We end this month of mini-interviews with the woman who started it all...

the wonderful Juana Martinez Neal!

This informative and entertaining "month of minis" was Juana's idea- and like so many of her ideas- it was a good one.


 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

In this week of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for so many good things and good people in my life and Juana is right up there on my list!

It was in fact right after Thanksgiving 5 years ago that we met.  And from that moment  on- I knew we'd be friends.

I  like to joke that Juana and I lead parallel lives.  Both children's book illustrators who moved from Los Angeles to Phoenix, both married to studious (but quietly funny) husbands- both have two boys born about two years apart. We share a sense of dogged determination and a mutual pursuit of excellence... always pushing one another to be better artists.

But there is one notable difference between us.

I  am the lucky one... because I get to call myself her friend.

So, as I obviously I can't be an unbiased interviewer, Barbara Walters has graciously consented to return to conduct this fourth and final interview.

Take it away Juana and Barbara!

Barbara: Your work like all good art, speaks for itself. But, if you had to describe your work in terms of your artistic influences, you would say its:

Juana: I don't know if I can pick one painter. I guess my work is Klimt meets Peruvian folk arts. And you wonder why and how. Well, my work is all about texture, patterns and line like Klimt's but it's also about the hand done feel and its imperfections and that's what Peruvian Folk arts are to me.




Barbara: What influences in your life most influence your art?


Juana: It definitely has to be growing up in Peru. There everything shows aging and imperfection. There are layers after layers of wall papers, street posters, wall paints, construction. Wherever you look, there's layers. I love that and try to incorporate it into my work. And then there are the colors that once were vibrant but with the years have turned into these beautiful, perfect, more muted ones. And then there's the other inspiration: watching my boys. They surprise with what they do but also bring me back to when I was their age.



Barbara: Of the six fundamentals of 2 dimensional design (line, shape, volume, perspective, shading, color):

Which is your greatest strength?

Which is your greatest love?

Which poses the greatest challenge for you?


Juana: My greatest strength has to be color. I love working with a limited palette to get the mood of the piece across. Color really comes to me naturally. I don't have to think much. It just happens. My greatest love has to be pattern and texture. Both to me bring a piece to that next level. They really make a piece. But my greatest challenge has to be shading. And I'm talking about shading as in light vs. shadow on a piece. Light will give mood to an illustration. I have to force my shading constantly so I get to have broader gamuts in one piece. I always feel like I could have gone darker and I'm playing it safe. Something I have to work on.



Barbara: How do you approach the blank page to begin a new piece or a new project?
Juana: I start by doing a Google search and saving pictures of what I think I can use as reference. Once I'm done saving files, I move on to sketching my main characters. I don't do lots of sketches. Just enough to get their personality and decide on their clothes. Once I'm happy with them, I pin them to my cork wall right in front of me. Now I can move on to sketching the scene I want to work on. When I'm happy with the sketch, I scan it and open it in Photoshop. There I adjust sizes and move things around. I create a layer for each character or item that I need to move. Once I'm happy with what I have, I print a copy to size. I'm back on my table with tracing paper adding details or characters. I scan the tracing paper, open in Photoshop and add to the previous file. And repeat the process as many times as I need. I tend to have a problem cropping characters mainly because I fall in love with shapes. I want to show as much as I can of each one of them. Photoshop and it's layers help me edit. And that's how I battle a blank page.


Barbara: How does your medium effect your working style and contrariwise, how does your style influence the way in which you use your medium?


Juana: Well, I think I got to a point where I got both of them to work to my advantage. My technique adds the texture and the texture is part of my style. It's funny to think how is that I no longer get bothered by huge "wrinkles" running across my main character's face on my pieces. If you know me for a long time, you would be blown away. Seriously. I'm extremely anal and think or I should say over-think EVERYTHING. But when it comes to painting, I let it all hang out. Nice break, don't you think?

Barbara: A very nice break.... Thank you Juana.

AND... Juana is giving away: Sofia.  a 12″x12″ original painting on canvas.

The winner will be randomly chosen from all entries, and announced on Monday November 28, 2011.

The more ways you enter, the more chances you get to win!

For your chances:

  • Leave a comment below
  • Follow Juana on Twitter @juanamartinez and copy this retweet on your status:
    RT @juanamartinez Enter to win an original illustration #giveaway
  • Like Juana's page on Facebook
AND... be sure to check back next week when Juana, Mikela, Laura and I  reveal