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Juana Martinez-Neal

“Poppy’s Best Day Ever” – The Post

Poppy's Best Day Ever - El Mejor Nido ®, 2011

June normally means Summer camps, 100+ degree weather and the beginning of personal pieces in preparation to SCBWI’s Los Angeles Conference. This year it meant: “Poppy’s Best Day Ever” – A Picture-book in 30 Days Challenge. From signed contract to delivered artwork in 1 month (DVD coming soon).

And I know what you are thinking: Why did you do THAT? Two reasons: 1) story was about birds and 2) it was for El Mejor Nido ®. What a great opportunity! Still, why did you do that? Well, at the beginning the project was for 6 illustrations so it sounded doable. OK, then. Did you make the deadline? Yep. Was it difficult? Yep. Would you do it again? NO. And I warn you, don’t even try to convince me to take a deadline like that again. I will hurt you!

So I survived that June of bad meals, long hours and endless cursing to the lack of clones available for purchase. Now I got my copies in hand and get to blog about it. So get comfy and here we go!

The book is about a little bird, her birthday and her birthday wish. It is printed in both English and Spanish. Copies are handed for free during El Mejor Nido ® events in California, Texas, New York and Florida.

Copies of Poppy's Best Day Ever
Poppy's Best Day Ever - El Mejor Nido ®, 2011
Poppy's Best Day Ever - El Mejor Nido ®, 2011
Poppy's Best Day Ever - El Mejor Nido ®, 2011

Now a little bit of how I work. First I sketch my characters and then move on to a color version of at least my main character. This is the first Poppy I painted for the book. Later the beak got longer and curved upwards. A good improvement.
First Poppy

I normally sketch to size on paper and take care of revisions on tracing paper. I scan the revisions and add to the initial sketch in Photoshop. Some spreads are sketched and done with no revisions. Others take many, many revisions. A matter of tweaking as needed and requested.
Sketch of Poppy for Activity Pages

When I’m working, I like hanging the character studies and sketch I’m working on right in front of me. A good reminder of were I need to get. As I’m done with each illustration, I hang them and look at them over and over again – for reference and looking for changes. I always have changes. With this book, the time was really limited per illustration but I still made changes until it was time to ship them.
Painting Pajarito
Painting Abuelita knows Best
Painting At the Pool

And now some of the illustrations for “Poppy’s Best Day Ever.”
Cover Illustration
At the Pool
Abuelita knows Best

Liked what you saw?, download and print the coloring page:
Poppy's Best Day Ever - Coloring Page
Download Free Poppy Coloring Page

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Children's book author and illustrator, mami of three, wife, sun aficionado, amateur singer and Margarita lover born in Lima, Peru and living in sunny AZ.


  • August 31, 2011

    WOW, Juana! Not only did you meet a deadline like this, you also made a fantastic book! The illustrations are adorable!!!!

  • August 31, 2011

    Holy cow! This is an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing your process. I am so in love with your artwork with great characters and yummy colors.

    And it was amazing that you were able to pull this off without sacrificing any quality in such a short time. Hat-tip to you.

  • August 31, 2011

    This is amazing Juana! I cannot believe you did it that fast and with such high quality art! WOW!

  • August 31, 2011

    Such beautiful work, characters and book! I love seeing your studio as well. What kind of paper do you work on? So happy I ran across your blog. :)

  • September 5, 2011

    Wow Juana! Awesome job all the way around! Way to go with meeting that deadline and creating beautiful work in such a short time. Congrats!!!

  • January 24, 2012

    Your colors are so rich and fabulous! And all in one month… ouch. I would never have guessed. I am really enjoying the glimpses of your work area and in-process paintings. Thanks so much for sharing!

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