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Juana Martinez-Neal

A Mini-Interview with ME

This is the fourth week of our Mini-Interview Series and that also means it’s FINALLY my week!

I’ve been the first one to post on our blog tour every week. So to take the edge off the akward monologue I thought I would have a pre-post yesterday. Did it help? Not really. I have rewritten this intro so many times, it’s starting to feel like writing a bio. Now the intro is done and over.

Let’s talk Giveaway: One lucky winner will get a 12″x12″ original, signed illustration on canvas – pic below and here. So if you like my work, check out the details on how to enter. Shall we get started? I think so! I hope you enjoy the interview! And Happy Turkey Day for the ones who celebrate it!

Juana Martinez-Neal

About Juana Martinez-Neal
Juana is a children’s illustrator, mami, wife, sun aficionado and amateur singer born in Lima, Peru and living in sunny AZ. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook, see works in progress on Instagram and visit her website at www.juanamartinezneal.com

Would you describe yourself in 5 words?

Quiet, naive, determined, feisty and odd.


Now tell us how you got started as a children’s author and illustrator in more than 5 words.

Well… I got started as a children’s illustrator twice, really. The first time, I wasn’t aware that it was happening. The second time, it was MY choice.

The Unaware Time – My dad quit his job as AD at one of the agencies in Lima and started a graphic design and photography studio. One day, he got a new client: a Toy company. They were just starting and needed display boxes for all their toys and with that lots of illustrations. And my dad is an incredible, realistic artist but he is not an illustrator. So he sat me at one of his tables, told me what I needed to draw and walked away. He was a good art director! Thirty minutes later, he came back to check back on me. I remember him being kind of happy, kind of puzzled when he saw my sketches. I think he knew right then I was a children’s illustrator. But I didn’t. I was 16 at that time. I kept helping him through high school and until I was 21 when I decided to go to Art School.

The Aware Time – This time was completely different. After Art School, I moved to Los Angeles. For 10 years, I worked doing graphic and web design. I stopped sketching and painting completely. But after my second boy was born, I felt I needed a change. A big change. One of those after-motherhood moods that messes with your head and makes you want to do something completely different. At least, that’s what motherhood did to me. My husband had been telling me for a loooooong time that I needed to get back to children’s illustration. I finally listened to him, googled “children’s illustration” and found SCBWI. The AZ conference was happening a couple of weeks later and I could save $20 if I joined SCBWI. So I joined. It had to be a sign! I went to the conference with nothing to show. NOTHING. Sat through the presentations and break-out sessions. Something within me said this was IT. Then at the end asked Laura Jacobsen if we could talk. She was one of the keynote speakers that year. She gave me some ideas on how to get started in this business but above all I remember her being encouraging, extremely encouraging. And that meant a lot at that time. So I got back to illustration after a huge break. This time I was aware of my choice. I was going to be a Children’s Illustrator!


I Wuv You by Juana Martinez-Neal


What was your favorite book as a child?

I read a lot as a child. A lot. But my favorite book was “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I got my first copy on my 7th birthday. Paperback. White cover with the Little Price on the left and the title on the right. The book is so full of sweet moments and there’s the constant concept of simplifying your thoughts and life. I love that. Things can be simple. Really.

Oh, diver! by Juana Martinez-Neal


One lesson you have learned from working in this industry.

Get the work done. It takes a lot of hours and painting to get the work ready to be publishable. The work will only improve once you get lots of work done and no one but YOU can do that so get the work done. Work EVERY day. Don’t talk about painting. Don’t post that you will work. GET THE WORK DONE. Work and then you will see how things start happening. So finish this interview, post your comment and get back to painting. Seriously.

I Can Run Away From You, I Can by Juana Martinez-Neal


The happiest moment of your career.

There has been a few so far and I hope there will be lots more but one of the happiest moments to come by so far was when an illustrator who I admire very much told me at the LA Conference this year: “I was so impressed with your work. So impressed.” I was thrilled, so happy to hear that coming from her. And it’s not the approval. It’s the feeling of a job well done. More like a pat on your back that feels SO good when you have been working so very hard. I can still hear her words and get excited all over over again.


What’s next for you?

I have a couple of picture books coming out within the next months. One is a bedtime, birthday book, “The Night Before My Birthday”. The other one is about a pearl and a little girl. It will be published by Kalimat in the United Arab Emirates. The book is called “Dana’s Trip”. I also want to squeeze in a trip to Peru and this time I want to take my 3 boys (husband included). Going back, seeing life-long friends and just listening to people speak Spanish always give me something that reflects growth in my work. Don’t ask me why or what, it just does.

And this concludes my silly monologue and I thank you for staying this long. But don’t leave just yet, we still have the Giveaway so see below for how to enter.

Abuelita Knows Best by Juana Martinez-Neal

My Giveaway

I’m giving away Sofia. Piece is a 12″x12″ original, signed illustration on canvas. The winner will be randomly chosen from all entries, and announced on Monday November 28, 2011.

Ways to enter:

  • Leave a comment below
  • Follow me on Twitter @juanamartinez and copy this retweet on your status:
    RT @juanamartinez Enter to win an original illustration http://bit.ly/t07eQ2 #giveaway
  • Like my page on Facebook[/list]
    Sofia by Juana Martinez-NealI’ll be answering to more questions the rest of this Holiday week. So if you need a place to rest from the crowds, turkey and stuffing you know where to come. I’ll be visiting Molly on Wednesday, Mikela on Thursday and Laura on Friday.This post is part of a very informal and fun 4-week Mini-Interview Series to Children’s Illustrators who happen to be friends and happen to live in Arizona. In these posts, we will be interviewing:

You can learn more about the guests and the Series here.

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.


  • November 22, 2011

    Love your textures & style! I would be soooo honored to win an original!

  • November 22, 2011

    Beautiful Sofia! She needs to come hang out in Texas with me. I’ve got a spot all picked out for her next to other lovely girls by Kelly Rae Roberts, Holly Conger & Kristin Barr.

    I love your artwork, Juana. The children’s illustration community is grateful you returned!!

  • November 22, 2011

    Great interview/monologue, Juana! It’s been fun watching your work evolve. Very inspiring!

  • November 22, 2011

    Me gusta mucho tu trabajo, la técnica… todo. felicitaciones

  • November 22, 2011

    Male Salas

    Juana, me emocionó mucho tu auto-entrevista, I got chills!, y tu arte me fascina!! eres una de mis role-models :D

  • November 22, 2011

    i adore your work… and would be thrilled to be the recipient of an original of yours!

  • November 22, 2011

    Love the interview! And the work, of course!

  • November 23, 2011


    Juana Rocks!

  • November 23, 2011

    I’m impressed by how much your work has changed over the years! Love those birds!!

  • November 25, 2011

    Juana..from the day I met you to all of our tweets and emails..you are a gem and an AWESOME creator of fine, fine work. Your illustrations are compositionally top notch and I admire your hard hard work. I came away from our first meeting with the strength of your convictions and your excitement about illustration – you too are genuinely so encouraging and I thank YOU for that. Loved the interview! I hope you and your boys get to enjoy Peru, and super duper congrats on the upcoming 2 new books. I cannot wait to see/own them! : )

    • November 25, 2011

      not only compositionally top notch but your work transports me to a different place in time..fabulous, Juana!

  • November 25, 2011

    I love your mini interviews and learning more about you. I would love to hang Sofia on my walls!

  • November 27, 2011

    Wow!! I loved reading your mini interview!! Very inspiring… I have been postponing doing children book illustrations for so many years…(been illustrating editorials for a long time) now reading this, it gives me so much insight and motivation to just “do it”… thanks so much for sharing this, Juana…and by the way, your illustrations are wonderful, I really love your style!! :)

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