simply subbed in my graphics for the image in the pre-written program.  It really wasn't that difficult.  So I'm excited about getting up the learning curve to figure those things out... if I can.



Thursday, September 20

Interactive Special Effects



So how was that spinning globe in the title page of 'Mousey the Explorer' created?  Creating a globe isn't easy!

I wondered that myself.  One afternoon it occurred to me that there isn't any reason why photography and even movies can't be mixed in with illustrations for an interactive e-book.  So I thought about the globe. 

The globe started out life as a holiday ornament that's been on our tree for years.  I've always liked it a lot.  First I thought I'd just photograph it.  But then I wondered why couldn't I make it turn?

The trusty old brain started toiling away and before long I'd figured out a method of staging it to photograph on my kitchen counter.  With a tripod and my trusty Lumix FZ18 I placed the globe against the backdrop of a white background using a bread basket and white towels.

I carefully rotated the globe for each partial rotation, taking care to not change the orientation.  Then with photoshop I created a circular white mask to isolate just the globe and blank the background.  Finally I  resized and plugged the sequence into the InteractiveTouchBooks animation format.  Voila!  The world now spins!  I even made it wobble slightly back and forth in addition to spinning.

It was fun and it's just one example of the unlimited possibilities for creation with interactive books.

Here's what the finished title page looks like... with the spinning globe.

Thursday, September 6

Experiential Book-making


I've never had so much fun making a book.  And it's the exact inverse of regular publishing which is years of frustration, compromise and rejection.  Publishing an ebook is instant gratification by comparison.  I made this book in 2 1/2 weeks and I was swept away with inspiration the whole while.

One thing I quite like about ebook apps is the experiential nature of them.

I love to watch my artwork come alive. I can spend half an hour watching fish glide across the screen and listen to space music as the planets swirl through the starry sky with meteorites shooting past.  I especially like the polar pages with wolves howling and whales spouting.

I guess it's sort of an experiential reality that its hard to duplicate without writing a novel. 

I never experienced much of that with any of the previous 70 all paper books I've done. 

:0)

Wednesday, August 22

Mousey the Explorer - in bookstores near you


Mousey has landed...

My first interactive book, Mousey the Explorer has been published in the InteractiveTouchBooks.com bookstore.

So this will be my toe in the water for e-book app making. 
I made up this little app-trailer for YouTube. 

My first interactive e-book app, filled with interactive sounds, animations, puzzles, coloring and musical activities.

I'm the actor, writer, producer and director. I do the set-design, lighting, costumes, makeup, stunts, choreography and special effects. I'm also the cameraman, technical wizard, animator and I make the coffee.

I'm the publisher too.

I have to say, it's almost boring to do just plain flat digital art that doesn't have sounds, motion and interactivity.

So feel free to pass on this link for some e-book interactive fun!

 

Sunday, August 19

Actor, writer, producer and director...


I finally finished my first ever ebook app... so that hopefully will pass the Apple certification and be in the iTunes store before too long. It was so much fun making a multi-media book!  It's really more like creating a theatre production.

This is an interactive e-book app, filled with interactive sounds, animations, puzzles, coloring and musical activities.

I'm the actor, writer, producer and director. I do the set-design, lighting, costumes, makeup, stunts, choreography and special effects. I'm also the cameraman, technical wizard, animator and I make the coffee.  Oh, and I'm the publisher too.

It should be available shortly from Interactive Touch Books and iTunes


Saturday, July 28

A little inter-active fun



I've been having a little inter-active jungle fun lately.  Lights!  Camera!  Action!

The sound track and actions are the best part.




Saturday, July 14

Job title : photoshop experimental technician


 I think the job description of 'photoshop experimental technician' might be a good alternate to 'children's book artist'.

I spent days experimenting with a new series of techniques... and finally found something close to what I was trying for. The search goes on... the artist's quest.

Thursday, July 5

All together now...



All together now... I redrew the zoo background this morning, using an older file I had drawn about 7 years ago.

I think my favorite discovery with this piece was adding the sky and clouds. I used an older clouds file from another painting. That's one reason I love photoshop so much... you don't have to reinvent the wheel every day.

No doubt I'll continue to change the colors saturation levels and other details. But it's just about finished now...

:0)

Wednesday, July 4

Learned from ancient druids of yore


 The color is added... with many, many photoshop techniques learned from ancient druids of yore and passed down from member to member in secret societies.

I was trying for a flat sort of color quality like a Japanese print. It will no doubt be changed again and again before I'm done.

That's part of earning membership privileges in the subterranean society... doing things over and over and over.

Tuesday, July 3

It begins with the sketch...


It begins with the sketch... which is first changed about 77 times depending on what effect the artist is looking to achieve.

In this case it was trial and error that went on for more than a day.


Thursday, June 28

Le Petit Chef...

A little experimental doodling. It's amazing how closely vintage styles match today's photoshop toolset.

Tuesday, June 26

Extraordinary pancakes of the world..

Extraordinary pancakes of the world... unite!  Righto!  No, this is not a world revolution, it's merely an experiment in new styles based on vintage advertizing. 

It's amazing how well photoshop lends itself to the airbrushed styles of yesteryear.



Thursday, June 14

As simple as A - B - C


 This is the title page from my book 'Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle'.

First comes the idea & inspiration. Then the design -
which often can be more design than drawing.

Next the drawing is refined.

Finally the painting with watercolors on real paper... which is followed by the scanning & final photoshop reworking.

As simple as A - B - C.

Tuesday, June 12

Crumbly line...



Speaking of line quality... I just fell in love with this crumbly line that I discovered in my studio one day. It's from my book 'The Dancing Clock'. 

Maybe lines are kind of like coffee-cake. So the really good ones are all crumbly?

And like coffee-cakes, crumbly lines aren't all that hard to make.

Thursday, May 31

Owl-a-Minx is indispensable

It's Owl-a-Minx time again on the shores of the Blue Lagoon.

What is Owl-a-Minx? Owl-a-Minx is indispensable!  Not to be confused with Owl-a-Winx.


Friday, May 18

The difficulty in making a choice!

indecision as an artist, Sometimes its hard to decide what color to go with.


Here's an example of how many variations on a page element an artist might try. Of course digital art makes changes easy... but the flip-side of that freedom is the difficulty in making a choice!

It's fun to watch the movie and see the images change... and picking a new 'favorite'.

Wednesday, May 16

A pastoral scene from a new book...


Here's a scene from a new book... lots of nice pastoral scenes.
I guess it'll be released some day... don't know when.
Artists are always the last to know anything.

I suppose when you're a ghost it doesn't matter much... lol!
I think it'd be nice to drift through life like a ghost, don't you?

I quite enjoyed painting it in real paints on real paper.  A nice challenge.  It was finished off with photoshop, of course.

Saturday, May 12

A super school visit...


I had a marvelous time doing a school visit at the Norman Rockwell School in Redmond.  It was lots of fun being able to run my movies and slideshows off the giant 'smart screen' bulletin boards they have.

I got lost trying to find the location.  I finally found a gas station, where no one had ever heard of the school or the street and no one even knew where the main arterial was.  And they all live there!

But the classes were a big hit.  So much fun!  I made up about 8 movies and 3 Powerpoint slideshows, one of them with a geography quiz about Washington State - from my new book about Washington.

It's funny how each class is like a different audience... laughing at different spots in the 'material.

One of my teachers at the Parsons School of Design was Peter Rockwell... (or maybe it was David).  He was a classy old duffer with a pork pie hat and a quiet studious manner.  I think it could be fun to be a teacher.  It certainly is a nice change of pace to get out of the studio.

Tuesday, May 8

Long live Mickey & Max!


Long live Mickey & Max!

I got to spend my only quarter at Parsons in Maurice's class. Looking back, it was probably the high point of my little career as a book illustrator, in the sense that I got to be amongst giants.

I remember being so nervous showing Maurice my work.  I showed him my two dummy books I'd done to date. He liked the one about Dr. Dabbleduck, the hamster who wanted everyone to eat pancakes three times a day. I was nervous... he said, "Relax, I'm just an old man with a beard".  I remember being struck by the 'rich' language... well salted with choice explicatives. 

Another time the class got a sneak peek at the pencil dummy to 'Outside Over There'. It was exquisite.  I said 'It looks like an opera!', which Maurice really liked, since he was so obsessed with Mozart and music.  It was raining cats & dogs so I lent Maurice a plastic bag to safeguard the original pencils (which are probably worth about $300k no doubt). All his art goes directly to the Rosenburg museum in Philadelphia.

Maurice was thrilled when I told him I was dropping out of art school (already after just 1 quarter) and had already started freelancing. He was always very helpful giving his students names of editors to call and generally helping with real life problems that none of the other teachers ever bothered with. 

My regret is that I had a mid-term final on the one day Maurice invited some of us to lunch. I should have gone.
Maurice certainly made my life a richer one... in spirit.

I blogged about it all years ago...

Tuesday, April 24

I'll have mine with mustard please!


More art... with the background fading into the silhouette foreground. I can't resist a good textured brush in photoshop.

It's done with a wacom actually... and a pencil. 5mm 3B leads... never need sharpening.  The textures are both painted, scanned and photographed. The background began life as a photo of a concrete wall.  That's part of the fun of digital... it's very much an editorial process of choosing components.

I heard of one artist who scanned in sliced ham for texture. Of course it's all in the processing after it's scanned. I'll have that with mustard please!

Thursday, April 19

A fun sneak peek...


Here's a fun sneak peek.

I think I like the image more like this... with the background stripped out. So the foreground is a silhouette... with the background transitioning from blank line into full color depth.

Now... how to figure that into a regular illustration. I'm sure there must be a way.

Wednesday, April 18

My own 'Painter of Light' ...


Once, many years ago, I wanted to paint something... but I didn't know what. So I stared at the blank canvas in my downstairs painting studio and decided to try my own 'Painter of Light' canvas. It just took a couple of hours to sketch it out.

I thought it was funny, of course... but it was fun all the same.

Of course I hated it at first... but then, years later I dragged it out and it didn't look quite so bad. Florals and painterly mushing of brushwork can satisfy the artistic soul I guess.

No doubt there's something to painting mature shrubbery that is bound to assuage discontent. Maybe I'll get back to it some day...

:0)

Thursday, April 12

Kitty kitty on the wall...


Kitty kitty on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?

Usually I think cats choose themselves. No contest.

It's always fun to finish up a first page of a new project.
One thing it accomplishes is then the changes can begin.  No doubt I'll change my mind about the color or texture at least 3 times before it's finished.

I hope I don't get a completely new idea just 2 days before the end.  That's always the worst.

Monday, April 9

Raccoons & Dobbs Ferry



Cute... but do not hand feed!  When I lived in Dobbs Ferry, NY, we once had a raccoon live on our windowsill for 3 days.  

Good old Dobbs.  I'll have to write up a blog about my 4 years in Dobbs some time.  I could sit on my window porch and see the Hudson river and Palisades... sun going down and giant ocean going freighters and sailing ships sail past.

Pete Seeger's boat used to sail past in the summer.

Those were the days...

:0)

Wednesday, April 4

A new version of my website...


They say good things come to those who do things over a zillion times. So I guess that applies to me and my newly redone website.

It's really just an updated version of my old website... but it's now in Dreamweaver instead of the antiquated GoLive. It's got bigger graphics, new buttons and even a slideshow.

Since Dreamweaver allows widgets, there's no telling what new things I might add. The whole point was to actually learn template based CSS. And having gained that knowledge at great personal sacrifice, I can now develop this beginning into anything new I like.

Anyhow... it's at www.johnnez.com

:0)

Thursday, March 29

I fought the code... and the code won


I always liked this scene out of 'The Dancing Clock'. It was the idea of drawing a runaway monkey I guess.

Meanwhile, back on the Dreamweaver ranch, it's been a battle of wills... mine against the will of HTML. CSS - CSS templates - editable regions, etc.

I fought the code... and the code won.

:0)

Wednesday, March 21

Happiness is coloring away...


I'm working away coloring in photoshop. I think coloring is the one stage of any project where I can just relax and zone out. It seems like most other aspects involve too many complications.

So it's nice to just sit back and color...

:0)

p.s. Also making great strides with Dreamweaver. I've decided to add a header, footer and now I'm struggling with finding out how templates work. I need a magic genie to sit on my shoulder and talk me through it.

Wednesday, March 14

Drawing, drawing, drawing...


Drawing, drawing, drawing... keeping pace.

Latest accomplishment: Learned Dreamweaver! At least enough to do most basic things without being totally flummoxed.

New favorite book is a biography of Jack London. I went through a Jack London phase as a teenager. Finished reading 'A Town Like Paris' by Bryce Corbett... a fun book.

Getting in the daily bike ride, weather permitting.  Got all wet today...




Monday, March 5

A weekend lost in learning DreamWeaver



I've been spending the weekend lost in learning DreamWeaver.

Lucky for me I'm equally as stubborn as I am ignorant, so I actually enjoy the struggle up the learning curve. I'm learning all kinds of fun new stuff... creating CSS based pages with lots of nifty features. 

Adding in slideshows and rollover buttons is way easier than doing it the old fashioned way... once you figure out how. What I think Adobe needs is a 'Dummy' level of web design, so it wouldn't require any working with code.

Who knows... maybe it'll actually work! 
I still think HTML is the 'devil's own' language.... lol!

Monday, February 27

Adventures on the digital learning curve...



Another sample from my new 'line-less' collection. It's always irksome when you look at your portfolio and want to change everything! 

Is it just a passing fancy... or something more substantial?
I often wish I could only do one style of artwork... but I'm afraid it just isn't the way I go about it. 

Anyhow, I worked out a zippy new method of converting scanned pencil lines into Illustrator and then photoshop. Yet another adventure on the digital learning curve.

Saturday, February 25

Reading List...


Reading: 'My Autobiography -Charles Chaplin'.

Operative quote: 'The word "art" never entered my head or my vocabulary. The theatre meant a livelihood and nothing more.'  That's the same set of rules I use, actually.

Chaplin is as meticulous and in-depth a writer as he was a genius at making films. I've been watching some of his earlier movies online and I'm amazed he got through his career without a broken neck!  Modern Times is my favorite Chaplin film.

Also reading: 'L. Frank Baum - Royal Historian of Oz'
Operative quote from his step-mother: 'He's a good-for-nothing dreamer'.

I find it's interesting that they're both set in the same time... early 20th century and have to do with breaking into new art forms.

* Factoid: Charlie Chaplin always cut his own hair... as do I.  Hmmm.... 



Wednesday, February 22

My early digital work...



Yet another sample of my early digital work... from the vaults.

This was for an ABC book... hence the letters in the background.
I remember being so excited about the possibilities of digital to work in type and textures.

There's something sort of 'Rousseau' about the setting... or maybe it's just my imagination.

Tuesday, February 21

The Smile Shop...



Here's a page from my first all digital book ever... done way back in 1999. It's called 'The Smile Shop', by Joy Cowley.

Now that I look at it I wonder why I didn't do more of this style really.

I guess I'll have to work on that...

Monday, February 13

Goldilocks



Needless to say I had a great time working up this page. Of course Goldilocks should have radiant golden locks.  So I painted them that way.

It was fun adding the textures to the line and color backgrounds. For the textures I used my fingerprints... processed through Photoshop.

Texture, pattern, line, color and storyline. That's all there is to it.